Skip to content

Is The C-Flap About to Become More the Rule Than the Exception?

Last year, just as the MLB season was getting started, I wrote an ESPN piece in which I said that the C-Flap faceguard extension was “poised for a breakout season,” which turned to be correct. I also said C-flapped players “might soon outnumber non-flappers.”

It looks like I was right about that as well. I just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

Case in point: The Mets, who are the easiest team for me to chart because I follow them on a daily basis, currently have 13 position players on their 25-man roster. Of those 13 non-pitchers, six of them — almost half — wear either the C-Flap or the similar Rawlings Mach flap. Those six players, shown above, clockwise from top left) are first baseman Dom Smith, shortstop Amed Rosario, first baseman Pete Alonso, outfielder Keon Broxton, second baseman Robinson Canó, and catcher Wilson Ramos.

As you can see from that player rundown, the trend cuts across all types of position players. All generations, too — these players range from rookies (Alonso) to established veterans (Ramos and Canó). Five of those six players — all but Smith — were in the starting lineup for yesterday’s game against the Brewers, so five of the eight non-pitcher slots in the Mets’ batting order were flapped.

The trend is even more stark on some other teams. The Dodgers, for example, currently have 12 position players (which seems like a crazy way to build a roster, but that’s another topic for another day), eight of whom — two-thirds of them — wear the flap. Again, the trend is not limited to younger players.

This suggests to me that we have now reached a tipping point and that the flapped look will soon — perhaps very soon — become more the rule than the exception. Just as we charted the last players not to wear a helmet (Bob Montgomery) and not to wear an earflap (Tim Raines), we will likely see the ranks of the C-Flapless dwindle into the single digits soon enough.

It’s pretty remarkable how quickly this has happened. It was only three or four years ago that you could count all of the players who’d ever worn a C-Flap on two hands, and less than three years ago that it was unheard of for a player to go flapped unless he’d already been hit in the face by a pitch. As I wrote in that ESPN piece last year, the tide began to turn in June 2016, when Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina began wearing the flap proactively, as a precaution, even though he wasn’t rehabbing a facial injury.

I used to enjoy seeing a player wearing the flap (or any kind of faceguard), just because it looked weird. It was one of those things I liked keeping track of. And I never had to worry too much about the aesthetics of it because most players would only wear the flap for a few weeks or months anyway — nobody wore it permanently.

But all that has changed. The flap is now becoming a fixture in the game and a full-time part of baseball’s visual culture. And frankly, I’m a bit conflicted about that. By covering a big portion of the player’s face, the flap puts a bit of an emotional barrier between player and fan. The players seem a bit more like interchangeable automatons, less like distinct personalities. I especially dislike the look of the flapped helmets on baserunners. And really, there’s no reason to wear them on the bases, although I understand why the players don’t swap them out once they reach base (you’d need to have separate non-flapped helmets for all the flapped players, and it would just slow the game down).

This emotional distancing is the same thing that happened when helmets became mandatory in hockey. You could no longer see the player’s hair (or lack of hair, as the case might be), and it definitely made the game less visually interesting and the players a bit harder to connect with, at least for me.

Now, hockey helmets have obviously been a good thing for player safety, and I’m certainly not suggesting that we should go back to the helmet-free or even helmet-optional days. I’m just saying that this gain in terms of safety has had a corresponding loss in terms of the game’s visual culture. I suspect we may soon be saying the same thing about the C-Flap.

Update: By crazy coincidence, Craig MacTavish, who was the last NHL player not to wear a helmet, retired 22 years ago today!

(My thanks to @MistaMaxG for the Dodgers flap count and to Erik Spoonmore for the MacTavish item.)

• • • • •

• • • • •

Just another day at Uni Watch HQ: On Friday I did a phone interview for the Reds Alert Podcast. We were talking a lot about the 15 throwback designs the Reds will be wearing this season, so I had my laptop open so I could see the various designs while discussing them. While I was chatting, Uni Watch girl mascot Caitlin hopped up on me and began obsessively kneading my belly, as is her not-infrequent habit. The Tugboat Captain, sitting nearby, alertly documented the absurdity.

