Your 2019 French Open Fashion Preview

By Phil Hecken, with Brinke Guthrie

Bonjour mesdames et messieurs.

See, I knew that seven years of French I took in middle and high school would come in handy some day.

Normally, I would have run this piece tomorrow, as 26 May is the first day of the 2019 French Open, but there just happens to be something a tad more important taking place in the Uni-verse on that day, something I can assure you you will not want to miss. Let the countdown begin…

So, today, I’m back with my doubles partner, Brinke Guthrie, who I asked to provide us with a rundown of the fashion for the second leg of Tennis’ Grand Slam, the French Open. He didn’t hesitate when I asked. Let’s get right to it then, shall we? Here’s Brinke:

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French Open Fashion … 2019 Style
By Brinke Guthrie

The French Open’s first round of competition for men and women begins tomorrow. Roland Garros: where men’s American tennis hopes go to die. (Last American to win: Agassi in 1999. The women have only fared marginally better: Serena Williams has three wins there since 1999, and Jennifer Capriati won in 2001.) As usual, this is one of the big events for apparel and gear makers to unveil their new stuff. Before we break down some of the bigger brands, a French history lesson. D’accord?

A Bit Of Roland Garros background

First off, “French Open” and “Roland Garros” are the same. Either name works. (Garros, BTW, was a French WW I flying ace.) Lacoste is the big dog croc here, and is synonymous with French tennis. Crisp tennis whites all day long- check out Rene Lacoste. Fila holds a special place in RG history, from back in the 1970s-1980s when Bjorn Borg won six titles. (Here’s Borg with fellow Fila-mate Guillermo Vilas in the 1978 final, won by Borg.) Nike has had a big showing at the French over the years; Federer, Serena and Sharapova have all scored titles there, and then there’s Rafa Nadal, winner of an astonishing eleven titles on the RG clay.

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And now, a look at some of the gear:

Hydrogen

The mainstream tennis audience probably doesn’t know this in-your-face Italian brand- but judging from the designs on their website, they’re targeting teens, period. You won’t see a 60 year old CEO wearing Hydrogen at the club. That’s Tomas Berdych, trying not to be too embarrassed; he is getting paid for wearing it, you know. Just a 2019 riff on the late 1980s-1990s Nike/Agassi campaigns. Their website also shows some, er, slightly more conservative looking stuff with a big “V” on it- “V” for victory.

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Uniqlo

They only have two players; one is the biggest in Japan (Kei Nishikori), and the other is the biggest, period. (Roger Federer). Don’t much care for brown/beige as a tennis color, despite what that fawning Esquire advertorial says. (And neither does this Twitter thread.) I miss his elegant RF logo on the Nike stuff, and the logo AFAIK is still in legal limbo, despite what this site says. I’ll wait for Wimbledon (white) or the US Open (who knows) to see if they come up with some color scheme I can live with. (I do like this T though- but only available on their French site as best I can tell.)

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Nike

Let’s just cut to the chase and cue up Nike PR-speak, since no one does it better: “Extending Nike’s longstanding history of unique prints and patterns, the summer 2019 NikeCourt collection uses an 18th-century art form to decorate the apparel for Paris. A toile print depicts pastoral scenes of skeletons amid tennis-specific details, including a served ball, a dapper spectator and more. Other details are specific to Nike (check out the Swoosh on the skeletons’ shoes) and its World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, like the trees and geese that populate its campus. Player options will include two more looks: a floral print, which appears on the men’s jacket, pant and shorts; and a bee, a classic French mark, on the women’s top.”

Aha. That explains the bees. I guess.

Got all that? So here are Simo and her bees:

And here we have some skeletons playing tennis. (A Grateful Dead deal, Phil?) I must admit, I’ve never ever considered skeletons as a tennis thing. I stand corrected. [That was THE first thing I thought of when I saw those, Brinke — PH]

Roses and tulips on tenniswear? No. [That reminds me of the pattern on my grandma’s couch. No joke. — PH]

A fellow on Twitter posted those with this comment: “Nike’s outfit for Dimitrov, Kyrgios etc. for Roland Garros. It almost makes me like Federer’s hideous Uniqlo outfit #whateverhappenedtoNike”. Nike also recently signed world #1 Naomi Osaka away from Adidas, and she is included in this clip. This will be Osaka’s first Swoosh Slam, and she will be getting her own personal line and logo. Osaka has three sponsor logos on her attire, two on the top and one on the visor. No other Nike sponsored player has this clause in their deal; the look usually needs to be “clean.” The retired Li Na got the same deal a few years back; Nike wanted into the China market.

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Fila

Fila, help restore some sanity to this article. Whew- We get a crisp clean look for their pros, like Kiki Bertens and recent Italian Open winner Karolina Pliskova. They’re both sporting the classic Fila Heritage Collection. Nothing like some basic blue to restore order.

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Lacoste

Novak Djokovic will wear this in Paris; he wore a blue version in Melbourne and rolled out the orange at Miami. Matching ASICS, of course. According to the tournament website, Lacoste will also have a co-branded Roland Garros line this year.

More croc looks below:

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Adidas

Once an official sponsor of the French, Adidas would have a line for their players to wear that included the RG logo. Always wondered why both Lacoste and Adidas were big sponsors, since they’re competitors in the sport. Adidas no longer has that designation, so their gear is RG logo-free. It’s called the Escouade (“squad”) Collection, and the colors include light blue, black and white. Red/light gray/purple will be introduced for other Spring Masters events. Caroline Wozniacki and 2016 winner Garbine Muguruza shown below.

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Sweet. Thanks, Brinke! Nice rundown of the French Open attire. Looking forward to watching tomorrow.


Kreindler’s Korner

I had the distinct pleasure of featuring the wonderful artwork of artist Graig Kriendler on two occasions over the summer and fall of 2017, and more recently, in August of 2018.

For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.

Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.

Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):

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Title: “Nap”
Subject: Napoleon Lajoie, 1902
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 12″ x 16″

Another portrait based on the brilliant work of Carl Horner, “Nap” depicts the great Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie in 1902. As the rest of his Cleveland teammates were that year, the legendary second sacker is depicted in his navy road togs with a large “C” on the left side of his chest.

Like the Horner-based portraits of Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb, this particular image was used as the basis for one of his T-206 tobacco cards. The lithography process placed a pastel yellow background behind Nap’s head on the card, but I still found myself wanting to keep the idea of these heads being in front of simple muslin tarps, which is most likely what Horner’s setting was like inside his Boston studio. The light source seems to be some sort of window or skylight, which I always figured would be northern light. That exposure was very often chosen by portrait painters due to a sky plane that doesn’t usually change drastically through any given day due to the sun not passing through it. That sort of consistency is crucial when painting a figure over multiple sessions, which was pretty much the norm. The northern light usually leads to cooler lit planes with warmer shadows, something that’s most evident in Lajoie’s face.

As mentioned in previous entries, the hope is that I can create a large number of portraits of the Hall of Fame players who were both photographed by Horner and eventually had those images represent them in that T-206 set. Ideally, I’d love to see them all under a single roof in a gallery setting, maybe seeing the paintings paired with their cards. I’m happy to say that something might be in the works, though I can’t speak of any details yet. There are more of these paintings in progress, including those of Walter Johnson, Joe Tinker, Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank and Bill Dahlen (who I think will make it into Cooperstown before this whole project is done).

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Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.

Why Is This Man Smiling???

Tune in tomorrow to find out!


Uni Concepts & Tweaks

After being dormant for a while, the Uni Tweaks/Concepts have returned!

