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Play Ball! Uni Notes from MLB’s 2021 Opening Day

Surprise move yesterday by the Twins, who waited until shortly before the start of their season opener to announce that they’ve added an “MB” memorial patch for bench coach Mike Bell, who died last week. The design is straightforward enough, but it’s interesting to see a square memorial patch, right? An uncommon approach (well, except for umpires, which we’ll get to in a minute).

That was one of several uni-notable developments from yesterday’s Opening Day games. Here are some more:

• We finally got to see the Phillies’ memorial patch for Dick Allen, which was announced in early March but not shown until yesterday’s home opener:

• In yet another memorial-related item, we got our first real-life look at the Cardinals’ patch for Bob Gibson. We had previously seen the digital version, but yesterday’s game was the first appearance of the patch itself:

• Getting back to the Phillies, maybe someone gave pitcher Aaron Nola a Uni Watch seam ripper, because his cap was gloriously, beautifully maker’s mark-free:

• Part of the Tigers/Cleveland game was played in a brief snow squall:

• Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who played in five games last year before deciding to opt out for the rest of the season due to the pandemic, returned to action but wore a mask while playing:

I’m not aware of any other players who masked up on the field yesterday. Anyone..?

Update: Phillies shortshop Didi Gregorius also wore a mask:

• Speaking of the Brewers, their ballpark now has a sculpture of the team’s ball-in-glove logo made out of beer cans:

• And in yet another Brewers item, their TV network apparently forgot catcher Omar Narváez’s uni number:

• Twins coach Bill Evers was wearing the team’s spring/BP cap, instead of the proper game cap:

• Angels skipper Joe Maddon, instead of wearing his mask straps around his ears, had little buttons added to the sides of his cap (he was apparently doing this in spring training as well, but I wasn’t aware of it until just now):

• There was a great moment in the Giants/Mariners game, as Seattle reliever Will Vest made his MLB debut and faced Giants batter Brandon Belt, creating an all-uni matchup — Vest vs. Belt!

• Cubs outfielder Jayson Heyward (who looks Just Right in a uniform — one of my favorite-looking ballplayers!) took the field while carrying a Chicago flag, but it wasn’t a proper Chicago flag. Compare the Star of David-like stars on Heyward’s flag to the pointier stars on the official flag design:

• White Sox players signed a jersey for outfield Eloy Jiménez, who suffered a possibly season-ending injury last week, and brought it out onto the field during the pregame lineup introductions:

• Bear with me while I explain this one: The home team provides the batboys for both the home and visiting teams. Normally, they also provide the proper road uniform for the visiting team’s batboy. So, for example if the Blue Jays are playing in DC, the visiting batboy suits up in a Jays road uni, so he’ll match the visiting team’s unis (and then he’ll change to a Yankees road uni when the Yankees come to town, etc.). Last year, however, in order to cut down on uni changes during the pandemic, visiting batboys wore the road uniform of the home team. So when the Blue Jays played in DC, the Jays’ batboy wore a Nats road uni. Based on what I saw yesterday, it appears that visiting batboys have gone back to wearing the visiting team’s uni — but they’re also wearing masks supplied by the home team, which is how we ended up seeing a batboy in Cincinnati wearing a Cardinals road uniform and a Reds mask:

• Umps are wearing two (square!) memorial patches this season — “DC” for Darryl Cousins (died on Oct. 20; they also wore a patch for him for the final game of last year’s World Series) and “PS” for Paul Schrieber (died Nov. 12):

• As is proper on Opening Day, every home team wore white. Most road teams wore grey; the exceptions were the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Rays, Cleveland, and Atlanta, all of whom wore softball tops, and the Blue Jays, who wore their powder blue alternates. (It’s also worth noting that the Dodgers wore their alternate “Dodgers” greys, not the “Los Angeles” primaries.)

• In a disappointing development, ads are once again appearing on the back of the mound (so much for “just one year,” eh?). Some of the ones I saw yesterday were clearly digital projections, but others looked like they were real:

• The Mariners had a big “2021” on the back of the infield:

• Finally, while not uni-related, there was a bizarre play in the Dodgers/Rockies game that seems worth mentioning, as Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger hit an apparent home run but then was called out for inadvertently passing teammate Justin Turner on the bases. Turner was scampering back to first base because he mistakenly thought the ball had been caught:


Whew — I don’t mind saying that that’s some very thorough Opening Day coverage!

Unfortunately, the team I root for was unable to play and won’t be playing today either. But even so, Opening Day calls for a hot dog, so I made one (with capers and toasted panko breadcrumbs, natch):

Not bad at all. Also, the Yankees are in last place, so there’s that.

