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‘r’ You Ready: KC Royals Break New Uni Ground with Lowercase Letter

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The Royals recently made news by being the only MLB team to use full-size NOB lettering. Now, as you can see above, they’re making NOB-related news again, this time because outfield prospect Joe Gray Jr. has a lowercase “r” as part of his generational suffix. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before as part of a “Jr.” or “Sr.,” in any sport!

Gray isn’t on the Royals’ 40-man roster and is expected to begin the season in the minors. But the Royals also have infielder Bobby Witt Jr. on the team — is he also going with the lowercase “r”? Nope, at least not on his light-blue jersey:

I haven’t yet found rear-view pics of Witt in royal blue, or of Gray in light blue, so it’s not clear if the lowercase “r” is a one-jersey aberration, or an experiment, or what. I’ve contacted the Royals and will update this post if I hear back from them.

Personally, I’m not a fan of generational suffixes on NOBs to begin with. But if we’re going to have them, I think they should probably have a capital “R.” The lowercase letter looks weird all by itself at the end of the NOB.

The use of lowercase letters on MLB NOBs was pioneered in 2014 by the Mets, who suddenly found themselves with three players who needed them: catcher Travis d’Arnaud, pitcher Jacob deGrom, and outfielder Matt den Dekker:

In the decade since then, the use of lowercase letters has become more common, but I still don’t think I’ve seen one used in “Jr.” until now. Just goes to show that there’s always something new happening in the uni-verse!

(My thanks to Josh Stewart for bringing Gray’s lowercase letter to my attention.)




ITEM: Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Details from MLB’s Uni Factory

Last week I wrote about how several MLB teams’ new road uniforms appear to have different shades of grey for the jerseys and the pants. Now an employee who works at the Pennsylvania factory that manufactures MLB’s on-field uniforms has explained to me how that may have happened. This source has also revealed several other interesting details regarding Nike’s new MLB uniforms. My exclusive interview with this source is this week’s Uni Watch Premium article on Substack.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack. This will give you access to my full Substack archive and will also get you my annual (and final!) MLB Season Preview when it’s published later this month.My thanks, as always, for your consideration.


LAST DAY for Hockey, Cycling, and Soccer Jerseys

In case you missed it, our old Uni Watch hockey and cycling jerseys are available again (with your choice of numbers and NOBs!), but only through the end of this week, which means you have to get your order in today. You can order yours here. Enjoy!

In addition, our Uni Watch soccer jerseys are also back:

The soccer jerseys are available here. Just like with the hockey and cycling designs, you can choose your desired number and NOB, but only through the end of today, so move fast.



Mascot Watch

Face-plant, literally. He slept in this pose for at least 10 minutes yesterday.



Can of the Day

There’s something very counterintuitive about using a brand name like “White Rose” for a product like grease.

• • • • •

Sorry, no Remembership today. But we’ll have other content, and Remembership will return next week. — Paul

Comments (57)

    Paul, two things – the exclusive is great. A must-read, and a reason why we’re sad you’re leaving this beat! Also, the main takeaway from your lede is just how much better KC’s NOB look with the bigger lettering!

    A weird corollary to the proliferation of generational suffixes (which are unnecessary; the NOB is meant to be the player’s last name, and only once in sports history was there a need to differentiate between two players on the same team, from the same family, of different generations) is that very few people go with FIOB (which would be a great way to identify 2 teammates with the same last name).

    In fact, those are the # 1 and # 2 most popular sports in the world.
    I’m dreading the coming of Spring (I’d rather shovel than mow), but at least English cricket season is coming soon.

    Ugh, the pedantry.
    Yes, there are sports outside the US. The point was that generational suffixes are unnecessary 99.9% of the time. A few additional examples doesn’t change that inescapable fact, but thanks.

    excessive concern with minor details and rules.

    It’s neither an excessive concern nor a minor fact that, worldwide, soccer and cricket are far more popular than any North American sport. Unlike the USA For Africa song, we are not the world… we’re a slice of it.

    I agree with you on the generational suffixes.

    That doesn’t change the fact that it is not pedantic at all for me to call out your continued use of terms like “sports” and “sports history” when you really mean “North American big four sports (history)”.

    Agreed. What sports get covered the most here? Big four American sports. There is no need to qualify what you mean by “sports”. This complaint is nitpickery at its finest.

    Curious, did any of those examples you linked to use generational suffixes? The pictures didn’t show any.

    Not sure, but I was responding to “only once in sports history was there a need to differentiate between two players on the same team, from the same family, of different generations”.