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

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I received the following e-mail from John Elbertson, who is back with some concepts for the Cincinnati Bengals

What’s up Phil?

Here’s a concept I was working on for the Bengals. I kept the striped helmet, and used the AFL helmet treatment on the arms. Besides the sleeve treatment, the rest of the set is traditional. The third jersey arm logo features an infinite regression.

Lastly, the black jersey cannot be paired with the black pants, and same with the orange, because. Hope all’s well, talk to you soon!

– John E. (@HungryJohn18)

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Thanks John. OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.

Time To Update My 1985 Dead Concert Tee

Guess The Game…

from the scoreboard

The game has returned! At least for a trial basis, but I got a lot of positive response to its return, so we’ll see how long we keep this one going.

Today’s scoreboard comes from Mike Engle.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

This one probably rates a good 5/6 out of 10 on the difficulty scale.

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

If you guys like this, and want to continue this as a weekly feature, let me know in the comments below. You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.

The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: A John Wayne Gacy painting of an oriole that was maybe signed by Cal Ripken Jr. is up for auction (from Mike Chamernik). … Bryce Harper’s new personal logo has been revealed, dropping the “34” and going just with a “3” for obvious reasons (from Blake Fox and Nick Tesluk). … Also posted in the hockey section: YouTube TV had a thumbnail of the New York Rangers rather than the Texas Rangers for the Fox Sports Southwest show Rangers Insider (from @heyvittas). … The first 4,000 fans to today’s Corpus Christi Hooks Blue Ghosts game get this pullover jersey (from Ignacio Salazar). … Duke baseball coach Chris Pollard’s son has his own uniform, but unfortunately incorrect NOB and number fonts and colors (from Griffin T. Smith). … Miami of Ohio has a somewhat odd placement for their helmet numbers (from @JayJayDean). … Iowa’s Mitchell Boe wears a helmet with two c-flaps (from Jacob Russo).

Football News: We now have a look at the Toronto Argonauts’ new pants and socks (from Wade Heidt). … Jim Vilk found this amazing Ohio State helmet-themed bus while out and about. … The following are all from Phil: Do you really want to see 247sports.com’s “Memorial Day Helmets” for major college football programs? Really? Okay, I warned you. … Here’s a BIG 10 schedule, featuring the helmet matchups for each team. … If your answer to the question “should Notre Dame change its look?” is anything other than a “NO!” this might be the wrong website for you.

Hockey News: Former NHL defenseman Hal Gill tweeted out a picture of old helmets and gloves he kept from his NHL career (from @redbuppy). … The Bruins pro shop at the Garden has a mannequin in full Stanley Cup Final uniform — except the socks are wrong. The Bruins switched to black socks from gold during the changeover from Reebok to Adidas before last season (from Adam Femino). … Cross-posted from the baseball section: YouTube TV had a thumbnail of the New York Rangers rather than the Texas Rangers for the Fox Sports Southwest show Rangers Insider (from @heyvittas).

NBA News: Nike gave Raptors head coach Nick Nurse his own personalized hat. There’s only four of them out there (from @_bkuhn_ and Andrew Cosentino).
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Soccer News: Here’s a very good article about how the Premier League is adapting to include more accent marks to NOBs (from Jason Jarrett). … Sports Illustrated has a rundown of every Women’s World Cup kit (from Brandon Lewis). … Celtic FC are reintroducing giant numbers on their shorts for the Scottish Cup Final. The shorts numbers were their primary uni numbers until the 1990s (from @jamesesiddall). … Brazilian club Bahia created a camouflage jersey not as a military appreciation gesture, but to raise awareness and combat the epidemic of post-match violence in Brazil (thanks, Phil). … Leicester City have revealed their away and third shirts (from Jamie and Charles George). … Nike sewed an Internacional player’s badge on upside down (from Rafael Loureiro). … Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard is the latest footballer to appear on BT Sport’s What I Wore. … Speaking of United, Adidas has released replica kits to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the club’s 1999 victories in the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, but sans the Umbro logos, natch. … New kits for English League One side Ipswich Town (thanks, Jamie). … New kits for Scottish League Two side Stenhousemuir (thanks again, Jamie). … The following are all from Josh Hinton: PSG’s home kit has been leaked. … Manchester City’s home kit has been leaked. Note the small “125 Years” beneath the badge. … The Royal Spanish Football Federation surprisingly severed a decades-long relationship with Adidas as the Spanish national team’s kit provider last week, and are already looking to Puma and local retailer Zara to replace them. … Olympique Marseille have unveiled their new home kit. … FC Heidenheim have released their new home kit. … Red Bull Salzburg’s new home kit has been released. … Not uni related, but York9 FC’s new mascot, Yorky, is a “time-travelling humanoid robot” sent from the future to help the team win in the present day.

Grab Bag: Collingwood has revealed its indigenous guernsey, with a very nice 6-minute video (from Jeremy Brahm). … New training kit for England Cricket (from Jim Vilk). … Happy Memorial Day Weekend, here’s a ‘Stars and Stripes’ Dodge Challenger Fiat Chrysler cooked up (blame goes @DenverGregg). … Here’s a (paywalled) Washington Post article titled “How Empty Displays of Patriotism Allows Americans to Forget Troops“, relevant to Thursday’s lede (from David Wilcock).

Uni Watch’s 20th Anniversary Coming In…

That’s It For Me… for the weekend. Tomorrow is Uni Watch’s 20th Anniversary (as if you weren’t aware) and Paul will have what I am CERTAIN will be a post you will not want to miss.

Everyone have a safe remainder of the weekend and Memorial Day.

Peace,

PH

CFL Partners with Cap Maker for New Uniforms


Click to enlarge

The CFL finally unveiled its new uniforms yesterday. This is the first set made by the league’s new outfitter, New Era Cap. What you see above are the nine home designs on top, followed by the nine white road designs. You can see better views of all 18 designs in this Flickr set.

Now, I don’t follow the CFL, so I’ll leave it to others to assess the designs (the majority of which, I gather, are largely unchanged from last season). But I do have a few observations:

• CFL uniforms usually have advertising patches. But no ads were shown on any of the uni photos that were released yesterday (or at least not on any of the photos I saw), so these photos don’t really reflect how the uniforms will look on the field.

• I’m assuming that the new CFL uniforms include pants and socks. But you wouldn’t know it from the photos that the league released yesterday, all of which showed players from the waist up. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence and has nothing to do with the fact that jerseys are sold at retail while pants and socks are not.

• I’ll give the CFL kudos on this point: They put the maker’s mark on the back of the jersey:

That’s not as good has having no maker’s mark at all, but at least it’s not front-facing.

• And speaking of that maker’s mark: New Era Cap is making full uniforms! As you may be aware, New Era Cap is called New Era Cap because it’s mostly known for making, you know, caps (well, for that and also for closing its hometown factory so it can outsource its operations to cheap, non-union labor), so it’s interesting to see the company branching out into football uniforms.

And that leads me to something I’ve been pondering: Every time there’s a new football uniform unveiling these days, we always hear about how the space-age lightweight fabric was cooked up in the manufacturer’s high-tech lab, and how the innovative tailoring will enable the players to achieve a new level of performance, blah-blah-blah. Interestingly, yesterday’s CFL press release doesn’t mention any of that, which I guess isn’t surprising, since New Era Cap presumably doesn’t have any high-tech uniform labs for cooking up new space-age uniform fabrics, what with New Era Cap being, you know, a cap company and all.

