Uni Watch First Pitches: Simone Biles

In 2018, when I was still with ESPN, I began working on a series of interviews with non-baseball athletes who threw out the first pitch at MLB games. Unfortunately, that project never came to fruition, but last summer I used one of the interviews I had conducted — with skateboarder Tony Hawk, who threw out the first pitch at several Padres games — as the basis for a blog post, and today I’m doing the same with an interview I conducted with Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.

I spoke with Biles by phone on June 15, 2018. At that time, she had tossed out the first pitch at two MLB games. The first was on July 4, 2016, in her hometown of Houston, where she wore an Astros jersey and surprised everyone by doing a little somersault as part of her “windup.” Check this out:

Biles’s next first pitch came on Sept. 8, 2017, when she did the honors in Cleveland (her family’s roots are in Ohio). This time she wore the team’s home jersey and a block-C cap and did more of a pirouette and a leap instead of a somersault:

Here’s the short conversation I had with her two years ago:

Uni Watch: Did you play baseball or softball when you were younger?

Simone Biles: Never in my life.

UW: So did you practice throwing a ball around beforehand, just to get used to it?

SB: Yes, my dad made me stand in the driveway with him and throw a ball back and forth, just to make sure I knew how.

UW: Sounds like he was more concerned about how it would turn out than you were.

SB: Yes. He was like, “You’re not gonna end up in one of those ‘fail’ videos.”

UW: You did a little gymnastic routine before throwing the pitch. Did you have to rehearse that, or is that basically second nature for you?

SB: The flips were second nature, but throwing a ball afterward — I practiced that one or two times, just to make sure.

UW: You’ve performed in all sorts of international competitions, but you had never thrown a ball in front of tens of thousands of people. Were you nervous?

SB: Oh, I was so nervous. Much more nervous than I’d be for gymnastics.

UW: The next time you threw out a first pitch, in Cleveland, you changed the gymnastic routine.

SB: Yes. I was happy with the way the first one turned out, but I didn’t want it to be the same thing, the same routine. So I switched it up a bit.

UW: Was your father happy with the results?

SB: Yes, especially the one for the Indians, since that’s his team, and our family is basically from Ohio.

UW: Would you do it again?

SB: Oh, yes, I wouldn’t mind. It was a lot of fun.

———

And sure enough, she did do it again, prior to Game Two of the 2019 World Series in Houston. This time she wore an orange Astros jersey (an interesting choice, since the ’Stros themselves wore white that night), which she tied off at the waist. She once again began with a gymnastic maneuver — this time it was a backflip — but this time she wasn’t holding the ball while she did it. Instead, someone handed her the ball after the flip:

Very cool. I look forward to seeing how Biles can incorporate the pommel horse or the uneven bars into her next first pitch!

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Checking all the boxes: Look at this shot of Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor taking a lead off of second base during the second game of yesterday’s Mets/Phils doubleheader. How uni-notable was Lindor at this moment? Let us count the ways:

• He was wearing stirrups.

• He had mismatched shoes. (He had white shoes and socks, not stirrups, in the first game of the twinbill.)

• He was wearing a mask (something he routinely does when he reaches base).

• He’s one of those players who slather pine tar on their helmets.

That’s a lot of Uni Watch points right there! (And yeah, he also has a compression sleeve, a bracelet, etc., but that stuff is all pretty standard.)

Footnote: I see that Lindor, who was wearing teammate Michael Conforto’s belt during the first week or so of the season, now has his own belt. Not sure exactly when he made the switch.

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Mood indigo: I saw a lot of people pulling out their hair over the Rays and Rangers going royal vs. navy last night. Lots of “Can’t tell the teams apart!” commentary.

I agree that softball top vs. softball top looks lame-o and spring training-ish, no matter what the colors are. But is royal vs. navy really that different than white vs. grey? It would be a non-starter, of course, in football, basketball, hockey, soccer, or any other sport where players need to distinguish a teammate from an opponent at a glance. But in baseball? I really don’t see the problem.

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Can’t un-see it: I think of the Bruins as a pretty classy organization. But man, look at that banner — not only is the “2019-20” line all messed up, but what were they thinking with that low-riding apostrophe? It’s a whole new kind of apostrophe catastrophe!

(Blame Kevin Rice for this one.)

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Fun trivia tidbit: The screen shot above, showing Roberto Clemente congratulating Pete Rose, is from the 1970 MLB All-Star Game, just after the famous collision between Rose and Ray Fosse. (It appears at the 0:40 mark here.)