(My thanks to all contributors, including Ken Chia, Steven Luft, Joe Nash, John Oliver, Chris Sykes, Korey Traynor, Jared Tuwalski, @bullyday, @ki_ul_press_lee, and our own Brinke Guthrie.)

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April 1 recap: Lots of teams posted April Fool’s Day pranks yesterday. The most amusing one, at least to me, was the video shown above — maybe a better example of sarcasm than a prank — in which various Bills players pretended to love the team’s grey facemasks. A few hours later, the team announced — for real this time — that they’re actually changing to white masks:

Now that’s a good way to leverage April Fool’s Day!

Here are some additional pranks that were making the rounds yesterday:

(My thanks to all contributors, including Andy Carges, Russell Flynn, Chuck Graves, Wade Heidt, John Muir, Ignacio Salazar, Patrick Schroeder, and Luke Wachob.)

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Holy moly: Behold the baseball team at Delcastle Technical High School in Delaware. Obviously, the stirrups and cardigans are uni-notable, but don’t overlook the uni-numbered masks! (As an aside, the sight of spikes on concrete always makes me itchy.)

The photo was sent to me by the team’s longtime coach, David Battafarano. He says he has lots of additional photos and info to share with me, so we’ll be hearing more about this team soon. Stay tuned.

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Membership update: Another batch of designs has been added to the membership card gallery. That includes Scott Rothbart’s card, which is based on the fairly amazing jerseys worn by the 1987 Cleveland Force. Yowza!

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, 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 the Uni Watch, Uni Rock, and Naming Wrongs shops, plus the discount also applies to our Uni Watch Classic Cap. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me and I’ll hook you up.)

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 (now more than 3,100 of them!), and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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Podcast reminder: In case you missed it on Thursday, the new episode of Unified features an interview with Dodgers design director Ross Yoshida for this week’s episode of Unified — our first guest! You might think he doesn’t have a lot to do, since the Dodgers’ visual identity is so traditional and static, but he’s designed lots of the team’s sleeve patches, fixed their iconic script after it somehow got altered, and a lot more. This is the first installment of a two-part interview with him, which we think you’ll really enjoy.

As always, you can listen to us on Apple, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Spotify, or just use the player below:

The show notes from this episode, which include photos of many of the things we discussed, are here. Those photos (and some additional ones) also appear in the video version of the episode, which you can see here:

Please consider supporting this episode’s advertisers, Oxford Pennant (get 20% off any order with checkout code UNIFIED), Ebbets Field Flannels (10% off, except on NFL items, with checkout code UNIFIED), and Tokens & Icons (free shipping by checking the “For Office Use Only” box and then entering the checkout code UNIFIED).

Enjoy the episode, and thanks for listening.

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Pin Club reminder: In case you missed it on Thursday, our April pin has a golf theme. It’s a numbered edition of 200, with each pin individually numbered on the back, and we sold through about half of them yesterday. It’s available here, and we’re donating all the profits from this one to Fair Fight. You can learn more about why we’ve chosen to do that here.

My thanks, as always, for your consideration of our products.

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Going, going…: As of this morning, Todd and I were down to the last eight of these museum-quality “Rain Check” prints, produced in a numbered edition of 150 and signed by each of us at a Brooklyn diner back in 2018. As I recently mentioned, we thought we had sold out but recently found a stash we had set aside and then forgotten about. If you want one, they’re available on Todd’s website until we run out.

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: Rand McNally used to make an official atlas of MLB ballparks in the 1990s (from William F. Yurasko). … The much-maligned new Bally Sports Net score bug is completely obscured by the MLB Network news ticker during live look-ins (from @rjviking). … Nike went ahead and Nike’d up Oregon’s baseball unis.

NFL News: The Chiefs have proposed a new rule that would loosen restrictions on positional uniform numbers in the NFL. Wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, defensive backs, and linebackers would be allowed to wear the numbers 1-49, and quarterbacks could wear numbers in the 20s (from multiple readers).

Hockey News: New mask for Islanders G Semyon Varlamov. … The Senators announced the signing of draft pick Jacob Bernard-Docker with a photo of him wearing the team’s old logo (from @anthonypeacock_).

Hoops News: New Bucks PG Jeff Teague will wear No. 5 (from Etienne Catalan). … Also from Etienne: new Pacers F/G Oshae Brissett will wear No. 12. … UNC men’s lacrosse coach Joe Breschi wrote UNC hoops coach Roy Williams’s initials on his cap after Williams announced his retirement yesterday (from James Gilbert).

