Naming Names


Aside from Derek Bell’s super-baggy hip-hop-style jersey (which the league office told him to stop wearing after three games), things have been pretty quiet on the Mets’ uniform front this season—a welcome change after the flurry of cap and jersey alterations of recent years. But Uni Watch is intrigued by the one revision the team has made for 2000: Player surnames, which were removed from the Amazins’ home jerseys last year, have reappeared.

This is the latest in a series of moves that began in 1998, when the Mets went for an old-school look by using nameless jerseys during their interleague series against the Yankees. Player names were restored for the balance of the ’98 season, but management liked the three-game experiment so much that they decided to go with nameless home unis the following year. “Unfortunately, lots of fans said they didn’t like it, and some players agreed,” says Mets marketing director Kit Geis. “So we put the names back this year.”

Although historical data is sketchy, the first pro sports team to put player names on jerseys appears to have been the NHL’s New York Americans, who briefly experimented with the style in the early ’30s. But it was television coverage, with its close-up views, that led to the modern surnamed design, beginning with the Chicago White Sox in 1960. Other baseball teams hesitated to follow, in part due to fears of lower scorecard sales, but many teams in the American Football League used player names when the league debuted later that year, and the entire AFL had adopted the style by the following season (the NFL didn’t catch on until 1970). By now, of course, surnamed jerseys are ubiquitous—the NBA, NFL, and NHL all require them, and the Yankees, Red Sox, and Giants are baseball’s only nameless holdouts.

As for the Mets, their recent nameless season had an interesting inspiration. “We were trying to emphasize a feeling of team, instead of individuals,” says Geis—a charmingly naive thought in today’s personality-obsessed sports scene, where most players might as well just have “ME” embroidered on their uniforms.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 30, 2000

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