Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bring Back The Stirrup

Frank Robinson Stirs It Up

Recent postings from Sluggo on Roberto Clemente and Mr. Snitch on the Zen of baseball, along with my recent visit to the Cactus League last weekend, and Mark McGwire's national self-destruction, have prompted my own metaphysical search for the ultimate baseball truth. And I think I've found it. Bring back the stirrup.

Yes. The professional sterility of the full length baseball pant, and the occasional monotone bobby-sock/knickers look of J.T. Snow and a handful of others, are draining the cheer and boyish charm out of the aesthetics of the game. We need to see some stirrups, low or high, striped or single-colored - but only with a white sanitary undersock (no A's gold or yellow undersocks! Charlie Finley, eternal shame.). Stirrups are as important to the game as a dark blue-clad umpire, a white-chalked field, a dark-green fence, or the team logo on the cap's crown.

And where did this uniform feature come from? It's roots are deep in the lore of the game and date back to the early 1900's, when real players like Ty Cobb ran amok:

Because clothing dye was not colorfast, colored socks bled onto a
player's legs and feet when mixed with his inescapable sweat seeping from his
skin. According to one history reading, this was particularly dangerous because
a player could get blood poisoning if the bleeding dye infected the bleeding
wound of a freshly spiked shin. The less-dangerous reason is that players didn't
especially enjoy their feet turning various shades of the rainbow, thus the need
for a solution. (link - a great read)

That's a pedigree that's worthy of preserving. As a Little Leaguer in the early 70s, the fashion was to pull the stirrup up as high as possible. You'd even doctor the sock by cutting it at the bottom of the stirrup, and sewing in a wide elastic band to let the arch reach high up on your calf and shin (high arch always in back). Frank Robinson is credited with pushing this fashion envelope. But I'd prefer the low arch variety as a standard.

We need to cleanse the game from the taint of steroids and the corrupting influences of fame and money. The easiest way would be to bring back the stirrup.