Two Little-Known Tales of MLB Hosiery History

I recently came across two interesting items about semi-recent MLB hosiery history that were new to me. First, longtime Uni Watch reader Trevor Williams alerted me to an interesting passage in former Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek’s Wikipedia entry, as follows:

Hrbek, who was notorious for losing his stirrups, was the most outspoken member of the MLBPA to revise the uniform code to remove mandatory stirrups and helped to ensure that it was written into the new labor agreement following the 1994 player strike. “I’m thankful that future generations of players will not have to rummage through their lockers 20 minutes before the first pitch to find those darn stirrups. If that’s my lone contribution to the game, I’ve done enough.”

I hadn’t ever heard that before. Seems like something that would have come up before if it were true, right? Interestingly, the passage was not source-cited in the Wiki entry — a yellow flag, for sure. So I Googled the “darn stirrups” quote and also just “Kent Hrbek stirrups,” and the only thing that came up was an auction listing for a Hrbek-autographed ball, the key passage of which seems to have been copy/pasted from the Wikipedia entry (or possibly vice-versa). So my initial hunch was that a prankster had added the stirrups bit to Hrbek’s Wikipedia entry and that the whole thing was bogus.

But after I mentioned all of this on Twitter, one of my followers, Daniel Garcia, said he had a connection to Hrbek and could try to find out more. He eventually wrote back to me with the following:

My friend Kristen is Hrbek’s girlfriend! We went to high school together in Casper, Wyo. I messaged her on Facebook, and she said someone had asked them about it once and it’s true — Kent fought against the stirrups! She showed him the blurb [from the Wikipedia entry]. He agreed with the sentiment, but wasn’t so sure he used so many big words!

Daniel even provided screen shots of his conversation with Kristen:

(As you can see, Daniel’s conversation with Kristen was last October. This story has been sitting in my “evergreens” pile since then. No particular reason why I’ve waited this long to publish it — it just didn’t seem urgent.)

So Hrbek, it turns out, is a heretofore unacknowledged MLB hosiery heretic! A stirrups scalawag! A legwear lowlife! He seems like a decent guy, but his role in the diminution of stirrup supremacy is inexcusable. We’ll have to reserve a nook for him in the Uni Watch Hall of Shame.

Meanwhile, speaking of stirrups, check out this wire service squib about White Sox outfielder Shawn Abner that ran in many newspapers on June 12, 1992:

I stumbled across that item while researching something else. Naturally, I stopped what I was doing and started hunting for 1992 photos of Abner. Here’s the best one I could find (click to enlarge):

At first glance, those seem to be weird socks with sort of text printed in the Achilles region (the last three letters appear to be “din”). Could those be the “anklets” he was wearing?

Update: As several commenters have quickly pointed out, those three letters are likely “lin” (not “din”), as in “Franklin.” Looking at it again, it does appear to be the Franklin logo.

Here’s another shot that seems to show some lines or edges just below Abner’s pant cuffs (click to slightly enlarge):

Definitely an interesting uni quirk (and another case of a story I hadn’t heard before), although it’s unlikely to eclipse the more notorious entry on Abner’s bio.

(Big thanks to Trevor Williams and Daniel Garcia for this contributions to this entry.)

• • • • •

• • • • •

Under Armour prototype update: Yesterday I wrote about the apparent Under Armour-made MLB prototype jersey that a reader picked up at a sale of surplus Padres gear. Now a well-placed source who prefers to remain anonymous has provided more information:

I can confirm that the jersey is a prototype from the development process for the uniforms that Under Armour was going to manufacture for MLB. The mesh on the back of the jersey is a micro-thread mesh that is shared across various uniforms UA currently makes. The pattern is a diamond mesh, which was intended to to be a play on the baseball diamond and tell a visual ventilation story.

You can see this fabric used in basketball uniforms, lacrosse uniforms, baseball uniforms, and strategically placed in other uniform platforms. The mesh is engineered and isn’t the same diamond pattern in basketball as it is in baseball.