I didn’t think I could look any sillier than I already did with my fingerless gloves, my white socks, my unkempt hair, and all the rest, but Caitlin was pretty much the cherry on top. Next time you hear me on a podcast or on the radio, imagine this scene.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Even better than Chico’s Bail Bonds: David Wade, a TV news anchor for Boston’s CBS affiliate, tweeted yesterday that his son’s Little League team has an unusual sponsor. It’s nice that Dr. Lazarou wants to support community youth athletics, of course, but this must have led to some awkward discussions between the players and their parents, no?

(Big thanks to Joe Giza for bringing this one to my attention.)

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Best DIY ever: Meet Zaya, the six-year-old daughter of longtime Uni Watch reader Matthew Algeo. “She’s just getting into sports,” says Matthew. “We live in Arlington, Va., so, unfortunately, she is becoming a Nats fan. I feel like I should intervene, but she’s got to find her own way, I suppose.”

As you can see, Zaya wanted to have a Nats T-shirt, so she made one herself by drawing a stars/stripes Nats logo and taping it to one of her shirts. It’s hard for me to express how much I love this (especially all the tape!). DIY FTW!!

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

ITEM! New raffle: Our friends at longtime Uni Watch advertiser Vintage Brand are once again letting me run a raffle for a lucky Uni Watch reader. The winner will be able to choose any item from the Vintage Brand website (including the canvas print of a Cubs program cover shown above).

To enter, send an email to the raffle address by this Thursday, May 2, 7pm ET. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner on Friday.

Speaking of raffles, our three latest winners are Kelly Keenoy, Aaron Peskin, and John Schandler, each of whom has won himself a Hebrew Nationals cap (and, I’m told, some bonus surprise goodies). Congrats to them, and big thanks to Conagra for providing the prizes.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Membership update: When someone orders a Uni Watch membership card and asks for an Astros tequila sunrise design treatment, I always point out to them that the ’Stros had three different rear-jersey designs during the rainbow era and ask them to specify which version they want. They usually choose the 1977-81 style (bottom-right, Mike Franzosa’s card), although a few people have chosen the 1975 “bullseye” style (center-right, Ethan Rowley’s card). Until now, though, I don’t think we’ve ever had a membership enrollee who’s chosen the 1976 style (top-right) — that’s Byron Tatum’s card, which he recently ordered. It’s one of several new designs that have been added to the membership card gallery.

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, quite frankly, could use your support these days). And remember, a Uni Watch membership card entitles you to a 15% discount on any of the merchandise in our Teespring shop and our Naming Wrongs shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me.) As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here, and you can see how we produce the cards here.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Recommended reading: The New York Times published two really good pieces of business journalism over the weekend. The first one is about how the raisin industry is an insular, bizarrely eccentric world unto itself, with little fiefdoms, petty grievances, threats of violence against people who make waves, and so on. Fascinating, entertaining stuff. Check it out here.

The other story is about how Sterling Jewelers Inc., the company that owns jewelry chains like Jared, Kay, Zale’s, and others, has treated its female employees like garbage for many years and mostly gotten away with it. So it’s a labor/workplace story, but it’s also a story about the jewelry biz and the art of selling. I was particularly riveted by this passage:

The [jewelry] saleswomen watched the men seep into their stores on Monday mornings after they saw a Kay Jewelers commercial aired during the Sunday football game that made their blood run cold. … The men would run to the mall, reminded that there was always an anniversary coming up; they had always screwed something up and needed to apologize; Valentine’s Day comes every freaking year.

Once the men were in there, they couldn’t have escaped if they tried. Sterling had trained its staff obsessively. The salespeople were given gemology and diamontology courses. … And maybe one of those guys would start looking at the jewelry, but he’d realize that he had no clue about what a woman would like because he was just a dumb man, and so he would ask the [saleswoman] what he should buy, maybe that solitaire? “Sure,” the saleswoman would say, “that’s nice.” But why would you buy a single-stone diamond when you could buy a three-stone diamond? “When one diamond is not enough,” goes the sales copy, “use three to tell your story.” “Uh, what’s my story?” the guy would ask. “You and me and us is three,” she would say. “Or heart and soul and time. Or today and tomorrow and always.” It’s a story, she would explain. The guy would nod. Yes. Now he had a thing to give and a thing to say. Done.

