If you read the February 26th issue of Sports Illustrated, you may have seen the photo displayed at right. Taken in 1965, it shows several Dodgers taking part in spring training drills in Vero Beach. The version printed in the magazine was pretty small — almost exactly the same size as the one shown here on the screen, in fact — so even if you did see it, you probably didn’t pay much attention to it (except maybe to think, “Whoa, now that’s how stirrups should look!”).
But reader Bob Jaye looked a little closer, and he found something veeeeery interesting — something, in fact, that has developed into quite a mystery. To get a better view of what he discovered, check out a larger version of the photo.
As you can see, it appears that at least two of the guys in the foreground have the letter S where their uniform number would normally be. The guy on the left probably has an S too, although it could conceivably be a 5 or a 9. What’s up with that? As Jaye wrote to me, “It’s rough enough to be given a high number like 87 in spring training, but having to share an alphabetical character with at least two other players must have been downright deflating.”
I’m figuring the S stands for spring training (although it clearly wasn’t a team-wide thing, because the guy in the background of the photo has a regular 7). Wondering if maybe it was something I’d just missed before, and I went back and looked at lots of old Dodgers spring training photos. Came up with loads of really great shots (as seen here, here, here, here, here, here, and — my favorite — here), but nothing like the “S” photo.
I had the nagging feeling that this might be one of those things that everyone knew about except me, so I showed the photo to a few friends, none of whom could explain it. Then I forwarded it to uniform designer Todd Radom and Hall of Fame researcher Tom Shieber, and was surprised when they were both stumped. So then I queried the Society for American Baseball Research’s membership — again, no dice.
Shieber, who loves investigating stuff like this, decided to consult some higher authorities, starting with former Dodgers GM and legendary baseball soothsayer Buzzie Bavasi, who’s now, like, a million years old (actually 91). Then he contacted more recent Dodgers GM Fred Claire, who immediately began consulting some of his contacts (“He’s like a bulldog, hot on the trail,” says Shieber). For now, the best guess from this brain trust is that the “S” may have referred to the Dodgers’ Spokane or Santa Barbara farm clubs, which trained at Vero Beach along with the big league team in those days, although nobody seems completely satisfied with that explanation. The wheels are still turning on this one — stay tuned.
Help Wanted: Several readers — most recently Oswaldo Perez — have suggested that I write something about the uniform modifications that can executed in video games like NBA Live and MVP 05 Baseball. I don’t play video games myself, but apparently you can create old-school uni designs (sometimes really old-school), complete with period details.
I agree that this is a worthwhile topic. But since I’m not a gamer, I’m not the right guy to write this piece. So if any of you out there are (a) well-versed in this phenomenon, (b) reasonably literate, and (c) willing to contribute a blog entry, please get in touch.
Raffle Reminder: As of this writing, only seven people — seven! — have bought virtual raffle tickets for the authentic Tracy McGrady All-Star jersey that I’m giving away (additional pics here, here, and here). So if you want to get in on this, you may not have much competition. The terms: $3 for one virtual raffle ticket, or two for $5, five for $10, a dozen for $20, or fifty for $50. PayPal your ticket purchases to me at paul_lukas at earthlink dot net (or, if you don’t like PayPal, mail payment to Paul Lukas, 671 DeGraw St., Brooklyn, NY 11217 and e-mail me so I know it’s on the way). Tickets will be sold until this Friday, 5pm eastern. I’ll announce the winner on Monday the 26th.
Radio Free Uni Watch: I’ll be talking uniforms on Springfield, Missouri’s KADI this Friday at 9 a.m. eastern time. It’ll be streamable here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Nice little slideshow on the state of NFL uniforms here (with thanks to Ronnie Poore). … Perfection. … Matt Lozar notes that Butler has some major typography issues for player names on jerseys. Sometimes they use small type, sometimes large, and at least one player has a bit of an arc. … I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Dice-K’s jersey insignia is riding mighty low. … Manny appears to have switched to a white snood. … Maybe I just missed it before, but have those blue stripes always been there on Ryan Howard’s shoes? … There’s something really weird about seeing Don Zimmer wearing modern wraparound shades. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: The Giants are doing a rally cap giveaway on April 20th. I’ve never really cared for rally caps, but there’s something particularly fucked up about a cap designed to be inside-out. Like, is everyone really too lazy to do this themselves? And shouldn’t the logo be backwards, and the brim curling the other way? This is the very definition of a failed concept. … Also from the comments: I thought Eric Gagne was wearing one long sleeve and one sleeve cut off. But it turns out he’s actually wearing a compression sleeve. … Bluffton University will play baseball despite their fatal bus crash, and will wear all-black uniforms in memory of those who died. … The Hagerstown Suns have unveiled a new alternate uniform (with thanks to Uni Watch minor league empress Kora Manheimer). … Latest bit of NHL uni “news” that doesn’t really say anything new here. … I’ll be off the grid most of today (spending my birthday with the parentals), so talk amongst yourselves. Back tomorrow.