All of which means one of two things: Either the CFL has opted to outfit its players in substandard, low-tech uniforms, or all the hoopla we’ve been hearing for years about high-tech this and space-age that is a bunch of bullshit. Hmmmm.

The CFL also posted this article on its website yesterday. It includes the following passage:

[New Era Cap] is best known for its hat deal with Major League Baseball that extends back to 1934. They only started to show branding on the outside of the hat in 2017. That led to more exposure, [New Era exec Rick] Baetz said, and discussion in the company’s Buffalo, N.Y. headquarters of how to get more of it.

Leaving aside the factual inaccuracy there (the New Era maker’s mark began appearing on MLB caps during the 2016 postseason, not in 2017), I suppose it’s nice that the New Era folks are honest enough to say that their uni deal with the CFL is not about making a great product, or serving the interests of their client, or working with athletes to create a better uniform, or anything like that — no, it’s strictly about brand exposure. This statement pretty well encapsulates New Era’s transition from a sportswear outfitter to a lifestyle brand. Gross.

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MLB/Memorial Day update: In case you missed it yesterday, I had an extensive interview with Nick Francona, a former U.S. Marine who’s also worked in the front offices of three MLB teams, all of which gives him a unique perspective on MLB’s handling of Memorial Day — a topic he has very strong feelings about. If you haven’t read it already, I urge you to do so now — it’s powerful stuff.

One follow-up: If you read the entry yesterday, you’ll recall that one of Nick’s biggest concerns is that MLB has never spelled out how much money from the sale of a cap or jersey actually goes to charity. Reader Warren Junium points out that MLB’s lack of transparency isn’t just frustrating — it also directly contradicts the standards set out by the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB’s charity accountability standards, an organization should:

Clearly disclose how the charity benefits from the sale of products or services (i.e., cause-related marketing) that state or imply that a charity will benefit from a consumer sale or transaction. Such promotions should disclose, at the point of solicitation, the actual or anticipated portion of the purchase price that will benefit the charity (e.g., 5 cents will be contributed to abc charity for every xyz company product sold).

This puts MLB’s lack of transparency in greater perspective, and makes it even more obvious that they’re not operating in good faith with these holiday merch programs.

I was really gratified by the response to yesterday’s entry, with many readers saying it was among the best things that’s ever run on the site. Big thanks to everyone for the feedback, and doubleplusthanks to Nick for sharing his time and thoughts with me — good stuff all around.

If you appreciate this type of content, and if you have the means, please consider supporting Uni Watch with a merch purch, a donation, or a membership enrollment. Thanks.

And hey, speaking of memberships, that leads us to …

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Membership update: A bunch of new designs — most but not all of them purple-themed — have been added to the membership card gallery, including Patrick Faherty’s card, shown at right, which is based on the back of the 1968 Ohio State helmet. I confess that until Patrick ordered this card, I didn’t know that the Buckeyes had used yellow numerals on their helmets back in the day — interesting!

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, quite 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 our Teespring shop and our Naming Wrongs shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me.) 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, and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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ITEM! Final anniversary countdown: We are now just two days away — two days! — from Sunday, May 26, which will be 20 years to the day from the date when the very first Uni Watch column was published in The Village Voice.

Although Phil usually handles the weekend, I’ll be writing Sunday’s post, which will feature some thoughts about two decades of obsessing over athletics aesthetics. I’ll also unveil our new 20th-anniversary logo and will show you a very special anniversary commemoration that a longtime reader has arranged.

Obviously, the timing isn’t ideal, since site traffic will no doubt be light during the holiday weekend. But I’ll have plenty of time over the next few months to harp on the anniversary, so don’t worry if you miss Sunday’s post — I’ll make sure to circle back to it in the days and weeks to come.

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: A lot of people sent us stuff about the comedy band Lonely Island sending up the Bash Brothers of the late-1980s Oakland A’s. The members of the band — Akiva Schaffer and Andy Samberg — wore custom A’s-inspired “Bash Brothers” unis in promotional images. The videos are supposed to be from 1989, so the unis from the “Uniform On” video (warning: extremely profane) are anachronistic, with the performers wearing post-1993 A’s unis instead of 1989 — note the serifed “A” on the “Athletics” script and the “swooshed” O on the “Oakland” script. They also wore the 1972-80 green pullover, which neither Mark McGwire nor Jose Canseco wore. The caps worn in most of the videos are wrong, featuring a yellow “A’s” logo, instead of white (anachronism notes from Richard Paloma, with thanks to everyone else who sent this our way). … According to Mets radio guy Howie Rose on yesterday’s broadcast, new Met Carlos Gómez is wearing No. 91 as a reference to Psalm 91. Also, he lost his cleat while running the bases yesterday (from Sam Brochin). … The White Sox will be giving away these T-shirts on June 13 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night (from Jeff Ash). … @labflyer found the smallest registered trademark sign ever on a Cubs T-shirt on sale at O’Hare. … Also posted in the NFL section: Jaguars QB Nick Foles wore a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp cap during for a post-practice interview (from Matt Straus). … The Tulsa Drillers, Double-A affiliate of the Dodgers, are wearing these jerseys today to honor the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. More info here (from @kyle47). … Nothing says “military appreciation” like incorporating your logo into service stripes! (from Landry E. Heaton). … You have to watch closely to see it, but Twins OF Max Kepler’s cap brim bent backwards when he bumped into the wall last night.

Football News: You wanna feel old? Joe Horn’s son, Joe Horn Jr., is in the NFL now, wearing his dad’s No. 87 for the Ravens (from Andrew Cosentino). … Patriots rookies don’t have their uni numbers yet, but their veteran free agent signings do. Inexplicably, LB Jamie Collins is listed as wearing No. 8 (from @PeskysPole). … It appears Jets WR Quincy Enunwa has switched from a Riddell Speed helmet to a Schutt Air XP, but this might just be a thing he does for practices and preseason workouts, and we just hadn’t noticed (from Jack Dorfsman). … An MS-13 gang member was convicted of murdering a man for wearing a Peyton Manning jersey (thanks, Phil). … Cross-listed from the MLB section: Jaguars QB Nick Foles wore a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp cap during for a post-practice interview (from Matt Straus). … Butler teased new unis in a Tweet yesterday (from Jamey Deckard). … Court papers show that the new XFL, which is slated to launch next year, is trying to obtain a bunch of helmets and equipment from the now-defunct AAF (from Phil).

Hockey News: Oh my god, check out these Whalers sweaters given to Gordie, Mark, and Marty — and Colleen! — Howe at their Whalers introductory presser. Look at the logo! Look at the first name on the front of the sweater! (many thanks to Jerry Wolper for sending this our way). … Another blood jersey at the IIHF World Championships, this time for Switzerland’s Tristan Scherwey. It appears every team’s blood jersey is No. 53, as every team that’s needed one has had that number (from Jakob Fox). … The Bruins wore their practice jerseys for a public scrimmage to warm up for the Stanley Cup Finals (from @yancy60).

Hoops News: New court design for West Virginia (from Bryan Wilson and @cDubya). … Igor Coehlo made minimalist mini NBA jerseys and stuck them in cheeseburger sliders to celebrate his 32nd birthday. Great job Igor!