Storytelling. Sound familiar?

Generally speaking, I’ve never much cared about the aspirational-fantasy aspect of consumerism. More specifically, I’ve never had to deal with the bling-industrial complex because I have zero interest in diamonds or gold (although I do like silver) and no woman I’ve ever dated has cared about them either. All of which is a long way of saying that this article was a big eye-opener for me. It was written by the great Taffy Brodesser-Akner. She’s made her mark as the media world’s foremost celebrity profiler (I’ve previously recommended her piece on Tonya Harding), but this jewelry piece breaks new ground for her. It’s a major piece of investigative journalism that she worked on for two years. It’s long but worth sticking with — you can check it out here.

• • • • •

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Jamie Rathjen

Baseball News: The White Sox once had a logo straight out of heraldry on their letterhead (from Matt Sammon). … D-backs INF Ketel Marte wore the wrong hat yesterday (from multiple readers). … Phillies OF Bryce Harper gave the Phillie Phanatic a birthday present: Phanatic-themed sneakers like the ones Harper wore on Opening Day (thanks, Brinke). … In another picture from the Harper/Phanatic encounter, we can see that Harper has been wearing a belt with his old No. 34 on it (from Bob Novotny). … Reader Mike Chaldu tells us that Nogales (Ariz.) HS has an interesting number-on-logo treatment. … Two white-on-white games from yesterday: Georgia State/Louisiana-Monroe softball (from Will Owens) and New Jersey high schools Gloucester Catholic and St. Augustine Prep (from Nicholas Huba). … Here are some pictures from the first African pre-qualifying tournament for the Olympics, including Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Nigeria in uniform (from Eric Abneri).

Football News: The 49ers traded LB Dekoda Watson on Saturday, leaving his former No. 97 open for second-overall draft pick Nick Bosa. Bosa wore the number at Ohio State, where his brother Joey did as well, and his dad wore it for the Dolphins (thanks, Brinke).

Hockey News: In last night’s Sharks/Avs playoff game, Sharks D Brent Burns scored a goal after taking a shot that knocked the blade off of one of Avs C Alexander Kerfoot’s skates (from Mike Chamernik).

Basketball News: Pictures of the court and uniforms for the Timberwolves’ new NBA 2K League team, T-Wolves Gaming, are hanging in offices at the team’s arena (from @ezbutton11). … TNT showed a No. 10 jersey to promote tonight’s 76ers/Raptors game. That number was last worn for Toronto by DeMar DeRozan, who was traded to San Antonio last summer (from Mike Chamernik).

Soccer News: Scottish team Celtic wore black armbands with No. 5 on them for former center-back and manager Billy McNeill, who passed away last week. Current manager Neil Lennon suggested that the team should retire No. 5 as well. … Other teams that wore black armbands included Aberdeen, Aston Villa, and Leeds United; the first two were also managed by McNeill. … The New York Red Bulls did their annual autism-awareness promotion with blue numbers this weekend (from Brian Henke). … Both teams participating in the Coupe de France final, Paris Saint-Germain and Stade Rennais, wore a French Football Federation-provided number font with NOBs below the number. … Saturday’s Chicago Red Stars/Reign FC game in the NWSL was postponed because of snow, but not before an orange version of the league’s ball appeared for surely the first time ever. … New kits for National Premier Soccer League team Georgia Revolution and English League One’s Plymouth Argyle. … Here are some concepts for the NPSL’s Detroit City (from Ryan Keberly).

