Player names on the back of New York Yankees’ uniforms? Blasphemy!
But it’s for a good cause, so even the ghosts of the Babe, the Iron Horse, the Yankee Clipper and the Mick will not get a rise when they see “All Rise” on the back of Aaron Judge’s No. 99 jersey. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced Players Weekend for Aug. 25-27, which will feature players wearing colorful, non-traditional uniforms with alternate designs that draw their inspiration from youth league patterns.
Players will have the chance to put nicknames on the back of the jerseys, which will be auctioned off in sales conducted by MLB.com. All net proceeds will be donated to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, which
concentrates on improving amateur baseball and softball programs in the United States and Canada. Players also can wear T-shirts highlighting a charity of cause they are passionate about during pregame workouts and postgame interviews.
The uniforms will be designed by Majestic Athletic, and players will have access to uniquely colored spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, bats, catcher’s masks and compression sleeves. Players also will be wearing specially designed caps created by New Era and socks by Stance. The right sleeve of every player’s jersey will feature a blank patch, set aside for the player to write the name of a person or organization that helped him in his development.
“It’s pretty cool — especially for me, someone who played in the Little League World Series,” Mets outfielder Michael Conforto told MLB.com. “It’s cool that at the highest level you can still connect to all the kids that are playing the game that we love. For MLB to have an event like Players Weekend dedicated to that is pretty cool.”
Conforto’s uniform back will be adorned with the nickname “Scooter.”
Uniforms remain popular among collectors. The uniform Judge wore when he hit his first major-league home run fetched $160,644 in Steiner Auctions’ summer auction that ended July 30. That was from Judge’s Aug. 13, 2016 debut, when he homered off Tampa Bay’s Matt Andriese. It’s the largest amount paid for a game-worn jersey in any American sport over the last 15 years. That tops what collectors have paid for jerseys worn by Michael Jordan, Willie Mays, Wayne Gretzky and Ernie Banks.
Judge said he was originally going to just use his last name but was persuaded to be creative by the “Toddfather,” Todd Frazier. “We’re all blessed to be in this situation to play Major League Baseball,” Judge told MLB.com. Anything we can do is pretty rewarding.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred said the weekend games will allow players “to thank those who were most important” in their lives, while “showcasing their personality in a fun way.”
Kyle Seager of the Mariners definitely had some fun, as his nickname will be “Corey’s Brother.” Indians reliever Trevor Bauer will sport “Bauer Outage,” while Red Sox pitcher David Price will pay tribute to his dog with “Astro’s Dad.” Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp will show off “Knapp Time,” while Houston’s Jacob Marisnick will tout his nickname, “Big Fudge.”
Fans unfamiliar with the nickname of Dodgers outfielder Enrique Hernandez might be taken aback by his choice, but he has explained it before and the accent mark makes it less offensive. His nickname, Kiké, is actually pronounced KEE-Kay. It doesn’t come with an accent mark, but it got one during his time with the short season Single-A New York-Penn League, Dodgers Insider reported in 2015. Without the accent mark, the word is a derogatory term for Jewish people.
Teams, players and fans took to social media to express their opinions about the special uniforms. One Orioles fan had fun at Manny Machado’s expense, creating a uniform back that read “Trade Me Now.”
Those baseball purists who frown on this creativity have short memories. Major-league teams have had colorful, quirky uniforms before — remember the Astros’ rainbow uniforms of the 1970s and ’80s, or the Padres’ gingerbread motif? Then, one must not forget Charlie O. Finley’s “Swinging A’s” that won three World Series titles during the 1970s, sporting green-and-gold uniforms that were decidedly off the chain.
Purists are allowed, however, to turn their nose up at those White Sox “softball uniforms” of the mid-1970s that featured players in shorts. All can agree that those were abysmal.
The new uniforms are all in fun, and teams will be able to create another revenue stream in their apparel shops. The jerseys, T-shirts, caps and socks are available to the public online through Fanatics.com. Baseball executives, however, are looking at the fan-friendly aspect of Players Weekend.
“This will be an exciting and unique opportunity for players to literally wear their passions on their sleeves, and equipment, too,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said, “as they embrace this chance to let their true identities shine.”