Ay yi yi — “tell a visual ventilation story”? Yikes. When UA backed out of their MLB deal, that was a narrow escape for sure.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Truth in advertising: We’ve all seen lots of businesses that have poached team logos for their signs, trucks, or whatever. But Advanced Green Insulation, a company in East Weymouth, Mass., has them all beat. See that fine print near the top-front of the truck? It says, “We are not affiliated to the Boston Bruins, but we are big fans!”

Gotta like that.

(Big thanks to Paul Friedmann for this one.)

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Look good, feel good: Who’s that getting Covid-vaccinated in the SUNY-Stony Brook shirt and the Uni Watch mask? None other than longtime reader, New York Rangers super-fan, and all-around swell guy Alan Kreit. Thanks for doing your part for public health, Alan!

• • • • •

• • • • •

ITEM! New membership raffle: Reader Steve Heller recently purchased two memberships for me to raffle off, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

This will be a one-day raffle. No entry restrictions. To enter, send an email to the raffle in-box by 8pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow. Good luck!

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

LAST WEEK for hockey and hosier pre-orders: As you probably know by now, we have a new line of Uni Watch hockey jerseys (customizable with your choice of number and NOB, of course), as well as new Uni Watch socks and stirrups. In order to get in on these items, you must place your pre-order by March 31 — that’s one week from today. You can do that here. We expect the finished product to ship out by the end of April.

Meanwhile: Todd Radom and I had recently found a small stash of our limited-edition 2018 “Rain Check” print that we had set aside for promo purposes and then forgotten about. These are all signed by both Todd and myself:

These are available while supplies last on Todd’s website.

My thanks, as always, for your consideration.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Membership update: You know how it usually works — we produce a new sheet of cards and I single out one of them to show you. But sometimes a sheet has so many interesting designs that it’s impossible to choose just one. That was the case with our latest batch. Clockwise from top left, we have:

• Dustin Lewis’s card, based on the 1994-95 Oregon men’s basketball team. Wow, what a uniform!

• Jeff Israel’s card, based on the Bruins’ 75th-anniversary jersey from 1991-92. Love that striped NOB panel!

• Tom Gronek’s latest card, based on the Skra soccer jersey, which had a question mark on the front. We don’t usually do front-jersey treatments, but this one was so unusual that I decided to allow it (plus Tom wrote a Uni Watch entry about it last year, so he’s earned it!).

• Jacob Olson’s card, which is based on this old Wisconsin football helmet. Spectacular job by card designer Scott M.X. Turner on this one (and on all of these, really).

And as a bonus, we have Bridgett Tarazona-Clancy’s card. The basic Orioles road treatment is fairly straightforward, but that NOB is of Saltalamacchian proportions!

Wanna get in on the fun? Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, 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 the Uni Watch, Uni Rock, and Naming Wrongs shops, plus the discount also applies to our Uni Watch Classic Cap. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me and I’ll hook you up.)

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 (now more than 3,000 of them!), and you can see how we produce the cards here.

• • • • •

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: The Welland Jackfish of the independent Intercounty Baseball League will call themselves the Welland Roses for one game starting this season.
 

Football News: Georgia Tech is awarding single-digit uni numbers to certain notable players. … One sportswriter is asking the CFL’s Edmonton Football Team to stop using its “EE” initials (from Phillip Tutor).

Hockey News: The Ontario Reign, affiliates of the Kings, will debut their Inland Empire alternate uniforms tonight (from @artofscorebug). … A sportswriter thinks the NHL’s ЯR uniforms should stick around (from our own Phil Hecken).

Basketball News: As previewed in yesterday’s Ticker, the Lakers wore their City alternates last night as a memorial tribute to Elgin Baylor (from our own Phil Hecken). … The Women’s NIT played some of its regional games on a court in Rockford, Ill., with Raptors PG Fred VanVleet’s logo at half court. Rockford is VanVleet’s hometown (from Jeff Lowary). … Throwbacks last night for Syracuse women’s (from Matt Rashford). … Reader Adam Zajac noticed the increase of players tucking under the legs of their shorts in the men’s tourney.

