By MIKE HERNDON
While a couple of all-time greats got inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, the other big story out of Major League Baseball over the last week involved a star pitcher who found his team’s 1976 throwback jerseys so uncomfortable that he cut them up while his teammates were at batting practice to avoid having to wear them.
And as a result, Chris Sale of the White Sox didn’t have to wear any jersey for the next five days, the length of his subsequent suspension. He returned Thursday night and gave up two runs in six innings in a 3-1 loss to the Cubs, falling to 14-4 on the year.
While the collars on the jerseys make them look like something Ernie McCracken might have worn in Kingpin, the first-blush reaction to Sale’s tantrum can be summed up in two words: prima and donna.
You are paid millions of dollars to throw a little white ball very fast, Chris. Put on the shirt you’re given and do your damn job.
But with that said, I must now say this: At what point can we stop with the throwbacks?
The mere fact that we’re throwing anything back to 1970s fashion should be enough of a red flag for us to stop and say: What exactly are we doing here?
What started as a tip of the cap to franchise tradition has morphed into just another money grab by billionaire owners in a billion-dollar industry. In attempting to explain his actions, Sale said he thought the White Sox were putting jersey sales ahead of winning. And while the Sox would certainly argue that there’s no reason they can’t do both, Sale does have a bit of a point.
Throwback uniforms aren’t about tradition, not anymore. They’re worn to give the team and the league another jersey to sell to the public. It’s all about the merchandising.
This monstrosity, for instance, is being sold at NFLShop.com for a cool $300:
I have been a Steelers fan since the days of Bradshaw, Franco and the Steel Curtain, but that jersey is hideous. But for much the same reason that people will watch Plan 9 from Outer Space, widely accepted as perhaps the worst movie ever made, they will buy this jersey. They will shell out cash for the novelty, because they already have five of the current jersey in different numbers and they’re looking to “mix it up.” And so, for this core group of die-hards who will buy anything with the team logo stamped on it, the Steelers will keep blistering our retinas with them once or twice a year.
This is, admittedly, the worst of the worst. Most throwbacks are a bit more tasteful than the superfly White Sox collars or the Steelers’ bumblebee motif, which were surely considered ugly even in the ’30s. But when your star player would rather go Edward Scissorhands than wear them, perhaps it’s time to admit that throwbacks have jumped the shark.
So please, I implore you: Stop buying these ugly jerseys so owners in the NFL, MLB and other professional leagues will stop torturing us with them. And so Chris Sale can put the scissors away for good.
Or how about this, owners? Keep having your throwback days and selling your merch and in exchange, maybe never again ask us, the American taxpayers, to fund a new stadium just so you can have newer luxury boxes and a bigger jumbotron. Deal?