The uni-notable thing about this is that 1970 was the year that the Pirates switched uniform sets in the middle of the season, changing from their flannel vests to their polyester pullovers as they moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium, which opened in July.

The final game at Forbes Field was June 28, so that was the last time the flannel home vests were worn. The Pirates then embarked on a two-week road trip, which was followed by the All-Star break, and then the new uniforms debuted at Three Rivers on July 16.

But the All-Star Game took place on July 14. Clemente was the only Pirate who appeared in the game. Since the game took place in Cincinnati, the National League was the home team, and Clemente was therefore wearing Pittsburgh’s home flannel vest — making him the final player to appear in a game while wearing that uniform. A great trivia question if you ever want to stump someone!

(Big thanks to Bill Balint for posting this nugget on the Forbes Field Facebook group, and to Uni Watch reader David Swank for bringing it to my attention.)

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: Pirates P Kyle Crick had an Adidas undershirt showing through his jersey last night (from Rob Matuga). … The Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots of the Sunbelt Baseball League revealed their jerseys (from Jack Patterson). … G.I. Joke uniforms yesterday for Clemson. … Giants P Wandy Peralta is still using his glove from his days with the Reds. … An Atlanta high school disgracefully named after Confederate general and KKK pioneer Nathan Bedford Forrest is being renamed for Henry Aaron.

Football News: New nickel-plated facemasks for South Alabama (from @BenOnSports). … New unis for the Albany Empire of the AFL (from Timmy Donahue).

Hockey News: Maple Leafs G David Rittich was acquired by the team from the Flames on Monday. The Leafs had to wrap his mask to match his new uniform (from Wade Heidt). … Speaking of the Leafs, C John Tavares wears No. 91, but the “1” on his helmet fell off last night (from Zachary Tolson).  … Here’s a short video on how the Thrashers rebranded as the Jets, including how they chose their name and uniforms (from Rick Farmer). … Avs D Jacob MacDonald has changed his number to 26 so the recently (re)acquired Carl Soderberg can have 34 back (from Jason Allen).

Basketball News: The Timberwolves and Nets wore pregame T-shirts yesterday that read “With Liberty and Justice for ALL” in response to Sunday’s police shooting death of Daunte Wright (from Jakob Fox). … Reader Etienne Catalan has the latest NBA uni number assignments. … The LA Sparks have revealed their 25th-season logo (from Jakob Fox). … A sportswriter has chosen the best Bucks player to wear every number (from Geoff Poole).

Soccer News: DC United is tentatively looking at releasing cherry blossom-themed kits for the 2023 season (from John Muir). … New shirts for Lansing Common FC (from Scott Rogers). … FC Tulsa has a new patch celebrating the city’s Greenwood neighborhood, which was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (from multiple readers). … For years it was standard for each player from a team’s starting lineup to walk onto the field accompanied by a child. That stopped during the pandemic, for obvious reasons, but the Netherlands’ women’s team came up with an interesting workaround for yesterday’s friendly: The players held tablets showing the kids, who appeared remotely (from our own Jamie Rathjen).

Grab Bag: Boston College, which has been outfitted by Under Armour since 2009, has inked a new 10-year deal with New Balance. The deal covers all BC sports except for football, whose new uniform provider — rumored to be Adidas — will be announced at a later date (from multiple readers). … Two new kits for Australia’s Super Netball’s Sunshine Coast Lightning (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … Chicago Transit Authority employees get a really cool mask-themed pin once they’ve been vaccinated (from Joe Schmidt). … The Marines will be testing new physical training uniforms this summer. … New 100th-anniversary uniforms for White Castle. … Pro cyclists are upset that they’re no longer allowed to throw their water bottles into the crowd (NYT link).

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What Paul did last night: Meet Cannoli and Napoleon — aka Noley and Poley — a pair of shih tzus who live around the corner from us. They’re sort of locally famous (because how could a pair of toy dogs named Cannoli and Napoleon not be famous?), and we see them all the time around the neighborhood, but I think this is the first time they’ve appeared in a Pandemic Porch Cocktails™ photo.

Want a closer look? Check out these little cuties:

As always, you can see the full set of daily Pandemic Porch Cocktails™ photos — now almost 400 of them — here.

43 comments to Uni Watch First Pitches: Simone Biles

  • K.T. | April 14, 2021 at 8:37 am |

    Colombus Chatt-a-Hoots should be Columbus.

    • Paul Lukas | April 14, 2021 at 8:41 am |

      Thanks. Fixed.