Soccer News: New sleeve ad for the Seattle Sounders (from multiple readers). … Adidas has released some Euro 2020 and Copa América shirts. … Mexico’s national teams have a new first shirt. It is (again) black, with pink this time (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … New shirts for Indian side FC Goa. “They’ll be worn in the Asian Champions League,” says Ed Zelaski.

Grab Bag: A sportswriter has ranked what he believes are the best cricket kits of all time (from our own Phil Hecken). … Graphic designers have noticed that the new Paramount+ logo may contain a serious error. … Interesting report on the results of a study about the effects of “brand activism.”

• • • • •

• • • • •

61 comments to Two Little-Known Tales of MLB Hosiery History

  • Jack O. | March 24, 2021 at 8:11 am |

    The Syracuse throwbacks were for the Women’s team, not the men.

  • Doogie Stardust | March 24, 2021 at 8:18 am |

    Maybe MLB and its fans caught a break with UA pulling out of their uniform deal but I’m still waiting nervously for Nike to Nike everything up. “Here are the Oakland A’s new City, Earned, Borrowed, and Stolen uniform combos” is what I worry about.

    • Zak Jester | March 24, 2021 at 11:10 am |

      The thing is, with 162 games and clear delineation between offensive and defensive teams, Major League Baseball is the one sport where having 1-2 alternate uniforms makes some sense. Unfortunately, that has only extended to softball tops or weird uni programs like the Texas Rangers have rolled out. I’d be open to seeing some interesting variants.

      A reverse retro program would work for many teams. Or trying all-dark uniforms (like the Cleveland all-navy throwback or the Phillies Saturday Night Special). But when you have teams like the Utah Jazz with 24 primary colors between uniforms, then you have art at best, and faddish fashion at worst.

  • Matt | March 24, 2021 at 8:19 am |

    My guess is that the “din” on Abner’s ankles are actually “lin” — from the Franklin brand (matching the batting gloves he’s wearing in the pic). They’re still making wristbands for MLB:

    https://www.amazon.com/Franklin-Sports-Professional-Wristbands/dp/B077Q15YR6

    • Paul Lukas | March 24, 2021 at 8:26 am |

      Ah, good call. I’ll add that to the text.

  • John Z | March 24, 2021 at 8:19 am |

    Those definitely look like Franklin wristbands in that first Abner photo. I love interesting little stories like this, even when they’re 100% wrong in covering up stirrups.

  • Dave Fisher | March 24, 2021 at 8:42 am |

    Anyone know the brand of shoes Abner is wearing?

  • Patrick in MI | March 24, 2021 at 8:55 am |

    I think that blurb about the Edmonton football team was from a letter to the editor and not a sportswriter.

    It seems you have a tenuous link to Kent Hrbek now. We just need an interview with him to confirm/deny this intriguing story.

  • Jim | March 24, 2021 at 9:00 am |

    How does an MLB player lose stirrups. The equipment guys leave everything neatly in lockers.

    • Jasper | March 24, 2021 at 12:25 pm |

      Right. Plus you’d assume the equipment manager would have plenty of extras on hand in case a player does misplace his.

      I’m thinking Hrbeck just didn’t like wearing them but had to come up with a more practical reason for getting them out of the uniform code.

  • Marc M. | March 24, 2021 at 9:34 am |

    How can you consider the Hrbek story confirmed, considering you talked to a basically anonymous source who knows somebody that is allegedly Hrbek’s girlfriend? I do enjoy reading you everyday and I do not want to be critical but that’s how I feel.

    • Peter | March 24, 2021 at 9:39 am |

      Agreed.
      Though it makes it more “plausible”, not “confirmed”. One thing I have always taken from Paul is his commitment to solid confirmation, while this is literal “telephone”.

    • Paul Lukas | March 24, 2021 at 9:41 am |

      Actually, Daniel Garcia is not “basically anonymous” (his full name is listed right there in today’s post), and I did a bit of due diligence to confirm his veracity.

      Is it hearsay? Yes. If that compromises the story for you, that’s certainly your prerogative.

      It’s interesting that you question this story but not the Under Armour follow-up, which truly *is* dependent on an anonymous source!

  • Marc M. | March 24, 2021 at 9:51 am |

    You do not take honest criticism very well. Hearsay is not a source, it is hearsay. Why do you think hearsay is not allowed in court?

