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How About Getting Rid of
2002-09-21 00:36
by Mike Carminati

How About Getting Rid of the Diamondback Unis Altogether?

A month ago the sports press was caught up in the maelstrom that were the baseball labor negotiations. We heard that if the players struck, it could be the end of the sport as we know it. If the owners didn't stick to their guns and get the deal that they needed, it could cause financial ruin for the small-revenue clubs. This is what MLB was promulgating only a month ago.

Now what are they concerned with? Baggy pants. In an effort to drain any last shred of character and marketability from the game, MLB is instituting new uniform standards, not for safety or to minimize distractions for opponents, merely since they are unsightly. That means that players who have developed a unique style like Barry Bonds, Jeff Bagwell, and Manny Ramirez will lose that bit of their identity come next season.

ESPN so sayeth:

MLB does have uniform regulations already in the basic rulebook. Rule 1.11 prohibits everything from glass buttons to "ragged, frayed or slit" sleeves, although no sanctions for violators are listed. Two years ago, MLB also set restrictions on the sizes for protective elbow pads, like the ones Bonds and Biggio wear. However, players can go over the size limit if they prove a prior injury exists (as Bonds has done).

Well, here's the rule in its entirety:
(a) (1) All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players uniforms shall include minimal six inch numbers on their backs. (2) Any part of an undershirt exposed to view shall be of a uniform solid color for all players on a team. Any player other than the pitcher may have numbers, letters, insignia attached to the sleeve of the undershirt. (3) No player whose uniform does not conform to that of his teammates shall be permitted to participate in a game. (b) A league may provide that (1) each team shall wear a distinctive uniform at all times, or (2) that each team shall have two sets of uniforms, white for home games and a different color for road games. (c) (1) Sleeve lengths may vary for individual players, but the sleeves of each individual player shall be approximately the same length. (2) No player shall wear ragged, frayed or slit sleeves. (d) No player shall attach to his uniform tape or other material of a different color from his uniform. (e) No part of the uniform shall include a pattern that imitates or suggests the shape of a baseball. (f) Glass buttons and polished metal shall not be used on a uniform. (g) No player shall attach anything to the heel or toe of his shoe other than the ordinary shoe plate or toe plate. Shoes with pointed spikes similar to golf or track shoes shall not be worn. (h) No part of the uniform shall include patches or designs relating to commercial advertisements. (i) A league may provide that the uniforms of its member teams include the names of its players on their backs. Any name other than the last name of the player must be approved by the League President. If adopted, all uniforms for a team must have the names of its players.

The intention of the rule is to ensure that uniform standards are enforced to identify players and to reduce any distraction or obstruction caused by non-uniformity (therefore, the name) on the part of, usually, the pitcher. It's like an extension of the balk rule. The rules were not developed so that Bud could institute a dress code. They claim that some shirts are worn to be baggy to induce a hit-by-a-pitch call. If so, that aspect may be addressed, but who cares if Barry feels that he is making a fashion statement with pants down to his toenails.
Here is some history on each aspect of the rule from Rich Marazzi's The Rules and Lore of Baseball:
- 1.11 (a)(1): Umpire Bill Hailer laid rule 1.11(a) on Vida Blue on April 16, 1977. Hailer forced Blue to remove the old, discolored cap that he had worn for some time. Blue superstitiously looked at his hat as his "lucky" cap. Vida said, "I'm going to wear it next time or I won't pitch." The Oakland pitcher had a change of heart the next day and proceeded to burn his cap in front of his teammates.

[Note: John Wetteland had a hoary, sweat-discolored hat when he closed for the Yankees. He wore the some one all year until they won the World Seies. Steve Kline's Cardinal hat tonight didn't look much better: it was a more maroon than his teammates' and the white "STL" had become pink from sweat.]

- I. 11(c):The basic reason for the rule is that it is a distraction to the batter to have to face a pitcher with ragged sleeves.
On the night of May 5, 1972, the Athletics hosted the Yankees at Oakland. Going into the bottom of the third inning with Oakland batting and the Yankees leading 1-0, umpire Bill Kunkel went out to the mound to check pitcher Fritz Peterson's shirt. It appeared that shirt Peterson wore under his uniform shirt was slightly slit or frayed. Umpire Kunkel ordered Fritz to the clubhouse to change his shirt. The Yankee southpaw followed the umpire's order, and the game went on.

Frayed sleeves have been a baseball no-no for a longtime. On June 7, 1938, the Indians and Red Sox played at Fenway Park. Umpire Bill McGowan ordered Cleveland chucker Johnny Allen to cut off part of his sweat shirt sleeve which dangled when he pitched. McGowan viewed this as a distraction to the batters.

Allen emphatically refused to cut his sleeve. The stubborn hurler refused to pitch and angrily walked off the mound. He was fined $250.00 for his obstinate actions. Allen's ragged shirt was eventually sent to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.

-1.11 (e):Joe Adcock protested the 1967 season opener when he managed the Indians in a game against the Athletics. The Athletics were not wearing a baseball shaped pattern on any part of their uniform, but they were wearing white shoes, which Adcock thought were deceptive and tended to confuse the hitter.

Adcock protested the game as soon as A's pitcher Jim Nash threw the first pitch to Vie Davalillo. The protest was rejected by A.L. President Joe Cronin.

Billy Martin was involved in a protest concerning the uniform when the White Sox made their first visit to the new Yankee Stadium early in the 1976 season. The White Sox invaded the stadium wearing their new uniforms, navy blue pants and blouses, clamdiggers, white hats, white lettering, and white undershirts.

Martin thought there must be something in the rules against white undershirts, especially if worn by a pitcher. Umpire Marty Spring- stead agreed but wasn't sure. Since it was too late to check with the league office, the umpire ordered Sox pitcher Bart Johnson to remove the white-sleeve shirt. The shirt was snipped with a scissors, and Johnson conducted his pitching chores. Relief pitcher Clay Carroll replaced his white shirt with a blue one. White Sox manager Paul Richards protested the game, which the Yankees won, 5-4. American League president Lee MacPhail ruled the white shirts were acceptable but disallowed the protest lodged by the White Sox.

- 1.11 (f): Umpire Ed Runge ordered Indian pitcher Dean Chance to remove a tiny flag pin from his cap on July 3, 1970, when the Indians met the Red Sox at Boston. Glass buttons and metal objects can cause a glare for the batter and therefore are illegal.

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