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Chat: Paul Lukas

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday May 10, 2005 1:00 PM ET chat session with Paul Lukas.

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Paul Lukas is a columnist for ESPN.com. His 'Uni Watch' column deconstructs the pickiest little aspects of sports uniforms in excruciating and often humorous detail.

Paul Lukas: Hiya ... OK, the topic of the day (or EVERY day, if you're me) is uniform history and minutiae. Let's get started....

coreyk626 (Chicago, IL): What can you tell us about the crooked-hat trend of C.C. Sabathia and others? Who did it first and what's the most extreme example you've seen?

Paul Lukas: The most extreme example is Abe Alverez, a pitcher in the Red Sox minor league system (he pitched one game in the bigs last season). His cap is cocked way over, but that's because he's legally blind in one eye and he likes having the brim over to one side.... The Blue Jays have told Orlando Hudson to keep his cap straight, but I'm not aware of other teams having this rule. If the trend gets out of hand, the MLB office will probably institute their own rule.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): So where did all the color-coordinated shoes go?

Paul Lukas: The Cards still have red shoes. And the Rangers and Cubs still have blue. Personally, I like basic black (except for the A's, who of course should always where white).

Mike Hodson (New York, NY): Could baseball maybe instate a rule that both teams cannot wear alternate jerseys in the same game? This Sunday the Mets wore their black roads while the Brewers wore their navy homes, and in the wide-angle shots on TV I couldn't tell which team was which, and the pant color didn't help at all either. Whatever happened to home whites and road grays? Plus, could we maybe start a petition for the Mets to get rid of black as a team color? Whatever happened to Dodger Blue and Giant Orange?

Paul Lukas: The Mets radio announcer, Gary Cohen, was totally ripping on the Mets/Brewers situation on Sunday. And I agree, it looked totally bush. But let's all be glad that the Dbacks no longer weear their purple alts, so we don't have to worry about a purple/purple matchup when they play the Rockies.

George Costanza (NY, NY): All that polyester looks hot. Why aren't teams wearing more cotton?

Paul Lukas: Maybe because of that Seinfeld episode where George dresses the Yankees in cotton and then the unis shrink the wash... More seriously, poly is cheap and easy to clean -- that's why everyone uses it. But it looks like crap -- doesn't drap the same way as cotton. If I were a professional ballplayer (check that -- WHEN I become a professional ballplayer), I'd pretend to have a skin allergy to polyester and insist that I get to wear a cotton uni.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): What are your favorite and least favorite baseball ensembles? If you could steal a uniform idea or color grouping from a team in another sport what would it be?

Paul Lukas: The Yankee pinstripes get all the attention, but the Cardinals birds-on-the-bat logo is just as historically classic, and way more graphically interesting -- that's my favorite look. As for least favorite, I can't understand how any self-respecting athlete can wear the Rockies' colors...

GBSimons (Seymour, IN): Paul, is it just me, or are some of these uniforms today (red Braves jersey, for example) catastrophically ugly?

Paul Lukas: Sports uniform design, which used to be based on making the team look good, is now based largely on selling merchandise, which means it's driven primarily by current fashions. And the thing about fashion is that, by definition, things go OUT of fashion. Which means a lot of today's new designs will look pretty damn silly a decade or so down the line.

Jeff (ext. 26): Can you rip on the Phillies' uniforms next column? Maybe management will see it and make some changes. They're so... so.... boring.

Paul Lukas: C'mon, the Phils aren't so bad. Gotta love that little Liberty Bell on their socks (even if Jim Thome is the only one who wears his pants high enough for it to be visible)...

R.J. (DC): "I'd pretend to have a skin allergy to polyester and insist that I get to wear a cotton uni" That's exactly why the Under Armour/Nike Dri-fit crap has come to be. Everyone has to wear dopey polyester.

Paul Lukas: Actually, the UnderArmour has created a problem for the Pirates and Devil Rays, who normally wear vests with a logo on their left undersleeve. But players who wear the UnderArmour sleeves don't have the logo stitched on, so they look out of step with the rest of the team. The Royals and Reds recently stopped wearing their left-undersleeve logos for precisely this reason.

stoshmaster (brooklyn, ny): how much do you think uniform design reflects current fashion? in other words, is uniform design its own separate world, or does it say something about the culture around it? for instance, it seems to me that a lot of current football uniforms are starting to look almost like futuristic superhero unis - like something from "the jetsons"

Paul Lukas: You've hit on something I"ve been meaning to write about: Athletes no longer look like athletes -- they look like superheroes. It's a combo of several things (super-training methods, super-saleries, steroids, skin-tight uniforms, ridiculous comic-book-style ads from Nike and Reebok, etc.). Back when SErenea Wms. debuted her catsuit outfit, she actually said, "It makes me run faster and jump higher -- I feel like a superhero." Nothing wrong with superheroes per se, but I think it reinforces the growing unreality of sports -- used to be that a kid could aspire to be a ballplayer, it seemed achievable. But now, the athletes look like another species, and that makes it all seem more unreal.

stoshmaster (brooklyn, ny): many baseball team mascots integrate the uniform of their team into their costume. which mascot do you think does the best job i.e., which mascot really brings out the best of the uni?

