Archive for Ironic Jersey Omnibus

Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Pittsburgh Pirates

Welcome to the latest installment of the Ironic Jersey Omnibus. The mission of the Omnibus remains constant: to catalogue the jersey choices available to fans and discuss which, when worn, convey unspoken sentiment to one’s fellow man. Today, we venture into the Steel City to discuss the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Being a baseball fan can make a person feel helpless. We’re so vital in our own lives: we get people to fall in love with us and kill each other in automobile accidents and learn how to skydive and quilt. But when we go to a game, we become a smudge of color, a tiny fraction of the din, an unformed emotion in the periphery. We devote our energy and emotion to the game of baseball and it scarcely knows we exist. It knocks us down and never apologizes, again and again.

Such is particularly the case for the baseball fans of Pittsburgh, whose team seems to roll and pound like the tide. After twenty years drowning in the undertow, the modern incarnation of the Pirates seems to be teetering on the crest, trying to maintain their balance. After a magical 2013, this year the team has managed to maintain some playoff aspirations despite early prognostications and performance. For their fans, a fall into the familiar depths would be more painful than most; who knows when they might resurface next time.

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Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Philadelphia Phillies

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The Omnibus returns, this time in the city of Brotherly Love. For those readers just joining us in our odyssey, I will copy and paste its mission statement: “to examine the culture of a baseball team, distill the essence of its fandom, and then to establish which jerseys, as worn by a fan, make the most self-aware and challenging statements to his or her comrades.”

In most cases, for most cities, fans are generally in search of an identity. With the exception of the perpetual and the present disappointments, the culture of a team’s fandom is based on the proximity of their most recent championship. The city of Philadelphia stands outside these maxims. Their reputation was etched in alkaline more than thirty years ago and, whether fair or not, has never been amended. Philadelphia has become a city of pitch, an aggressive manic depression.

The Phillies began wearing names on their jerseys somewhere in the mid-seventies, and it’s an interesting demarcation. In their first ninety-two years of existence, the team managed two scant pennants – a span in which the lovable “losers” of Wrigley won five times as many. It was near the end of this era, which also witnessed fifteen years of wretched Eagles football, that the People developed their infamous rage.

Since those names showed up, however, Philadelphia baseball has changed entirely: they’ve won twelve pennants and two World Series in the past forty years, and until 2013 hadn’t won less than 80 games since the Y2K scare. Yet the mood among Phillies fans belies their relative successes: it is dark, and growing darker. The ballast of an aging and expensive core and a disavowal of modern talent evaluation have a city opening up the backs of their Game Boys and Walkmen in preparation.

As a Seattleite, I am currently faced with a dilemma never before considered: how long does the bliss of a championship last? The philosophy of the Seahawks (as with most champions) is immediately trained on a repeat, on dynasty. Like the bloodless capitalists who make this country great, success is never enough. But taken to its natural limit, this philosophy can only end in loss, and disappointment.

Where is the balance between the prospective and the reflective? How can we keep ourselves moving forward but still appreciate our past? And, perhaps most pertinently for the theme of this article, where is the line between appreciation for 2007-2011 and the cynicism toward 2013-2017? Here are but a few jerseys that seek to address this topic: the name you wear will be your colors in the endless battle. As always, feel free to suggest your own in the comments.

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Ironic Jersey Omnibus: New York Mets

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The Omnibus takes its wagons eastward to New York City to consider the Amazin’ Mets. Since this feature seems to grow increasingly intermittent, a reminder of its purpose: to examine the culture of a baseball team, distill the essence of its fandom, and then to establish which jerseys, as worn by a fan, make the most self-aware and challenging statements to his or her comrades.

The Mets are not an easy team to evaluate. I’m actually more familiar with the brand of Mets that existed before I was born, thanks to Roger Angell’s sublime book The Summer Game, than I am with the franchise’s modern incarnations. I do not know what a Quintanilla is or how many of them equal a gallon.

I discussed the matter with FanGraphs’ own Eno Sarris. Mets’ fans are continually disappointed and long-suffering, but this probably describes the fanbase of all but a handful of baseball cities. And while many franchises can be divided into distinct eras, the history of the post-86 Mets is a nebulous thing. All teams have their ups and downs, but rarely do they seem to have them at the same time. The following, then, are one person’s attempt to greet the Mets.

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Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Milwaukee Brewers

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The Omnibus flees the state of Florida and heads north on Interstate 75 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of the Brewers. I will confess, dear reader, that I was glad to have the Marlins of Miami in my rear-view mirror. It was all too much: the orange, the stadium, the Loria. But if the Marlins are an overdose in irony, the Brewers may very well be its opposite.

