Baseball Fashion and Player Men Actions

Larkin
My baseball cognizance began around the time I was seven years old. While I was recording World Series Theater with the SDI gang this past Monday evening, I reminisced about watching the 1990 Fall Classic, which is also the first World Series I recall watching. I remember sitting on the sofa a few feet away from my uncle while he ate sunflower seeds listening to Jack Buck and Tim McCarver on the television describe the action between the Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds. As I turned away from staring at the lit cigarette my uncle was puffing on, I noticed Reds shortstop Barry Larkin step into the box to begin an at bat. As we all know, Larkin was an excellent player who is now in the Hall of Fame. However, I had no idea who Larkin was at the time. But, he fascinated seven year old me not because of how formidable he appeared standing in the box, but due to the elaborate wristbands he was wearing. When one peered closer to determine what exactly was printed on the wristband, one discovered what appeared to be a cartoon drawing of Larkin himself. 
A few batters later, Reds outfielder Eric Davis stepped into the box. Again, Davis was wearing the same type of wristbands with a cartoon drawing of himself printed on them. As a fan of baseball and cartoons, being as pretentious as I am, I asked my parents to inform Santa to bring me a pair of these wristbands with the cartoon drawing of myself printed on them for Christmas. Santa, if you are reading, I have still not received the wristbands with the cartoon version of myself printed on them. For those unaware of what I am referring to, here is a picture which one can actually find simply by Google searching “Barry Larkin wristband.” 
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Barry even encourages the fan to, “SAY NO TO DRUGS,” which adds to the amount of cool points exponentially. Ironically, there is a cartoon Barry Bonds wristband preaching the same advice.
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The majority of what I author for SDI is statistics intensive including what Russell Carelton likes to describe as “gory mathematical details,” although not quite as complex as what Russell calculates in his articles for Baseball Prospectus. Despite the fact I am admittedly obsessed and heavily reliant on numbers, I do appreciate many other aspects involved with baseball. So, I decided to discuss the various baseball fashion and player actions which I admired as a young baseball fan. First, I am going to discuss fashion, and exude masculinity while doing it.

Pitcher jackets

While I was playing youth baseball, poorly I might add, I dreamed of being a member of a team which wore button up jackets similar to the what pitchers wore in the 90’s. More specifically, I really wanted to have the prerogative of wearing a jacket while running the bases during the few games I actually pitched. I cannot provide any sort of logical reasoning as to why, other than the fact I just thought the pitcher wearing a jacket while running the bases was pretty cool and made the pitcher stand out. I pitched a softball game earlier this year, and doubled early early on. My teammates jokingly asked if I wanted to wear a jacket while I ran the bases, but I secretly wished they were being serious and actually brought me a jacket to second base to allow me to mark the event off of my bucket list. 

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Mizuno batting gloves

To foreshadow some of the remaining bits of this article, I was a huge Rickey Henderson fan growing up. I loved everything about the man, including his neon Mizuno batting gloves from the early 90’s. I would own a similar pair a few years after Rickey wore these, but I never had quite the same level of affection as I did for this particular pair. I ran the calculations and my OBP would have improved 100 points had I been able to obtain a pair of these precious neon mitts. 

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Flip down sunglasses

I always took pleasure in looking at a player wearing flip down shades with heavy smeared eye black during day games. My father did not purchase contacts for me until I was a freshman in high school. So, I was unable to wear flip down shades and eye black until I was older. I was always very envious of those children blessed with adequate vision who were able to sport the shades and eye black as I was forced to look like Jay Bell late in his career. There was a certain level of satisfaction I attained after flipping the shades down, catching a fly ball, and signaling there were two outs to my teammates for the first time. This is a look I wish would return, but Oakleys are probably more recommended. Here’s an old lurid Donruss George Brett baseball card to display the look I am referring to. 

