Capping a Career

Uni Watch has been observing with keen interest the recent events surrounding Carlton Fisk, who raised a few eyebrows by announcing that he'll go into the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Red Sox cap, despite having spent 13 of his 22 Major League seasons with the White Sox. Cap choice is currently a hot Cooperstown topic, but such was not always the case. "The notion of players choosing the caps that will appear on their Hall of Fame plaques is a fairly recent phenomenon," explains Hall historian Bill Francis. "A lot of the older plaques don't show a cap at all, and lots of others don't show a specific team logo on the cap." This was apparently due to several factors, including players' tendencies to stay with one franchise (making cap identification implicit) and the lack of logo mania in the pre-merchandising era. But with free agency allowing more and more inductees to have spent significant chunks of their careers with multiple teams, and teams milking every last marketing dollar out of their logos, cap choice has emerged as a Hall-related issue that's no doubt here to stay.

Francis says the first cap controversy he can recall involved 1993 inductee Reggie Jackson. "It was a fairly big deal whether he was going to go in wearing an A's cap or, as he eventually decided, a Yankees cap." Other recent tempests have involved Nolan Ryan, who chose the Rangers over the Astros and Angels, and Jim Bunning, who chose the Phillies over the Tigers. One of the snubbed teams is bound to raise a loud objection at some point, although Hall spokesman Jeff Idelson says, "That situation, fortunately, hasn't come up yet."

So what does the Hall think of a player like Jose Canseco, whose contract reportedly includes a clause stipulating that he'll wear a Devil Rays cap if he's elected to Cooperstown? Idelson tries his best to sound diplomatic, but he clearly doesn't think much of the practice: "You'd hope a player would choose a cap to which he has an emotional commitment, based on where he feels his career was best defined, not based on a contractual clause." Uni Watch heartily concurs—especially given those hideous Tampa Bay cap designs.

 
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