I tabulated the statistics, collated the names, sifted through the history. Afterward, I found myself at a loss. I had no idea, I realized, who the Milwaukee Brewers were, or who they were trying to be. Confounded, I turned to the wisdom of my esteemed colleague Robert J. Baumann, who resides ‘round thereabouts. His response:

“All of this speaks to a sort of Midwestern complex: we are at once embarrassed of who we are, and apologists for our pasts. There’s a statue of Bud Selig outside of Miller Park that was just erected last year, for crissake: the man who brought baseball back to Milwaukee, yes, but also the man who undermined their success for nearly two decades by insisting that small-market Milwaukee could never compete, allowing the team to throw their hands in the air and sign players like Jeffrey Hammonds as a half-assed effort to field a team that wouldn’t finish last. There are a number of reasons why Major League was filmed in Milwaukee…”

Milwaukee’s baseballing history is as flat as the cornfields that non-Midwesterners associate with its name. While most franchises are garnished with surprising veteran appearances and loud rookie implosions, the Brewers have few of either: Selig rarely paid for name recognition, and even Pat Listach hung around five seasons with the team. What’s left is apologetic mediocrity, celebrated and familiar. Even the names on the backs of the jerseys are vanilla: Thomas, Scott, Cooper, Harper.

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Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Miami Marlins

People need systems. Maybe not all the time – true genius creates its own rules – but most of us need lines to color in, because otherwise our dogs would start to look like cows. The Omnibus has its own order, progressing through the National League in alphabetical order, heading to Washington, then to Baltimore and on through to Toronto. I’m telling you this because our next stop is the sunny climate of Miami, Florida, and it is beyond my capacity to alter this.

player00I don’t want to be here. Miami resists irony: it is all-inclusive, all-extreme, the opposite of itself. Even its uniform teeters on alternate edges of the color wheel. Miami trolls itself, and laughs at its own joke.

Like it or not, however, travel to Miami we must. So, as a refresher, the rules: the Ironic Jersey Omnibuc attempts to explore what it is to be a fan of a given team, and how best to express that fandom through the name and number on one’s garment. In previous editions, this exploration has taken the form of a tour of the ghosts of a team’s past, but as you’ll soon learn, the easy path is not an option for us at present.

The first decision: to don the teal or the orange? One of the cardinal rules of the ironic jersey is the rule of time: any jersey too fresh, no matter how keen its edge, will often be confused with the simplistic optimism of yesterday. Take the example of Jose Reyes: five years from now, he will become the perfect symbol for the Loria Marlins, a promsing star sold like so much cattle at the first downturn in the market. But today, Reyes is just a random purchase off the 2012 rack; a fortunate chance, but a chance nonetheless. No, we must travel further, and venture into the teal.

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Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Los Angeles Dodgers

Today we mark the passing of time, as well as the latest edition of the Ironic Jersey Omnibus, where we examine the jersey as the highest and most subtle form of personal expression. For our latest installment we head west along I-10 on a musty Greyhound bus to the sunny climes of Los Angeles.

I admit: I’ve dragged my feet in moving on to the erstwhile Brooklyn Superbas. This is, I assure you, an entirely personal failing. After all, baseball writers, much like substitute teachers, survive by wielding an essential and almost entirely fictional sense of authority. It’s in this spirit, then, that I am forced to confess that I don’t really know the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the biblical or even the cramming-for-midterm sense.

I know of them, of course. I know that they play in the National League, where the pitching is easy, the fish are jumping, and the cotton, if cotton in this case represents the likelihood of an announcer overpraising the double switch, is high. And I’m not the only writer to lose their way amongst the palms; Roger Angell once complained that the fans needed Vin Scully’s voice broadcast throughout the stadium to tell the fans what they were looking at. It’s a place where the fans are said to arrive in the sixth inning and leave in the fourth. It’s all too easy, I think, to confuse the languid weather of L.A. with the temperament of its paying audience.

You may or may not know how we do things: usually I extract some half-forgotten names of yore, mine the pathos of the franchise’s most recent struggles, make a few pithy comments, hit publish, and go off to bathe in handwashed one-dollar bills. This is still possible! Between 1972 and 2012, with the exception of 2005 and 2006 (when Frank McCourt, in an attempt at nostalgia, stripped the names from the backs of his players), Dodgers lore is filled with the busted prospects and transient former heroes we’ve all come to love.

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Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Houston Astros

Welcome to this, the fifth installment of the Ironic Jersey Omnibus. Our tour of personal expression through the medium of polyester and hand-stitching, last seen in the majestic purple of the Colorado Rockies, wanders southeast toward the sunny climate of Houston, Texas.

The Astros, both as a social construct and as a jersey, contain some idiosyncrasies that must be touched upon before we move on to the body of our work. Few teams have hurled themselves so eagerly into the aesthetic void as the former Colt .45s, adorning themselves with stars, rainbows, comets, guns, and numbers on pants. The exuberance the reader must feel at such a dizzying choice of fashion is understandable. It’s with a heavy heart, only somewhat feigned, that I ask you to throw the entire wardrobe out.