Soccer News: Italian team SSC Napoli’s new fashion line includes a baseball jersey and a basketball jersey (from Mike D). … Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse have launched a special kit to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Port of Shimizu (from Jeremy Brahm). … Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia have released their new kits (link in Bulgarian, from Ed Żelaski). … The following are all from Josh Hinton: the kits referees will wear during UEFA Champions League competition will be manufactured by Macron, ending years of Adidas production. … French side Stade Rennais has launched their new kit. … All of Cagliari’s kits were revealed yesterday. …

Grab Bag: Esports team CLG’s new jersey will be released sometime today (from Charles B). … The Mercedes F1 team’s engine cowling will have a single red star in memory of Niki Lauda for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix (from Jack Wade).

Talking Memorial Day Uniforms with Nick Francona

Monday is Memorial Day — the day when we remember and mourn fallen military members. As most of you know, I’ve been critical of the way Major League Baseball has handled this holiday in recent years, for reasons that I won’t belabor here. (I’ve also given MLB credit for having a better approach to the holiday this year.)

I’m not the only one who has had issues with MLB’s treatment of this holiday. One of MLB’s most prominent Memorial Day critics is a man named Nick Francona, who has repeatedly questioned MLB’s handling of camouflage uniforms and merchandise. His thoughts on the intersection of MLB and Memorial Day are particularly notable because of two prominent entries on his résumé: He has served in the Marines and he has worked in the front offices of several MLB teams, all of which gives him more insight, perspective, and moral authority on this topic than the average observer.

Francona, who is the son of Cleveland manager Terry Francona, no longer works in baseball. His most recent MLB gig — assistant director of player development for the Mets — ended last summer. He says he was let go because of his criticisms of MLB’s handling of Memorial Day. MLB has said there’s no truth to that; the Mets have simply said they wish him well.

I’ve been aware of Francona and his thoughts about Memorial Day but had never communicated with him until last week, when he commented on something I had tweeted. With MLB teams having just worn camouflage for Armed Forces Day, and with Memorial Day right around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to pick his brain. We spoke on the phone earlier this week. What follows is an edited and slightly condensed transcript of our conversation.

Uni Watch: First, please tell me a bit about yourself. How old are you, where do you live, and what do you currently do for a living?

Nick Francona [shown at right; click to enlarge]: I’m 33. I live in New York now, moving to Boston soon. And I’m waiting to hear from some grad schools.

UW: I know you were in the Marines. When did you serve, and in what capacity?

NF: From early 2009 to 2012, I was an officer. My MOS — that’s military occupational specialty — was ground intelligence officer, and my role was scout sniper platoon commander.

UW: Where did you serve?

NF: I was stationed in California, and then I did a deployment to Afghanistan.

UW: I’m sorry to ask such a sensitive question, but did you personally serve alongside anyone who died in combat?

NF: The battalion I was in — 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines — lost five Marines during the deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. No need to apologize for asking. It’s the reality of it.

UW: I know you’ve also worked for several MLB teams. Which teams were they, and what did you do for them?

NF: I was coordinator of major league player information for the Angels, and then I was the assistant director of player development for the Dodgers and the Mets.

UW: I know you’ve had concerns with how MLB distibutes the proceeds from sales of Memorial Day apparel. Could you please summarize those concerns for me?

NF: Before getting to the proceeds and the financial aspect, I want to step back a bit. Memorial Day should be a dignified way to honor those who’ve fallen during service to our country. And I think any reasonable observer would say that that’s not even remotely close to what’s been happening with Major League Baseball.

UW: How do you mean?

NF: If you go back and look at it through the recent years, the one consistent theme is that it’s a commercial campaign to sell apparel. I don’t see how anyone could look at this and say, “MLB is honoring the fallen by pushing camouflage hats on people.” It’s just not the case.

UW: But they would probably say — and this brings us back to the financial aspect — that they’re donatiing their profits to military charities and so forth. But I gather that that’s what you’ve been taking issue with, either in terms of their transparency or their follow-through.

NF: Right. But making a charitable donation and coming up with a dignified campaign don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I think a lot of people started looking at all this with a little more skepticism after Brandon McCarthy [MLB pitcher who was then with the Dodgers, now with the Rangers] sent out that tweet a couple of years ago.

I had actually put together a document that proposed how MLB could do this the right way. I highlighted a lot of the issues where we were totally missing the boat with it. Like, just for one example, the Dodgers sent out photos of players in their Memorial Day hats, and it said, “Fresh,” with a fire emoji.

It’s like, really? That is so tone-deaf. I mean, that is just patently offensive, to suggest that that’s even approaching anything like a dignified way to memorialize people. And now it’s not just camouflage caps and jerseys — you have the camouflage eye black, the cleats, the socks, the arm sleeves. It’s turning into dress-up at Halloween. And what you don’t see, through any of this, is any acknowledgment of “This is so-and-so who died. This is their name and their story.” These are real people who died, they have families left behind. And when you actually talk to the families, they care about their lost loved ones’ stories and keeping their names alive. They don’t care about camouflage.

And it’s not just the camo itself — it’s how it’s presented. When you have to really dig and find the fine print that says they’re donating the proceeds — and even then, the fine print is basically “Take our word for it, we’re donating to charity” — that’s problematic. Nobody would look at that and say it looks like a benevolent charitable campaign.

UW: Do you have similar concerns about the proceeds of sales from MLB’s Independence Day merchandise, which have also been targeted for military charities, or just Memorial Day?

NF: There are a lot of overlapping concerns there, but I’ve focused more on Memorial Day.

UW: Let’s talk more about how the proceeds from the camouflage merchandise are handled. MLB says it donates its profits from this apparel, but of course they’re not the only ones profiting. Let’s say, for example, that Lids is selling a camouflage Yankees cap from Armed Forces Day for $40. Now, their web page for that item says — and this is the fine print you were referring to — “Major League Baseball will donate its licensed royalties from the sales of such items to MLB Charities to support programs for service members, veterans and military families.” Do you happen to know roughly how much of that $40 retail price goes to Lids, how much goes to New Era, how much goes to the Yankees, and how much goes to Major League Baseball as a royalty? Because only that last part, the royalty, would be targeted for charity, while the rest would still be taken as profit by the other participants in the supply chain, right?

NF: You have hit the nail on the head, and that is the issue I’ve asked about very specifically. I mean, that’s a very simple question: How much of this is going to charity? MLB has refused to answer that question, and so I couldn’t give an answer to Gold Star families who wanted to know. It’s embarrassing that they refuse to provide that information.

UW: So there’s no transparency there about how they slice up the pie.

NF: Exactly. And if you look, even the language of the fine print has changed.

UW: Right, it used to say “net proceeds,” and before that it said, “a portion of the proceeds.”

NF: This is the first year they’ve mentioned “royalties.” They’re very lawyerly about it, but they won’t even say how much the royalty is. And I am positive that they are making money off of this directly, because MLB also serves as a retailer in various shapes and forms. Plus there’s an enormous economic advantage to having your partners profit, whether through volume discounts or whatever. There’s economic value there. But there’s no transparency.

UW: Let’s assume that the designated royalties do indeed go to MLB Charities. What do you know about MLB Charities, and how do they, in the words of the fine print, “support programs for service members, veterans and military families”?

NF: That’s a really good question. I do know that they’ve made some donations in the past. How much, and when, and where, is an open question. Which is pretty remarkable, because that’s not usually how charities function. I spent a lot of time trying to research MLB Charities’ paper trail. From the best I can tell, for a while it was being done through the McCormick Foundation, which had a program called Welcome Back Veterans. But when I started digging into it, what I found is that Welcome Back Veterans is basically a phrase and a program, but there’s no entity, no organization, no board — nothing by that name. And I asked MLB, “Who’s in charge of this? Who runs Wecome Back Veterans?” And they had no earthly idea, because there isn’t anyone in charge. It’s not a registered entity — it’s just a tag line.