    • Paul Lukas | March 24, 2021 at 9:55 am |

      Actually, I think I took your criticism quite well. Let’s review:

      1) First, I pointed out that the centerpiece of your criticism — i.e., your assessment of my source as “basically anonymous” — is demonstrably false.

      2) I could have stopped there, since at that point your criticism was largely in shambles. Instead, I acknowledged that the story is based on hearsay. I fully agree that that is not as good a standard as a primary source. In this case, I felt that it was good enough to publish. If you disagree, that’s fine.

      3) Journalism is not court, nor does it claim to be. Lots of journalism has been based on hearsay. That said, again, I fully agree that hearsay is not an ideal journalistic standard. Would this particular story pass muster in a newspaper or on ESPN? Probably not. But based on the vetting I did of Daniel and his background, I felt it was good enough to go with. Again, if you disagree, that’s fine — we can agree to disagree.

      4) Finally, I noted that today’s blog post includes a sub-lede that truly *does* rely on an anonymous source, yet you offered no feedback on that sub-lede. I want to make it clear that I don’t mean to suggest that this inconsistency makes you hypocritical (as I’ve said many times, I don’t think that’s a good-faith argument) — I just think it’s surprising and sort of funny that you falsely accused me basing one story on an anonymous source while ignoring the story that truly *is* based on an anonymous source!

      I’d like to think we could have this discussion without you resorting to personal invective.

    • H.H. Jones | March 24, 2021 at 9:56 am |

      Frankly, why would that matter? This is not a court; it’s someone’s privately-run online publication. No one here is under any burden to meet the standards of the criminal justice system.

    • Jasper | March 24, 2021 at 12:32 pm |

      In Paul’s defense, different claims require different levels of vetting. If Hrbek had been accused of something immoral or truly character-slandering, no doubt Paul or any other good journalist would have not gone to print without something more substantial, otherwise he’d open himself up to legal action from Hrbek. But in this case, it’s more of an amusing anecdote than anything serious.

      Also, Paul did cite a source, that being Wikipedia.

      • Paul Lukas | March 24, 2021 at 12:41 pm |

        Just to be clear: I did *not* cite Wikipedia. The whole exercise was an attempt to see whether the Wiki entry is accurate!

        Rather, I cited a friend of Hrbek’s partner, who satisfied me by providing sufficient proof of his friendship with the partner and of the partner’s connection to Hrbek, and who also provided those screen shots.

        Again: I fully acknowledge that it wasn’t an ideally sourced story. But, as you say, I felt it was good enough for a fun anecdote.

    • Steve C. | March 24, 2021 at 1:02 pm |

      LOL…Well that took a left turn! Who knew a 25+ year old story about socks would approach litigation…sheeesh.

      • Hit the Glass | March 24, 2021 at 11:12 pm |

        It’s Uni-Watch, so we should’ve known. LOL

    • Another JT | March 24, 2021 at 4:56 pm |

      Hearsay is not allowed in court, expect for all the times it is. (See https://www.findlaw.com/criminal/criminal-procedure/hearsay-evidence.html for example). It all depends on what the hearsay is evidence of. Which doesn’t matter because we’re not in court.

      Would it have been better for Paul to have interviewed Hrbek directly? Sure, and it would be great if that could happen, and maybe still could. But this was clearly presented as to what the information was and where it was from.

  • USA USA | March 24, 2021 at 9:56 am |

    Mexico football federation: pink and black? Are you Elvis?

    There’s a reason why your team is called El Tri — GREEN, WHITE, RED. Tricolores. Three colors. The flag.

    That’s worse than when our women wore black, lemon yellow, and white during the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

    C’mon man! And woman!

  • AlMaFi | March 24, 2021 at 10:02 am |

    Yeah, it looks like “…aldin” to me, but I think the space between the k and l in Franklin is all bunched up and making it look like a lowercase d.

  • Jay | March 24, 2021 at 10:03 am |

    The pic of the LSU player with his short legs tucked is from last season. Skylar Mays is in the NBA now.