    Henrik Larsson and Rivaldo are the most high-profile players to play with their sons, but the clubs were relatively small so I’m not sure if they even used NOBs.

    It went from me providing one example in North American sports to finding a couple of additional examples when factoring in the world of sports. Which didn’t disprove my point, and probably means that worldwide, the instances of father/son Sr/Jr being necessary is an even smaller percentage of the total number of players than my example of North American sports.
    Then, it devolved into whether or not the counterargument was a matter of pedantry – which – by the second definition of the word, “an overly ambitious

    It went from me providing one example in North American sports to finding a couple of additional examples when factoring in the world of sports. Which didn’t disprove my point, and probably means that worldwide, the instances of father/son Sr/Jr being necessary is an even smaller percentage of the total number of players than my example of North American sports.
    Then, it devolved into whether or not the counterargument was a matter of pedantry – which – by the second definition of the word, “an overly ambitious display of learning” is more apt than the single definition provided. Moreover, the adjectival form (pedantic) is synonymous with “fussy, nit-picky, ostentatious”.

    Curious, did any of those examples you linked to use generational suffixes? The pictures didn’t show any.

    It just got me wondering how prevalent generational suffixes are on uniforms internationally. I don’t even know how much use they get outside of the US or non-English speaking countries in daily life, let alone sports uniforms.

    The uni-verse is going to miss you, Paul. You’re Substack article today is incredible. It’s the kind of work that made you the unmatched top journalist in this space. Your legacy/portfolio will carry on well beyond your time on the beat.

    Future uni-writers will be “trying to do it like Paul.” Fighting to be the second best to ever do it.

    I hope your next adventure is everything you want it to be. Well-earned (understatement).

    Today’s substack is exactly why I’ve been a Uni-Watch fan for over 20 years. Thank you, Paul. Too bad nobody from Nike will go on record with you.

    The lowercase ‘r’ does allow for some free space that the trailing period is occupying. So it’s a bit of a space saver.

    And it’s lighter, too! Probably helps him get to first base a thousandth of a second faster than with a capital R.

    But what about all the added weight of the suffix as a whole. He probably would have been the fastest guy on the Royals if he was just “GRAY.” OR, if Kansas City really wanted to compete, all of their players would go NNOB!

    This is why the Yankees will never win another World Series-they have to have double digit numbers from now on; a self inflicted permanent disadvantage.

    Why the dislike of generational suffixes on uniforms? I agree it may be superfluous but then again, so are hyphenated last names on jerseys.

    Names On Back are superfluous in general.
    Just give me properly sized numbers.

    Well, no. If someone’s actual surname is Smith-Jones, there’s nothing superfluous about putting “Smith-Jones” on his jersey. That’s his surname.

    But if the player’s name is John Smith-Jones Jr., or John Smith-Jones III, his surname is still “Smith-Jones.” That’s all that belongs on the jersey.

    It’s weird, though–I was able to distinguish Dee Gordon for all the years he went without the “-Strange”. So, the hyphenation is superfluous. It’s quite literally superfluous.

    Now if you don’t *like* suffixes on jerseys, fine. But anything but the number is superfluous, frankly.

    Instructions unclear, Nike now affix all 9 digits of each players social security/insurance number to their jerseys.

    Due to excessive weight from the numerous numbers, any player that does not hit a home-run is always thrown out at 1st base…

    The player’s full name is Devaris Strange-Gordon. His name was mispronounced by a PA announcer while he was in the minor leagues, so he chose to go by “Dee Gordon” instead. Then he eventually changed his mind and decided to start going by “Dee Strange-Gordon.”

    Point is, this was all the player’s own personal choice, just as it is a player’s own personal choice to add a “Jr.” or “III.”

    Love the faceplant photo! My daughter is going to enjoy that. Mascot Watch is the only part of UW that grabs her attention.

    Yes, it’s like kitty was so tired, it fell asleep while exiting. Too funny. If that’s Biscuit, is that a face-biscuit?

    I wouldn’t go with every sport. Names under the number in basketball look pretty good, almost like an underline.

    My first year following baseball was 1977. Here are the teams who had lettering on the back: Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers, Giants, Padres (home), Orioles, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Rangers, Astros, A’s, and Mariners. A few hockey teams were holdouts, too, but as long as I can remember football and basketball have all had it.

    The lowercase letters are so dumb. If your last name is Williams they put it as “WILLIAMS”. But for deGrom they put “deGROM”. It’s not consistent at all.