Soccer News: The USMNT gave Northern Ireland MF Steven Davis a No. 126 shirt to celebrate his new record of becoming the most-capped British men’s player of all time (the previous record-holder was Peter Shilton, who had 125 caps for England). Davis actually broke the record in Northern Ireland’s next match against Bulgaria, but it’s a nice gesture nonetheless (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … With the rise of NFTs in the art world, Football Shirt Collective asks what NFTs could mean for soccer jerseys (from Ed Żelaski). … Also from Ed, Cork City FC of the League of Ireland unveiled their new GFGS change kit. … USL Championship side Real Monarchs unveiled their new kits yesterday (thanks, Phil).

Grab Bag: The classic menswear brand J.Press has a line of vintage-inspired letterman-style sweaters and jackets (from Matt Schudel). … The Canadian Armed Forces have a new camouflage pattern (from Kary Klismet and Timmy Donahue).

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Today is Good Friday — my best wishes to all who are observing today, and likewise for a happy Easter. Enjoy Phil’s weekend content, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. — Paul

Comments (45)

    Yes, but they wore it throughout spring training, so we had already seen it before Opening Day. Today’s post was only for things we hadn’t seen before.

    Well done, Buffalo Bills…well done.
    Ditching the olde-timey gray face mask is a long-overdue move, though I would have liked for them to replace them with blue ones.

    Yep – I would have preferred blue too.

    Making an actual uniform change announcement on Apr 1 causes all sorts of confusion. There probably would be people out there today thinking it was an April Fools’ joke and did not get the later message.

    You say “old-timey” like it’s a bad thing.

    I really don’t think enough people outside of us give a rip about the color of face masks to really lend heft to an April Fools joke, but that’s me.

    So can we conclude that the Charlotte Checkers are an organization that Gets It with the way they poke fun at the trend of teams putting out new logos/uniforms with a “story” behind each design element?

    That said, they should keep that logo, at least as a secondary.

    Love the Cardinals in the navy blue hats on the road. I would be all for them wearing that as the regular road hat again.

    For April Fools’, it was not just the Brandon Wheat Kings teasing a return of Cooperalls. OHL’s Peterborough Petes did do as well. Announcing a return to Cooperalls for the 2021-22 season. Included a diagram of how they would look.


    Does someone want to tell the Buffalo Bills how to spell “Psych”?

    That’s the way Aaron McGruder spelled it in The Boondocks even though I always thought it was “Psych”, too.

    “Sike!” is the lazy form for people who probably don’t even understand the origin of “Psych!” (as in, “I just psyched you out!”).

    As far as NFL jersey numbers go, let’s just go ahead and make the rules the same as every other level of football, pretty much.

    All eligible ball carriers and receivers, kickers, punters: 1-19, 80-89.

    All offensive linemen: 50-79.

    Linebackers and defensive linemen: Whatever they want.

    Defensive backs: 1-49.

    According to NCAA rule book, Rule 1 Section 4 Article 1 “strongly recommends” numbering as follows for offensive players:
    Backs 1-49
    Center 50–59
    Guard 60–69
    Tackle 70–79
    End 80–99
    The NCAA makes no stipulation on defensive players.
    This is from Wikipedia, for what it’s worth.

    Wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, defensive backs, and linebackers would be allowed to wear the numbers 1-49, and quarterbacks could wear numbers in the 20s.

    Yes, please!

    What about kickers and punters? They don’t really need a number designation…let them go nuts.
    A lot of specialist kickers in the 60s and 70s wore numbers in the 20s and 30s.

    And bring back 0 and 00!

    This one is tough for me. As much as I love the idea of seeing a linebacker in the 40s or a QB wearing number 20 (that old school feel), one of the quirks that separate NCAA and NFL are the number structures. I’ve really come to dislike seeing almost every NFL WR wear a number in the 10s. I miss the heyday of all the guys in the 80s. And I always loved that Todd Christensen wore 46! So I guess to a point I agree with you guys only greats toward my preferences; which is 100% biased.
    If we could get a RB in 76 like Marion Motley I may change my mind.

    Great content this week, Paul. Very thorough and engaging despite no “new” uniforms. I know we are not out of the woods pandemic-wise yet, but a normal-ish Opening Day gets me optimistic about the rest of the year. I hope all of my fellow Uni-Watchers have a nice holiday weekend.

    A moment to stand back and appreciate the shift in the Bills identity.