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Unbuttoned jersey

I pondered for over an hour trying to recall the first player I noticed playing with the top two buttons of his jersey unbuttoned, but I was unable to. If anyone remembers an early 90s baseball player who exhibited the cavalier, indifferent attitude which annoys so many fans by not buttoning his jersey all the way, please post in a comment at the bottom. Mike Napoli and WAR troll Johnny Gomes are probably the two current players who do this the most often. I enjoy this look because the slovenly appearance gives the perception the ballplayer does not care and would probably rather be partying, but the player who fails to button his jersey all the way up is usually a potent slugger who can hit baseballs a long way, a skill many of us tend to admire. This photo is sensational because Napoli fails to even make the effort to wear a shirt under his jersey. 

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Rickey

As I mentioned previously, Rickey Henderson was my absolute favorite baseball player growing up. The 1990 AL MVP and Hall of Famer is the MLB all-time stolen base leader whose flamboyant type of play was endearing to many, including myself. I am probably in the vast minority, but I found players who played with flash and arrogance much more entertaining than scrappy players who possess fake hustle. Rickey was a joy to watch play the game. He was cocky, and made baseball look easy. In addition to being one of the fastest men in the game, Rickey was also a bat whisperer.  

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Hey, Rickey even left the top two buttons of his jersey unbuttoned from time to time as well! The lumber usually listened to Rickey as his 3,055 career hits suggest. Henderson could also drive ball out of the yard, and when he did, Rickey enjoyed pimping his homers. 
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Eat your heart out, Yasiel Puig. Henderson does everything here which would draw the ire of Brian McCann and the St. Louis Cardinals. He flips the bat, says something towards the Yankee dugout, admires the blast, and softly brushes the haters off before finally starting his home run trot. There is nothing wrong with a baseball player showing emotion, and enjoying the game. The game needs more players who play similar to Rickey, and this type of play needs to stop being discouraged by current ball players. If one thinks Rickey was only cocky at the plate, one is mistaken. 
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Ahhh, the signature Rickey swipe catch followed by flipping the ball into his throwing hand. So confident and pompous, yet awesome. I remember trying this in a game, and being told between innings if I performed the action again, I would not play the rest of the game. I might be a numbers guy, but how much more enjoyable Rickey made my baseball watching experience was unquantifiable. Well, at least I have not been able to quantify as of yet. Give me time.  

Gary Sheffield batting stance.

I was smitten with Sheffield’s batting stance. The way in which he wiggled the bat back and forth gives the perception Sheffield is about to hit ball a mile. Sheffield’s pre-swing antics required the potent slugger to have quick hands, which he obviously did. The potent slugger’s quick hands and mighty swing were part of the reason he slugged 509 home runs. I tried to emulate this stance and swing many times, but there was just one problem, I was not a very good hitter. Take a look at Sheffield crush two baseballs in the same inning.

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Tony Fernandez throwing motion

I was enthralled with players who could throw a baseball sidearm seemingly effortlessly. No player exemplified this more than Tony Fernandez. Fernandez actually appeared to be throwing underhand at times, especially when he made one of his patented jump throws from shortstop. After seeing Fernandez throw for the first time, I instantly wanted to be able to throw the ball similar to him as his throwing motion appeared somewhat poetic. Unfortunately for Fernandez, he is remembered more for his error in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, rather than being the superb defender he was. Fernandez is now one of Jon Daniels’ assistants with the Rangers. Here is a little of Fernandez in action.

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Eck

I just mentioned I was quite fond of side armed throwers. Based on that information, how could I not have enjoyed watching Eckersley work his magic? Eckersley becoming a dominant ninth inning reliever helped establish the role of the modern closer. So, for that, I despise him because he is partly responsible for how managers manage their bullpens and define roles in it. However, Eckersley’s throwing motion was something I loved, and tried to emulate many times. I might have also practiced the Eckersley celebratory fist pump a time or two…just last week.

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These are some of the fashions and various player actions I enjoyed when I was a whipper snapper, and helped mold my love for this terrific game. What are some of your favorites?
Dustin Dietz is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Dustin.Dietz@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @DustinDietz18
Dustin Dietz
Dustin graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Radio/TV/Film, and a minor in history. He will often write about pitching mechanics and analytical baseball stuff. You will more than likely disagree with the majority of what he writes or says. In his spare time, Dustin time travels and plays at a replacement level in slow pitch softball leagues.

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