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MLB Continues Tradition of Uni Ads for Games in Japan

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MLB announced yesterday that the A’s will wear an MGM Resorts advertising patch on their right sleeve for the season-opening series against the Mariners on March 20 and 21. According to this Forbes piece, the Mariners are expected to have a different ad patch for that series, with the advertiser’s identity presumably to be revealed soon.

Some of you are no doubt saying, “This is obviously the first step toward a full-on MLB ad patch program, just like the NBA’s.” And sure, maybe it is. But it’s important to remember that MLB has a long history, dating back nearly two decades, of using ad patches for season-opening games in Japan (even though Section 3.03(j) of the MLB rulebook specifically prohibits “patches or designs relating to commercial advertisements,” a stricture that they conveniently ignore for these overseas games). I’d been expecting them to do the same thing this year, so yesterday’s announcement wasn’t a huge surprise.

You may have forgotten about these uni ads from previous games in Japan, in part because those games are played when most Americans are either asleep or just waking up, so here’s a look back at them:

2000: The Mets and Cubs wore sleeve patches for the insurance company AIU and helmet decals for the am/pm convenience store chain. I woke up at 6am to watch these games and still remember how weird it looked to see the uni ads (for all photos, you can click to enlarge):

2004: Only one advertiser this time around, as the Yankees and the Devil Rays wore the logo of the Japanese electronics company Ricoh on their sleeves and batting helmets (this was the series in which the Yanks wore their home uniforms even though they were the designated road team):

2008: With the A’s and Red Sox playing in Japan, Ricoh made a return appearance on the batting helmets, but there were two new sleeve advertisers: Pepsi for the A’s and the data-management company EMC for the Sox.

2012: The A’s went back to Japan, this time to play the Mariners. The logo of the Japanese social app developer Gloops appeared on both teams’ helmets and Oakland’s sleeves, while Seattle’s sleeves featured a Boeing ad.

When viewed in this context, this season’s ad patches aren’t necessarily the beginning of a new program — they’re just a continuation of an existing one. In fact, if they don’t end up going with helmet ads this time around (there’s been no announcement yet about that), this year’s games in Japan will actually have fewer uni ads than the previous ones had, so this could be a rare case of the ratchet turning back the other way.

Still, given the overall scent in the wind these days, and given that MLB commish Rob Manfred has already shown a willingness to tinker quite a bit with the uniform (moving the maker’s mark from the jersey sleeve to the chest, adding maker’s marks and the MLB logo to socks, adding nickNOBs for Players Weekend, adding the MLB logo to the pants, etc.), it’s not unreasonable to think that MLB may soon be tipping its toe in the uni advertising pond for games in North America, not just in Japan.

By depressing coincidence, yesterday also brought a report that the NBA’s uni ad program has exceeded financial expectations and that the league is reportedly looking for ways to expand it (although not by enlarging the patch size, at least for now). Not a good sign. Sigh.

(My thanks to Mike Chamernik for the story about the NBA patch program.)

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

I had this very DeLong Reds jacket, maybe 1993 or so. Black had not made its nefarious entry into the Reds’ official look as yet, making this a textbook example of BFBS. I kid you not when I say this was one of the most comfortable parkas I ever wore. It was stuffed with some puffy material, and was great for Ohio winters.

Now for the rest of this week’s picks:

• Back in the day, if you had “Pats Fever,” apparently you could cure it with some Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

• This item looks like something PL might want to bid on. This catalog is for the Rawlings 1979 Fall And Winter seasons. The ad doesn’t show any inside photos or detail any of the contents, however.

• This 1980s LA Rayduhz helmet plaque is in great shape!

• Interesting look to this 1970s Kansas City Chiefs glass. Notice the reversal of the logo colors.

• I think it’s safe to say that this 1979 World Series tee for the Pirates and Orioles was of the unlicensed variety.

• Many of us had those pro sports magnets adorning the fridge. Here is an assortment of 29 ABA magnets, but only 9 teams, and the rest are dupes. The seller wants, if you can believe this, $1K for this item. And no free shipping?

