Labor - And A Whole Lot More

Hey, Ballplayers, Your Pants Are Dragging
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Although the question of whether baseball superstar Barry Bonds has bulked up on illegal steroids while breaking decades-old records is still unanswered, his guilt in another vitally important matter is beyond doubt.

One look at the San Francisco Giants slugger in uniform will tell you that -- Knickers down below his ankles, secured by thin loops of elastic hooked under his playing shoes, no stockings showing.

It's a style, sorry to say, that's gained favor with a distressingly large number of players who've naturally followed the example of Bonds, the game's greatest player, according to most of them.

Bonds and the others' style of dress, I hope I shouldn't need to tell you, is absolutely not proper baseball style. That is not how Babe Ruth dressed for play. Or Willie Mays, or Joe DiMaggio or any other hero of our national pastime's storied past.

Long pants are for those who play that foreign game of cricket or for slow-pitch softball players.

As those who respect the traditions that made this country great are quite aware, and as baseball's official rule book once decreed, the players' knickers should be "anchored just below the knee." The rule makers, saying that would preserve the "honor" of the uniform, warned against "the slovenly custom of anchoring the pant leg around the ankle."

Here and there, teams enforced the rule and some actually fined a player or two for wearing their pants too long. But the rule makers generally went unheeded, and year by year pant lengths have crept ever lower. Some players particularly eager to make an ugly fashion statement are wearing their pants so low they are hanging over their shoes and threatening to trip them up.

There are some players who still wear their knickers at proper length -- but far too few. The others, whose pants are anchored inelegantly at the ankle -- or below -- are not only defying tradition. They also are denying fans what writer Veronica Geng hailed as "one of the uniform's glories -- that arc of color molding a noble calf."

Another writer, Ron Fimrite, points out that one reason the good old days were better than today was that back then "you could see a baseball player's socks."

And what of those teams such as the Boston Red Sox that owe their very identity to their stockings. As artist Marc Okkonen, who wrote and illustrated the definitive book on baseball uniforms noted, having players' pants covering the socks of those teams is like "having your team name on your underwear, where you can't see it."

But don't expect teams to do anything to correct players who insist on wearing their knickers pegged-pants style, who think it's high fashion to prance around in what look like pajama bottoms.

Giants owner Peter Magowan, for instance, has declared his preference for knickers worn "halfway between the knee and the ankle."

Barry Bonds, however, prefers something quite different, and whatever Barry wants, Barry is sure to get. And whatever Barry prefers, you can be sure those who would emulate him also prefer.

Of course Babe Ruth dressed much better. But Babe Ruth never hit 73 home runs in a single season.Neither did I, possibly the worst infielder to ever play in the Western Canadian, Southwestern Oregon and other obscure leagues. But I, too, always wore my uniforms properly.

Copyright Dick Meister