We have something very, very special today, people, and it begins with a quiz: What do Reggie Jackson and Manny Ramirez have in common?
Probably quite a bit, at least in terms of their slugging credentials. But from a Uni Watch perspective, they share something more unique: They’re the only players I’m aware of who’ve worn a stick-pin on the field of play.
You may remember Manny’s pin, which made its appearance this season. Back on Opening Day, he wore a pin on his jersey, right between “Red” and “Sox,” which upon further Uni Watch inspection turned out to be a little cherub swinging a bat. (Despite extensive pestering, I was never able to get an explanation for this.)
As for Reggie, his pin-clad moment was recently brought to my attention by reader Scott Merzbach, who discovered it while watching a tape of the 1974 World Series. In Game 3, as Reggie stepped up to bat in the bottom of the 1st, announcers Monte Moore and Tony Kubek noticed something on his waistband:
Moore: Reggie’s wearing an Oakland A’s World Series
pin on his uniform, it looks like. Is that one right there, on his…?
Kubek: Yeah, it surely is, where his belt buckle would be.
Moore: That’s what they pass out to all the press people here, a three-leaf shamrock.
If you’re unfamiliar with World Series press pins, you’re not alone — they’re a very spcecialized corner of the memorabilia realm. The short version is that since 1911, each World Series team has produced a pin for media members. These were originally meant to serve as official credentials that would admit journalists to the press box; in recent years they’ve become more of a ceremonial souvenir for VIPs. Similar pins have also been produced for All-Star Games. (For lots of additional info and great photos, look here.)
I knew very little about press pins myself until about a year and a half ago, when I visited uniform designer Todd Radom and saw his great press pin collection. At my request, he’s graciously agreed to whip up a little press pin primer for us:
Legend has it that overflow crowds during the 1911 World Series, including friends of Giants manager John McGraw, were making themselves at home in the press box. The newly formed Baseball Writers of America decreed that anyone seeking admittance to the press box at the World Series needed some form of identification, and the press pin was born.
The first All Star Game took place in 1933, but the first All Star press pin came in 1938 — a celluloid button produced by the host Cincinnati Reds. Leland’s auctioned one off a few years ago for close to $5,000.
In the early days of the World Series, press pins were distributed exclusively to members of the press corps, and were manufactured in extremely limited numbers. Today they’re also given to VIP guests and business partners of MLB, but they’re still not mass-produced, and they’re not available for sale to the general public, which enhances they’re collectors’ appeal.
Early examples visually reflect the era in which they were manufactured, replete with flourishes and ribbons. One especially interesting early pin is the 1919 White Sox version, featuring “Black Sox” owner Charles Comiskey.
With the advent of the LCS (not to mention the wild card), numerous clubs now produce press pins in anticipation of a World Series appearance. So most pins in the last 30 years or so have been designed without a specific date. Hence the 2004 pins were inscribed with “16th World Series” for St. Louis and “10th World Series” for the Red Sox, instead of “2004.”
Some pins that are produced in advance seep out onto the market without ever having been used — these are called phantoms. One such example is the pin for the 1951 Dodgers, who were done in by Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
Another interesting Dodgers pin: the 1952 design, which was a great example of optimism. “Next year” would have to wait until 1955.
My own collection consists of about 140 World Series and All-Star Game pins, including 15 World Series phantoms and the complete All-Star run 1959 to present. I love them because they’re beautiful pieces of art, and they are frozen in time. The 1945 Cubs “Victory” pin, for example, represents the moment that World War II had just ended and optimism was abundant — even for the Cubs, who still haven’t won.
While this is all very interesting, none of it would matter from a Uni Watch perspective if Reggie hadn’t worn the 1974 A’s pin on his waistband (or, most likely, if the A’s hadn’t switched from belts to waistbands in 1972). So in addition to all the other things Reggie’s accomplished, add one more thing to the list: Thanks to him, press pins are now part of the Uni Watch universe.
(Giant foam-fingered thanks to Scott Merzbach and Todd Radom for their invaluable contributions.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: Cycling-related note from Tim Root, who writes: “The new jerseys for the US national mountain bike team (currently at world championships in New Zealand) look quite horrible.” … Bryan Redemske notes tht A-Rod was wearing Jorge Posada’s wristbands last night, and has been doing so at least since August 10th.