    • Mic | March 24, 2021 at 10:29 am |

      I was going to comment on a similar note about the shorts. I have seen this style a number of times & the first I remember doing it were LSU players last year. There were 2 or 3 players on the team that did it (Emmitt Williams & Javonte Smart)
      Womens players have been doing it for a number of years. Rolling the waistband & tucking the legs.
      My son is in HS & we’ve see a lot of players doing it in that age group for a few years as well. Especially the waistband rolled over 2 or 3 times. They want short shorts but IMO they look like diapers

      • Julie S | March 24, 2021 at 11:32 am |

        I have no idea how long it takes design alterations to become available but it’s been a clear trend for several years now. Slim tailored (shorter) shorts are what players want. Why is it so hard for brands to catch up?

        The tuck in look ends up looking very very bad on a majority of players, if the shorts were already tailored slimmer and shorter we would see less tucked looks.

  • jahr | March 24, 2021 at 10:23 am |

    First this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiraekmCNv4

    … and now stirrups!

    You disgust me, Mr Hrbek!

    • martyB | March 24, 2021 at 2:30 pm |

      As if we needed ANOTHER reason to dislike Kent Hrbek. This makes total sense. Put him in ALL OF THE HALLS OF SHAME!

  • sandman | March 24, 2021 at 10:50 am |

    ‘mmm, bet Advanced Green Insulation will be re-branding their truck soon…cue the cease & desist letter from Betty at NHL HQ…rofl

    and for those looking for ‘tegrity on the interweb….my uncle used to say…give your head a shake…the truth is based on lies….lol

    said it before – Paul’s site – he can say what he wants – click or don’t click….

  • Mic | March 24, 2021 at 10:54 am |

    “The visual ventilation story”
    When I saw the Padres prototype yesterday, this is actually what made me believe it was authentic. The diamond pattern for baseball seemed to make sense & for me hinted it was, or would become, a team issued jersey not a retail replica.
    Nike & UA have been doing the back ventilation patterns in basketball for years. Every major college team has a custom Nike Elite custom pattern. I have also seen UA do it for Maryland, with the state flag of course.

    I do not remember reading about this topic on here, but it has been in NCAA basketball a number of years. So I assumed you covered previously?

  • AlMaFi | March 24, 2021 at 10:55 am |

    “Visual ventilation story”? That’s borderline synesthetic. Please tell us your source is being cheeky.

  • Wafflebored | March 24, 2021 at 11:07 am |

    In the same way some uniforms are so bad they are good, visual ventilation story is the marketing speak version of this for me.

    • AlMaFi | March 24, 2021 at 12:00 pm |

      I’m thinking/hoping that the guy was making a joke, because there’s no way those words should be together unless you’re talking about visible steam rising from someone’s shirt. Even then, calling it a “story” would be a ridiculous stretch.

  • Scottie | March 24, 2021 at 11:10 am |

    God bless, Kent Hrbek.

    Stirrups are just stupid; I wish when I played we had the socks with the stirrup painted on it so I wouldn’t have had to spend any time with those worthless abominations.

    #DeathToStirrups

  • Nate | March 24, 2021 at 12:16 pm |

    The Hrbek story is a good case study in the delicate interplay of aesthetics and functionality.

    I love how a good stirrup looks on the baseball diamond. It is undeniably “baseball.” But when I played baseball, I HATED wearing stirrups. I found that little strip of fabric under my feet incredibly uncomfortable, and I hated having to fuss with them (making sure they stayed up and were aligned correctly). It seemed like such an unnecessary nuisance. If I was a MLBer, I would undoubtedly be on Team Hrbek. But now as a mere outside observer, I want to see my team wearing stirrups. I’m holding two opposing thoughts and I can’t really reconcile them.

    • Nestor Chylak | March 24, 2021 at 1:35 pm |

      Just as grade-schoolers shouldn’t be entrusted to make their own lunch – six Milky Way bars – Major Leaguers shouldn’t be allowed to pick their own uniforms.

