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Met Marks Memorable Mask Milestone (Maybe)

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Good morning, and happy June! Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend.

Now then: Only two weeks after taking a fastball to the face, Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar was activated off the injured list yesterday and entered last night’s game against the Diamondbacks as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning. Because the broken bones in his nose won’t fully heal for another four to six weeks, he wore a hard-shell mask while playing the field. As you can see above, it’s sort of like a bare-bones version of a Rip Hamilton-style mask, but with much less facial coverage.

Here’s how it looks without the cap:

Looks like he’s still getting the hang of whether the straps should go above or below his ears.

Pillar won’t be wearing the mask while batting because it interferes slightly with his peripheral vision, but he’s wearing it while running the bases. We got to see how that looks when he came up to bat in the top of the eighth and promptly singled. After reaching first base, he put on the mask:

Also, note the C-flap on Pillar’s helmet. He hadn’t been wearing that until now. (Also-also: On top of everything else, does Pillar have a tongue piercing?)

We’ve seen plenty of MLB players wearing protective masks while batting or running the bases. But I can’t think of another player who’s worn a hard mask (as opposed to a surgical or other soft mask) while playing the field, at least not in the regular season, so Pillar may have made a bit of MLB history last night.

One footnote to that history: According to this 1994 article, Dodgers outfielder Delino Deshields wore a mask on the bases and in the field to protect a broken cheekbone during spring training of that year. It’s a little hard to see, but here’s a view of how it looked while he was running the bases (with a double-earflapped helmet to boot!):

Looks like another Rip Hamilton-style mask. But again, that was during spring training, not the regular season. Is anyone aware of another MLBer who’s worn a hard mask (not a gaiter, ski mask, balaclava, or other soft mask) in games that count?

One final note: If you scroll back up and look at the photo of Pillar at the top of this blog post, you’ll see that he didn’t wear the Memorial Day cap patch that everyone else wore yesterday.

Update: Well, that didn’t take long. Mere minutes after today’s entry was posted, reader/commenter Jeremy Snyder alerted me to two previous instances of MLBers wearing protective masks while playing the field. Let’s start with Twins second baseman Rob Wilfong, who wore protection for a broken nose in 1981:

A dozen years later, in 1993, Giants second baseman Robby Thompson wore a mask to protect a broken cheekbone:

I wasn’t aware of either of these examples. Big thanks to Jeremy for helping to fill in the historical record!

(Big thanks also to Trevor Williams for coming up with the Delino DeShields tidbit.)

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Man in tights: Speaking of Mets doing things I’ve never seen before: When first baseman James McCann, who goes high-cuffed, slid into third base during Saturday night’s game against Atlanta, his right pant leg rode up, revealing his black base-layer leggings. I know lots of players wear leggings, but we don’t usually get to see it like that!

Also: McCann was wearing a black belt instead of a proper blue one. At least it matched his leggings!

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ITEM! June pin launch: Today is the first day of June, which means it’s time for our latest Uni Watch Pin Club release. And with the NBA playoffs in full swing, we’ve decided to go with a basketball theme. Our “Official Uni Watch Basketball” pin — similar to the baseball pin that we did in April of last year — comes with my signature and is also the first pin we’ve ever done that doesn’t include green!

This pin is available in a numbered edition of 200. You can order yours here. My thanks, as always, for your consideration of our products.

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

Collector’s Corner welcomes you to the first day of June, and we’re starting off with a hockey item. Specifically, this 1999 Philadelphia Flyers Zamboni Bank. I’ve always loved the Flyers’ logo, but the other thing that caught my eye about this item is that the driver looks like Dan Aykroyd in an orange prison jumpsuit!

Now for the rest of this week’s picks:

• Speaking of banks, this 1940s Detroit Tigers baseball bank was sponsored by Mobil Oil. The Tiger sure doesn’t look like what we’re used to!

• And here’s an Atlanta Falcons helmet bank, one of those early-1970s bank promo helmets we’ve seen a lot of over the years. Oddly, it comes in a box for a completely different item (a glass with a pewter logo). I was excited there for a minute, because I’ve never seen one of the banks with the original box — and now I guess I still haven’t.

• Tomorrow is Lou Gehrig Day in MLB, so here’s a 2014 Gehrig bobblehead to commemorate the 75th anniversary of his famous July 4th, 1939, “Luckiest man” speech.

• Take a look at this 2001 Los Angeles Lakers phone. How does this work? Do you talk into that little basketball..? There’s no handset, so is it always in speaker mode? 

• Nice artwork on the front of this 1970 Aladdin Bobby Orr lunchbox. Looks like the goalie is based on Orr’s teammate Gerry Cheevers.

• This 1970s Detroit Lions pencil sharpener is still in the package. That’s Colts quarterback Bert Jones shown on the card graphic, no question.

• One more sharpener: Here’s an NFL football sharpener. Not sure of the year, but it has Paul Tagliabue’s signature on it, so it has to be from between 1989 and 2006.

• This one’s for Paul, and all the other Mets fans out there: Take a look at this set of 1960s Mr. Met “Ed-U-Cards.”

• Look at the artwork on this 1963 Kansas City Athletics Scorebook. Note that the word “Athletics” is rendered in what we now think of as the Pirates’ font.

• And finally, gonna sneak in this tennis item because, well, I’m a tennis nut. This is a mid- to late-1970s navy/beige Fila Bjorn Borg warm-up jacket. They referred to their tennis line back then as “White Line Fila.” He usually wore this style in red/beige, although it also came in green/navy, and I had one in navy/cobalt. Cost a ton back then, too. And the quality was unmatched!