    The current uniforms began their life as retro fauxbacks to the 60’s and 70’s with white lids, grey facemasks, black cleats, and striped socks.

    Over the last few seasons, however, the striped socks have usually been swapped for solid colors, white cleats came back, mono blue and red uniforms have become more common, as have mix and match combinations.

    The white facemask becoming permanent is just the last step (unless the striped socks disappear entirely) in a transition to becoming a thoroughly contemporary, modern identity. All accomplished without significant changes to the jersey.

    Good analysis, Tom!
    Pairing those gray masks with the standing buffalo throwbacks was/is ok, but they were completely out of place with all of their other uniform combinations (of which there are too many…the blue pants can stay but the red Rashes need to be left by the curbside too).

    I noticed Cavan Biggio and Jonathan Davis of the Blue Jays going with long pants with cuffs ending at the ankles in their game yesterday. They were looking very much like baseball players did in the early to mid ’90s (feels so weird describing it this way but that’s how they looked when I first watched baseball back then). Meanwhile Bo Bichette had pants ending right at the knees.

    The Cavaliers’ April Fool’s jersey was particularly well-done. Even they get they’ve overdone the guitar motif in Cleveland.

    Anybody else unable to check out when trying to order the pin? Have tried on multiple devices and browsers and never had a problem in previous months.

    Swear I saw a batboy in an Angels road uniform in the White Sox dugout yesterday. Not worth watching the game again to confirm, but I can look again tonight. So maybe not every team got the memo on that.

    In Philly the bat boy was wearing a road Phillies jersey so I guess it’s just inconsistent across the board.

    (Appreciate the thought and wishes…”but for the future, “Happy”. and Good Friday don’t really go we don’t say “Happy yom Kippur..” nevertheless, thanks for thinking of us…

    Thanks. Had the same thought, didn’t know how to say it without sounding like an overly religious prig.

    I’ve thought that using “Good Friday” as the greeting itself would make some sense, similar to how we say “Good Morning” or “Good Day”. It will probably never catch on, however. Wishing someone a “good Good Friday” would just sound a little ridiculous. While Good Friday is a solemn occasion, it is still “good” and not somber. It is something we can truly rejoice in, while not being frivolously irreverent about, if that makes sense.

    In the Romance languages, the day literally translates into English as “Holy Friday.” Which might remind one that the true joyous day in Christian belief is Easter, rather than Good Friday.

    Those HS baseball cardigans… YES YES YES YES! I wish my HS had those back 15 years ago!!!

    Haven’t heard the Ross Yoshida interview yet, but I do recall reading in Bill Henderson’s guide of how the Dodgers had to correct their logo after years of haphazard tweaks. The New York Mets are in desperate need of correcting their wordmark back to 1969, as it now looks cartoonish to me.

    Seeing Cody Bellinger’s home run turn into a single / out brings back memories of Bicentennial Day, July 4, 1976. My Phillie-fan brothers and I were watching the first game of a Phils-Pirates doubleheader and a couple of us really rooted for Tim McCarver, playing late in his career serving as Steve Carlton’s “personal catcher.” We’d adopted Tim as a favorite while living near St. Louis in the 1960s and were excited to see him join and later rejoin the our favorites, the Phils, in the 1970s. That day Tim came to bat with the bases loaded, and to our amazement, hit a low line drive that went out of the park. But Gary Maddox on first was ready to tag up if the ball was caught, so McCarver passed him on the bases and was called out for what came to be known as a grand-slam single. I’d run upstairs to shout the incredible news that McCarver had hit a grand-slam home run, and by the time I got back downstairs learned that he was out. I never felt more like Charlie Brown rooting for Joe Schlabotnik than at that moment. Fortunately the Phillies still won the game.

    I’m more into flags than uniforms, but they are simialr… OMG Where did that Chicago flag with the non-standard 6-pointed stars come from??…that is really odd. The Chicago stars are SO distinctive. Is it a custom variation form some Chicago Jewish group? Or just some really bad mistake by an offshore manufacturer??

    With MLB now moving this years ASG game & with what I’d assume will be limited capacity ~ I think MLB should get creative & have it played at a non MLB ballpark.

    Wonder how long it will take to pull the ASG patches off of the Braves uniforms.

    With the controversy about the Braves continuing the Tomahawk Chop, I’m surprised it was awarded to them in the first place.

    The card looks great, my son and I so looking forward to receiving them. Thank you to you and your staff for such a cool uniform momento.

    The Braves might need a few stitch cutters to remove the ASG patch from this year’s unis…

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