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Cover Up Those Legs, Please
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I suppose it's nice that summer is here. Flowers, sunshine, warm weather and all that, they're great. But I think the cooler seasons are much better. For except for the occasional addled jogger who doesn't mind his legs turning blue, there are no men to be seen on our streets in short pants during the often cold, gray seasons.

My problem is that seeing people in short pants causes me to remember things I'd very much rather not remember. It's been more than 60 years, but I still itch -- all over -- on remembering the last pair of short pants forced on me by my parents. Heavy, gray and very scratchy tweed they were, with a very scratchy matching jacket.

It's with genuine pain that I recall sitting in church in that itchy little suit, a pitiful figure trying desperately to heed the sotto voce commands of my elders to "quit squirming... quit squirming!"

The short pants we wore in the Boy Scouts along with our nifty Smokey Bear campaign hats were even worse. Tramp, tramp we'd ramble through the woods, and out I'd come -- every single time -- with a brilliant crimson rash covering my bare legs. Scratching, always scratching -- and always returning for yet another hike, and yet another dose of poison oak. For far too much of my youth, my legs were covered with that crusty white goop known as calamine lotion.

And remember how frightening those Frankenstein movies were the first time you saw them? I do, every time I see a grown man in short pants. I haven't forgotten those hyperactive peasants in lederhosen chasing the monster all over the Austrian countryside, and him turning on them to casually tear off a bare peasant leg or arm or two before galloping off to further mayhem.

I haven't forgotten, either, what seemed at the time to be the greatest humiliation of my entire life. As a matter of fact, I think it still stands as the greatest humiliation of my entire life.

What could be worse, after all, than having to play baseball in short pants? I mean real baseball against real baseball teams wearing real baseball knickers and in front of real baseball fans. Imagine that! And me an 18-year-old certain he was headed for the major leagues.

It happened in the summer of 1951. The team with the short pants was the Talmage Sluggers, considered to be one of the best of Northern California's many semi-professional teams, one the major league scouts watched closely.

The Sluggers literally went Hollywood. The Hollywood Stars, desperate to increase attendance at their Pacific Coast League games, had broken baseball's decades-old dress code the previous summer by exchanging baggy flannel knickers for short flannel pants. Hollywood got the attention it was after. People flocked to Coast League stadiums to gape at the knobby-kneed Stars.

If it worked for the Hollywood Stars, it might just work for the Talmage Sluggers. Besides, it was hot in Talmage -- the short pants would help. Thus the Sluggers ordered a batch of the peculiar pants from the Stars' supplier.

It worked. At home or away, lots of people turned out to watch us play in what the local newspapers invariably pointed out as our " Hollywood uniforms."

The underdressed Sluggers won most of the games, too. But, oh, the painful scrapes suffered from sliding into bases bare legged. Oh, the whistles and jeers and wisecracks from the grandstands and the opposing teams' dugouts. I'm not claiming it had any effect on my playing. Not at all. Some of you might wonder, though, why it is I never made it to the major leagues.

I have a confession, however. I once forgot the lessons of my youth. My only excuse is that it was during a mind-boggling heat wave. I had this perfectly good pair of jeans with holes in the knees, so I grabbed up the scissors and chopped off the jeans just above the holes. That gave me, I must admit, a pair of very cool and comfortable short pants.

It didn't stop there. When it was decided that stylish men should no longer wear bell-bottom trousers, out came the scissors again. My no longer stylish bell-bottoms quickly became stylish cutoffs -- denim cutoffs, white duck cutoffs, khaki cutoffs, corduroy cutoffs.

But soon clothing manufacturers soon realized there was no profit in allowing men to make their own short pants. So it was decreed that men of fashion must wear store-bought short pants -- jogging shorts, hiking shorts, bicycling shorts, walking-the-streets shorts, wear-anywhere shorts.

That jolted me back to sanity. Imagine actually paying for a pair of short pants. There still are a few of us who haven't done that since we were kids.

Copyright (c) Dick Meister