    • Rainbow Guts | April 14, 2021 at 9:34 am |

      Did I read that Twitter right? Black at home, white pins on the road?

      Is the Sunbelt League mandating white on the road?

  • Dumb Guy | April 14, 2021 at 8:44 am |

    I’ve seen the Simone Biles pitches before. Interesting(?) that her first time she stepped forward with the correct foot, and the later throws she did not. Must’ve felt more comfortable to her to go “wrongy”. ??

  • marchingkazoo | April 14, 2021 at 8:58 am |

    Also of note is that the 2016 “first pitch” took place in the bottom of the fourth inning! It’s not her fault, but it is just one more example of why the concept of celebrity first pitches should be jettisoned, as was discussed here on 3/30.

  • Josh W | April 14, 2021 at 8:59 am |

    I feel like Simone Biles should be signing a ball for Jake Marisnick, not the other way around.

    • Largo | April 14, 2021 at 11:18 am |

      Was going to make this exact comment. Truth.

  • Dumb Guy | April 14, 2021 at 9:01 am |

    No logos on the Albany Empire helmets???

    • Stevie McQuistan | April 14, 2021 at 11:30 am |

      Shout out to the Seahawks maybe?

  • Scott | April 14, 2021 at 9:14 am |

    I find it interesting that the white Astros jersey Simone Biles is wearing has “ASTROS” centered on it, unlike the team’s actual jerseys.

    • RS Rogers | April 14, 2021 at 2:14 pm |

      I have a replica 2020 Brewers home jersey that centers the lettering, unlike the real uniform. So the W breaks a little bit over the placket. Sow now two instances of this phenomenon for teams that wear slightly off-center lettering.

  • Futbol | April 14, 2021 at 9:37 am |

    Re: Cherry Blossom jerseys.

    The Washington Spirit are also planning on them and already have a mockup.

    https://www.blackandredunited.com/2021/4/14/22383019/dcu-dc-united-washington-spirit-cherry-blossom-jersey-usa-uswnt-beat-france-sarah-gorden-nwsl

  • Austin Gray | April 14, 2021 at 10:07 am |

    I’ll go a step further in the “blue vs navy is not confusing” conversation and say that white vs white would also not be confusing. There are very few (if any?) plays in baseball where color contrast matters or in which it is difficult to tell who is doing what to whom. The umpires could conceivably have a problem with tagged-outs, but they look at those to death via replay anyway.

    • DW | April 14, 2021 at 11:20 am |

      Exactly. And making a thing about royal vs. navy seems silly when there have been situations in which MLB teams wore the exact same color alternate jersey. Long time ago by now but I wrote about that for MLB.com in 2013

      https://www.mlb.com/cut4/the-angels-and-rangers-both-wore-red-on-sunday/c-62036166

    • Aled Thomas | April 14, 2021 at 11:21 am |

      Different games of course, but Test cricket (indeed all cricket until the late 1970s) has been white v white for 150 years or so

    • MJ | April 14, 2021 at 12:27 pm |

      Agree to disagree. Seeing a blur of color in the middle of a play would make it easy to mistake your team for the opponent:
      1. pitcher picking off a runner a 2nd;
      2. a middle infielder throwing to 2nd on a double play;
      3. a fielder running away from a fly ball or popup at the last second because he thinks a teammate is closer to catching it.
      There are probably more, and the point is largely moot in an era where every team (except the Yankees… for now) have 3 or more uniform combos to wear and they change from one day to the next. If common sense and restraint can’t prevail, a little communication between the teams would make this an easily avoided situation.

  • Mainspark | April 14, 2021 at 10:20 am |

    Nathan Bedford Forrest’s legacy is not a simple as some would have you believe. Besides being arguably the greatest cavalry commander and tactician of the Civil War, (albeit on the wrong side) Forrest actually promoted enfranchisement of former slaves in Tennessee and throughout the South.

    https://www.dnj.com/story/news/2015/07/10/remembering-rutherford-forrest-postwar-activist-black-civil-rights/29995493/

    • Special K | April 14, 2021 at 1:44 pm |

      Wow, I had heard that maybe he wasn’t as bad as his reputation, but that article really brings a completely different side of him. I believe it is good and worthwhile to research and educate people about the truth of the past. Not all Confederates were slave-holders, and not all who fought for the Union were abolitionists. In fact, many Northerners were quite racist. It is good to see that Forrest was willing to take a stand to promote racial reconciliation.

