The Mets introduced Buck Showalter as their new manager yesterday. They become the fifth team he’s skippered, following the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rangers, and Orioles. (Fun fact: Showalter also becomes the fifth man to manage both the Mets and the Yanks, following Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, Dallas Green, and Joe Torre.)
Dugout hires don’t usually matter much from a Uni Watch perspective, but Showalter is the rare MLB skipper who’s very engaged with athletics aesthetics. Here’s a look at some of the ways he’s intersected with the uni-verse over the years:
The good news is that Showalter has worn stirrups throughout his managerial career — rare for a modern MLB manager. The bad news is that he tends to wear his pant cuffs too low on his shins, plus he never blouses his cuffs, always leaving his elastic exposed. This, apparently, is his idea of the proper way to wear the uniform. I don’t entirely agree, but I respect that he’s maintained a signature lower-leg look for all these years.
Showalter is notorious for almost always wearing a windbreaker or jacket, even on really hot, humid days. (The photo above is from Aug. 9, 2006, when the gametime temp was 87º with no wind.) Back when he skippered the Rangers, a clubhouse source told me that Showalter usually just wore a T-shirt under his jacket, not a jersey. That’s a fairly common thing now, but it was unheard of back in the mid-2000s, when he was managing that team.
Due to the windbreaker thing, Showalter’s uni number is rarely exposed, so you may not realize that he wore No. 11 in his first three managerial stints, with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers. When taking over as the Orioles’ skipper in 2010, however, he took No. 26 as a tribute to former O’s manager Johnny Oates (who also managed Showalter in the minors). A nice gesture, although it was rarely visible because of the windbreaker.
As you can see at the top of this page, he’s going back to No. 11 with the Mets.
Early in his career, Showalter was known for being a stickler about uni-related details — even for players on other teams. Remember the mid-1990s controversy about Junior Griffey wearing his cap backwards during batting practice? That started with Showalter. (He also criticized Barry Bonds for wearing his jersey untucked during All-Star Game workouts.)
Of course, Showalter couldn’t tell Griffey what to do because Griffey didn’t play for him. But he had a chance to mold a whole generation of his own players when he moved to the Diamondbacks. Although the D-backs began play in 1998, they hired Showalter more than two years prior to that, in November of 1995, which gave him a chance to help shape the expansion franchise’s look from the ground up. He arrived a bit too late to have a hand in designing the team’s uniforms (those had already been unveiled shortly before he was hired), but that didn’t stop him from trying to stamp his own aesthetic imprint on the young draft picks who would become the team’s first wave of prospects. Quoting from this July 1996 article in Sports Illustrated:
Although not mentioned in that article, Showalter also forbade the minicamp participants from from having their batting gloves stuffed in their back pockets with the glove fingers sticking out. Four years later, in the summer of 2000, he was still insisting that his players show enough of their stirrups for the little “A” logo to be visible, one of several fussbudget-y rules that were reportedly annoying to just about everyone. By the end of that season, his act had worn sufficiently thin for him to be fired.
In all of these cases, it’s great that Showalter cared so much about uniforms, but maybe not so great that he tried to codify his preferences into rules that put him increasingly out of step with his players. He has reportedly loosened up about this kind of stuff over the years.
When he was with the Rangers from 2003 through 2006, Showalter and his coaches wore red caps during spring training, even though the team’s official spring/BP cap during that period was blue. He wore the red cap both for training sessions and Cactus League games. This made him easier to spot amidst the sea of blue-capped players, plus it gave him a greater air of gravitas. He likely got the idea from the A’s, whose coaches and managers wore white caps during the late 1960s and early ’70s.
Similarly, take a look at this photo, which is from one of those 1996 Diamondbacks minicamps for the team’s first wave of draftees (as referred to in that SI quote I provided earlier):
Note that Showalter and coaches Brian Butterfield (No. 55) and Rod Allen (No. 12) are wearing a different cap design than the players (plus it appears that they may be wearing road pants while the players are wearing home). I’m not aware of Showalter having done this during any of his D-backs spring training camps, however — only during those early, pre-1998 minicamps.
When the Diamondbacks began play in 1998, their then-new ballpark featured a dirt path between the mound and home plate (a feature they kept until 2019, when they filled in the path with grass). That was, of course, Showalter’s idea — he liked how old-timey it looked — and it almost certainly influenced the Tigers’ decision to include a dirt path when their own new ballpark opened in 2000. Detroit’s dirt path is still there and is arguably part of Showalter’s aesthetic legacy, even though he’s never worked for the Tigers.
No uni-centric article about Showalter would be complete without mentioning that he is almost certainly the only MLB manager to discuss the potential merits of cotton uniforms on a top-rated sitcom or anywhere else. Naturally, he wore a jacket during that cameo spot. (Footnote: After the episode ran, Showalter was promptly told not to appear again on Seinfeld because of how the show mocked Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.)
Not a bad aesthetic history for a manager, right?
Finally, it’s worth noting that Showalter has already worn a Mets uniform before — if you count the 1976 Hyannis Mets, that is. He was the Cape Cod League’s batting champion that season (hitting .434!) and was named the league’s MVP, all while wearing this uni:
Nearly half a century later, the Mets’ home uniforms still look very similar to the one Showalter wore in ’76. So when he suits up next season, it should be a familiar experience for him — even if the rest of us won’t get to the see the jersey once he puts on the windbreaker.
(Big thanks to Phil Hecken for his key contributions to this piece.)
• • • • • • • • • •
This will be my last Bulletin article for for 2021. My thanks to everyone who’s read, subscribed, and made this new platform a fun and engaging experience for me — and, I hope, for you.
Have a great Christmas and New Year, stay well, and I’ll see you back here in January. Peace. — Paul
Paul Lukas has been writing about uniforms for over 20 years. If you like his Bulletin articles, you’ll probably like his daily Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.