Bring ‘stirrups’ back to baseball

OK, that last post was so heavy and depressing, I feel the need to lighten the mood by mentioning another story from the WSJ’s front page, this one about “stirrups” in baseball.

You know, the leggings — the socks you wore over your socks, the colorful ones with the heel and toe cut out.

This piece was about how the major leagues have abandoned the stirrups, mainly because the players don’t want to wear them — you may have noticed that in MLB, they wear their pants right down to their shoes, which means they don’t look like ballplayers any more — and the players are such big shots and make so much money that nobody can tell them what to do. But in the minors, discipline still reins, so the players still wear them.

Some points of interest from the story:

  • It leads and ends with a game in Myrtle Beach. You know, Myrtle Beach has a minor league team and Columbia doesn’t, in case you haven’t noticed.
  • The sole remaining source is a funky, homey little factory just up the road in North Carolina.
  • The fashion started because, starting in about 1905, there was an urban legend in baseball that held that some players had suffered blood poisoning from the dye in their socks getting into abrasions on their feet. This led players to wear white socks under their colored team socks, and that was bulky, so somebody came up with the idea of cutting the heel and toe out of the oversock. (The infections did NOT come from the dye, by the way, but from plain old germs, it was later determined.)

A story such as this appeals to my own particular sort of instinctive conservatism. I believe players should not only be made to wear stirrups but should WANT to in the same way that “woods” in golf should be made of persimmon. It was good enough for our daddies and granddaddies. Of course, as I type this, I’m looking at a picture of my own grandad, “Whitey” Warthen, pitching a game in the 19-teens. He’s wearing full colored socks, not stirrups, because in his day men were men. Me, I’d settle for stirrups. Because I’m still not sure about that blood-poisoning thing. You can’t be too careful.

I love the way the WSJ story ends:

On the field, as the Pelicans and Blue Rocks lined up for the anthem, half-moons glowed along the baselines. Kicking high, Michael Broadway pitched two perfect innings. In the fifth, Cody Johnson stepped into a fastball and sent it over the right-field fence.

It fell apart for the Pelicans in the ninth: walks, hits, errors. They lost, 9-2. “I want my $7 back,” a fan yelled on his way out. But for the stirrup-conscious in the crowd, the final score didn’t matter. On this spring night in Myrtle Beach, the socks won.

12 thoughts on “Bring ‘stirrups’ back to baseball

  1. doug_ross

    Maybe Columbia would still have a minor league team if The State hadn’t come out so strongly against the stadium proposed for the Sandhills area. I believe you were against it partially because it was too far from your home (have you made the long journey out to Northeast Columbia yet?).

    But since USC runs the sports monopoly in this town, we’re left with a half dozen mediocre football games, a half-filled basketball arena, and a new baseball stadium for the college team that gets used for about 12 weeks.

    USC continues to exert pressure whenever possible to prevent other sports from cutting into its revenue stream.

  2. Brad Warthen

    I pass by your part of town when I go to the Grand Strand. Clemson Road is about 5 minutes before Conway, right?

    Baseball needs to be downtown, not on the Kershaw County line. I wish Alan Kahn all the best with his development, but that was no place for a COLUMBIA ballpark.

    Nor would my neighborhood be — I live way out (although not nearly as far out) the OTHER way.

  3. Greg Flowers

    If a park is able to draw enough people to achieve economic viability, why does it matter where it is? East Columbia is closer (even for the Lexingtonians and Irmese, not to mention the Quail Vallites) than Greenville or Charlotte.

    We do have a very good college team and a summer league. As someone for whom the charm of baseball has been elusive I must admit to not seeing the problem. I know Mike McGee had strong, strange and immutable ideas about a number of things, but has anyone approached Hymen about shared use of the new stadium?

    It seems as if the truth may be “If you will pay to see them, they will come.”

  4. SCnative

    I agree with Greg on this. No tax money should be spent on entertainment, especially for the entertainment of a small minority.

    If there is truly support for any professional or semi-professional sport, there will be enough paying customers. That is the definition of support.

    While we are at it, Alan Kahn and other developers should be paying 100% of the cost of roads, water, sewer, police and fire stations, and schools necessary for their housing developments to succeed. Those are the true costs of the houses, condos and apartments, so let the costs be added into the purchase prices and rents, and let the owners finance those costs in their mortgages.

  5. doug_ross


    Won’t happen. USC considers any non-USC activity a threat to its revenue stream.

    And Brad’s view of Northeast COLUMBIA is pretty much why The State no longer is considered the state’s newspaper.

    Downtown minor league baseball was tried and died out just as the downtown area has died out. Baseball is a suburb game now.

  6. SCnative

    The small-minded status seekers who run Columbia are obsessed with the trappings of growth and prosperity, instead of the reality.

    They used the rinky dink hockey team as an excuse to build the Colonial Center, then got rid of the hockey team. They did no studies of the economic viability, because they didn’t care.

    They think they have to have this or that to “make Columbia” a big city:

    Minor league baseball
    Minor league hockey
    bankrupt, unused bus system
    empty buildings with Innovista signs
    revitalization projects which can never recoup the tax expenditures

  7. Greg Flowers

    What is the problem with the existing park on Assembly. I have heard something about drainage but they play summer league games there. Have the municipal bonds issued some years back to improve the park been retired or are we paying for improvements to a largely obsolete facility?

  8. doug_ross

    It’s a dump in an inconvenient/ugly location. The Blowfish (a semi-pro team comprised of local college underclassmen) has played in Bomber Stadium in previous summers.

    There is no reason why a real minor league team could not play in the new USC stadium. After early June (the last date for the Super Regionals) the stadium is unused until the following spring. From the time the minor league season starts in April until June, the Gamecocks only have a dozen games in Columbia. I’m sure a minor league team could work out a schedule to avoid conflicts during those eight weeks.

    But it won’t happen. USC owns the monopoly — a monopoly paid for with public tax dollars.

    Too bad USC doesn’t have that “communitarian” spirit, eh, Brad??

  9. phillip

    Or, Doug, the minor league team could use the Assembly Stadium for a few dates until June. I’m with Greg on that, I don’t think there’s much wrong with the Assembly stadium that a few cosmetic changes wouldn’t fix. Maybe it’s insufficient for AAA or even AA, but I’ve seen Single A minor league games around the country in stadiums no nicer than that, and it’s still a charming, family-affordable experience with young athletes who still play with a hunger to succeed and without being juiced up on steroids.

    As for the new USC ballpark, couldn’t USC charge a minor league team a nice bundle of cash for use of the stadium if Doug’s idea were implemented? I understand that maybe USC wanted first dibs on dates, design, location, etc. of their baseball stadium so they didn’t play along with a collaboration upfront, but what good does it do them to have it sit there unused all summer? They gain nothing.

    By the by, I find it unfulfilling not to be able to drink beer at USC basketball and especially baseball games. I spend a lot of time during the year in Milwaukee and always find myself wondering about that when I go see Marquette play at Bradley Center, which they share with the Milwaukee Bucks.

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