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What to wear?

A tasteless personal guide to baseball fan apparel and the donning thereof

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox
Oh: It looks good on you, though.
Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. I work at home, alone, with no webcam, no Skype. No one knows what am or am not wearing. No one sees*. No one cares. For all anyone knows, for all you know, I could be sitting here naked, insulting and terrifying the bird and guinea pig in the next room. I could, but I’m not, and I don’t. Modesty and my own sanity dictate against it.

Not only that, but I’m kind of a hermit. I don’t get out much aside from running errands, seeing friends and family in casual settings. Even going out to eat, I prefer places where comfort is the primary concern. I do own some nice, dressy, grown-up clothes, but they don’t get a lot of wear. I do have a wedding anniversary coming up, so at least a couple of these will get some play. But as a rule, I don’t, and don’t have to, pay much attention to what I’m wearing beyond:

  • It fits
  • It’s comfortable
  • Nothing private or unseemly sticks out

In fact, one of the few places where I give thought to wear is the ballpark. What to wear?

A few days back, as I write this, a couple of things happened to prod me to give this some thought. First, José Abreu made the All-Star team. Second, Lurker Laura brought up her Montgomery Biscuits hat. So now I’m going to digress …

While I have been a sports fan, primarily baseball, all of my life, and have been, and still am a fan of a number of teams, my sports-related wardrobe has generally been minimal. As a kid, I occasionally pined after this or that T-shirt or, more commonly, things like warm-up jackets. I still have a fondness for those satin team jackets with the striped, elastic wrists and lapels that no one actually uses or wears anymore. But they were always well out of my price range. And some of those foolish extravagances that poor folks like us might stare wistfully at, were never really considered a possibility. Longing, perhaps, but a dream. Like holding hands with Jeanine Clemmons in the seventh grade, it was nice to contemplate, but I had no illusions it would ever be mine.

As I became an adult and had a job and everything, I would still dream some, but I was still just this side of poor and spending money on sports crap was still something I couldn’t justify. At least not, you know, anything beyond a T-shirt every couple of years or so. Eldest daughter needed to eat and then refused to stop growing, and so needed shoes and pants, and such-like on a regular basis.

My one flirtation with sports stuff in my own closet came in the late 90s. I was deep into my ongoing love for the Indiana Pacers and I found a clearance rack with a Dale Davis jersey on it. And it was (more or less) my size. Screw it, I thought. I want this. And so it was mine. But shortly came the realization: basketball jerseys are stupidest of all possible sports jerseys.

  1. Sleeveless shirts are inherently awful unless you are a redneck or a girl wearing a sweater or jacket over it.
  2. No one looks good in a basketball jersey unless:

a. You are a basketball player, and proportioned like one, and

b. You are actively playing basketball

So, yeah … I wore it a few times playing pick-up games back in the days when I still had functioning knees, but not being proportioned like a basketball player, I looked pretty stupid. This wouldn’t have bothered me so much except that I also felt stupid. I gave my Dale Davis jersey to a neighbor kid who may still love me for it, but probably not, because he would be about 35 by now.

I do still have my Smits Happens T-shirt from the 1995 playoffs, though I’m too fat to wear it anymore. It’s at the bottom of a pile in my closet. But I still have it.

It was around this time that I started, every once in a while, buying sports-related T-shirts. Well, actually, I bought a couple Pacers shirts for myself and, while she was still young enough not to fuss about wearing them, my eldest daughter. Otherwise, sports clothing was still kind of frivolous and a waste of money, which was still very tight.

Over the past few years, though, as I’ve been fortunate enough to not be poor anymore, I have picked up a number of, primarily Sox (the good ones) shirts, and even a few hats. And I wear them. Some are official MLB® stuff, some are more fun, such as my Condor shirt:

And my treasured Matt Albers, Fornicating like a Cat shirt:

You can, and should, buy one here: Albers Shirt. Even if he don’t come around here no more much, Billy OK is a great guy.

As I sit and type this, I’m wearing a distressed Batter-Man shirt I picked up a couple of years ago off a clearance table at one of the trailers outside the park. It’s comfy. I wear it almost as much as I wear Albers.

I don’t, however, own a jersey. Well no, that’s not entirely true. I do own one. It’s a replica jersey from the 1910’s era and it looks like this (without the flag on the sleeve):

It was given to me by my sister about 10 years ago. It’s a little tight**, but I generally wear it open on those occasions when I wear it. As per the fashion of the day, it has no name or number on it.

This was in the back of my mind when, once Abreu was officially named an All-Star starter, I decided to have a gander at what his jersey would look like. I hadn’t seen the designs yet, and the back of my mind also shuddered with remembrance of the abomination of the All-Star jerseys the year Q made it. Shudder.