Paul Lukas: Not sure which mascot is best, but at least one mascot has had an impact on player uniforms: Two seasons ago Tony Clark began the year wearing 00 (double-zero) for the Mets. But that's Mr. Met's number, as several schoolchildren told Clark when he did a community-outreach classroom appearance. So Clark switched numbers -- I think he took 52.

shall14 (MA): How is it that the Padres could be in existance since 1969 and never have one decent looking uniform?? Maybe they should go with the Ted Williams era PCL Padres uni?

Paul Lukas: It's true, the Padres have really set the standard for hideous looks (yellow-on-yellow, yellow-on-brown, the current piss-colored road unis, etc.), but they get credit for the Swinging Friar, who's one of the coolest logo characters ever, no? He redeems a multitude of sins (no pun intended)...

mike rosler (new york, ny): obviously, the 1970s was a low point for uniform design, but what do you think was the best period? are you totally old-school? what's your general take on the current era?

Paul Lukas: I think the 1960s were ideal -- sharp designs, saturated colors, tailoring was tight but not TOO tight, perfect stirrup styles in baseball and perfect sleeve length in football, etc. Most importantly -- and this gets overlooked -- everyone was still wearing natural fabrics. The current poly fabrics don't drape right. That's why throwback uniforms always seem a bit "off," even if the designs are historically accurate.

As for the current era, it could be worse -- but not much worse.

Alex (New York, NY): Can we expect any major uni changes (aside from the Cardinals turning into the Falcons) next year in the NFL?

Paul Lukas: As I detailed in my last column (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=lukas/050505), the Giants have introduced a new road uni and the Lions have a new black alt jerseys. There's chatter about a few other changes possibly taking place, including an old-school look for the Bills, but nothing is official yet except for the Cards, Giants, and Lions.

Anthony (Long Island): What is your favorite minor league uniform?

Paul Lukas: Anything -- ANYTHING -- with the Toledo Mud Hens logo on it is totally cool.

I also like that the Rochester Red Wings recently started wearing a cap that with an "FC" insignia (in the style of the Twins' "TC" logo, because the Red Wings are a Twins affiliate). Not many people know this, but Rochester is known as the Flour City AND the Flower City -- really!

Jay (Madison): Where do you stand on the Oriole bird (hopefully not on top)? Ornothologically correct or cartoon variety?

Paul Lukas: Any uniform discussion that includes the word "ornithologically" is cool with me... I really like the current Orioles bird. I like the cartoon bird as a secondary logo -- on the sleeve, say -- but not on the cap. If you go to the Hall of Fame and see Brooks Robinson's plaque (or Jim Palmer's, or whoever it is who's got the cartoon bird on his plaque cap), the cartoon bird looks really cheesy in the formal setting of Cooperstown.

dianagramr (Brooklyn): from a recent story on mlb.com: "Colorado asks the starting pitcher to determine which jersey the club will wear each game. ... It might not be the biggest decision the starter makes, but it sure is complicated. .... "It seems we've got about 12 different jerseys, so we can have a different look every night," right-hander Jamey Wright said. Actually, the Rockies have five jerseys -- six if you count a slight variation that was used in one game. That adds up to more looks than the number of different pitches that any of the starters possesses. ======================================== I would think most of the Rockies would choose to wear the uniform of say, the Cardinals if they could.

Paul Lukas: The whole notion of having the starting pitcher choose the uni strikes me as ridiculous. Why should five guys get to decide what the other 20 guys wear? Also, if Shawn Chacon is always choosing to wear the purple jersey, I'd rather not know that he's so aesthetically clueless -- that falls into the "too much information" category, y'know?

shall14 (MA): Which Patriots uni do you perfer the current colors with the "Flying Elvis" or the old school "Pat the Patriot." To me Pat symbolizes the old Patriots who were the joke of the NFL and the flying elvis the Patriots Dynasty.

Paul Lukas: You will never convince me that Pat Patriot is anything other than pure genius.