• Staying with the ABA, this Utah Stars leather gear bag looks to be in great shape. Whenever I see the Utah Stars, I always remember how Zelmo Beaty beat my Kentucky Colonels in the 1971 ABA finals.

• It seems that way back when, you got these tin medallions (like this one for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and then stuck them on your bottle of “NFL Aftershave.” So you’d smell like … Bucco Bruce?

• Rams fans will get just a touch nostalgic when they check out this one. Look how simple and clean this Rams bobble is. “LA RAMS” printed in block letters across the chest, with “00” on the back. Wouldn’t it be great to have them adopt this look for the 2020 season!

• One more for the Rams: Becherer Buick was your sponsor of this 1979-1980 Rams calendar.

• In the 1990s, there was no one better at NFL sideline gear than Apex. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Cowboys double-star jacket. (Had this very style!)

Seen an item on eBay that would be good for Collector’s Corner? Send any submissions here.

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Membership update: Longtime reader Ed Hahn got his first membership card way back in 2007, but he recently decided to get another one, and he came to us with an interesting request: “I’d like the card to be based on a Greg Moore IndyCar design from the 1990s — specifically, the number on the end plate of the wing on the car.” We don’t get many motor sports requests (maybe one or two per year), but I think you’ll agree that this one turned out very nicely. It’s one of several new designs that have been added to the membership card gallery.

Speaking of which: In case you missed it yesterday, we’re trying to generate a community discussion in the card gallery. Full details here.

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, quite frankly, could use your support these days). And remember, a Uni Watch membership card entitles you to a 15% discount on any of the merchandise in our Teespring shop and our Naming Wrongs shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me.) As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here, and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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Going, going…: Today is the next-to-last day to enter a bid for the very excellent Uni Watch hockey jersey, made by the one and only Wafflebored, that we’re currently auctioning off. Full details here.

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball NewsPadres SS Fernando Tatis, Jr. wears a pink arm sleeve to every practice and game in honor of his mother (from Brady). … Speaking of the Padres, it appears they’ll have an organ at Petco Park at some point this season (also from Brady). … The Astros and Nationals share a spring training complex, and some Nats signage was left up during yesterday’s ’Stros game. … NASCAR driver Chase Elliott helped the Braves design a cap that will be given away to fans in May (from Christopher Hickey). … Earlier this year, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp were a $400 answer on Jeopardy! Now, they’re selling a T-shirt commemorating the answer in their team store for $400 — with a $380 discount (from @Zanerzas). … The Macon Bacon, a collegiate summer team competing in the Coastal Plain League, will wear throwbacks honoring the Macon Peaches on June 13 (from David Murphy). … Old Dominion was looking sharp in their powder blue pullovers on Sunday (from Scott Baxter). … Speaking of powder blue pullovers, Indiana State softball also wore them recently. … Here are some vintage “Ed-U-Cards” that show Mets mascot Mr. Met with a Caucasian-colored head and an orange front-paneled cap. … The California city of Long Beach is try to woo the Angels to move there from Anaheim (from Jack Wade).

Football NewsReader Gary Hamilton asked some NFL fans in London to design uniforms for a potential franchise for their hometown, and this is what they came up with. … Chargers QB Dan Fouts wore a full cage facemask during a 1986 Monday Night Football game in Seattle. Anyone else remember that game? (From Scott Mason.) … Pro Football Journal notes some pretty significant inconsistencies with the Oilers’ NOBs. … Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, who was born in western New York, showed up to Saturday’s Duke/Syracuse college basketball game in Orange gear (from Max Weintraub). … Auburn uni guru Clint Richardson has a good breakdown of the Tigers’ uni developments through the ’70s over on his blog, the Auburn Uniform Database. … These are apparently the uniforms Notre Dame would have worn in the College Football Playoff had they worn blue (from Brock Brames). … Old Dominion’s latest season ticket solicitation came with a facsimile ticket stub from last season’s upset over Virginia Tech (from @bs_brewer).

