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What Would an MLB Labor Day Uniform Look Like?

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[Editor’s Note: In light of today’s holiday, I’m re-posting a blog entry from two years ago, with a few edits to make it current for 2023. Enjoy! — PL]

Today is Labor Day, the day when we celebrate the American labor movement. It’s one of our oldest federal holidays, dating back to 1894. But as usual, Major League Baseball — a league that routinely trots out special uniforms or at least patches for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and 9/11, and that also had all uniformed personnel wear yellow ribbons for pediatric cancer just yesterday — is doing nothing at all to acknowledge Labor Day.

Personally, I don’t much care for holiday uniforms and wish MLB would skip all of them. But if we’re going to have them, it makes no sense to exclude Labor Day. That’s particularly true now, as there are increasing reports that the pandemic has led many people to rethink the role of work in their lives and reassess their work/life balance.

Before I go any further, it’s worth pointing out here that Labor Day is not about glorifying “blue collar”/hardhat labor (as so many teams and coaches already do). It’s about acknowledging the value and dignity of all labor, encouraging worker solidarity, and raising the level of work conditions for all of us.

With all that in mind, I wanted to explore what an MLB Labor Day uniform might look like. Here are some ideas:

• Players could simply wear a cap patch acknowledging the holiday, as they do on Memorial Day.

• Players could wear a slate-blue/orange ribbon, because those are the colors of the AFL-CIO.

• Players could wear the logo of the Major League Baseball Players Association — arguably the most powerful and successful American trade union of the past half-century — as a sleeve patch.

• Players could wear a logo based on the AFL-CIO’s famous “handshake” logo, with the hands wearing batting gloves, wristbands, or other baseball-identified accessories.

• Players could wear “21” patches, to honor Curt Flood, and/or “MM” patches, to honor Marvin Miller.

• In addition to team-wide gestures, each team’s union rep (every club has one) could wear some sort of patch or designation.

• Not uni-related, but another possibility: In the interests of work/life balance, Labor Day could be reserved as an open date, with no teams playing. (Side note: Eight MLB teams are not playing today.)

I’m not saying all of these are awesome ideas, but I’m definitely saying it’s worth thinking about Labor Day — and its relation to sports in general and the uni-verse in particular — at least as much as any other holiday.

I realize it’s easy (maybe even sensible) to be cynical here and just say, “Ah, they’ll never do anything like that,” or “You know they’d turn it into a blue-collar thing,” or even “Forget it, most people think Labor Day is about firing up the grill or going shopping.” But I’m asking you to suspend your disbelief for a few minutes and try to work with me here — think about what this could be, not what it probably would be. So if you have good ideas for the intersection of Labor Day and MLB uniforms, feel free to post them in today’s comments. Thanks, and have a great Labor Day!

Comments (36)

    My ideal for a Labor Day uniform commemoration would be something entirely player-driven and -executed, not an MLB promotion. So players pay to have a patch (MLBPA or Sabo-Tabby link) pressed onto caps or jerseys. Also the MLBPA should start a campaign to organize stadium workers and players should add a patch with a QR code that links to a website for the organizing drive.

    i agree with the idea that it would need to be something player driven, because the point should be to celebrate the players, and i especially agree because the point of organized labor, which the holiday celebrates, is to prevent workers being taken advantage of by owners, and mlb taking advantage of the holiday as time to get good PR by using their players doesnt seem too in the spirit of things

    Interesting idea. But it is hard to find something that celebrates the dignity of labor without devolving into blue-collar cosplay or going full hammer & sickle.

    @MJ, I don’t understand why that would be difficult. A lot of the ideas here are great, especially the need for any celebration of the day originating with players or their union. None of the ideas offered by Paul or others have been “blue collar ” or “hammer and sickle”.The modern American labor movement can hardly be said to be a “fifth columnist” exercise except in the minds of those who oppose organized labor and use McCarthyite fears to help control the narrative. As long as corporate America and their marketing hands don’t play a role in this long overdue recognition, it could be the most honest celebration!

    With “except in the minds of those who oppose organized labor” and most of Paul’s ideas, it’s important to remember that one of those groups that oppose organized labor is Major League Baseball team owners who have final say on official statements on uniforms and such. You would, almost definitely, need to identify a commemoration that could be done collectively by players in a way that could not be stopped by owners.

    It would be interesting to see the union put forward a Labor Day cap, give it to the players and dare the owners to take action. What could they do? Fine the whole team? Suspend the whole team? Go to the NLRB? I am not sure what action they could take if the union had the guts to do it.