MLB would ostensibly give this money to McCormick to distribute, but one of the problems is that the McCormick Foundation is so large — they do charitable programs on orders of magnitude larger than MLB — and there’s nothing earmarked as “this is the MLB money.” And I reached out to McCormick on many occasions and never got a response.

And again, these should be easy questions. This is not “gotcha” stuff. If you’re selling a product and saying the profits go to charity, that’s elementary. There’s so much smoke and mirrors behind it.

When I drew up that document to show how they could take a better approach, I thought they’d eagerly embrace it because they were catching hell over the whole thing on social media. And the response was basically, “Stay out of our business.” It was very defensive. And when people would ask questions, it would result in almost this comedy of lawyers and and PR gurus, off-the-record briefings for reporters, all this stuff. Like, guys, this shouldn’t be so hard.

UW: If you could run the program involving MLB’s military-themed apparel and how the funds are channeled to charities and so on, what would you change from the way it’s currently run?

NF: Again, a lot of it is in that document. From an aesthetic standpoint, I’d probably do away with the camo. But most importantly, regardless of the aesthetics of the uniforms or caps or whatever, there would be complete financial transparency.

UW: One issue with charities and nonprofits of any kind, military or otherwise, is that not all charities follow through on their mission statements and not all of them spend their donated funds efficiently. For example, the Wounded Warrior Project sounds like a good organization, but it had a scandal a few years ago regarding lavish spending on parties, which resulted in several of its executives being fired and even led to a Congressional investigation. If a Uni Watch reader doesn’t want to buy a hat but does want to contribute to a military charity, are there any good ones that you can personally vouch for or recommend?

NF: I would encourage people to go a bit deeper than “military charities” in general. There’s a lot of different types of things out there — veterans transitioning to the civilian world, guys that are wounded, stuff for families, stuff for children of people who’ve died in combat. And within each of those categories, there are hundreds of organizations, if not more. So there are lots of areas.

One that I particularly like is the Travis Manion Foundation. The guy it’s named after, Travis Manion, was a Marine lieutenant who was killed in Iraq. And one of the things they do is help veterans participate and play meaningful roles in their communities, and really bridge the gap between the military and civilians. And one thing I love about them is that it’s not limited to veterans — civilians can go join that as well. That gets to the bigger picture of what I think is missing in a lot of this discussion, creating that bridge between the military and society. Like, instead of supporting our troops by buying a hat, how about if we support them by being educated voters on the issues that affect them.

UW: Leaving aside the question of money and charities, I’m curious to know how you, as a former Marine, feel about the use of camouflage sports uniforms as a sort of all-purpose military signifier. One of my readers, a guy named Scott Rogers, recently posted a comment about this on my website. It’s fairly long, but I’d like to read it to you:

I object to the spectacle of teams signaling their patriotic commitment by forcing their athletes to play dress-up in soldier costumes.

American pro athletes can be divided into two categories:

1) Citizens of foreign countries, whose loyalty in the event of a conflict would properly align with their home countries, and so no decent American would seek to force them to pantomime wartime loyalty to the United States; and

2) American citizens who are young; who are spectacularly physically fit; who are highly trained and capable in teamwork and small-unit physical and mental coordination; and who are, mostly, college graduates. That is, they are exactly the people who should be serving in [the armed foces].

But because we do not have compulsory service, these young athletes have chosen not to serve their country. Which is fine; we allow young people to make that choice. But having made that choice, it’s obscene for any of these young Americans to play dress-up in soldier costumes. Want to wear camo uniforms? Want to wear the flag on your sleeve? Great! Go find your local Armed Forces Career Center. If you can play at even a minor-league professional level, you will almost certainly qualify to become an officer in the armed forces of the United States, and you can serve for a short enough term that you’ll still have plenty of years left to pursue professional sports after your discharge.

Any thoughts on that, or on the sports world’s use of camouflage in general?

NF: I would start by saying it’s probably overstating things to say that any professional athlete is automatically qualified to serve in the military, and it probably undersells the officer corps a little bit there too.

But aside from that, there are some really good points there. I’ll start by addressing the foreign players, because that is something that stood out to me from the get-go. I mean, I’m a proud, patriotic American, and that’s why I served, but when I worked in baseball I was always a little uncomfortable with the idea of forcing people from other countries to wear American military camouflage. It’s something I brought up with Major League Baseball. I mean, if someone made me wear another country’s military pattern, that wouldn’t sit well with me, since I’ve worn a real American military uniform.

Anytime this point is brought up, the responses usually devolve into, “They’re making milliions of dollars, they should be grateful” type of thing. Which I don’t think is a particularly useful conversation. I just think there are better ways to go about this, in a way that can meaningful to families. So last year, when I was still with the Mets, there are lots of Dominican players in MLB, and specifically on the Mets. And there’s also a large Dominican-American community in the New York area, and quite a few of them have been killed in combat.

So I matched up players with local families, based on shared commonalities in their backgrounds — where they were from, where they went to school. For example, there was a Dominican individual who was killed, and his family was matched with Amed Rosario. There was a Venezuelan with Wilmer Flores. It’s a lot more organic and personal. And the players, it was very emotional for them, but they loved it. And the families, it meant the world to them — that people who would never have heard their loved ones’ names were now hearing them.

And the players all had these metal Memorial Day bracelets for the people they were honoring. In case you’re not familiar with those, it’s a stamped-metal bracelet that shows the person’s date of death, unit, location, and so on. It’s something very recognizable in the military community. And it was a big success — the families loved it, the players loved it. Everyone wins, eveyone looks good.

UW: In the past, I’ve been critical of MLB for using camouflage uniforms on Memorial Day, because Memorial Day is a day of mourning, not a day to celebrate. This year they’re using remembrance poppy jersey patches instead of camouflage, and they’re not selling any of the Memorial Day uniform merchandise this year, both of which I think are big improvements over their previous practices. What do you think?

NF: It’s definitely a step in the right direction. But to me it’s nakedly transparent that they wouldn’t have made this change if they hadn’t come up with this other holiday, Armed Forces Day, that lets them sell camo stuff. So I don’t think the folks at MLB sat down and said, “How do we appropriately celebrate Memorial Day?” I think it was more like, “How do we sell camouflage hats and get away with it, now that we’ve been criticized for how we handle Memorial Day?”

———

Obviously, Francona feels very, very strongly about all of this. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to read that set of proposals that he repeatedly referenced. Lots of good ideas in there.

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Click to enlarge

Uni Watch media blitz continues: First there was Hal the Hot Dog Guy wearing a Uni Watch cap on TV. Then there was Mets TV broadcaster Gary Cohen mentioning Uni Watch and me on the air. Uni Watch’s unexpected but enjoyable 2019 media tour continued last night, courtesy of Mets radio broadcasters Wayne Randazzo and Howie Rose.

The seeds for last night’s radio shout-out were sown earlier this spring, when I heard Randazzo, who’s a new addition to the radio booth this year, mention some sort of admirably esoteric uni detail on the air (sorry, I don’t recall what it was). I looked him up on Twitter and saw that he was one of my followers, so I sent him a quick DM to introduce myself and compliment him on his uni-centric broadcasting style. He said he was a longtime fan and added, “Let me know if you make it to a game. Would love to say hi.”

As it happens, Phil and I attended last night’s Mets/Nats game, so I arranged for us to meet up with Randazzo before the game. Peach of a guy. After chatting with us for a bit and obligingly joining us for a few photos (that’s Randazzo in the center), he went back to the booth to prepare for the game.