Hockey News: D Brandon Montour, recently traded by Anaheim, will wear No. 62 with the Sabres (from Paul Rizzo). … The Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL will wear “wizard-inspired” uniforms on Friday (from @labflyer). … The Wichita Thunder, also in the ECHL, will wear “retro” jerseys on April 5 (from Michael MPH).

NBA News: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is auctioning off a ton of memorabilia, with the proceeds going to his Skyhook Foundation to help give kids opportunities in STEM fields (from Mike Chamernik). … The WNBA’s Chicago Sky are holding a fan vote on their Instagram page to determine the winner of their T-shirt design contest, and Uni Watch reader Scott Novosel is a finalist! This is his design. … Isaiah Canaan will wear No. 7 with the Bucks. … You may have seen social media posts indicating that Thunder F Paul George’s number appeared to change from 13 to 14 during the recent NBA All-Star Game, which many people speculating that he was wearing one of the league’s “smart jerseys.” We haven’t put that in the Ticker because it seemed fishy, and now Snopes has debunked the whole thing (from @jhardest). … In last night’s Hornets/Warriors game, Hornets G Jeremy Lamb lost his shoe and Warriors C Boogie Cousins picked it up and tossed it in the first row, earning a technical foul (from Mike Chamernik).

College Hoops NewsBoth Xavier and Villanova wore throwback uniforms on Sunday in Cincinnati (from Andrew Robbins). … NC State wore their Black History Month uniforms on Sunday (from ACC Tracker). … Cross-listed from the football section: New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, who was born in western New York, showed up to Saturday’s Duke/Syracuse game in Orange gear (from Max Weintraub). … Always good to see Indiana’s candy-striped pants at the high school level. That’s Davenport Assumption High School in Iowa (from Al Gruwell).

Soccer NewsTwitter has unveiled new MLS emojis that will be used in conjunction with team hashtags (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … A fan claims that the Tacoma Stars of the Major Arena Soccer League lost a player’s jersey. Because they were in a pinch, they allegedly called the fan up and asked if they could borrow an autographed game-worn jersey he had bought at auction earlier in the year. Whoops (from Brandon Sparks). … Manchester United gave actor Kit Harrington a custom jersey with Game of Thrones-inspired (non-arched) NOB on Sunday (from Griffin Smith).

Grab BagA pair of original Jordan 1s sold for more than $10,000 on eBay on Sunday — and they came with the shopping bag from the Athlete’s Foot store where they were purchased (from Mike Chamernik). … Calf-high socks are the standard in AFLW — the women’s Australian rules football league. However, Ebony Antonio of the Fremantle Dockers wore over-the-calf socks this weekend against the Adelaide Crows (from Graham Clayton). … Chic-Fil-A has a story on its website about the evolution of its employee uniforms (from John Cerone). … All buildings on Virginia Tech’s campus are built using grey “Hokie stone.” It’s so iconic that the stone has made its way onto athletic team uniforms. But the school’s new branch campus in Alexandria will be exempt from the rule (from William F. Yurasko). … The Premier Lacrosse League, a new pro league slated to begin play in June, will unveil team names and logos today at noon Eastern (from Griffin Smith and Michael MPH).

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What Paul did last night: My friend Jay and I had front-row seats for last night’s Devils/Habs game in Newark. Big thanks to Lara Toscani Weems, Hugh Weber, and the rest of the Devils executive staff for their wonderful hospitality. (And for everyone who says I always wear “that same goddamn hat,” please note that I went with a Uni Watch cap this time around!)

I also made a new friend at the game:

It was a swell night at the arena, but the best part actually took place before the game started. I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

Comments (49)

    Re: new Padres organ, and organ music in general in baseball, there is a nice podcast I listen to and this week’s episode was all about organ music and baseball.


    Check it out – highly recommended Paul!

    “Chic-Fil-A has a story on its website about the evolution of its employee uniforms”

    I love that that site/page is that it is called “The Chicken Wire”!