    It should either be only the capital letters capitalized (Williams and deGrom) or it should be all capitalized (WILLIAMS and DEGROM)

    But having just prefixes lowercase makes absolutely no sense because technically every last name has all lowercase except for one letter (usually the first one)

    Wow great point, totally agree with you but I’m just not sure if Nike uniforms are allowed to make sense these days…

    The style guide of the local paper (LoHud Journal News) dictates a name like d’Arnaud only be capitalized when it comes at the start of a sentence. “D’Arnaud reached on a fielder’s choice”.

    The newspaper is not published in all-CAPS. NOBs are in all-CAPS. It should be D’ARNAUD on the jersey. If they want to start using lowercase letters– which they won’t, because the whole point is for the name to be easily read– then it would be d’Arnaud. But d’ARNAUD (or deGROM) makes no sense.

    That is one of the most adorable Mascot Watch photos ever, thanks for sharing that one Paul!

    The bending over backwards to lowercase some of these letters in the NOB is exhausting. It’s especially weird to me because every letter of a player’s last name is lowercase except the first since normally we use title casing in proper nouns like names. So we are capitalizing lowercase letters in every name. But over they years we keep going further and further out of the way to make exceptions to ALL CAPS lettering (Mc, d’, Jr, etc.).

    I’d at least like to see small capitals instead of lowercase. Until recently these letters were rendered in small capitals; it might not have been clear with “Mc” because a lowercase C looks like a capital C, but with “De”, “La”, “Van”, “Di” and such, there were lots of teams with small caps until recently. No idea why they would change that.


    It all just feels to me like players want something unique on their jersey. So we’ve seen an increase in players wanting to put their hyphenated names, adding generational suffixes, and now going out of their way to show some letters in true lowercase rather the small caps that had been used in the past.

    It all just feels a bit unnecessary.

    Has Nike quantified how much lighter the jersey is now that they are using a lower case “r”?

    White Rose was a Canadian chain of refineries, gas stations, etc., that was bought by Shell in the 1960s. When I was a kid (in the 1970s) you’d still see the brand everywhere, and there’s a TON of White Rose cans on eBay. Never struck me as strange but I see it now.

    Travis d’Arnaud has a brother named Chase who played in the Majors for a few years before him on the Pirates among other teams. I wonder if the ‘d’ on his NOB was lowercased for him or capitalized

    And that KC lowercase r looks like it was butchered from an uppercase R…

    The point of NOBs is to be visible and legible. When the Mets put the lowercase “d” on deGrom and d’Arnaud, it never made any sense. Either the names are in all-CAPS or they’re not. You would either write DEGROM or deGrom; you would never write deGROM.

    And this whole thing with Jr. and III has jumped the shark. We use these suffixes when there is some possibility of confusion. Ken Griffey Jr. and Cal Ripken Jr. are called by those names because there were famous people in the same field with their same names. Same goes for Martin Luther King Jr. Unless I’m missing something, there is no chance that fans are going to confuse Joe Gray Jr. with his father. I’m sure Joe Gray Sr. is a fine man and it’s wonderful that his son wants to honor him, but “Joe Gray” is enough to uniquely identify the son, at least until Josiah Gray decides that he wants to go by Joe.

    I’m sorry to be an alarmist, but I would be a little concerned that your cat is engaging in “head pressing,” which can be a warning sign of a medical issue. See link. Unfortunately, I speak from experience.

    Generational suffixes are a kind of weird thing.

    I am generally of the belief that they should only be used when needed for distinguishment. For example, Ken Griffey, Jr. probably only needed to be referred to as Ken Griffey, Jr. when he was playing on the Mariners with his father, Ken Griffey, Sr. Otherwise, just Ken Griffey would suffice.

    That said, I do think some element of personal preference comes in and should be accounted for. “A man has a right to change his name to whatever he wants to change it to.” – Eddie Murphy as the old barbershop guy in “Coming to America”

    It’s also notable that many etiquette experts advocate for suffixes to advance upon the passing of someone in the line. For instance, let’s say there’s a John Doe, Sr., a John Doe, Jr. and John Doe III. If the eldest of those dies, the survivors should then become John Doe, Sr. and John Doe, Jr. I wonder how often this is actually done in practice, though.

    I’m a Junior myself and I hate how prevalent suffixes have become, especially in the NFL. It’s just a way of saying “I like my dad” or “I have a son”. If the most famous Junior in baseball history didn’t need a “JR.” on his back while playing the outfield *next to his dad*, Luis Robert doesn’t need it.

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