Today, there is no room for Eddie Mathews. We must turn away from Nellie Fox, Joe Niekro and even JR Richard. It is not time for Joe Morgan. Not even the muted, tolerable averageness of Terry Puhl can dampen the orange hue of better times. No, today we speak of a franchise that is severly wounded. We can’t ignore it, or wink at it. To wear an Astros jersey is to don the funeral garb.

During these dark times, there are really only three ways to wear an Astros jersey. The first is through sincerity, in total mourning for their ballclub. Such touching and honest displays of loyalty need not be discussed here.

The alternatives are to struggle vainly against the dying of the light, to mock the heavens and the ownership that has forsaken them, or to offer one’s self up in the holy resignation of Kierkegaard, caring for the soul and waiting for divine judgment. Think of this edition of the Omnibus, then, as your spiritual guide as we delve into the darkness of Astrodom and, hopefully, emerge from the other side as wiser, more sophisticated, and better-dressed fans.

STAGE 1: ANGER

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A Sartorial Study of the Baseballing Fan

Introduction

While attending a baseball game on Monday, July 23 at the local baseball stadium in Seattle, Washington, the researcher (heretofore referred to as “the researcher”, or “I”) made the acute observation that other people were going to said baseball game. It was also observed that the researcher’s friend was quite late, and that he had the tickets. This unforeseen wealth of time and opportunity led to a scientific survey asking the question: what jerseys were other people wearing?

Methodology

Observations were made by standing at the corner of Occidental Avenue and Royal Brougham, across the street from the left field park entrance and next to a rather tired-looking scalper who clearly had difficulty determining what I was doing on his turf. The street corner was chosen in order to make observations based on south and eastbound traffic into the stadium, and reduce double-counting. For the purposes of this survey, any torso covering that sported a name or number was treated as a jersey, including T-shirt jerseys. Observations took place between 4:45pm and 6:05pm, at which time the researcher decided he’d had enough and went to get a cheap beer.

Analysis

Figures 1 and 2 show the results of the survey, providing a histogram for both Mariners and Yankees jerseys. Figure 2 is further broken down into two categories: those that had the player’s name on the back, and those that did not. “Personalized” categorizes those jerseys that had the fan’s own name on the back, or some nickname he wished other people would address him by, but who probably do not.

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Ironic Jersey Omnibus: Colorado Rockies

The Ironic Jersey Omnibus returns after a slight hiatus, this time examining the Colorado Rockies. The purpose, for those unaware or forgetful, is to examine a franchise and deliberate not on the finest jerseys available to the consumer, but those that hold a deeper message of joy, disappointment or hipsterism. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

The Rockies are perhaps one of the greatest challenges to the Omnibus, not only because of the youth of the franchise, but because of the hyperbole created by Coors Field. Glimpse into, for instance, the haunted eyes of one Mike Kingery. The soft-spoken lefty with the career 1.0 WAR earned his name for a single season, hitting .349/.402/.532. Sadly, this sort of thing happens all the time in Colorado.

On the other end of the spectrum you have Dante Bichette. I have no idea what you do with Dante Bichette, his twisted physique or his oddly elfin face. The man received MVP votes four different times. And yet in 1999, a season in which he hit .298 with 34 home runs and 133 RBIs, he managed two come in at nearly two wins below replacement level. Along with Galarraga, Walker, and Castilla, he was one of the early faces of an exciting and slightly purple franchise. Bad as he was, it’s doubtful that you could wear his jersey without simply coming off as nostalgic or cheap.

That said, here are the nominees:

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Spotted: Antone Williamson Jersey

According to his wikipedia pageAntone Williamson “played first base, and occasionally pinch-hit.”

More specifically, he was the Brewers’ first round pick in 1994, taken fourth overall as a 20-year-old out of Arizona State. The Brewers took Williamson ahead of the likes of Nomar Garciaparra, Paul Konerko, and Jason Varitek. Despite the fact that he never really mastered a level in the minors, the Brewers promoted Williamson aggressively, and he reached the big leagues in 1997, when he posted a .517 OPS in 60 PAs.

He returned to the minors the next year, played another couple seasons in the Brewers system, then played one year in an independent league before retiring as a player. After that, your guess is as good as mine. I couldn’t find any recent articles that hint at where he is today, or what he might be doing, in baseball or otherwise.

I’ve joked about Williamson — as recently as this spring — with friends who are Brewers fans. The fact that he was one of the biggest busts in Brewers draft history (perhaps MLB draft history) means that he will never be completely forgotten by the dedicated fans of my generation, but to see his jersey last night at Miller Park was sort of a surprise.


Irony, thrift, unfulfilled optimism, or wild pathos? You decide.

The way I see it, there is a limited number of explanations that could explain why this man is wearing this jersey — which, by the way, hales from the era of the most hideous uniforms in Brewers history — and how it came to be in his possession:
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