Back on April 10th, 2005, Miguel Tejada slid head-first into home plate at Yankee Stadium and emerged with the “1” on his jersey peeling off. He then ended up playing the rest of the game as No. 0. When I linked to those photos from my ESPN column a few days later, I got a note from some guy I’d never heard of before, which read, “That NEVER would’ve happened back when I was in charge of the Orioles’ numbers!”
That was my introduction to Joe Hilseberg, a lifelong Marylander who, as he explained in our subsequent correspondence, spent parts of his high school and college years working in the Baltimore shop that sewed all the names and numbers on Orioles and Ravens jerseys. He’s stayed in touch during the ensuing year and a half, often pointing things out regarding the subtleties of uniform stitching.
Hilseberg isn’t the first stitcher I’ve encountered. Back in 2004, I met Ross Gompers, who does all the stitching for the Mets, and ended up writing about him. But Hilseberg — maybe because he’s not in the business anymore and is therefore a bit freer to speak his mind — was much more expansive on the ins and outs of stitchery than Gompers was. We chatted on the phone a few weeks ago.
[A quick aside: Remember that I myself will be interviewed by reader Todd Krevanchi for an upcoming Uni Watch Profiles installment. If you have questions that you want Todd to ask me, submit them to him here. Okay, end of promo — on to the Hilseberg interview.]
Update, Wednesday, 7:45pm: Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, Hilseberg has requested that I take down the interview, and I’ve reluctantly agreed. I’m doing this because Joe is a peach of a guy who deserves better than the grief he got from certain quarters today. Those of you who saw the interview know how good it was; my apologies to those of you who didn’t get to see it.