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ITEM! Uni Watch in the wild: An unidentified (uni-dentified?) Uni Watch fan spent his Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. If that fan is reading this, feel free to say hi!

(My thanks to Twitter-er @_RF30 for taking this photo and sharing it with me.)

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The same thing, only different: We’ve all seen drop-off boxes for lab samples lined up in front of doctors’ offices, but I really love how the ones shown above are arranged to match the zigzag design of the building’s front wall. Something very pleasing about that!

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Sorry, no Ticker today, as the Uni Watch staff had yesterday off. The Ticker will return tomorrow. — Paul

Comments (30)

    In the photos of Pillar and McCann, it appears the interlocking “NY” on their batting helmets has a metallic sheen. Is it my imagination, the effects of the lighting, or is this a thing?

    Giants 2B Robby Thompson wore a hard mask in the field in the final series of the 1993 season, a week after he broke his cheekbone.

    Probably not a hard mask, but Twins 2B Rob Wilfong wore some kind of nose shield after breaking his nose in 1981.

    Man, those Mariner Trident “racing stripe” uniforms were a thing of beauty.


    Also loved those late 70s/early 80s Twins unis. Just wish they’d worn the red cap with blue bill all the time!

    I was texting a friend on how slow we are (Canada and more specifically Toronto area) to reopen. COVID numbers have dropped dramatically in the last few weeks here. I mentioned the great atmosphere at last night’s Islanders/Bruins game, he mentions all the CNBC morning anchors are finally back. Then I flip through Uni-watch, sorry for being slow on the uptake, but the biggest sign of all that the US is returning to normal, no pandemic porch shot! I see it has been retired for a weeks now.

    Great to see the return to normal, although liked the pandemic porch shot to see how the seasons were changing in your neck of the woods

    Hi, Laurence! It’s true, PPC™ has come to a close. I wrote about it at the bottom of this post two weeks ago:

    As I wrote at the time, I have mixed feelings about the end of the project, but its end ultimately feels positive and even necessary. Hope life in Ontario gets back to normal soon!

    I agree about having mixed feelings…not just for the PPC photos.

    If anyone sees a good social-distancing t-shirt (preferably on clearance), let me know. I’d still wear that.

    I thought you already had a good social distancing t-shirt. Sans collar now?

    Yes. But I’d like more than one. Preferably with a v-neck this time.

    Thanks Paul, intrigued by the comment “Given the opportunity, I have a strong tendency to turn anything and everything — even a global pandemic — into an obsessive ritual”

    I can share my own example, on June 10th 2016, I started something called “Gotrain stats”, the train system here is called a “Gotrain”. I would record a myriad of stats, the train car number I sat in, the emergency car number, the engine number, was the train on time or not, did they verify my tapping on (it’s on the honour system) – pretty consistently 3% over the years, etc. completely mundane stuff. But, and I expected this to happen, I got obsessed by it, I added stats. I let family and friends know, they would ask me about it, and got a kick out of it, provided I kept my response to about 30 seconds or less :) Well 1,962 Go Trains rides later (March 10, 2020) it essentially ended. I’ve only been on six rides since. As quirky as it sounds, I missed that routine. Looking to make it to 2,000 rides and getting back to normal.

    LOL. I rode the train from Appleby for a few years and the only thing I remember noting was whether I rode downstairs or upstairs, forwards or backwards. I hated backwards.

    I also have had mixed feelings over the end of the PPC. I really enjoyed the look into what life is like for others during this time. I really looked forward to seeing the pics, whether there were words to go with them or not. As Paul said, it’s end marks the beginning of a return to normalcy. I do think the idea of a gallery showing, maybe even a digital book, would be a great way to show the project off.

    I’m surprised that players like McCann would wear a legging and then a sock over the top. Why not eliminate layer and just wear solid blue leggings that would take care of both?

    Not clear plastic, and not worn in the field, but there is the Dave Parker goalie mask.



    Quoting from the website Puck Junk:

    The hockey mask made its one and only appearance during Parker’s return to the baseball diamond on July 16, 1978; an 11th inning pinch hit opportunity

    Right — he’s one many players who’ve worn various forms of face-protective masks both at the plate and on the bases (and I should know — I wrote a link about it).

    But not in the field.

    At first glance, I thought the first Pillar picture was him wearing a PPE mask while playing. :)

    I *want* to say that Alfredo Griffin briefly wore a hard mask after an injury in the early ’90s–think it was with the Dodgers, but could’ve been the Blue Jays.

    The 63 KC Athletics scorebook mentioned in Collectors Corner is basically showing the A’s in their 62 uniforms – a one season red and navy design with the fancy block style used by the Pirates, Giants and probably others. What’s strange is the A’s debuted their eye-opening green and gold uniforms in 63, but it seems little effort was put into updating the programs to reflect this. Granted, the number 11 on the undershirt sleeve is different from 62’s design – and the A’s DID start with green and gold versions with the 62 style lettering before settling on the classic A on the left.

    I’ll bet this program is from the opening home stand against the Yankees, and is essentially the 62 design slightly updated. I wonder if green and gold programs showed up later that season. Kind of shows that this small market team didn’t have the resources to cover all the bases with their new look.

    Pillar’s mask looks oddly similar to my CPAP mask!

    Also, that weird Lakers phone has buttons that are in the shape of basketball jerseys. Purple ones that actually match!

    Paul, you’ll be happy to know that Gulden’s spicy brown mustard has gone back to it’s original package. No more motor oil bottles! “Yellow Mustard, Spicy Brown Mustard, and More | Gulden’s” link

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