More importantly, Pat was designed by a local newspaper cartoonist who gladly let the team use his sketch -- a much nicer system than the current method, in which a brand-design firm is brought in to provide 27 ideas, which are tweaked by league officials and run past focus groups and color consultants, etc. Pat is a nice reminder of a much more innocent era.

statham (Toronto): Worst White Sox uniform ever?

Paul Lukas: I know you want me to say "the shorts," but I'm not gonna take that bait. My vote goes to the jersey with the big "Sox" across the front. Always struck me as kinda sad that Tom Seaver had to wear that ridiculous thing while winning his 300th game.

Carl (San Francisco): In your interview with Todd Radom, he said it was only a matter of time before advertisements will be seen on uniforms (like in European soccer)...How do you see this manifesting itself on baseball unies? Are we really going to be seeing Coca Cola patches on the Yankees' sleeves?

Paul Lukas: I hope not. The argument for it, of course, is that it creates revenue, but that's not the point -- just because you CAN sell something doesn't mean that you SHOULD sell something. Like, you wouldn't pimp out your sister, right? There are certain things that we, as a culture, have said are not for sale. Team uniforms should be among them.

It's fascinating to me that Europeans routinely deride American materialism, but the Europeans have ads all over their sports uniforms, while we've kept ours relatively ad-free (not counting the Majestic and Reebok logos, which of course are de facto ads and really need to be removed).

Given the huge negative reaction last season when they tried to put the Spider-Man logo on the bases, I'm hopeful that ads are still a long way off.

coreyk626 (Chicago, IL): The cartoon Oriole seems to me a remnant of a previous era. Chief Wahoo seems to me the same. Forget, for a second, that he should be replaced for political reasons; isn't the Chief outdated and stupid-looking to begin with?

Paul Lukas: I kinda dig the Chief. Way better than that script "I" they use as a secondary logo, no? Frankly, I always liked the Braves' war-whooping Indian-head logo too...

stoshmaster (nyc): agreed about the bad SOX uni, but i gotta call you on Pat Patriot - that thing was a bad joke! not only a silly concept, but badly drawn. it's hard for me to believe that anyone could like it with anything other than ironic detachment or nostalgic sentimentality. c'mon!!!

Paul Lukas: Actually, the guy who drew Pat admitted that the original drawing looked like "a lopsided Chinaman" (really). But they tweaked that drawing over the years. Sorry, but I still like Pat -- and c'mon, he's SO much cooler than Flying Elvis....

jdietz (Portland, OR): What type of stats do you see Adrian Beltre having at the end of the season? And, do you think there's anything to the whole "switching leagues" excuse for a dropoff in performance? Vlad didn't seem to have too much trouble in his new league last year.

Paul Lukas: I love that Baseball Prospectus readers can't resist asking stats-oriented questions, even tho I'm the uniform guy...

dianagramr (Brooklyn): Perhaps some of the "lesser" teams can start wearing alt uniforms whose coloration resembles the paper bags their fans might wear on their heads? :-)

Paul Lukas: Padres seem to be taking steps in that direction...

GBSimons (Seymour, IN): Paul, which team has your favorite uniform today? What's your all-time favorite?

Paul Lukas: All-time favorite is Green Bay Packers, circa late-1960s. Football is an autumn sport, and you can't get any more autumnal than that deep forest green and mustard yellow. Perfection.

Alex (New York): The NFL seems rife with ridiculous unies...I didn't think the Bills multi-colored popsicle could be topped until I saw the Bengals go from hideous to horrific. What's your vote for worst NFL threads?

Paul Lukas: Bengals, no question. The funny thing is that Cincinnati is known as a really conservative, uptight city, but they have the most garish, out-there uniform in the league. A total nightmare.

Rick (Byram, MS): What advice would you give to someone who just finished his college baseball playing career and aspires to work in the front office of a big league team but doesn't have a degree in economics or statistics?

Paul Lukas: Design. Better. Uniforms.

MrJanis (Houston): Which Astros (current or past) uni do you like best? My fave is the dark blue with the gold shooting star, on gray uniforms.

Paul Lukas: I agree, that was a good look. But I actually LOVE their original Colt .45 unforms, complete with the smoking gun.

Paul Lukas: We appear to have run out of questions, so I'm gonna wrap this up. Thanks for all the questions, and big thanks to the Baseball Prospectus crew for having me on -- hope we can do it again soon. You can check out the Uni Watch archive at http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/archive?columnist=lukas_paul&root=page2 , and you can always email me at uniwatch@earthlink.net. Cheers, Paul


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