Sunday, April 09, 2006

Where, Oh Where, Have My Stirrup Socks Gone?

Where have all the stirrups gone?

Baseball uniforms have undergone fashion changes, just like every other sport's has, but I see a trend that's been happening for several years that has me beside myself.

Stirrup socks -- those used-to-be-tall strips of material that run alongside the ankles and lower legs of ballplayers -- are fading away, like drive-in movie theaters and the use of turn signals on cars. At their peak, stirrups were tall and lean and made the ballplayers look cooler than cool. They went well with the double-knit craze of the '70's and '80's.

But about ten years ago, the stirrups got shorter and shorter, until today -- when they have disappeared from some players' uniforms entirely. The baseball pant is now worn all the way to the top of the shoe. Mama mia!

Although, even in their heyday, stirrups had their quashers. Sparky Anderson's Cincinnati teams were notorious for their low stirrups. They were made in such a way that no matter how hard you tugged on them, the stirrup didn't show very much white sanitary sock beneath it.

When I played for Bra-Con Industries in 1977 -- my first time wearing a "real" baseball uni of top and pant -- I yanked my stirrups so high they were like ultra-thin whisps of blue over my white sanitary sock. I wore them that way because that's how all the "cool" players wore them. Check out the 1979 champion Pittsburgh Pirates, with their interchangeable black, yellow, and white monstrosities of uniforms. All the members of Willie Stargell's "Family" wore the high, high sturrup.

High stirrups made the players look taller and leaner than they really were. Even Stargell didn't look quite so tubby in those uniforms with the cool stirrups.

THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! (Stargell, in his '79 uni)

Stirrups, when they were visible, also functioned as an actual portion of the team's color schemes. The Tigers' road uniforms, circa 1972-1981, had orange and white stripes that ran around the circumference of the stirrup top -- a key accessory to their "away" look. Other teams used the stirrup tops for stripes and logos, etc.

But now?

The stirrup is vanishing, and I'd like to know why. Is it a comfort issue? Or just a bad fashion trend, like leisure suits in the polyester 1970's?

And don't be confused. When I say stirrups, I mean the skinny portion of the sock that runs alongside the ankle. Wearing the pants to just below the knees -- a la Marquis Grissom and Curtis Granderson and Brandon Inge -- calling it "old school," doesn't count. Because those socks STILL aren't showing hardly any stirrup.

Come on, big leaguers -- get loose.


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