By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
IT’S THE LAUNDRY I LOVE
The Red Sox equipment truck has arrived at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida carrying,
among other things, some very precious cargo – laundry.
The laundry in question is uniforms: the home team whites with the “Red Sox” name in
traditional old English letters across the front and the road team grays with the “Boston”
lettering. What, you might ask, makes that particular laundry so precious?
That’s a good question. And here is the answer; it’s the laundry that I root for, and for
which all of us root. Players come and players go, some earn our admiration and
affection, but careers eventually come to an end. The laundry, though, lasts forever. In
the long run we’re emotionally bound to it.
The players who put that laundry on are, in almost every instance, not from Boston or
from anywhere near to Boston. But they play for the Boston Red Sox; it says so right on
their uniforms. We passionately want them to succeed for as long as they coninue to wear
the colors of our team. If, for any reason, they should change uniforms and put on
different laundry, former fan favorites become arch villains.
Take for example the case of Johnny Damon. Oh, how we loved him back in the days
when he wore a cap with that distinctive “B” on the front. Then he showed up one year in
a Yankee cap and you’d have thought he was Jack the Ripper from the reception he got at
Fenway Park. “Traitor!” and “Turncoat!” were two of the printable epithets that were
hurled at him. The fact that he was a free agent and New York was willing to pay him
thirteen million dollars more than Boston had nothing to do with it. A few million bucks
is no excuse, as far as we’re concerned, for changing your laundry. Don’t even ask about
Roger Clemens or Jacoby Ellsberry. And how about the most vile villain of all, Alex
Rodriguez? Anyone remember what excitement there was around Beantown when it
seemed he was signed, sealed, and delivered to wear a Red Sox uniform? Do you
remember that? Then the players union deep-sixed the deal, and Arod ended up a
Yankee. He might have still been a villain had he been allowed to sign with Boston, but,
by God, he’d have been our villain.
The laundry list stretches far beyond just Red Sox uniforms - or even baseball. It
permeates all sports and all cities that house professional sports franchises. We loved
LeGarrette Blount when he was scoring touchdowns wearing a Patriots jersey, but when
he scored during the Super Bowl wearing the green of the Philadelphis Eagles – not so
much. He hadn’t changed but the laundry he wore had.
At least those of us who are citizens of Red Sox Nation have had a classic uniform for
which to root over the years. The home team jersey has remained essentially the same for
more than seventy years, with the old English “Red Sox” lettering across the front and the
classic block lettered numbers on the back. The old woolen uniforms used to be an off-
white color, which, unlike the uniforms themselves (can you imagine playing in a wool
uniform in Washington or St. Louis on a muggy day in August?) was pretty cool, but they
have long since been replaced by lighter fabrics and a pure white color. Back in the
seventies most teams succumbed to the double knit fever that swept across America and
the Red Sox were no exception. The classic shirts with the buttons on the front were
replaced with pullover jerseys, though the lettering and the numbers did not change.
Worse, the pants did away with belts in favor elasticised bands, and the traditional navy
blue caps were replaced with red caps with blue visors. Thankfully the fever passed and
after a few years the team returned to its traditional uniforms.
The stirrup socks, which used to feature white and blue stripes, have been replaced with
plain red socks which makes sense - they are the Red Sox, after all, but they seem a little
dull to me. If they were adorned with the same “B” that’s on the caps or even the hanging
socks logo I wouldn’t object. Those hanging socks were introduced as an alternative to
the “B” on the caps a few years ago but never seemed to catch on. The colored jerseys,
red for home games and blue when on the road, have become in recent years a regular
part of Friday night games.
Then there is of course the phenomenon of the twenty-first century, the pant leg
stretching all the way to the shoe tops and beyond. When Manny Ramirez first started
wearing them that way we all said that they looked like pajama bottoms. Manny is long
gone but the style remains – and they still look like pajama bottoms.
The road uniforms have switched back and forth several times from blue to red lettering
but the road uniforms don’t interest me very much; it’s the home uniforms that I love. I
will say this, though, a few years ago the hanging socks were added to the sleeve of the
road uniforms, and they look pretty neat. I wouldn’t be against them being on the home
versions as well.
I can only ask this of the equipment staff in Fort Myers; handle those uniforms with care.
I’ve been in love with that laundry for more than seventy years.