Grab Bag: Canadian cyclist Michael Woods (at the far right) was wearing one leg warmer at the end of Liège-Bastogne-Liège yesterday. It’s unclear, because of the vagaries of the sport’s TV coverage, whether he was wearing a second one at some point (from Matt Dowell). … The NLL’s Saskatchewan Rush wore alternates for the last game of the season (from Wade Heidt). … The ACC women’s lacrosse championship between North Carolina and Boston College was color vs. color (from James Gilbert). … Multiple readers sent us the new logo for Bunker Hill (Mass.) Community College, which replaced its former relatively generic bulldog logo with a much cuter version. … Reader Paul Deaver sent us the insignia for the WWII and Cold War-era Citizens Defense Corps, which had many different derivatives of the original insignia representing all the roles available. … The Gotham typeface is currently everywhere in the design world (from Adam Vitcavage).

• • • • •

• • • • •

What Paul did last night on Saturday: I almost never buy records anymore, but I still go to the WFMU Record Fair every year — in part because I know I’ll see a bunch of my friends there, in part because I enjoy the scene, and in part because they always have some good live bands on hand.

At this year’s edition, which took place this past weekend, the live acts included two notable Memphis bands: the Oblivians (who were good, although I’ve never loved them as much as some folks do) and the ever-awesome Gories (pictured above), who’ve been one of my favorite live bands for many, many years. Always a treat to see them.

In between bands, I was approached separately by two Uni Watch readers — Tom Dunphy and John Flaherty — who recognized me and wanted to say hi. Guys, it was great meeting both you, and I really appreciate your generous donations. You’re the best!

Comments (57)

    The Red Sox Stirrup team photo yesterday was of the Delcastle Technical High School. It took all of 45 seconds to track that down.

    Speaking of little league ads, the Morgan Forrester law firm was represented on a Jersey a few years back. They went with their nickname. While it was amusing seeing Mo|Fo on a LL Jersey, I didn’t take a photo, seemed a little creepy.

    I don’t have a NYT subscription, but there was a mini-series about the raisin industry FRESNO (1986) that I think tried to be a comedic take on FALCON CREST, the nighttime soap opera about the wine business. Quite the cast: link

    This Saskatchewan Rush alternate for last regular season game was one-time wear only. Was worn for the annual Heroes Night in support of a children’s hospital. Jerseys are being auctioned off.


    Bryce Harper is trying way too hard to ingratiate himself to Phillies fans through all this nonsense with the mascot, and I’m sure he feels completely ridiculous over it. No wonder he wanted to sign with the Yankees.

    Au contraire! I think this is a lot of fun. And you’ve got to really stretch to assume that he was the one that had the shoes commissioned. Those were almost certainly whipped up by the media relations team and Harper was asked to present them to the Phanatic about 4 seconds before the photo opportunity. Like it or not, that big green goof is an integral part of the Phillies’ culture. It would do Harper well to lean into that.

    No doubt Harper is a great player. As a Nats fan though, I can tell you Bryce will do whatever is best for his brand. Not that most players don’t but, he seems to take it up a notch.

    Swing and a miss. I think he has been almost letter-perfect in his time in Philadelphia. Show up, show out, hustle and show you care, we will love you back. He’s settling in and hitting all the right notes. If he wanted to sign with the Yankees, they had their chance. So I don’t know how you draw such a flawed conclusion based on available evidence. But if it makes you feel better, do you.

    “And really, there’s no reason to wear them on the bases[…]”

    There is a benefit to wear C-flaps on the bases. How many times have we seen players covering the exposed part of their faces when headed back standing into first on a pick off throw? For left handed batters, it solves that problem. For right handers, it protects their face from an errant throw by the catcher when stealing second or third.

    How many times have we seen players covering the exposed part of their faces when headed back standing into first on a pick off throw?

    Actually, I have never seen this, or at least never noticed it. Will pay closer attention!

    The only player I ever remember seeing do that was chuck knoblauch, and I remember thinking it was annoying since in all my years of watching baseball I don’t think I ever saw a pickoff throw hit a player’s exposed ear. I’ll have to look out for it.

    Very important question:Do you have alternate phrases to refer to cat kneading? When Chunkers jumps up on me I like to say he’s “makin’ biscuits”. My girlfriend calls it “making a pizza”.

