Willie Mays turned 90 yesterday, so there have been lots of Mays tributes floating around this week. One of them, improbably, taught me about a fascinating uni-related connection between Mays and another all-time great, Tom Seaver.
The tribute in question is this New York Times article about Mays that was published on Wednesday. It was written by James S. Hirsch, who authored a Mays biography 10 years ago. While I was reading the article, this passage jumped out at me:
[Mays] was particularly close to Seaver, who as a college player noticed that Mays didn’t button the top of his jersey, so Seaver never buttoned the top of his.
As a lifelong Mets fan who grew up watching Seaver and caught the tail end of Mays’s career — and who has seen, heard, and read an incalculable amount of information about both players over the years — I was unfamiliar with this storyline. Since Hirsch had written a Mays biography, I figured this tidbit about the buttons was probably mentioned in the book, so I found a searchable version of the bio online, searched on “Seaver,” and sure enough, there it was on page 512 (click to enlarge):
How’s that for a fascinating uniform detail? My next step was to look at photos of Mays. Did he really leave his top button unbuttoned all the time? Yup (click to enlarge):
I had no idea. Of course, leaving the top button unfastened looks completely unremarkable from our modern vantage point, when so many players leave multiple buttons open. But in the 1950s and ’60s, it may have seemed more adventurous, even radical. Was it considered part of the “flashy” style often attributed to Black ballplayers? Did some old-schoolers think Mays was “disrespecting” the uniform and the game, like Buck Showalter thought about Junior Griffey’s backwards BP cap?
Meanwhile, what about Seaver — did he really go unbuttoned as well? I watched him pitch countless times during his career and have viewed a gazillion photos of him over the years, but I never thought anything about his top jersey button. So yesterday I looked at some photos (click to enlarge):
So yeah, Seaver did indeed go top-unbuttoned. I did find a few shots of him with the top button fastened, but those were mostly posed shots, not game photos.
Even better, I found two group shots of the Mets’ 1969 starting pitchers — Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Nolan Ryan, and (in one of the photos) Jim McAndrew. In both photos, Seaver is top-unbuttoned while everyone else — except possibly Koosman — is fully buttoned:
Again, Seaver’s jersey style looks completely ordinary by today’s standards, but maybe that’s not how people viewed it back in the day.
Either way, it’s fascinating to hear that Seaver took his cue from Mays in this regard. What a subtle uni-related tribute! It occurs to me that from 1977 through 1986, Seaver was stuck wearing pullover jerseys with the Reds, Mets, and White Sox. I wonder if it bugged him that he had no top button to leave open.
I don’t mind saying that this feels like the perfect capper to what has been a really great minutiae-obsessive week here on Uni Watch. The ump patches, the Dodger Stadium batter’s boxes, the NOBs with diacritical marks, and now the Mays/Seaver button connection. Peak Uni Watch!
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Squatchee Watch: Twitter-er @PierogiPacMan noticed that Royals starter Danny Duffy’s cap was missing its white squatchee yesterday. I did some quick photo research and discovered that Duffy was also squatchee-free during his two previous starts, on May 1 and April 25, although he was properly squatchee-clad for the start before that, on April 19.
Intriguing! So I asked Royals PR rep Mike Cummings about it. He spoke to Duffy after the game and got back to me with this:
Danny just said that it popped off a couple starts ago because his head is too big, and apparently he’s kept the same cap for those [last few] starts. We’ll see if he changes it up after taking a loss today.
Not sure I’ve ever heard of a squatchee coming off due to an oversized melon, but that’s the official story!
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Who wears short shorts (continued): Twins infielder Nick Gordon made his MLB debut yesterday. As you can see above, he’s the latest MLBer to take high-cuffing to extreme lengths (or maybe lack of length). Here’s how it looked in action:
Gordon has gone up and down, literally, with his pants. He had the super-high-cuffed style in spring training of 2019 but was a full-on pajamist just two months ago, so he’s clearly not wedded to one specific style. Let’s get him in some stirrups!
(My thanks to Ben Hagen for bringing Gordon’s big league debut to my attention.)
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New Uni-Centric Museum Exhibit
By Kary Klismet
If you’re anywhere near Leadville, Colo., this year, you won’t want to miss “Miner Leaguers: Mining and the Great American Pastime,” a new exhibit at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. The exhibit, which runs through December, explores the important recreational and cultural role that baseball played in mining towns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Longtime Uni Watch reader Myles Gallagher, who was the museum’s curator until recently leaving for another position, organized the exhibit. Among its artifacts are painstaking recreations of uniforms worn by legendary mining town baseball teams; playing equipment, including bats, balls, and gloves; and historical photos. Here are some highlights of what you’ll see.
Full disclosure: I contributed a couple of items to the cause and finally got to see them on display, along with the rest of the exhibit, last Saturday. It was well worth the drive from Denver and a fun way to support the work of a fellow uni-watcher. Check it out if you can!
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: Mets OF Kevin Pillar apparently broke or damaged his belt during a head-first slide yesterday, so he took off his belt and finished his tour of the bases belt-less (from @bivlo). … We’ve seen this before, but it’s always fun to see the Sacramento Solons’ 1970s uniforms with shorts (from @dfoliver68). … The Hillsboro Hops, High-A affiliates of the Diamondbacks, have added a memorial patch for Mike Bell, the D-backs’ former farm director who passed away recently (from @therealejgold). … The Lexington County Blowfish, of the collegiate wood bat Coastal Plain League, unveiled new uniforms for the 2021 season (from Kary Klismet). … Kentucky wore flag desecration caps last night against Florida. … The home plate umpire at last night’s LSU/Auburn game was wearing an MLB-branded jersey (from Branden Duerfeldt).
Pro Football News: Patriots RB Brandon Bolden is switching from No. 38 to No. 25. … The Colts have revealed the numbers for their recent draft picks (from Alex Wiggs). … We have our first look at Trevor Lawrence in a full Jaguars uniform, minus the helmet. … The Alphas, a team in the new Spring League, have a player wearing No. 100, and at least one player on each team went NNOB (from Marcus Hall).
College/High School Football News: Georgia Tech’s helmets got the three-stripe treatment for practices (from Mike Raymer). … Virginia Tech will have a new way to dole out uni numbers. Players will get to pick their numbers based on strength and conditioning rankings (from Andrew Cosentino).
Hockey News: Back on Cinco de Mayo, the Sharks wore some amazing warm-up sweaters (from Wade Heidt).
Soccer News: Manchester United’s 2021-22 home kits have leaked, and unlike other major soccer leaks, we actually got some good images (from multiple readers). … Spurs FW Harry Kane has once again purchased Leyton Orient’s kit ad space, and will donate the space to charities (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … Also from Jamie, with musician Ed Sheeran now advertising on Ipswich Town’s kits, here’s a list of other musicians who’ve served as kit advertisers.
Grab Bag: Carnival Cruise Lines is updating its livery (from Kenneth Traisman). … The following are all from Kary Klismet: Here’s a piece on how flight attendant uniforms have evolved over the years. … Fast Company has an article about the color-selection process for logos. … A student at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Massachusetts has created the school’s first-ever athletics logo. … Atlanta’s Midtown High School, which recently changed its name to drop its association with the racist newsman Henry W. Grady, has unveiled new logos.
That’s a wrap for this week. And what a great Uni Watch week it’s been! Hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Stay well, enjoy Phil’s weekend content, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. — Paul