      That said, I’m not sure it is a bad thing to rename the school. His status as a Confederate general and a member of the Klan are certainly things that could cause distress for many people in the community. A school name should be something that all should be able to rally around without overlooking the harm that it does. In fact, it puts into question whether we should name our schools after any people, since all people are flawed and imperfect. Obviously, there are some who have made a much bigger positive impact and those who have done quite evil things. I’m not saying we should treat all people equally as we study their lives. We should be willing to call good “good” and praise it, and we should call bad “bad” and encourage people to avoid it. Just as there are other ways to teach the history of the Confederacy besides putting up statues of their soldiers and generals, and there are other ways to learn about Native American cultures besides naming sports teams after them, so there other ways to honor important figures of the past who have done honorable things than to name a school after them. That would seem to put them up on such a pedestal that very few, if any, are worthy of.

  • Aled Thomas | April 14, 2021 at 11:22 am |

    I was hoping for the first Simone Biles first pitch that she used a somersault or cartwheel as the actual wind up for her pitch.

    Might get some pace on it like that..

  • dave robb | April 14, 2021 at 11:33 am |

    My issue w/the Bruins banner, in addition to the aesthetic flaws, is the nature of the Presidents’ Trophy. Is there a more ridiculous “award” in sports?

    • PaulR | April 14, 2021 at 12:34 pm |

      MLS has the “Supporter’s Shield”, which is also ridiculously awarded to the best regular season record. Last year the Phila Union won it, and spent a week celebrating it on social media, only to get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

      • Pedantic, Am I | April 14, 2021 at 1:33 pm |

        If this was Europe, the Bruins would have already won the Stanley Cup for having the best record in the league. No playoffs.

        • RobYaz | April 14, 2021 at 6:15 pm |

          ?? Finland, Sweden, Czech, Russia have playoffs. What hockey league in Europe does not have playoffs?

    • Andy | April 14, 2021 at 2:11 pm |

      The B’s have all sorts of Whales Conference, Atlantic Division, etc, etc banners. Which presents a bit Mickey Mouse compared to C’s having exclusively Championship banners.

  • Tom McKenzie | April 14, 2021 at 12:03 pm |

    Correction: The Albany Empire are (a) not the same Albany Empire of 2019, and (b) not part of the AFL, which is dead. This is a bastardized version, which acquired the IP rights through a bankruptcy proceeding, and are part of a lame, borderline semi-pro circuit called the “National Arena League.”

    • Bla-Bla-Bla | April 14, 2021 at 1:35 pm |

      “Lame, borderline semi-pro” is a great way to describe indoor football as a construct. Waste of time and it won’t even fill cable TV time because of the number of lame borderline semi-pros who do talkfests on TV ….

  • RICKAZ | April 14, 2021 at 12:17 pm |

    Honest question…I know helmets get pine tar from players who use it on their bats, and then their hands transfer it to the helmet when they touch their helmets. But do some players think it looks good, so they purposely put it on their helmets?

    • Paul Lukas | April 14, 2021 at 1:06 pm |

      I’ve never heard any say that they did it for aesthetic reasons. But I guess it’s possible.

    • Joal Kjarsgaard | April 15, 2021 at 2:46 pm |

      If I recall, I think the general reason for pine tar on the helmet is so that’s it’s easier to reapply to the player’s hands mid at-bat. Rather than walk back to the on-deck circle (or go without), they just touch their palm to their helmet and are then good-to-go.

  • John M | April 14, 2021 at 12:31 pm |

    What does the UniWatch world think of those idiotic sliding mitts MLB players wear now? You can tell my opinion already but I will say not only do they look terrible (and silly) it also gives more advantage to the base runner, similar to the various pads/shields batters wear.

    Speaking for myself I’d be embarrassed to wear something like that.

    • Tim | April 14, 2021 at 2:36 pm |

      I don’t think they’re being taught how to headfirst slide correctly. They’re reaching for the bag with their fingers flat on the ground and then jamming them. Back when I was taught to slide (way too many years ago) I was taught to raise your fingers and contact the bag with the palm.

      I also see the “cooking mitts” as a way of cheating…extending your fingers by putting them inside a pad that extends the reach of the fingers by the thickness of the pad.

  • gak | April 14, 2021 at 1:07 pm |

    Gymnasts doing first pitches appear to be quite common, based on all the GIFs here: https://themedalcount.com/2019/10/24/gymnasts-throwing-a-first-pitch-gif-guide/

    Glad it had footage of Shin Soo-ji’s mind-melting twist during a KBO game, mostly since the throw was fluid with the twirl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVeo6QMcbW4

  • Brian | April 14, 2021 at 1:35 pm |

    RE: Bucks numbers

    A tangent rant … Unlike others, I don’t mind retired jerseys. That said, the Bucks have too many (9) in comparison to the number of titles (1).

