Socks Finally Win One

So here's something different: The big uniform-related news at the baseball season's outset comes not from the design studio or the marketing department but from the manager's office, where Devil Ray skipper Hal McRae has instituted a style code. McRae, apparently not enamored of the footie-pajama pants style currently favored by so many big leaguers, is requiring his players to cuff their pants a minimum of four inches above their ankles, exposing at least a modicum of the underlying stirrups. Some may scoff (Devil Ray catcher John Flaherty has opined, "Instead of one or two guys looking like idiots, now we'll all look like idiots"), but Uni Watch salutes the long-overdue move. With the commissioner's office rumored to be considering a similar rule league-wide, McRae may go down as the man who rescued baseball hosiery from obscurity.

Meanwhile, in more garden-variety developments:

• The Angels have undergone a complete visual overhaul, and it's a good one. That silly winged logo is gone, replaced by an updated version of the club's old halo-topped A, and the contrast sleeves have been supplanted by more traditional jerseys (with "Anaheim" embroidered on the road grays for the first time, a move that no doubt pleases the local chamber of commerce), plus an alternate home vest. And in a posthumous nod to former owner Gene Autry, whose favorite color was red, the team's primary hue has changed from blue to crimson.

• Lots of interesting little changes for the Indians. First, they've added some nice silver accents to their jersey graphics. Next, no more red undershirts, belts, or stirrups at home—they're now blue, and the home shoes have gone from red to black, all of which matches the team's road look. Most interestingly, they've added an alternate home vest and cap, the latter of which features a new scriptIlogo—the Tribe's first headwear since 1985 not to feature the controversial Chief Wahoo. A sudden burst of political correctness? More like a calculated merchandising move, explains Indian VP Jayne Churchmack: "[It's] for fans who aren't interested in wearing Chief Wahoo." Ah, there's nothing like cultural sensitivity, especially when it generates a new revenue stream.

• The Royals are the latest team to embrace black, adding a black drop shadow to all their jersey graphics, an alternate black jersey, and an alternate black cap. More notably, they've also switched their gray road jerseys to vests. This move, when combined with the new Cleveland and Anaheim vests, plus the other teams that had already gone sleeveless, makes 2002 baseball's most vest-intensive season ever, which Uni Watch counts as a good thing.

• If you've got a gripe with the umpires, you'll no longer be able to yell, "C'mon, Blue!" because that color has been excised from the umps' outfits, ending a 120-year tradition. After last year's experiment with cream-colored shirts drew criticism from pitchers, who complained that the shirts were the same color as the ball and therefore made it hard to discern line drives hit back to the mound, umps are now wearing gray polo shirts with a hint of olive—similar to their trousers.

• Baseball's post-9-11 display of patriotism is carrying over from last fall, but in a more muted fashion. American flag patches will be worn on dugout jackets instead of jerseys, and caps will carry the flag only on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

• The mania for commemorative sleeve patches is getting a bit ridiculous—like, do the Rockies really need a 10th-anniversary patch?—but most of the patch designs themselves are pretty sharp. This year's crop celebrates the usual assortment of team anniversaries (the Mets' 40th, the Mariners' 25th), ballpark milestones (Dodger Stadium's 40th anniversary, Riverfront Stadium's final season), and special events (an All-Star Game patch for this year's hosts, the Brewers). And in a particularly heartening development, the Twins have resurrected their excellent patch depicting the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul shaking hands across the Mississippi River, a design not seen on Twin sleeves since 1986. Not bad for a team that wouldn't even exist today if the owners' contraction plan had gone through. Take that, Bud Selig!

 
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