MLB teams are currently in the midst of a four-day run of wearing stars/stripes uniforms. This is the latest development in a progression that began in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when MLB teams wore American flag patches over the MLB logo for the last few weeks of the season. (The Mets went further by wearing flag embroidery on their sleeves.)
Up until then, it was fairly rare for the American flag or flag-based imagery to appear on an MLB uniform (more on that in a sec). But since then, it has become increasingly common. Beginning in 2002, teams wore American flag cap patches on Independence Day for several seasons (a ritual that often went awry and occasionally sent unintentionally prophetic messages). The cap patches eventually gave way to caps with stars/stripes team logos, which in turn gave way to the stars/stripes jerseys that we now see every year around this time. Flag patches have also become routine on various camouflage jerseys, and the Nats have had several stars/stripes alternate jerseys.
Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, it was uncommon for the flag or flag-based imagery to appear on MLB uniforms. The primary examples are as follows:
• In 1917 and ’18, many teams wore flags and/or red-white-blue stripes to support America’s entry into World War I.
• There was a similar show of support for the war effort during World War II, as teams wore the Hale America “Health” patch and other flag-derived patches.
(I suppose you could argue that the baseball centennial patch, worn in 1939, is flag-based, and maybe ditto for the National League centennial patch, worn in 1976, although I don’t think either of those quite fits the bill.)
But there’s at least one other use of the flag on an MLB uniform that I hadn’t been aware of until reader Jeff Scott recently pointed it out to me. It involves former Cardinals catcher Ted Simmons, who for much of the 1980 season wore American flag decals on his shinguards:
If you look closely, you can see that there was a phrase printed beneath the flag: “Free the Hostages,” a reference to the Americans who were being held captive in Iran at the time:
Simmons took an additional step on July 4 of that season, when he covered his sleeve numbers with American flags (click to enlarge):
This was all new to me (or else I once knew and just forgot — always a possibility). Big thanks to Jeff for letting me know about unusual chapter in flag-based uniform history.
By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Our own Phil Hecken had a good recap of the MLB’s Independence Days unis in yesterday’s post, but we have a few odds and ends to tie up: Umpires wore caps with a stars and stripes batterman logo. … The Fox Sports scorebugs dressed up as well. … The Reds painted an “Old English” C on the mound on Independence Day weekend (from Jonathan Cain). … Hanley Ramirez of the Red Sox cut the ends of his sleeves (from TWF). …. Yunel Escobar of the Angels wore his American flag socks as sleeves, and his teammate Jesse Chavez took the field wearing two “stars” socks — no stripes (from Nathan Larsen). … Mets C Rene Rivera had stars/stripes catcher’s gear yesterday (from Ryan Feuerstein. … The Indians tweeted a photo of Terry Francona’s All-Star Game jersey, which he’ll wear while skippering the AL team next week. … The Brooklyn Cyclones wore Captain America jerseys yesterday (from Crazy Tex).
NFL News: A man convicted of double murder in Las Vegas showed up to his sentencing wearing a brand-new Tony Romo jersey last week. When asked if he wanted to take the tag off his jersey, the man declined and said it would “depreciate the value” of the shirt (from Chris Flinn). … Check out this old shot of the Lions wearing navy jerseys with Honolulu blue socks. According to the Gridiron Uniform Database, the Lions wore the darker jerseys in 1964, the 1967 preseason, 1968, 1969, and the 1970 preseason (from NFL Journal).
College Football News: UCLA teased their new uniforms yesterday, and it appears the script on the helmet is going from navy back to powder blue (from Matthew Henderson). … Here are Toledo’s new uniforms, which sees them go from a stock Under Armour template to a stock Nike template (from Jordan Strack). … Ohio has officially severed ties with Russell Athletic, as their contract with Adidas began Saturday. The football team will unveil new unis later this month (from Noah Wolf). … The Boise State Gators? … The Gerald Ford Museum and Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan has a replica of the 38th President’s University of Michigan football jersey and the original uniform he wore as part of the 1935 College Football All-Star Game (from Andrew Beckman).
NBA News: The refs for the NBA Summer League are sporting some new threads. It would be interesting if they were in fact wearing new Nike shirts, considering Adidas is still making the Summer League jerseys (from Josh Edney and Ryan Fishoff).
Soccer News: Sport Recife and AtlÃ©tico-PR of SÃ©rie A in Brazil went red-on-red yesterday (from Andre Noruega). … Mexican League teams Cruz Azul and Monterrey played a game in Houston yesterday, and Issam Konsul” noticed a bunch of players with three digit numbers. The teams were playing as part of the SocioMX Cup and not in league play, so these players could be young prospects not typically on the roster. Does anyone have any other theories?
Grab Bag: The Choctaw Nation has updated its official seal (from Chance). … The Wisconsin State Journal is running a contest to redesign the flag for the city of Madison (from Sleep Without Cotton). … New hockey sweaters for NCAA DIII’s Elmira College (from The Goal Net).