    Bryce Harper is also wearing a compression sleeve with “34” on it. Earlier this season it looked like he took a red marker to it and colored in the “4” but in the past couple of weeks it’s back to “34”.

    Zaya is my kind of kid. I made a Yankees “jersey” out of a white t-shirt and a bottle of Testor’s model paint when I was slightly older than she is.

    As an Australian (and my ball and bat sport of choice being cricket), I’m surprised it’s taken so long for facial protection to come in to baseball. Projectiles coming at your head at 90-100mph are super dangerous and avoiding one coming at your head is more good luck than good management.

    As a cricket fan, I don’t think the grilles on helmets has removed a personal connection to players. Then again, the last grille-less batsmen were in the 90’s, and I was a kid then.

    Stephen, do you have a sense of how facial protection in cricket evolved? Were their specific rules, plays, or players that led the way?

    Lots of old-time videos of matches on YouTube show batters wearing soft caps up through the early 1980s (some even batted capless).

    Later on in the decade some players were wearing crude (homemade?) ear coverings with their hats. By the 1990s you started seeing C-flap type faceguards. As of late the standard protection seems to be the full face grille.

    My son’s Little League coach very strongly pushed c-flaps this year for the 10-year-olds on the team. We didn’t go that route, because I try to resist excessive baseball gear inflation. In the end, about half the team got the flapped helmets and half stuck with their old flapless helmets.

    Interestingly, the coach wasn’t really making the push based on player safety, but rather emphasized the psychological aspect of going to bat with better shielding. Perhaps it’s the same in the big leagues (players feel more comfortable facing those 100 mph fastballs with the flap).

    Certainly, another portion of it is fashion. I’m guessing that some of the kids have favorite players wearing c-flaps, so they want to as well.

    My son’s league has struggled with this one, mostly because of USA Baseball’s issue with unapproved c-flaps voiding the warranty / safety features of existing helmets.


    I just recently went helmet shopping for my kids. Dick’s Sporting Goods, which is about the only buy new brick and mortar near us, stocks what looked to be 30% of helmets with some sort of C flap covering. Most of the helmet color and size options had them already put on. Last year, there were basically no options short of buying the flap yourself and putting it on. The pricing is of course higher, but usually about the same as the helmet and flap separately.

    I ump for my local youth baseball league, and I see kids aged 9-11 with C-Flaps on their helmets. I was tempted to take out my phone and take a picture while umping. (I did not, however)

    “unfortunately, she is becoming a Nats fan.”

    Whaaaaaat? Becoming a Nats fan is an excellent choice, and I applaud Zaya both for her team loyalty and for her DIY skills.

    Tennis used to do a good job of addressing hats, or the temptation of wearing them for endorsement money, by limiting what could be placed on them. I believe back when Jim Courier started wearing a hat they put in rules that only a logo of a certain size, with no words, could be placed on the hat or visor. I believe I remember reading they didn’t want to go the route of golf where practically every player wears a hat due to revenue generated by it. I believe a few years ago they loosened the rules and now players can wear hats with larger logos and words on their hats. I’m surprised all the players don’t now wear hats to “monetize their brand”.

    The African baseball Olympic qualifying story was great. The reporting had a 1920’s US newspaper feel. Good luck to those teams in their attempt at getting to Toyko!

    Thank you. My attention span is very short. Didn’t read far enough originally.

    C ya later!

    c-flap reminds me of visors on hockey helmets
    hopefully mlb doesn’t begin to mandate it…

    As someone who is currently shopping for engagement rings (God help my wallet) and someone who has walked into many, many jewelry shops (including the ones mentioned by the NYT) I knew something was off about Jared, Kay, and Zales, but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Marketing intuition I guess? Someone get on this dissertation idea quick! :)

    Congratulations, Lloyd! I recently got engaged (and even more recently bought my fiancee’s wedding band) and bought the engagement ring and matching wedding band from James Allen. Their pricing is pretty fair for settings and they have a good selection of diamonds for the rings as well. They also run good sales.

    I was actually considering James Allen. Their diamond prices are super competitive compared to Shane, which is where she found a setting she really likes. Only thing I don’t want to give up if I go with James is all of Shane’s benefits (diamond upgrade, loss protection, etc.).