Later on, during the game, I started receiving emails from Uni Watch readers who said Wayne and Howie had mentioned Uni Watch on the air during the bottom of the third inning. When I got home, I listened to the archived audio. Here’s a transcript:

Wayne Randazzo: Got to meet the guys from Uni Watch today — Paul Lukas and Phil Hecken are at the ballpark today, big Mets fans. Big fans of yours, Howie…

Howie Rose [sounding a bit sad to have been left out]: Yeah, I would like to have said hi. Where were they?

Randazzo: Well, they sent me a message earlier tonight that they were over on the other side of the press box.

Rose: Huh. So you’re a uniform kind of fanatic too..?

Randazzo: Yeah, absolutely. That’s why I like to usually tell the uniforms before the game, if we have time.

Rose: I haven’t been to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in many years. But when I was there, one of my favorite exhibits was on uniforms. And certainly the way the lettering and embroidery jumped out, the colors were so much more bold and vivid, I think, on the old flannel uniforms than on the double-knits of today.

Randazzo: You know, baseball history, when you look back and see all the different types of uniforms, some teams have kept their classic look. Obviously the Yankees have generally looked the same. The Mets have too, for the most part, outside of those black jerseys that you like so much.

Rose: [Indistinct shuddering noises.]

Randazzo: But it’s such an important part of the histories of the franchises — the way that they were dressed! It seems very unique to baseball in that way. And Uni Watch, they do just an incredible job covering all the little idiosyncrasies of baseball uniforms, and really all sports as well.

Rose: Just think about it — there’s really nothing like that classic look, and the fans usually respond that way, look at how they’ve implored the Brewers to go back to their traditional look, and the Padres to their brown and gold colors.

Randazzo: It’s a big part of the fabric of the franchise. In Pittsburgh, all the teams have the same colors throughout all the sports there.

At this point, game action took precedence and that was the end of the uni discussion.

It was funny to hear Rose sounding disappointed to have missed out on meeting us. I’ve emailed with him on and off for about a dozen years now (sometimes during games), but my policy when dealing with “famous” people is that I never ask to meet them or tell them that I’m going to be “in the neighborhood.” I figure if they want to meet in person, they’ll say so (like Randazzo did). But I’ve been listening to Rose in various capacities for most of my adult life, and of course I’d love to meet him. Maybe next time I’m at the ballpark.

Meanwhile: Phil and I had a little fun at the ballpark’s New Era shop, and I brought my customary stash of capers (click to enlarge):

Also: Phil had a big surprise waiting for me once we settled into our seats. It has to do with Uni Watch’s 20th anniversary (now just three days away!). More on that soon.

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball NewsLuis Castillo pitched for the Reds in Milwaukee yesterday. Cincinnati wore their road grays, but injured 2B Scooter Gennett donned Castillo’s red No. 58 from the dugout (thanks to all who shared). … The Cardinals accidentally used a Braves logo instead of a Royals logo when publishing their starting lineups yesterday (from Preston Salisbury). … The Yankees have been handing out a WWE-style championship belt to the player of the game (from Keith Seminerio). … Cool promotion by the Astros, who will host a “Touch of History” tour and allow fans to handle historic equipment, like the oldest jersey in franchise history and the jersey Craig Biggio wore during his final game (from Ignacio). … During the regular season, Stephen F. Austin’s road jersey and pants were slightly different shades of grey. But for the first round of the Southland Conference tournament, they wore an old uniform set with matching greys (from Chris Mycoskie). … The Mahoning Valley Scrappers will wear Peppers in Oil uniforms on July 13. … The Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League have a promotion where one player wears a different jersey than the rest of the team. That jersey is then auctioned off after the game, and the money is donated to a local charity (from Tim Stoops). … The Potomac Nationals will give away a bobblehead of Washington RF Adam Eaton as Mighty Mouse. … The Corpus Christi Hooks will wear Blue Ghosts uniforms on June 21-23. … ESPN announcers had a brief chat about Georgia Tech’s faux buttons during the Yellow Jackets’ game against Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament (from Don Schafer). … Mitchell Boe of Iowa has been wearing a double C-flap after suffering an injury earlier this season (from Jesse Gavin). … The ballplayers in the children’s book Goodnight Baseball unfortunately, don’t Get It™️ (from Jeff Wilk). … This piece about Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea talks about how he helped modernize softball by eliminating shorts and introducing baseball-like uniforms (from Alex Parisi). … Per yesterday’s post, Paul noted that he wasn’t familiar with Brooks cleats. For anyone else unaffiliated, here are a few shots (thanks to everyone who sent photos along). … Cubs P Steve Cishek has the name “Manuel Domingos” on his glove. Why? It’s his grandfather’s name. … Here’s a weird one: Wheeling Central Catholic in West Virginia wears white jerseys with grey pants (from Jason Martin). … The Mets now have two Davises on the roster: IF/OF J.D. Davis, who’s been with the team all season, and OF Rajai Davis, who was called up yesterday. Both are just wearing “Davis,” with no first initials (from Sam Brochin). … The Auckland Tuatara of the Australian Baseball League have started work on their new stadium, which will be a dual-purpose rugby/baseball facility. To fit the diamond into the space, they’re removing 6,000 seats and creating a Fenway-inspired “Teal Monster” outfield wall (from Camryn Brown). … Former Phillies P Cole Hamels, who’s now with the Cubs, asked the Phils for one of their David Montgomery memorial patches. It’ll be interesting to see if he tries to wear it on his Cubs jersey. As you may recall, there was a similar situation in 2013, when several Mariners players wore the Angels’ memorial patch for Dr. Lewis Yocum (from Patrick Bourque).

NFL NewsNice observation by Derek Reese, who notes that the logo being used on the Dolphins’ white throwback uniforms isn’t using a true throwback, but rather a hybrid of logos from different eras. … Steelers CB Cameron Sutton wore a helmet visor with a badass graphic yesterday (from Jerry Wolper). … Matthew Jean spotted the Patriots team plane and noted a sixth Lombardi Trophy has been added to the tail. … Hatch Show Print at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville makes hand-pulled letterpress posters for concerts, and they made a series of posters for last month’s NFL Draft (from Dave Landesberg).

Canadian Football NewsWe were supposed to get a glimpse of New Era’s new CFL uniforms last week, but labor disputes pushed the unveiling back. But the start of training camp has brought about some hints, including the Montreal Alouettes’ and he BC Lions’ new helmets. It also appears the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are re-adding a yellow stripe to their helmet (from Wade Heidt).

Hockey NewsNew logo for the Bay City (Michigan) Americans of the Interstate Hockey League (from Ryan Keberly). … This designer came up with a royal blue concept for the Sabres’ 50th season (from @walbergLines)

NBA News: Apparently the Raptors were nearly the Toronto Grizzlies — and would have used the same logos as the team that eventually ended up in Vancouver (from Aron Burks). … Shahin Ourian made a set of Lakers concepts.

College Hoops NewsBoise State’s basketball arena has a new corporate name. … A vote by Uniswag followers has determined that Pitt’s gold throwbacks are the “Uniform of the Year” in college basketball (from Phil).