This was more like it. Not great, but not bad. I like Abreu a lot. I have an Abreu shirsey. Maybe one of these? Then I note: $149. Um, nope. I’m not poor anymore, but I didn’t get not-poor by spending $150 on something I will only wear a few times a year at most.***

But there was another factor: What is the proper etiquette for wearing baseball jerseys? Is there a proper etiquette?

And so now we return to our main question: What to wear? And its sibling: When to wear it?

Regarding jerseys, it has long been my contention that there is something vaguely unseemly about wearing a replica-type jersey for a player who is younger than you are. I don’t know when I developed this attitude, but it’s been with me for a while. When I bought my clearance Dale Davis jersey, I justified it by its clearance status, yes, but also the rationalization that Davis and I were kinda-sorta contemporaries. (This is not really true, of course, I am, as I was even then, 8 years older than Davis.) But I justified it as close enough. But even then, I was aware of the (to me, anyway) stigma.

This, beyond the $150 (ahem, $149), is enough to keep me from the Abreu jersey. In fact, up until a few short years ago, this even kept me from shirseys. My downfall there was a $5 clearance Alejandro De Aza, available shortly after he was traded. I am somewhat more older than De Aza than Dale Davis, but the distinction between what is clearly a T-shirt and a replica jersey allows me to justify my internal inconsistency. But even after the fall, I still only own the Abreu.

Now, on the other hand, were I to find a replica Wilbur Wood jersey, I might just bite the bullet. And it would be okay because Wilbur Wood is older than I am. He’s a favorite from my youth, and therefore a proper object of homage and reverence.

At a game last season I saw a guy in a gorgeous replica Luis Aparicio jersey. It looked a lot like this, but much higher quality:

If there had been a replica-jersey vendor nearby, I might well have sighed and pulled out a credit card. And it would be okay because Luis Aparicio is even older than Wilbur Wood.

But even with all that, I still can’t really imagine wearing Wood or Aparicio anywhere other than the ballpark. I do, as admitted, dress like a slob just about all the time, but unless you are a child, baseball jerseys are worn only at the ballpark. Maybe a sports bar. I don’t know. I don’t go to them. So maybe there, too. But that’s pretty much it. I think I would feel foolish, say, doing the grocery shopping in a replica jersey. Not as stupid as a basketball jersey, but still.

Much the way many of us rightfully scorn visitors at Sox Park wearing Cubs stuff when the Cubs aren’t the visiting team, wearing Wilbur or Luis to the movies seems out of place, gauche, and louche, but not in a rakish way. There’s just something not-right about it.

T-shirts, on the other hand, and I’ll include shirseys here, are fine anywhere any other T-shirt would be. Sports teams, like rock bands or cartoon characters, are welcome pretty much anywhere that doesn’t require business-casual or greater. José and Alejandro go lots of places with me, to the extent that I go lots of places.

But, as the thread with Laura made clear****, there are still some guidelines here, too, as well. The question here is: Is it permissible to wear baseball apparel for clubs you’ve never seen? This also includes caps, which is why Laura’s Montgomery Biscuits hat would unsettle me if she’d never seen the team live.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the Biscuits’ mascot/logo, which even hardened cynics like larry must admit is pretty damned charming:

I can’t decide if I want to hug it or eat it, but either way, I can’t bring myself to wear it. Unlike rock bands and cartoon characters (though maybe not so much, as I think about it), baseball apparel should only be purchased and worn when and if you have seen them in person. MiLB is filled to the brim with wonderfully fun and goofy mascots and logos. They are, as a rule, way more fun than the stodgy big leagues, where the simplest bat-flip still causes decent, god-fearing people to clutch their pearls and take to the divan with a case of the vapors.

But I cannot, in good conscience, wear them unless I have seen them. I happily wear my Gary Railcats and Sioux Falls Canaries shirts. But a Montgomery Biscuit shall never pass my lips (so to speak) until I go to Montgomery and see them. Because that’s the/my rule.

Now this doesn’t mean I’d think any less of Laura, probably, for wearing her hat . Or any less of the rest of you old guys and girls wearing Moncada and López jerseys, probably. I know the world and the stands at Sox Park are both filled with scofflaws and hoodlums laughing at the OPOS geezer shaking his fists and ranting about waiting at least until the guy’s retired, fer chrissakes. I know I’m a relic of some earlier, stupider age.

But I know that for this katiesphil, it just wouldn’t be right. It would be unseemly. And I won’t do it. At least not until my targeted player hits the clearance rack. Or retires.


*Well, my wife and daughters are here sometimes…

** Heh. A little…

***Suit I wore for my second wedding being an exception, of course.

****I hadn’t forgotten.