    It’s REALLY depressing that the main way the NBA believes it can make more money off the jersey ads, as cited in the article, is essentially to charge advertisers more, for the right to sell the opportunity to be an advertiser for them, to more fans.

    While Fouts’ mask has the nose-protection bar usually not seen on QBs (reasoning found in the first comment on this post), the term “full cage” is usually reserved for facemasks that have additional jaw protection down below, regardless of whether or not they have the nose bar.





    Fouts’ mask is closer to that of the one Thurman Thomas wore thru his career, which is similar to the last photo I linked but without the extra jaw bars at the bottom.

    Memories of Randy White, Jack Youngblood and Todd Christiansen (who may have worn that style throughout his college and pro career) came to mind when I saw that facemask.

    Thats a great looking Reds Parka. I still remember the Cardinals as the only team that seemed to have an official on-field Bullpen Parka, wondering why the Cubs and Sox not to mention the Tigers nor Indians did not have a parka for their relievers.

    Considering its provenance—and not so much the curious use of the word in today’s Ticker—may we presume the Mr. Met face was colored in with what used to be called a “Flesh” Crayola? I ask as someone who is better represented by Burnt Sienna.

    Touché, Gaylord.

    It was actually printed that way (here’s link), but of course it shouldn’t have been described as “flesh” in the Ticker.

    That’s on me — although Alex did today’s Ticker, I added that item this morning just before publication. Shame on me, and thanks for calling it out. Will fix.

    I appreciate your dealing with it in just the way I had hoped (and expected from you), Paul. That’s just one of many reasons I’m proud to call you a friend.

    And in the meantime I’ll content myself by imagining that Mr. Met had been giving himself facial treatments with Lena Blackburne’s Rubbing Mud.

    This remind’s me of the Moral Orel episode “God’s Image”…and if you don’t know it…the plot kicks off because a Orel tries to put a bandage on a Billy Figurelli’s cut with the same color as Caucasian skin, but the bandage doesn’t blend in with Billy’s skin color. However, the band-aid’s blend in with other kid’s skins just fine…

    The Padres have had an organist on staff for the past few seasons: the incomparable Bobby Cressey. He usually resides in the 300 section and plays in the open air. We’re lucky to have him!

    Very surprised that we haven’t had a single comment about today’s lede. Have people really become so numb to uni ads that they don’t care?

    Probably that it’s a) in Japan and not the US and b) it’s been done before, as you said, for the better part of 2 decades. I don’t speak for everyone, but I sort of view ads on baseball uniforms over there as an expression of their own culture towards uni ads over there and less about them being on North American teams. They’ll be ad-free when they get back over here, so I don’t think about them as much when I see them over there.

    When you frame the story as “Don’t panic, nothing to see here, same ol’ same ol’ going on,” I would have thought that a lack of panicked, speculative, or outraged responses would be seen as a sign that the readers got the message. Besides, the 2019 jersey ad patch appears to be smaller than previous Japan series ad patches. So, um, yay?

    But the historical review does raise the question of how it can be that the Yankees home uniform is so sacrosanct that it must be worn for foreign audiences even when the Yankees are the visiting team, but not so sacrosanct that it’s OK to put a huge ugly advertisement patch on the sleeve. If it’s OK to put an ad patch on the sleeve of the Yankees home uniform, then the pinstripes aren’t actually worthy of special respect. They’re the laundry in “just rooting for laundry,” and that’s the official stance of MLB as expressed in MLB’s own actions, so the rest of us should stop with the pinstripe idolatry already.

    When you frame the story as “Don’t panic, nothing to see here, same ol’ same ol’ going on,” I would have thought that a lack of panicked, speculative, or outraged responses would be seen as a sign that the readers got the message.

    Actually, I framed it as “Maybe don’t panic but then again maybe Manfred has something in the hopper.” And either way, I thought maybe someone would say, “Wow, I forgot about the Boeing logo on the M’s sleeve,” or whatever.

    Not scolding anyone for not commenting. Just expressing surprise.

    Guess I can say that the lede was educational for me – don’t remember this being written about before.

