The initial reports began circulating early yesterday afternoon: Mets equipment manager Charlie Samuels (that’s him at right, as pictured in the 2000 media guide, before he’d lost a ton of weight on a bet with Piazza’s dad and then gained it all back) had been suspended indefinitely, although the team wouldn’t say why. By the end of the day, the Times was reporting that it was due to his connection to a federal gambling investigation and that he’d likely be fired.
In the five hours or so in between those two reports, I was in touch with a lot of people in the uniform and equipment worlds. Most had no idea why Samuels was in hot water, and none would speak on the record, but all were intrigued by the story.
Meanwhile, assorted blogs and message boards hummed with rumors: Samuels was the source of too many anonymous leaks; the other shoe was finally dropping for Samuels’ hiring of steroid trafficker Kirk Radomski; and so on. My own hunch was much more banal, namely that Samuels was skimming autographed and/or game-used gear and selling it on the side, a fairly common clubhouse racket that can get a guy in dutch with the boss and with the IRS if he isn’t careful. Turns out I was as wrong as everyone else. (Update: I wasn’t completely off the mark after all: The Daily News is reporting that Sameuls is also under investigation regarding “Mets property that went missing from the clubhouse, including hundreds of bats, balls and jerseys.” That article also quotes an investigator describing Samuels as “a spider who sat in the middle of a money web,” which is the kind of quote you rarely see outside of the movies.)
So what does this mean for the Mets’ uniforms? Before we can answer that, we need to establish just what Samuels’s uni-related role was — a role that’s lately been subject to some revisionism.
The common understanding has long been that Samuels chose the uni for each game (I’ve reported that for years, Howie Rose has mentioned it on the radio for years, etc.). More recently, though, team officials have tried to change that narrative. Just yesterday, Mets Police blogger Shannon Shark reported that he’d “been told point blank by the Mets that the starting pitcher chooses the uniform.” And a comment thread on MetsBlog yesterday included this: “[Newsday beat writer David] Lennon said Samuels had nothing to do with selecting [which] unis were worn on a given day.”
That sounded fishy to me, so I double-checked with reader Matt Harris, who’s a former Mets batboy. “Most times it was Charlie [choosing the uniforms],” he wrote to me last night. “In my three-plus years there, some starting pitchers liked certain unis — Johan didn’t like the pins, Pedro liked to wear the black. But it was mostly Charlie. And sometimes it was schedule-related, [like] if we were shining certain helmets, or a lot of times we’d wear blue on getaway day because the players would need to pack black for the road.”
So why would Mets officials try to discourage the commonly held (and accurate!) notion that Samuels calls the daily uniform shots? I see three possible answers:
1. Mets officials were aware of Samuels’s imminent legal troubles and were trying to create some distance between him and the team.
2. Mets officials, who tend to have a very paranoid management style, didn’t like the idea that fans and the media knew about a behind-the-scenes detail like daily uniform selection, so they tried to create a counter-narrative.
3. Mets officials were as clueless about this as they are about so many other things and simply gave out erroneous information.
All of these are plausible. It’s tempting to go with 2, but I actually think 3 is the most likely.
Anyway: With Samuels no longer charting the team’s uniform course, will this mean less black for the Mets? I got lots of e-mails yesterday speculating to that effect, but the fact of the matter is that the Mets wore a lot less black over the past two years anyway. And there’s no guarantee that Samuels’s replacement, whoever it turns out to be, will be any less black-friendly than he was.
It’s worth noting, incidentally, that there was a lot more to Samuels’s job than just picking a jersey and cap each day. Being an equipment manager is serious work, plus Samuels was also the team’s travel director — a major job in itself. I’m in no position to judge his overall job performance, but my general impression, based on years of having his name come up in various conversations, is that most of the people who worked with him (including the players) liked him, and I know for a fact that he was extremely professional and effective about certain aspects of his job.
Most reporters, however, have never cared for him, and several of them went out of their way to reinforce that point to me as yesterday’s events unfolded. My own dealings with him have been limited, mainly because I found him so unpleasant to deal with during my first few interactions with him years ago that I decided to stop bothering with him. Defensive, cranky, irritable — that was Charlie, at least in my experience. Judging by what other reporters have told me, that experience was not unique.
So yeah, I hope his replacement dresses the team in blue caps, blue sleeves, and blue socks for all 81 homes games next year. But more importantly, I hope that person is more open to media inquiries in general and Uni Watch inquiries in particular, because it’s plain ridiculous that I haven’t been able to have a relationship with the equipment manager of my favorite team.
RIP, Capt. Hook: The Reds and Tigers will both be wearing uni memorials of some sort next season for Sparky Anderson, who died yesterday. Amidst all the Anderson photos that were circulating yesterday, this one stands out. Hard to imagine a skipper with a pipe nowadays.
Reader Tim Betz has an unusual piece of Anderson memorabilia: a pair of Sparky’s 1977 game pants. “I was able to get them when the Reds were clearing out stuff for the move to GABP after the 2002 season,” he says. “I know that they aren’t much, but they are special to me.”
Speaking of Sparky, if you’ve never heard his classic soliloquy on his relationship with the press — or if you haven’t listened to it lately — it’s essential listening. NSFW, but priceless.
Should we start calling them duck stripes? The common wisdom is that Northwestern came up with Northwestern stripes in 1928. But Larry Bodnovich has found several photos showing that same stripe pattern being worn by Oregon in 1925. Here are two more (dig that primitive down marker in the lower photo).
