Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported Wednesday on a plan agreed to by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association that will allow players to put nicknames on their jerseys for a few days later this season, as well as use different-colored equipment:
The event, called Players Weekend, is planned for Aug. 25-27 and was negotiated between the league and MLB Players Association. Players long have sought to express their personal style on the field and capitalize on the intersection of fashion and sports in a way other leagues don’t allow, and the result will be a test of boundaries baseball may be inclined to stretch in the future depending on the weekend’s success.
Players will have the option to wear a jersey with a nickname – though they are limited to just one, according to the memo, and “inappropriate or offensive” nicknames will be banned.
The items with minimal color restrictions include spikes, batting gloves, wristbands, compression sleeves and catcher’s masks. The colors, according to the memo, must avoid interfering with the game and an umpire’s ability to make a call. White gloves, wristbands and sleeves are prohibited.
In addition, Passan’s article says that each player will be able to put a patch on his uniform sleeve that will honor “the name of an individual or organization that was instrumental to his development.”
This is a terrific idea and it’s all for a good cause, as after the weekend is over the jerseys will be sold by MLB and the proceeds given to the Youth Development Foundation. Here’s more on that foundation and its mission.
This echoes a long-ago and mostly-forgotten stunt that owner Ted Turner used with the Atlanta Braves for part of the 1976 season, when Turner had the Braves do exactly what’s being suggested here, put nicknames on their jerseys. There are some great photos of the 1976 Braves with their nicknames on their backs in this 2016 Uni-Watch article by Paul Lukas. One of the things Turner tried to do was to promote his TV station, then on Channel 17 in Atlanta:
... the nickname that got the most attention wasn't really a nickname at all: Pitcher Andy Messersmith wore "Channel." Nobody had ever called Messersmith that, but when combined with his uniform number, 17, it conveniently turned into a de facto ad for team owner Ted Turner's cable TV operation, SuperStation WTCG (the forerunner of today's TBS).
Andy Messersmith wearing "Channel 17" (Ted Turner's TV station) for '76 Braves. Courtesy of Braves Museum Archives. pic.twitter.com/fCJuLoM9zd— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 11, 2016
MLB stepped in and stopped that:
6/5/76 Sporting News item about NL prexy Chub Feeney putting the kibosh on Andy Messersmith wearing "Channel 17." pic.twitter.com/FwDhFb1XwE— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) May 2, 2016
But Turner and his company got what they wanted:
"For 'Channel 17,' we knew baseball would step in and stop it," said [Bob] Hope, the former PR director. "But we would get lots of publicity." Mission accomplished.
They had fun with it, anyway, and I’m sure current MLB players will, too. What nicknames would you like to see Cubs players put on their jerseys? Perhaps Kyle Schwarber will use the one BCB readers came up with, “Warbird.” And what nickname or bright colors would you use if you could participate in this yourself? Post your suggestions in the comments. Keep them clean, please.