    This would be great, as the meaning of Labor Day has been lost. It won’t happen though, because organized labor has become a divisive political issue. We have a major political party that demonizes unions, so any movement by MLB to highlight organized labor as a whole would alienate some part of the audience.

    Organized labor has always been a politically divisive issue. The partisan divide on unions has evolved over time as party coalitions have changed, but the ideological divide has not, and labor has been one of the most polarizing issues in American politics since shortly after the Civil War. Which speaks to the need for any Labor Day commemoration to be player-driven, not ownership/management-driven. If players just took the field wearing MLBPA caps, for example, who’s going to stop them? Is some suit or owner going to run down to the dugout and tell the manager to bench players wearing union hats? Fine, let fans witness their team’s owner force a forfeit. Umpires? First, there’s no relevant rule to enforce, and second, their union too. Politically divisive? Maybe, but direct action and solidarity are how workers win.

    I should have read all the comments before commenting. I just wrote something much like this in a reply above. It would absolutely need to be player driven in a way that couldn’t be stopped in advance.

    “… any movement by MLB to highlight organized labor as a whole would alienate some part of the audience”

    MLB already does this with their camo fetish.

    Per tradition, SMUW always has Labor Day weekend off. We’ll return next Saturday with a wrap of the first two weeks of NCAAFB, and then it resumes its normal schedule beginning Sunday, 9/10.

    Maybe teams could have patches to honor the kids working in Nike sweatshops who make their uniforms?

    Same ppl that made them for Majestic. Cannot remember if it will still be the case if Nike changes to the new template. (Chassis? What did Uni-Verse decide on last time?)

    As paul lee said they’re being made at the Majestic plant. Fanatics bought the plant when Nike took over the deal as Majestic was going to shut it down.

    It’s Majestic’s plant and template that Fanatics makes and Nike allows them to just place the swoosh on the jersey and pants.

    I fear that a Labor Day uniform might not be possible! You trot out a uniform, management had to sign off on it, and you can’t have “company unions.” So an approved Labor Day uniform might be a legal oxymoron, aka illegal. Probably not a special jersey or cap.
    If Labor Day could look different at all, it would probably involve sky blue and orange batting gloves, or a tiny patch that can be quickly removed like the Topps Debut patch. Just be careful that the coaches don’t accidentally get the labor union patch!

    I like the concept, but what I would celebrate is service time with some sort of cap logo showing years in MLB. On the other hand Labor Day, along with Memorial Day and the 4th, should be mandatory doubleheader day (not twi-night, actual 2 for 1) with free MLB TV for those not lucky enough to be near a park.

    So a way to commemorate Labor Day would be to make the people doing the laboring work twice as much? Unusual choice.

    At the risk of being simplistic, sports are different.

    The NBA takes great delight in scheduling marquee matchups on Christmas Day. Thanksgiving is a time for family, unless you play for the Cowboys or Lions. And then there are the New Years Bowls…

    It may not be strictly fair to the players, but using Labor Day games as the unofficial start of “pennant chase season” with lots of hype and ceremony would, in my opinion, benefit them more in the long run than shutting the sport down while millions of people have a 3 day weekend to enjoy.

    There are A LOT of people laboring at MLB games other than the players. You’d be making all of them spend almost twice as much time away from their family “while millions of people have a 3 day weekend to enjoy”. It would be friendly to you and your sports loving friend, but not very friendly to the laborers on Labor Day, a day to commemorate how much we appreciate laborers.

    Summer is defined by Memorial Day weekend at the beginning and Labor Day at its end. How about bookending a special uniform feature that similarly serves both days? Like a simple American flag that covers the Nike logo?

    I’d like to see the players salute those that work for their teams: equipment people, groundskeepers, clubhouse attendants, stadium staff, etc.

    If something were done, it shouldn’t turn into an American thing. The Blue Jays are part of this too, and unlike when they get dragged into the costume party with other US holidays, Canadian Labour Day shares the same date as US Labor Day.

    I don’t like the idea of any afl-cio reference, because this isn’t may 1, and like it or not, lawmakers purposely changed our labour day when it feared industrial unionization, and long “general strikes”; as this day comes just before winter, not summer, when food was ample. blah blah blah. it’s technically about celebrating your individual labour. in other words, they separated the action from the movement(like memorial/veterans). whatever, it means the afl-cio is as inappropriate are camo. now, that DOES, for MLB, include the players association logo, it is labour day, and that is their labour organization, it’s appropriate to celebrate as part of their labour. in lieu of that, a simple American flag/labour day message shows it is important AND American.

    No games on Labor Day, everybody gets to enjoy time with their loved ones one more time as the summer ends. Simple.

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