    Based on the pushback MLB got for trying to put Spiderman ads on the bases 15 years ago, I think the powers that be underatand uniform ads are a non-starter. This isn’t soccer or the NBA, after all.

    That was soooooooo long ago, at least in sports terms. All sorts of ad creep that was unthinkable then is commonplace now (including maker’s marks on MLB caps and, starting next season, maker’s marks on MLB jersey chests).

    I wouldn’t take much comfort in a precedent from what was essentially a different era in advertising/marketing.

    I’ll comment (indirectly) on today’s lede

    I can’t stand that they open the season in Tokyo on March 20-21, come back to North America, BOTH TEAMS play more exhibition games, and then have the “north American” openers. I think its messed up that they have real games during the exhibition schedule.

    Also, I understand why they would have the games in the Tokyo Dome, but I wish they’d have the games at Meiji Jingu stadium. Its nearly 100 years old, its endangered, and its one of the few remaining stadiums where Babe Ruth played.

    Totally agree. Also, when they have these early overseas openers, it always presents me with a conundrum regarding my annual Uni Watch MLB Season Preview — should I publish it a few days before the overseas opener, or a few days before the “regular” Opening Day?

    It seems like every major sport in the US is ok with playing regular season games overseas. Are there any examples of foreign leagues/sports playing league competition in North America?

    The English Rugby union top league (Premiership) has played one for sure and maybe two in the USA the last couple if years. The one for sure was last year, the Newcastle Falcons played either London Irish or the Harlequins in a regular season game in Philly.

    I’m not a rugby guy, but what about the team playing in Toronto now? Arent they in the 2nd tier of one of the Rugby League/Rugby Union groups?

    The reasoning for Tokyo Dome vs. Jingu is as follows:
    1. Most popular team in Japan is Yomiuri Giants
    2. Who is a partial owner of the Tokyo Dome? Yomirui Newspaper
    3. Which newspaper in the past has helped promote MLB Japan tours? Yomiuri

    Jingu being endangered? I don’t see it. There is so little land available in central Tokyo. The Swallows have always been farther down the list of teams in the Tokyo area. They could move them out to Daiba, but much more difficult to get to than Jingu.

    Koshien has been upgraded as well. Teams do not make as much money as in the states, so they don’t normally hold out the local government for ransom.

    Also, MLB has worn ads on the tours in Japan prior to playing opening games.

    Paul, have you seen this? link

    The Space Needle would make a great secondary logo, perhaps on the shoulder. I hope those aren’t the planned colors, though.

    For years I had a vague memory of seeing Fouts wearing that facemask in a brief clip on TV, but could never find evidence of it; until, I think, it was covered here several years ago.

    No idea why the Joe Kuharich mention in the Rams bobblehead listing so I asked the seller. Waiting for a reply.

    Manchester United has arched NOBs when it plays in the Premier League (almost certainly a Premier League mandate as the number and NOB font are uniform across the league), but has straight across NOBs when they play in the Champions League. This causes issues for Ander Herrera, who has his full NOB, and it almost bleeds onto his sleeves in the Champions League.

    I notice in the Forbes piece, the MLB people speak of how engaged MGM is as a partner now. Sounds a lot like the line Adam Silver was serving up in defense of NBA uni-ads when the announcement was rolling out. It’s two meaningless fictions smashed together: that these advertisers just need a meaningful commitment in the form of uni-ads so that they can emotionally connect with the sport, and that as a result the advertiser can now provide some tremendous new benefit to the game and its fans.

    It’s also worth noting that this particular advertiser is MLB’s new official gambling partner. It’s a bunch of miserable tropes crammed into one patch.

    Also, it’s not part of the season, but I thought last year’s Home Run Derby was a big toe dip, with players wearing those regular home uniforms adorned with an ad on the sleeves. Perhaps this was nothing new, but I heard the faint chords of the Jaws theme when I caught that.

    Sorry I missed this yesterday – but thanks for the shout out on my membership card Paul – it looks great!

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