Soccer NewsIt’s kit leak season, meaning we have lots of stuff from Josh Hinton: Atletico Madrid has unveiled their new home uniforms; staying in Spain, here are all the new La Liga kits for 2019-2020; both Arsenal’s new home and away kits have leaked (also from Riles); Newcastle’s home jersey for next season has leaked; Preston North End of the English Championship unveiled their 2019-2020 home uniforms; French club Nantes has released its new home jersey for next season; Peru and Ecuador have released their jerseys for the upcoming Copa America (also from Ed Zelaski). … Real Betis of La Liga unveiled their new home uniforms (from Ed Zelaski). … Sporting KC will wear new warmup tops for Pride Night on May 29 (from @jason3thousand). … New Copa America kits for Bolivia. … “D.C. United played Spanish team Real Betis in a friendly,” says our own Jamie Rathjen. “DCU wore a mix of NOB and NNOB, with players who normally play for DCU wearing NOBs and players who normally play for their USL Championship team, Loudoun United, going NNOB. The Betis players were all NNOB.”

Grab BagThis blog post has a great collection of vintage mid-century airline logos (from Eric Bangeman). … A car lot in Des Moines is using a logo and font inspired by Iowa State (from Brian Madsen). … A winner has been selected in the competition to redesign the logo of New York City’s privately owned public spaces (from James Gilbert). … Couple of cricket items from Phil: This story about the evolution of the Cricket World Cup makes some notes about changes to uniforms; and the Indian team will wear a high-resolution unit under their jerseys. … The West Wing Weekly podcast had a discussion about campaign logos and fonts, featuring the designer of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign logo (from Jason and @tonsoffun57). … Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka is getting her own logo and clothing line from Nike (from Brinke). … Longtime reader Marty Hick’s wife, Holly, is a St. Louis-area teacher. Her principal’s last day on the job was yesterday, and he wore these Uni Watch stirrups that Marty got for him. He even went high-cuffed in the school hallway! … Check out the amazing striped socks (and one missing shoe)! That’s Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Hasley Crawford, who won the gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1976 Montreal Olympics (from Pro Football Journal and Miles Filbert). … Former racing driver and current Mercedes F1 team head Toto Wolff wore a black armband in remembrance of former driver Niki Lauda, who passed away earlier this week (from Jack Wade). … Several Nike-sponsored female athletes are speaking out about how the company has treated them poorly once they got pregnant (WaPo). … The men’s lifetstyle website InsideHook wrote a profile of Paul to mark Uni Watch’s upcoming 20th anniversary.

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Our latest raffle winner is Calvin Lasister, who’s won himself the Uni Watch Trifecta — a cap, a T-shirt, and a membership card. Congrats to him, and major thanks to longtime reader/contributor Eric Bangeman for sponsoring this raffle.

Hernandez Dishes on Shoes, Stirrups

Mets TV analyst and former MLB All-Star Keith Hernandez (above left) offered some illuminating insights into his footwear and stirrup habits during SNY’s broadcast of Monday night’s Mets/Nats game. I was watching it while it happened but didn’t have enough time to transcribe all of it for Tuesday’s post, which is why I’m running it today.

It began with Mets third baseman J.D. Davis at the plate during the bottom of the third inning. For some reason the camera showed a shot of Davis’s orange shoes, which led to the following exchange between Hernandez and Mets play-by-play man Gary Cohen:

Keith Hernandez [referring to Davis’s footwear]: Hmmm, a little Adidas! That was my shoe company, Gar. I wore Adidas shoes. You know why I wore them? They had a narrow — they were a narrow shoe, where I felt Nike was a little bit wider shoe, and I liked my shoe to really fit me like a glove, tight. And that’s why I had Adidas shoes. I mean, that’s — shoes are very important! You know, they’re part of your, uh, success!

Gary Cohen: So it wasn’t about style, about stripes over swooshes.

Hernandez: No. And everybody was doing Nike then. That was the big — and Nike wanted me to wear their shoe, and I tried ’em on and I said, “Nuh-uh.”

Cohen: Back in your day, did they give you lots of shoes?

Hernandez: Well, I tell you what, when I came up in ’74, no.

At this point Davis hit a ball in play and then there was a pickoff attempt, so Hernandez and Cohen actually discussed, you know, what was happening on the field. But then the director showed an old photo of Hernandez’s lower-leg stylings, from his time with the Cardinals:

That started the discussion anew:

Cohen: There, there are the Keith Hernandez spikes, back in the day!

Hernandez: Yep, look at that. Look at the stirrups, look at the stripes. [The screen now shows a similar lower-leg photo from Hernandez’s tenure with the Mets.] And the same thing with the Mets, but the Mets only had the solid socks.

Cohen: Did you ever wear anything but black shoes with the Mets?

Hernandez: No no no, not — I’ll get to that. When I came up in ’74, shoes that matched the color of the uniform were not in vogue. Everybody wore black. And then it started coming in, and ownership, the old owners, fought it. They wanted everyone to be uniform in their shoes, not a different company. And Marvin Miller and the [players’] union stepped in and said, “You’re infringing on the rights of the player to make, you know, money on a shoe company.” Then the colors came in. But back in my day, you had the colors of the team…

Cohen: Like you had the red shoes for the Cardinals.

Hernandez: Right. But in the beginning, some of the young kids had black, because they didn’t have a shoe contract. So Brooks Shoes came in. They weren’t a very well-constructed shoe, but they gave you all of them for free, and I wore those for a while, because I didn’t have a shoe contract with the Cardinals when I was young. But they were red. And they would fall apart in a heartbeat. But they would give you unlimited. And then I finally signed with Adidas and I was extremely happy.

Cohen: I’m glad it all ended well for you.

Hernandez: I don’t know if Brooks Shoes are even in business anymore. I don’t think they are.

Cohen: So once you got your shoe contract with Adidas, did you get as many shoes as…

Hernandez: I got all I needed. I went through around four pair a year.

Cohen: Did you get, like, extras for family and friends?

Hernandez: No, I didn’t. I was very selfish. [Cohen cracks up at this.]

At this point the director posted another lower-leg photo of Hernandez as a Met:

That shifted the discussion from shoes to stirrups, as follows:

Cohen: Those are the most uncomfortable things, those stirrups, aren’t they?

Hernandez: I loved them!

Cohen: Really?

Hernandez [referring to the white area visible under his sanitary sock]: I always taped my left ankle, my bad ankle.

Cohen: But — under your feet, didn’t it bother you, having that stirrup under there?

Hernandez: Noooo! Not at all. You why, Gary? I always cut — the seam was under the stirrup, so it would be right in the middle of your — the seam would come underneath and the seam would be right in the middle [i.e., right against the sole of your foot — PL]. I would always cut that and then get a white elastic band the same width as the stirrup and have them sewn in, so [shifting to jazz-like voice here] you can get the stretch. But you couldn’t have too much, because you couldn’t have white showing, coming out of your shoe, because it’s — you’ve gotta be blue. You know, it’s very important how you wear your uniform.

Cohen: So you had elastic under your foot, rather than the actual stirrups?

Hernandez: Yes. And no seam, either.

There’s a decent amount to unpack here. One thing at a time:

1. Until now, I had never heard of Brooks Shoes. There’s a company by that name that makes running shoes, but it’s not clear, at least to me, if that’s the same company Hernandez was referring to. I tried to find early photos of Hernandez from his pre-Adidas days, so we could see what his Brooks footwear looked like, but no luck. Anyone know more about this company?

2. Interesting to see how Hernandez called out the white ankle tape showing through his left sanitary sock. Sure enough, you can see it in other photos of him. Now it’s going to be one of those “can’t un-see it” things, at least for me.

