Lukas: A look at how baseball uniform traditions began

From SABR member Paul Lukas at on May 1, 2014:

Baseball is a sport of firsts and lasts — the first player to do this, the last team to do that. Case in point: As you may have heard, Ike Davis got his name in the record books last month when he was traded from the Mets to the Pirates and promptly became the first player in MLB history to hit a grand slam for two different teams in the same April.

But Davis may have achieved another distinction that hasn’t received nearly as much attention: The Mets and Pirates are both wearing Ralph Kiner memorial patches this season, which means Davis has already worn two different memorial patches for the same person this year. He is probably the first player ever to do this within the first month of a given season — Uni Watch research into that point is still ongoing — and almost certainly the first to do so while hitting grand slams for both of the memorializing teams in the same year. (If Davis wants to nail the trifecta, he could enroll at the University of New Mexico, whose baseball team is wearing its own Kiner memorial patch this season.)

That raises a follow-up question: Is Kiner the first person to be uni-memorialized by two different teams in the same year? Nope. There are at least four other examples of this that Uni Watch is aware of: Sparky Anderson (honored by the Reds and Tigers in 2011), Tug McGraw (Mets and Phillies, 2004), Catfish Hunter (Yanks and A’s, 1999), and Tim Crews (Dodgers and Indians, 1993).

The lesson here is that the “first and last” game doesn’t apply just to on-field feats and statistical quirks. It also applies to the world of uniforms. With that in mind, here are half a dozen uni-related MLB first and lasts, along with a follow-up question for each one

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Originally published: May 5, 2014. Last Updated: May 5, 2014.