When this year's postseason field was winnowed down to the final four -- the Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox and Tigers -- it became apparent that we'd be treated to a very good-looking World Series. Now that the Cards and BoSox have advanced to compete for this year's title, here are some uniform-related storylines to keep in mind as this year's Fall Classic unfolds:
1. Hold on to Your Hats: A previous Cards/Sox matchup led to one of the most unusual uni-related moments in World Series history. It took place at the conclusion of the 1967 Series, when Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson struck out Red Sox first baseman George Scott to end Game 7. As the St. Louis players poured out onto the field to celebrate their title, third-base umpire Augie Donatelli ran into the scrum, plucked infielder Julian Javier's cap right off his head, and scampered off the field with it. You can see the bizarre encounter by skipping ahead to the 4:20 mark of this video clip.
Donatelli later described his inexplicable cap theft as "a spur-of-the-moment thing." Unfortunately, he has since passed away, so we can't ask him to elaborate on that.
2. Hairy Situation: Much has been said and written about the Red Sox players' beards. But less attention has been devoted to another aspect of Boston's follicle follies: Many of the Sox have three short lines shaved into the hair just behind their left ear. It refers to the players' unofficial motto, "Three Lines, 2 Chainz, One Goal," (which in turn refers to the rap artist 2 Chainz, whose song "I'm Different" has become the team's clubhouse anthem following each victory).
3. Very Superstitious, Cardinals Style: Backup outfielder Shane Robinson decided to switch to his "lucky" white-toed cleats, which he usually wears only for home games, for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series in Los Angeles. Sure enough, he hit the first pinch-hit homer of his MLB career in the seventh inning and flashed those white-tipped cleats while rounding the bases at Dodger Stadium.
4. Very Superstitious, Sox Style: Mike Napoli had been mired in a nasty postseason slump. So in the middle of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, he decided to lower his pant cuffs, which he'd been wearing up high, and drop them down to his shoe tops. He promptly homered for the game's only run and has stuck with the low-cuffed style since then.
5. Bleach-er Report: The Cardinals are one of only three MLB teams with no pinstripes or piping on their home pant legs. (The others are the Dodgers and A's.) This creates the effect of the Cards' pants looking whiter than white -- a suitably crisp look for baseball's best-dressed team.
6. Salty Snack: Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia holds two uni-related distinctions. First, he has a 14-letter name on the back of his road jersey -- the longest surname in MLB (and MLB-uni) history. Also, Salty is a member of an elite subset of catchers: He wears his catching helmet with the brim facing forward. He started doing this after developing a problem throwing the ball back to the pitcher. He finds the front-facing brim creates a tunnel-vision effect that helps him focus on returning the ball to the mound.
7. A Top-Down Approach: Cardinals team president Bill DeWitt III is -- let's just come out and say it -- a uniform geek. He's obsessed with the smallest uni details, from button placement to numeral size. As a result, he's much more involved with his team's uniform program than the average team executive, which may explain why the Cardinals are such a consistently good-looking club. You can see a uni-centric interview with DeWitt here.
8. With Their Hearts on Their Sleeves, Part 1: It's not surprising that the Red Sox added a uniform memorial after the Boston Marathon bombings last April. The unusual thing is that they've been wearing two different memorials for the same event: a "Boston Strong" sleeve patch at home and a black armband on the road. (Oddly enough, the most prominent precedent for this approach is last year's Red Sox squad, who memorialized Johnny Pesky with a patch at home and an armband on the road.)
9. With Their Hearts on Their Sleeves, Part 2: The Cardinals have been wearing a Stan Musial memorial patch this season. (That photo shows the gray version of the patch, which is worn on the road. The Cards also have white and cream versions for their home and alternate jerseys.) In one of the stranger uni-related developments of the past season, the Angels decided to pay tribute Stan the Man by wearing the Musial patch on their batting practice jerseys before a Cards-Halos interleague game on July 1 -- a rare case of a team wearing another team's patch.
10. With Their Hearts on Their Sleeves, Part 3: The World Series umpires will be wearing two memorial patches on their uniforms: "WB" on their right sleeves and "FP" on the left. The "FP" is for former ump Frank Pulli, who died in late August (all MLB umps wore this patch for the last month of the season), while the "WB" was added last week for umpire Wally Bell, who died of a heart attack on Oct. 14.
Additional Notes: The Cardinals and Red Sox have both celebrated recent World Series titles by wearing gold-trimmed uniforms to kick off their subsequent seasons. ... Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino is among the handful of MLB players who prefers to wear a double-earflapped batting helmet. ... When the Cardinals introduced their beautiful alternate uniform this season, they also gave their "birds on the bat" chest insignia an updated and enhanced embroidery pattern. ... Speaking of the birds on the bat, they underwent a series of subtle changes in 1998. Most of those adjustments have since been reversed. ... Boston's home and red alternate jerseys are NNOB -- that's "no name on back." MLB's only other NNOB jerseys are worn by the Giants (home only) and, of course, the Yankees. ... Cardinals players who are smart enough to go high-cuffed get to show off their gorgeously striped hose. Unfortunately, Boston's old striped socks have been replaced by solid red. ... Boston's uniform number font, known as McAuliffe, has been worn by many MLB teams over the years, including the Yankees, Reds, Dodgers, Angels, A's and Senators (see the player at far left). The Cubs currently use it for the numbers on their batting helmets, but only the Red Sox still use it on their jerseys. ... This awesome little guy is officially known as Slugger Bird. Wish the Cards would use him more often in their visual program. ... When Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner made his now-infamous error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, he was wearing a Cubs batting glove on his right hand, thereby commingling the Boston curse and the Chicago curse. Further info here. ... Unless a rainout ends up scrambling the schedule, there will be no Friday games in this World Series. That means we likely won't be seeing Boston's two solid-colored alternate jerseys, which are normally worn only on Fridays -- red at home, blue on the road.
That should be enough uni-related trivia to keep everyone busy during the Series. If you know of other good uniform storylines involving the Cards and/or Sox, you know what to do.
Paul Lukas is usually a National League loyalist but really likes this Red Sox squad, so he hasn't decided which team to root for. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.