    No argument with Kareem, of course. And Robertson was one of the best ever, even if much of his career was in Cincy.

    For longevity and community impact, I am oddly OK with McGlocklin.

    Lanier had his best days before coming to Milwaukee.

    Moncrief, Johnson, Bridgeman, Dandridge, and Winters were all, arguably, above average players. But all retired?

    Too much …

    • hershky | April 14, 2021 at 1:54 pm |

      Trailblazers have them beat. 11 retired numbers and also just 1 title. Ridiculous.

      Plus it’s 12 numbers if you count the #7 which hasn’t been issued since Brandon Roy “retired.”

  • Reuven Yehuda | April 14, 2021 at 2:13 pm |

    Speaking of the Clemson Tigers military uniforms in baseball: Clemson was a military school until 1955. I don’t see any difference to them honoring the military to which they use to send young men too (they were all-male), then say the Los Angeles Dodgers wearing Brooklyn uniforms.

    • Paul Lukas | April 14, 2021 at 2:29 pm |

      Well, the difference is that when the Dodgers wear Brooklyn uniforms, that’s a throwback uniform based on what the Brooklyn Dodgers actually wore.

      If Clemson wore a throwback uniform, then your comparison would make sense. But when they wear a contemporary camo costume, well, that’s just a contemporary camo costume — not at all like the Dodgers wearing a Brooklyn throwback.

      Now do you see the difference?

  • RS Rogers | April 14, 2021 at 2:24 pm |

    I’m firmly in the camp of people who find same-color games almost literally unwatchable. It’s not an issue in the outfield, of course, since only one team’s players are ever there. The rest of the field, though, frequently has players of both teams occupying space together. Runners rarely stand directly on the base; usually they’re leading off and standing in a similar position, at least from common foreshortened camera angles, to a nearby fielder. Given how light most MLB “gray” uniforms are, the pants aren’t much of a help either, at least not in video. Imagine trying to follow a rundown play between a runner and three fielders all wearing nigh-identical uniforms. What a mess! And if you’re coming back to a game after missing an inning or two, or if you’re seeing a highlight, the basic question of “which team is batting” isn’t obvious based on uniforms alone. Which is the first job of uniforms. If both teams are going to wear clothing so similar in appearance that it’s not obvious to a spectator at first glance which team is batting versus fielding, then players might as well not wear uniforms at all and just play in street clothes.

    Now that solid-color alternates are firmly a part of baseball culture, MLB desperately needs a uniform-contrast rule akin to what FIFA has for soccer. Colors should be classed in a few broad categories, and teams forced to change if both wear same-category shirts. Royal and navy would definitely be in a no-clash category together.

    • Tim | April 14, 2021 at 2:59 pm |

      The blue vs. blue happens every year in the Rugby six nations. Scotland, France and Italy all have a primary Blue kit. However, one of the teams (it appears the home team) will wear white. This year:

      France wore White vs. Scotland in Blue in Paris.
      Italy wore White vs. France in Blue in Rome.
      Scotland wore White vs. Italy in Blue in Edinburgh.

      In the other games, these teams wore blue versus England (White) Ireland (Green) and Wales (Red)

      Of interest, Scotland’s alternate kit for sevens is Pink…
      https://www.lovell-rugby.co.uk/Rugby-Shirts/Macron/Scotland-2020-or-21-Alternate-7s-Shirt-Mens-Pink/445594

      Additionally, international rugby has the color blind issue quite consistently. When any red kitted team (e.g., Wales, Canada) plays a green kitted team (Ireland, Australia, South Africa).

      • Tim | April 14, 2021 at 3:36 pm |

        I should have said “doesn’t happen”, even though the shades of blue worn by Scotland, Italy and France are different.

  • John F. | April 14, 2021 at 3:45 pm |

    Paul,
    Today was the first pic of Poley and Noley but they did get a mention on July 2nd.

  • Ebin fka Jerusalem Stone | April 14, 2021 at 5:21 pm |

    @Paul–Thank you for the Flying Nun recommendations! Found many on Bandcamp, which is convenient but made me this the olden days of heading out to scour the record bins.

    @Nick–Great to know there’s another uniwatcher digging the Reds, Pinks & Purples. Their music has a life-affirming sadness that rivals stuff like Galaxie 500 or the Go-Betweens or the Smiths for me. And it’s new!