Single page view By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

It's gotta be the shoes, you say? Nuh-uh – it's the socks.

Uni Watch is referring, of course, to the modest but undeniable renaissance of stirrups appearing on Major League Baseball diamonds. The movement is being spearheaded in Boston, where Kevin Millar, Trot Nixon, Bill Mueller and Mark Bellhorn have all been stirrup-clad in recent weeks. Other current stirrup stalwarts include Juan Pierre, Reed Johnson, Johnny Estrada, Ruben Gotay, Alex Cintron (dig the ankle-level D-Backs logo!), Jose Cruz Jr. (ditto!), Jamie Moyer, Heath Bell, Mark Prior (get better soon, big guy!) and Brandon McCarthy (but not, alas, Barry Zito, who used to wear stirrups but is wearing solid green stockings this year – no doubt the source of his sub-par mound performance).

While Uni Watch is pleased – nay, thrilled – to see stirrups coming back into vogue, the mere fact that these meager pickings are noteworthy is a measure of how far baseball leg wear has fallen. Moreover, all the above-named players are wearing low-cut stirrups, which barely allow any white undersock to show through, rather than the far preferable and more graphically pleasing medium-cut style. And seeing all those Red Sox players in stirrups is a bittersweet reminder that Boston's sock drawer no longer includes the ultra-cool striped hose of yore.

Why does Uni Watch get so worked up about stirrups? Because they're unique to baseball. Because if you wore them in Little League, you remember how cool it felt to put them on. Because the way you wear them – or don't wear them – speaks volumes about you as a ballplayer.

Ad Nauseum
NBA commish David Stern recently hinted that NBA teams could one day wear advertising patches on their jerseys.

Needless to say, Paul Lukas has something to say about the idea. And if you think ad patches have merit, Uni Watch is here to rip apart all your arguments.

And when you think about it – as Uni Watch does, constantly – it's amazing that the MLB honchos allow such a dizzying array of shin-level stylings. First there's the pajama brigade, which includes players who wear their pants down to their shoes, over their shoes, under their shoes, tucked into their shoes, and tethered to their their shoes with an elastic strap (a style pioneered by Barry Bonds and later banned, although Uni Watch has spotted Livan Hernandez using it this season). There's also the handful of players who wear their pants at their ankles, exposing either a modicum of solid-colored sock or an ineffectual sliver of stirrup.

The problem with all these styles – besides looking like crap – is that they dishonor baseball's hosiery heritage. Socks are a way of showing your team's colors. That's why we have teams called the White Sox, Red Sox, and Reds (and why former Devil Rays manager and honorary Uni Watch trustee Hal McRae briefly required that all his players cuff their pants a minimum of four inches above their ankles in 2002). Fortunately, a few players still understand this simple logic. In addition to the current stirrup-clad crew, there are the players wearing solid stockings, as well as the occasional Cardinals player wearing faux one-piece stirrups (which are better than nothing but are not the genuine article, as can be seen here, here, and here). Most of these players wear their pants just below the knee, although Jim Thome cuffs his a smidge farther down (and don't overlook his ankle-level Liberty Bell – a nice touch that has sadly fallen into disuse among his teammates). And then there's Greg Maddux, among the last to wear the pants at mid-shin, as well as the last to wear the totally bogus socks with the sewn-in stripe.


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