Football games take place once a week; hockey and basketball games, once every few days. Only baseball games take place every single day, which means there’s no time to find replacement gear if something gets lost in transit. And the things that seem to get lost most frequently are the umpires’ uniforms, a situation that often requires some amusingly makeshift solutions.
The most recent instance of this appears to have been last September 2nd, when the Blue Jays hosted the Devil Rays. According to a message board post on Officiating.com, “The base umpires had dark grey pants and very colourful shoes. The plate umpire had pants that looked like sweatpants of some kind.” This post led to a lengthy thread on the topic of umps in civvies, which you can see here.
Reader William Gornall has recently devoted himself to compiling a list of such snafus. Here’s a breakdown of newspaper accounts he’s found from the past 20 years or so:
• The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 20, 2000: “In Cleveland, the umpires wore Indians pullover jackets and caps when their equipment didn’t arrive from Seattle. [A fuller account of this incident, along with a photo, is available here]… And in Philadelphia, the start of the game was delayed by 10 minutes. Two umpires never made it to the game after being delayed in Cleveland. The other two umps, Kerwin Danley and Andrew Fletcher, worked the game in sweatpants and sweatshirts because their equipment didn’t arrive, and were joined by fill-in umpire Mike Fichter.”
• The Chicago Sun-Times, April 22, 2000: “The umpires wore [White] Sox jackets and caps because their equipment didn’t arrive.”
• The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 22, 2000: “The Dodgers overcame a ragged start by Eric Gagne to win a game that will be remembered more for the subplots. It started 27 minutes late because clubhouse attendants had to go on a last-minute shopping spree when the umpires’ equipment got misdirected to New York. The umpires wore black golfers’ rain suits on a damp and raw night.”
• The Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution, September 21, 1997: “In the game Wednesday between the Giants and Dodgers, the umpires wore Giants hats and sweatpants because their uniforms didn’t arrive at the park on time.”
• The San Jose Mercury News, September 18, 1997: “Bruce Froemming’s umpiring crew wore makeshift gear because its equipment was lost as the crew flew Thursday from Philadelphia. The umpires wore satin-like blue jackets and black pants. Froemming, the plate umpire, wore an outside chest protector that National League umpires discarded during the 1970s. Adding insult to injury was that the wrong umpiring crew was listed on the scoreboard as Froemming’s crew held its pregame meeting at home plate.”
• The Miami Herald, August 12, 1995: “For the second time this season, a new set of umpires arrived at Joe Robbie Stadium, but their luggage didn’t. The crew of Gary Darling, Mark Hirschbeck, Frank Pulli and Joe West had two choices: wear clothing provided by the Marlins or work in their underwear. They asked the Marlins for clothing. … Marlins director of retail operations Steve Stock provided the foursome with matching black golf shirts. Darling, who worked behind the plate, asked equipment manager Mike Wallace for Marlins uniform pants. The field umpires wore items of their own possession on their legs. Hirschbeck chose khaki shorts. Pulli wore black sweatpants. West wore gray dress pants.”
• The Dallas Morning News, June 22, 1994: “[Home plate umpire Dana] DeMuth and the other umpires wore Braves T-shirts and shorts because their equipment was lost in transit.”
• The San Jose Mercury News, May 31, 1992: “The umpires’ luggage still hadn’t arrived from Anaheim and they worked out of uniform for the second straight game. At least they looked alike. The base umpires wore white shoes, gray pants, A’s caps and green sweatshirts under white T-shirts with ‘Hard Ball’ on them. Plate umpire Tim Tschida wore an A’s jacket over his chest protector.”
• The Sacramento Bee, May 30, 1992: “With their uniforms lost somewhere between Anaheim and Oakland, the umpires wore gray jeans, white tennies and green and gold A’s jackets and caps.”
• The Rocky Mountain News, April 28, 1991: “The umpires wore Reds shoes, gray road pants, red warmup jackets and hats Thursday because their equipment failed to arrive.”
• The Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution, May 3, 1989: “The umpires wore Rangers shirts for the first few innings because their uniforms did not arrive on time.”
• The San Francisco Chronicle, August 6, 1988: “The umpires wore vendors’ uniforms because their equipment arrived late.”
• The Detroit Free Press, April 19, 1988: “The umpires wore Tigers windbreakers and caps Monday because part of their equipment was left in Toronto.”
• The [Bergen, New Jersey] Record, September 3, 1985: “Three of the umpires wore outfits supplied by the Padre grounds crew. Charlie Williams, Billy Williams, and Randy Marsh were forced to don such garb because their luggage was lost in transit. John McSherry worked the plate because he was the only umpire whose gear arrived in time.”
Two primary thoughts here: First, let’s all thank William Gornall for his excellent research — great work. And second, as you can see, the written record of umpires in civvies is a lot stronger than the pictorial one. So if anyone has any leads of photos of umps in improvised uniforms, please speak up.
Uni Comix: Yesterday’s comments section included a mention of this Detroit News cartoon, which shows stirrups-clad Tigers and White Sox players. This is in keeping with a pattern I’ve noticed: Cartoonists and illustrators almost *always* include stirrups when drawing baseball players. Can’t decide if this is because cartoonists are (a) too clueless to have noticed that most players no longer wear stirrups, (b) too set in their ways to change how they draw something, or (c) Uni Watch readers, but it’s an interesting trend in any case. I’m going to start documenting as many of these instances as possible, so if you see any similar examples, please let me know.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Called the Blue Jays’ media office yesterday, inquiring about Ted Lilly’s “DJM” cap inscription from Monday night. After checking with Lilly, spokeswoman Nadia Flaim came back with this: “He expressed a desire to keep the meaning of those letters to himself. As a result, we cannot comment on the meaning or significance of the inscription.” I’m fairly certain that’s code for “He doesn’t want any extra attention that could result in a fine, since players aren’t allowed to write anything on their caps,” but there’s no way to know for sure. … Speaking of cap inscriptions, yesterday’s comments included a note that Marcus Thames of the Tigers appeared to have “an entire novel scribbled under his cap.” True enough, as you can see here, here, and here. Unfortunately, MLB.TV’s screen resolution isn’t good enough for me to decipher anything he’s got written there except for “33” (his uni number) and “VET.” I’ll put in a call today to the the Tigers and hope that Thames is more forthcoming that Lilly was. … Facemask news: J.J. Carton reports that Schutt is offering a new mask design this year, LaVar Arrington‘s wearing it. … David Ortiz is once again wearing off-numbered wristbands, although it’s not clear why, since there’s no 43 on the Bosox roster (with thanks to eagle-eyed Andrew Heverling). … Bryan Redemske notes that Ozzie Guillen had a red stripe peeking out from under his right jersey sleeve last night. Any connection to the red sock stripe he used to wear, perhaps?