      • Greg | March 24, 2021 at 2:42 pm |

        Not the best analogy. Six milky way bars are objectively not a nutritious lunch. Whereas baseball players rejecting stirrups because of functionality is irrelevant to the subjective aesthetic value of them.
        I’m indifferent to the stirrups from an aesthetic standpoint, so long as the pants are cuffed high and you have uniform socks that match the rest of the uniform it is all good to me.
        Though as a kid I did love wearing stirrups, something about wearing them felt big league to me.

        • Paul Lukas | March 24, 2021 at 2:45 pm |

          as a kid I did love wearing stirrups, something about wearing them felt big league to me.

          Exactly! Every sport has a jersey, every sport has pants, but only baseball has stirrups. They make a fella feel official!!

        • diggerjohn | March 25, 2021 at 6:41 am |

          I long for the days when stirrups were mandatory, when pajama bottoms would have gotten you a fine. These guys get paid a lot to play a game, wearing something as impractical but as ascetically pleasing as stirrups isn’t too much to ask.

  • Judy A | March 24, 2021 at 12:20 pm |

    I love seeing all the new membership card designs and I’m looking forward to getting my new one. I only wish the photos on the flickr site were tagged identifying the unis that each card is based on.

    I really want to like Under Armour because they’re a Maryland company, but “visual ventilation story” is just gross.

  • Robert Brashear | March 24, 2021 at 1:06 pm |

    Not to be overly nitpicky but twice in the last week I’ve seen collegiate wood bat leagues referred to as “independent.” (Appalachian and Intercounty) These are amateur leagues designed to maintain collegiate eligibility. The formerly affiliated (professional) rookie Appalachian League is now a college wood bat league. “independent” leagues, Atlantic, Frontier etc. are PROFESSIONAL leagues now in “partnership” with MLB for whatever that means. Nevertheless, for me it’s important not to confuse the two.

    • Paul Lukas | March 24, 2021 at 1:11 pm |

      Good point, Robert — thanks!

  • Roger W Faso | March 24, 2021 at 1:13 pm |

    Say it ain’t so, Kent. Say it ain’t so.

  • Le Cracquere | March 24, 2021 at 1:33 pm |

    We Braves fans have been telling you for DECADES that Hrbek was a scoundrel. Vindication at last!

  • pedro | March 24, 2021 at 2:33 pm |

    I’m still trying to figure out what the “big words” are in the possibly-Hrbek quote. Rummage? Contribution?

  • Milorad V | March 24, 2021 at 2:46 pm |

    …a hot day game in July?
    I might be very happy about that mesh back….just saying.

    • Paul Lukas | March 24, 2021 at 3:07 pm |

      But think of the weird sunburn pattern you’d end up with!

      • hershky | March 24, 2021 at 5:50 pm |

        The players would look like they slept on a diamond tread aluminum sheet and then UA could say how blue collar the players look.

  • Lindsay Resnick | March 24, 2021 at 10:03 pm |

    Oh no, I had not heard about Shawn Abner’s situation with his dog. I was making dinner and that definitely ruined my appetite. What a monster.

  • Robert Eden | March 24, 2021 at 10:09 pm |

    Some players were already wearing all-in-one socks/stirrups prior to 1994, right?

  • Hit the Glass | March 24, 2021 at 11:14 pm |

    Paul, Caio (Camisas da NBA) is recovering from covid. So if you could give him a shout out that’d be cool. I write for the same website he does, btw, that’s how I know.

    He’s ok. Still very tired, a bit feverish, but on the way to a full recovery

    • Hit the Glass | March 24, 2021 at 11:16 pm |

      Igor* Why tf did I write Caio, I have no idea.

  • Dustin Lewis | March 25, 2021 at 1:07 am |

    Can’t wait to get that card in the mail! Thanks for the shoutout, Paul.

  • Steve | March 25, 2021 at 1:32 pm |

    Can’t believe it hasn’t been commented on yet: impossible to see a White Sox #45 jersey and not think of MJ!

  • Kevin | March 25, 2021 at 2:32 pm |

    I know the colors don’t match, but I couldn’t help but think of Max Patkin when I saw the membership card with the question mark on it.

  • Rusty Shackleford | March 25, 2021 at 7:19 pm |

    Dee Strange-Gordon also likes Bridgett’s membership card.