So did Oregon come up with this pattern? Or are there even earlier examples? Did Northwestern simply popularize this stripe pattern? When was the term “Northwestern stripes” first coined, and by whom? All of these are worthy subjects for further research.
Collector’s Corner, by Brinke Guthrie
It’s been 20 years since my favorite baseball team won the World Series (1990, Reds over the A’s — yes, my favorite team has changed since then) So let’s start off this week’s festivities with a little hometown bias.
As for non-Giants items:
• Has there ever been another team that featured cleats in their logo?
• Cowboys fans don’t have much to cheer about these days, so here’s something to cheer them up: some nice 1960s programs.
• I had a lot of Slurpee baseball cups back in the day (cola/cherry smash mix, please), but I didn’t have the scorecard!
• Reader Gabriel Butler doesn’t think this is really a baseball jersey. PL, your thoughts? [The snap buttons, straight hem, and school name on the back make it pretty obvious that this is a basktetball warm-up, as I’m sure Terry Proctor can confirm. — PL]
• Reader Jake Doyle spotted this Satchell Paige pencil clip
• And here’s one from Paul: three New York Nets envelopes!
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: “I’d never seen a white version of the Jets’ 1980s helmet until I saw this pennant listed in an eBay auction,” says Matt Talbot. “Of course, I snapped it up. I don’t know if it’s a prototype or if the manufacturer took artistic license. Either way, I think its the best Jets helmet I’ve ever seen.” ”¦ Ric Jensen is trying to assemble a list of teams that have worn Spanish-language jerseys in recent years — Gigantes, Cerveceros, Los Bulls, etc. You can send your submissions to him here. ”¦ Philip Caldwell and Gary Streeting point out that QB “no contact” jerseys can also be blue, green, white, and black. ”¦ Sensational item on shirt garters (thanks, Kirsten). ”¦ Michael Orr reports that the Portland Timbers will unveil their new kits on Dec. 9. ”¦ Lately I’ve been seeing lots of people describing certain designs as “a hot mess.” That term has never been more applicable than it is here. That’s St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, Connecticut (with thanks to Tim Snyder, who also spotted a Florida school that wears an Ohio State-inspired uni with Iowa Hawkeye merit decals). ”¦ Here are Tennessee’s new orange hoops uniforms (with thanks to Luke Pellegra). ”¦ Whoa, check out the sleeves on this jacket! “It’s got a Ronald McDonald kinda feel, no?” observes Terence Kearns. ”¦ The Dallas Stars are “studying” the idea of a green jersey, which would be a-ok with me (with thanks to John Muir). ”¦ Here’s a good article about South Carolina’s new basketball uniforms (with thanks to Beau Franklin). ”¦ The “official burger of the Mets” (the very concept of which is ridiculous, but I digress) is an operation called Brooklyn Burgers (which is odd, since the Mets play in Queens, but I digress again). Now Brooklyn Burgers is embroiled in a trademark dispute with MLB and Dodgers over the “Brooklyn” script. ”¦ Joel Mathwig says the Titans’ online shop was featuring this Randy Moss jersey yesterday afternoon. ”¦ Longtime reader and DIYer Ryan Connelly has started a new blog to document his assorted DIY projects. ”¦ According to a radio report I just heard, the “hot colors” next year, and especially next fall, will be green and gray. Which means I’ll finally be in style. ”¦ Chris Wautel noticed something interesting in a Prilosec commercial that’s currently airing: “The commercial features Dave Diehl from the Giants and Anthony Herrera from the Vikings. When DIehl is talking, the team and league logos on his jersey are covered up. Yet Herrera’s logos are fully exposed.” Now, Diehl’s wearing a practice jersey in that shot, not a game jersey, so that probably has something to do with it, but it’s still interesting. In any case, both players full uniforms are shown on this page. ”¦ Yikes! (Bizarre find by Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski.) ”¦ Wrigley Field has a gridiron for the Northwestern/Illinois game on Nov. 20 (with thanks to Joe Coney). ”¦ Another cross-school promotion last night, as Georgia Tech wore Mississippi State decals in memory of Bulldogs player Nick Bell, who died this week. ”¦ Proud papa Morris Levin was putting his three-year-old daughter to bed last night when the following scene unfolded: “I happened to be wearing my Phillies hat. She looks at the hat and she says, ‘Why is the button blue?’ So I told her, “Well, in 1992, they chose to make it blue when they redesigned it.’ She nodded her head and looked at the hat again and said, ‘The P is white… the button should be white too… or red.’ I nodded and I told her that I thought it should be white but that red would work as well.” Touching scene, except why was Morris wearing a baseball cap in the house? ”¦ New anti-concussion helmet for DeSean Jackson. ”¦ The Blazers wore their Maurice Lucas memorial patch last night for the first time. ”¦ The Sabres wore their royal blue alts last night, but goalie Jonas Enroth was wearing the team’s standard navy pants (with thanks to Mike Monoghan). ”¦ Did you know Bob Gibson played college basketball? It’s true! (Awesome find by Paul Nitti.) ”¦ Also from Paul: I love the button-through pockets on this letterman sweater. Sensational sneakers too, no? … Jeez, on top of everything else he does, Dave Eggars also drew/designed this awesome World Series poster (which is based on these great illustrations). Talented fella.
Super Special: Longtime reader and “Stealing Signs” artist Mark Penxa found yesterday’s entry rather inspiring. Is that great or what? He graciously offered to send me the original, which I’ll be proud to have on my wall.