    I am always thankful for the cat posts. I am a big animal lover, but I especially enjoy cats. Also, I was glad you thought the fingerless gloves were a bit weird for an indoor on the couch telephone interview. Did you just come inside from a walk? Or does the laptop get warm and you need the gloves to protect your palms? (I am not trolling. I am just curious about the gloves. I have seen them worn in other pictures you have posted, but I never imagined them as a “wear around the Uni-HQ item.”)

    I wear fingerless gloves quite a bit from the fall thru the spring, including indoors, because my hands get cold. I’m just more comfortable wearing them.

    A fun item on the Simpsons last night if anyone was watching.

    Lisa Simpson wearing an Ottawa Senators hat against her will.


    Looks like Little League has looked at the C-Flap issue and seems concerned with drilling/screwing in of C-Flaps would potentially void the NOCSAE certification of the attachment.


    There you’ll find the NOCSAE statement letters about C-Flaps, Masks, clear shields, etc., that the helmet manufacturers (Easton, Wilson, Mizuna, Boombah, All Star, Rawlings, Champro and Under Armour)

    Extended use of additional face protection will begin at little league. As someone who was hit in the face with a pitch 44 years ago (grazed me fortunately, but broke my nose and a tooth), I can see that some would like the flap. Personally, I think the earflap is sufficient if you know how to get out of the way of a pitch.

    Looks like Little League has looked at the C-Flap issue and seems concerned with drilling/screwing in of C-Flaps would potentially void the NOCSAE certification of the attachment.

    Yes, this was covered in the ESPN piece linked in the first sentence of today’s lede.

    Sorry, didn’t go to/see the link. My bad. Went to Little League of my own volition…

    I see this much like the addition of more bars to the facemask on a helmet. Makes the kids think they’re invincible.

    I fear kids with an enclosed batting helmet will begin diving into pitches and get hit in the head more often.

    The Gories! What a fantastic band. Thrilled to see Mick Collins is still out touring — his other band, the Dirtbombs, are responsible for a couple of my favorite shows of all time.

    Paul, It was great meeting you and the Tugboat Captain at the record fair. I am a big Oblivians/Reigning Sound fan but have to admit that the Gories were the better of the two. While he only did five songs, Derv Gordon smoked them all.

    Later on I bumped into Mick Collins while perusing CDs, making it two celebrity meetings in one day ;) Hope to see you again at next year’s fair.

    I heard The Gories were at the FMU Record Fair just about the time they were going on. Too bad …

    Saw them in 1990 at an Irish bar on 14th and Seventh, where they used to hold a garage series called The Strip. They were such a revelation. “Nitroglycerine” gets my blood going like few songs. (And, as it turned out, an inspiration for The White Stripes – cheap, loud guitar, primal drumming with a woman behind the kit.)

    Anyway, I bought a Gories T-shirt that night for 10 bucks. It was black shirt, with a black cat silhouetted against a full moon, and the band’s name circling it in orange, white and yellow. About 11 years ago, I needed to clear some space and make some $$$ quickly, so I sold a bunch of rock T-shirts I was never gonna fit into again on eBay. My first foray into online auctioning … and my first shock. Some collector in Australia bought it in a bidding war … for $366. Even Dan Kroha took notice, and emailed me to ask where I got that shirt. He told me that was a rare shirt; it was one of the first ones they made.

    The shirt’s hone; the money’s gone. But we’ll always have “Nitroglycerine.”

    My 6th grade youth baseball team was sponsored by a funeral home; I still have the uniform top.

    It’s not a Sunday strip. It’s a Ben Katchor strip, called “The Single Server.” Doesn’t seem to be online anywhere, unfortunately.

    When I started watching Ontario Hockey League games here in Erie, PA with the Otters in the late 90’s, I thought it odd that the players all wore visors. It was a requirement. Some players shed the visors once they got to the NHL, but I’ve noticed over the last decade that a lot of them don’t anymore.

    Could this be a systemic change in safety?

Comments are closed.