3. Faaaaascinating to hear that Hernandez was having elastic sewn into his stirrups in the 1980s. We’ve often talked about how Frank Robinson and other players had extra fabric sewn into their stirrups in the late 1960s, but those players used the same fabric as the rest of the stirrup, while Hernandez used white elastic, and only on the sole area. There was a time, of course, when all stirrups had elastic on the bottom. I have several pairs of those antique stirrups, and Hernandez is right about them being more comfortable because you don’t have to deal with the center seam at the bottom of the loop.

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Color quandary: With the Warriors slated to appear in the NBA Finals and the Blues advancing last night to the Stanley Cup Final(s), all three of the Big Four championship matchups this calendar year have featured one team that wears royal blue and yellow.

I was thinking about which MLB teams could keep the streak alive in this year’s World Series, when it hit me: Not a single MLB team currently uses royal and yellow. The Rays come close, but they use navy and Columbia blue, not royal. The Royals also come close, but they use gold, not yellow. I suppose we could count the Brewers’ throwback alternates, assuming they actually wore them in the World Series.

Royal/yellow is such a natural color pairing. Seems odd that no MLB team is using it, no?

(Thanks to RJ Ochoa for first pointing out the Rams/Warriors/Blues color commonality, and to @ThatRodneyGuy for bringing Ochoa’s observation to my attention.)

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Membership update: Eight new designs, most of them purple, have been added to the membership card gallery, as we continue to work our way through all of the Purp Walk orders. That includes Jason Hodlofski’s card, shown at right, which is based on this year’s Purp Walk shirt — a brilliant request. (Two other new enrollees also requested this design; we’ll get to those soon.)

This year’s Purp Walk is now over, but ordering a membership card is still a good way to support Uni Watch (which, quite 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 our Teespring shop and our Naming Wrongs shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me.) 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, and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

ITEM! Deluxe one-day raffle package: Longtime reader/contributor Eric Bangeman has generously purchased a Uni Watch Trifecta for me to raffle off for a lucky reader: a Uni Watch Classic Cap; a Uni Watch membership card; and any coffee mug or screen-printed short-sleeve T-shirt from the Uni Watch Teespring shop or the Naming Wrongs shop. (Sorry, this offer does not include our sublimated Tequila Sunrise Deluxe shirt, nor does it include any long-sleeve tees or hoodies.)

That’s a pretty good haul, right? To enter, send an email to the raffle address by 11pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.

Super-duper thanks to Eric for sponsoring this raffle!

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Reading the (green) tea leaves: Reader Ryan Rogozinski has found the perfect tea to go with his Uni Watch tequila sunrise mug and T-shirt. How great is that? Nice photo shoot, Ryan!

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: Red ribbons for the Giants last night for their annual “Until There’s a Cure” AIDS-awareness promotion (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … A Cubs White Sox Bears Bulls Fire Blackhawks Chicago sports fan showed up in a lot of Chicago sports merchandise at Monday’s Cubs game (from Anthony Zogas). … Just imagine if that Chicago Sports Guy joined up with this Twins Vikings Timberwolves Wild Minnesota sports fan at Monday’s Twins/Angels game (from Sean Thesing). … Philadelphia held citywide elections yesterday and gave out Bryce Harper-themed “I voted” stickers (from Michael Barkaan). … Speaking of the Phils: This grocery store incorrectly labeled these Nats nuts as Phillies nuts (from @Section247Pod). … The Pirates are hosting several college nights with different university-themed caps (from Tyler Johnson). … Not just color vs. color but road uni vs. road uni for Missouri and Ole Miss yesterday (from Chris Howell). … Here’s the new outfield wall of Yogi Berra Stadium, home to minor league team New Jersey Jackals (from John Cerone). … Also from John: Here’s what the Sussex Miners will be wearing for Game of Thrones Night later this month. … John Moore was watching the Sioux City Explorers take on the Gary Southshore Railcats of the American Association, a league not affiliated with MLB. But that didn’t stop the grounds crew from painting the MLB Opening Series logo behind home plate. … The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Single-A affiliate of the Indians, will become the Peppers in Oil for one game this summer (from Drake Jesse). … Here’s some background on the beef between former White Sox teammates 3B Todd Frazier and OF Adam Eaton, which included, among other things, a ripped jersey (from our own Phil Hecken). … @JBeck132 found this duo of Angels and Anaheim Ducks banners featuring the logo evolution of both franchises. … Here’s a cap featuring Nebraska’s mascot, Herbie Husker, playing baseball (from @eshuman34). … Twins P Michael Pineda mistakenly wore the team’s home cap on the road last night.

Football News: The Bills have issued No. 32 for the first time since RB OJ Simpson wore it in 1977 (from multiple readers). … Starting with photo No. 2 in this gallery, it looks like the Vikings are using the old Nikelace template for their rookie picture day (from Rob Hedburg). … Rams CB Aqib Talib wore a Kansas Jayhawks hoodie underneath his practice jersey (from Jakob Fox). … Steelers QB Josh Dobbs wore a Schutt F7 helmet at yesterday’s team practice. Previously, he went with a Riddell Revolution Speed (from Bronson Black). …  The Iowa Barnstormers of the Indoor Football League will be wearing military appreciation uniforms this Friday (from Taylor Burck).

Hockey News: Google referred to games one and two of the upcoming Stanley Cup Final as “legs,” a term that’s normally used for soccer tournaments (from our own Griffin Smith). … Cross-listed from the baseball section: @JBeck132 found this duo of Ducks and Anaheim Angels banners featuring the logo evolution of both franchises. … With the Blues set to meet the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final(s), here’s a gorgeous program cover from when they previously met in the finals in 1970 (from Mike Malnicof). … The new FHL team in Columbus will be called the River Dragons. That tweet also shows their new team logo.

Basketball News: Can anyone figure out what’s going on in this photo? It appears that there are three different uniforms on the court at the same time (from Scott Dean).

Soccer News: The new-ish thing for Adidas-outfitted national teams is when they get a new coach, the coach gets a shirt with his name on the front at the introduction. So here’s the new Scotland men’s national coach, Steve Clarke, with such a shirt (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … Also from Jamie: Here are Sunderland’s new kits. … Possible leak of Portuguese top-flight club Benfica’s second shirt (from Josh Hinton and Mike D.). … Tennis player Simona Halep was practicing for this month’s French Open while wearing a MF Gheorghe Hagi shirt. Both Halep and Hagi are from Romania (from our own Brinke Guthrie).

Grab Bag: We Ticked an item yesterday showing all of the Cricket World Cup uniforms. Here’s a closer look at the England men’s kit (from Martin Bentley). … Cross-listed from the soccer section: Tennis player Simona Halep was practicing for this month’s French Open while wearing a MF Gheorghe Hagi shirt. Both Halep and Hagi are from Romania (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … The Victoria Shamrocks of the Western Lacrosse Association are celebrating their 70th season with this logo (from Wade Heidt). … Here’s a look at an awesome-looking IndyCar helmet from driver Oriol Servia (from David Craske). … Here are some of the wackiest costumes from Sunday’s Bay to Breakers, an annual 12K footrace held in San Francisco. … There’s a growing debate over whether the Massachusetts state flag should be redesigned because it celebrates colonial imperialism over Native Americans (from Phil). … A one-man factory (WaPo link) is keeping lacrosse alive on a New York Native American reservation (from Tom Turner). … Someone on YouTube has taken old F1 races and put the current scoring graphics with it. It also has current races and went a little backwards with the graphics as well in other videos (from Jeremy Brahm). … Nike, Adidas, and other shoe brands told President Trump this week that proposed tariffs on China imports would have a “catastrophic” effect on Americans.