Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Clothes Minded

I saw some of a 1996 Red Sox-A's game on NESN Monday night. I tuned in at a steroid-tastical moment: Clemens pitching to Giambi with McGwire on deck. Kim and I enjoyed watching some of our mid-90s favorites for a while. Valentin for her, Bragg for me. Among others, of course. Anyway, I noticed something kind of shocking:

Lack of Red Sox shirts/jerseys in the crowd!

Before I go on, let me just say that whenever I read something like, "I didn't realize X happened back in 19XX," I always assume the author is some Jonathan Arrive-Recently who wasn't paying attention back when it wasn't cool to do so. Therefore, I feel the need to tell you that of course I was paying attention, as I have been for my entire life.

Okay, moving on--the crowd was mainly dressed in regular button down shirts, or collared T-shirts, or even sporty T-shirts that weren't Red Sox-related. I thought by '96 everyone was wearing their team gear to the game, but that wasn't the case at all. I think the hat was the most prominent piece of gear. Red Sox shirts seemed extremely rare, and a jersey? Forget it. (Though they did get a close-up of a guy with an A's jersey and a Sox hat.)

I know the merch has taken off in recent years, and, in fact, I remember when the "player tee" was strictly a Yankee thing, until it finally took off league-wide. But for me, it's always been "when at baseball game, wear Red Sox clothes." And it seems like all the kids I grew up around did the same thing. Hell, I was wearing Red Sox boxer shorts as pants to games as a pre-teen.

And jerseys? They were available, and I wanted, asked for, and received them as gifts. When they didn't have the player I wanted, I had one made special. Or Santa did, anyway. I also dreamed of one day having an AL East champions shirt or pennant. When the Sox won in '86, I got them. Got some '88 AL East stuff, too. I had it all, the painter's caps, the glasses, the windsocks, the garbage cans, the basketball hoop that attached to garbage cans, the mugs, the bedsheets, the calendars, the yearbooks...but above all, the T-shirts. Yet now I look at a game from '96, when I was 21 years old, and 95% of people at Fenway weren't wearing Red Sox gear? Seems odd.

I grew up in Maine, and there really weren't Red Sox shirts available in local stores back then. MA relatives bought a couple of shirts for my brother, but they didn't realize a girl would be interested too. Went to my first game in 8th grade (1987), and 1 per year thereafter, wearing a generic red t-shirt so that I could coordinate with red socks. When I went off to college, I borrowed one of my brother's that he had grown out of. Finally bought my own (Mo Vaughn t-shirt) at Fenway in '95 and promptly moved out of New England. My parents bought and mailed me a '95 AL East Champs t-shirt that I wore proudly all the time in Kentucky.

Now that Red Sox gear is plentiful - and thanks to the internet, stuff is available everywhere - I wouldn't think of going to a game without my Sox shirt, hat, coat, earrings, scarf....

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Location: Rhode Island, United States