This past weekend Major League Baseball and New Era unveiled the 2012 edition of their “Stars and Stripes” line of ballcaps. This product line is designed to honour the United States, it’s servicemen and women at home and abroad, and it’s veterans. This summer will be the fifth consecutive season that teams will be participating in this program and the first time they will feature a camouflage pattern rather than a US (or Canadian) flag design.

All Major League Baseball teams will wear the “Stars and Stripes” caps during games on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and on September 11th.

Don Mattingly in the LA Dodgers 2011 "Stars and Stripes" cap

The caps do serve a charitable cause. In years past the league was vague with their intentions, saying “a portion of proceeds” of the sales of these caps were going to charity. Starting in 2012 that’s been bumped up to “all net proceeds”. The charity of choice is “Welcome Back Veterans” which is designed to help returning soliders deal with post-traumatic stress and other ailments.

Every year this program has it’s fair share of critics. Some call it tacky while others are quick to point out the irony that this line of caps, made to honour the United States of America, is manufactured in that well-known land of the free… China.

Despite its fans and foes today, the notion of honouring the nation and military during times of war is nothing new for the league, in fact teams have been wearing patriotic designs dating back almost a century.

1917 Chicago White Sox red-white-and-blue stars logo

During the 1917 World Series the Chicago White Sox paid tribute to the U.S. Army fighting in Europe during the First World War by wearing uniforms featuring a red-white-and-blue version of their logo complete with 13 white stars. The patriotic look worked for the club as they finished off the Giants in six games to win what would be their last World Series for 88 years.

One-armed St. Louis Browns outfielder Peter Gray with the WWII patch on his sleeve, 1945

During the Second World War, legendary players such as Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, and Joe DiMaggio (among hundreds of other players) went off to serve their country and Major League Baseball teams wore several different patches to honour the troops and their players serving overseas. In 1942, all teams wore a shield on their jerseys featuring the word “HEALTH” with a blue field of white stars above. For the 1943-45 seasons the shield remained however the “HEALTH” portion was replaced with red-and-white stripes.

The "Health" patch from 1942

Some Major League ballplayers, like Hiram Bithorn and Red Ruffing, who received an honourary discharge from the war donned the “ruptured duck” patch upon their return, although most opted to not call any attention to their service and elected to skip the patch.

In 1990, during the height of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, both the Cincinnati Reds and the Oakland Athletics affixed American flag patches on the fronts of their jerseys during the World Series.

Cincinnati Reds players celebrate during the 1990 World Series, note the US flag on front of jersey

After the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, every Major League team wore US flag patches on the back of their jerseys covering up the MLB logo in between the shoulders as well as a flag patch on the sides of their caps for the remainder of the season and playoffs. The wearing of the flag patch on the cap continued on every Memorial Day, Independence Day, and September 11th from 2002 through 2007.

US flags were worn over the MLB patch following the 9/11 attacks in 2001

The “Stars and Stripes” program took over this annual tribute with different league-wide templated designs in use each season beginning in 2008.

During this period of increased patriotism in the United States a couple of teams designed uniforms as part of their regular sets to honour the nation. The San Diego Padres, noting the large Navy base in their hometown, began wearing camouflaged team uniforms on Sunday afternoon home games. The design has changed slightly over the past 10 years, but the Padres still do this today. The Washington Nationals have also sported a stars-and-stripes themed design as an alternate uniform since 2009.

The San Diego Padres in their camouflage uniforms during the 2004 season

So what do I think about all this?

First, I’m cool with the league paying tribute to the military, I like honouring ones country, but I’m not sure the league is going about this the best way. I’m very anti-league-wide-template, if a team wants to honour the troops, let them honour the troops how they choose. Although I must say the 2012 edition of this program is the best looking one yet.

Second, these caps have got to be made in the U.S.A., this is a no-brainer.

Finally, the league should really step up and just donate 100% of all sales of this cap to their Welcome Back Veterans charity. Basically, if you really want to support your troops, skip the middle man and just hand over $40 to your local war vets charity.

Comments (21)

  1. It’s sad that even though it is to honor veterans, it is also a cash grab. Which is fine, baseball is a business.

    But charging $40/hat is absurd.

    Also, if they were to be made in America, they’d cost $100 if all of the Chinese (read: all of them) cost $40 right now.

    • Actually, they would probably cost $50. As I understand it, most things made in China would cost about 18% more if they were made in the US instead. Yes, that’s it. The idea that things would cost a huge amount more is just from propaganda from the manufacturing companies trying to save their pennies on costs.

      • 18% doesn’t sound like much on its own, but when multiply over the millions and billions of dollars that manufacturing companies are spending, the savings (and profits) are rather significant.

        • That’s it exactly, but for the individual product, consumers might be less complacent about the current state of industry in Canada and the US if they realized this. A lot of people buying $600 iPads would probably be just as happy to buy a $700 American made iPad.

          Or maybe not. Wal-Mart is successful for a reason. Consumers have done their part to drive manufacturing jobs overseas.

          • Also funny how we’re talking about “propaganda from the manufacturing companies” while on the topic of STARS & STRIPES hats.

  2. Totally agree. 100% of the proceeds should be donated. The league is definitely NOT hurting for cash. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the look, I like the Padre’s patriotism – Sunday games are a great idea!

  3. no comment on the irony of the indians hat?

    • There was a reason I picked that cap for the featured image… I didn’t have to say anything, we’re all thinking the same thing.

      • It would be awesome if Cleveland ran out onto the field in yellow neckerchiefs.

      • And because we’re all thinking the same thing, let’s remind ourselves what we’re thinking of EVERY SINGLE DAY on this blog. You know, so as to ensure that we don’t somehow stop thinking about what we’re all thinking about. What do you think?

  4. I just think it’s hilarious that for all the nationalism that’s shoved down their throats people still get it wrong. I was just in minneapolis for the Jays series and counted dozens of people in my section who had their hat on through the canadian national anthem and then when the star spangled banner started their pavlovian response kicked in and most became very respectful. I really don’t care if you keep your hat on through national anthems but picking and choosing seems completly off the mark.

    • But at the same time the Blue Jays fans starting U.S.A. chants was pretty hilarious

      • Of course it’s hilarious, because Canadian nationalism doesn’t exist. *rolls eyes*

        • I didn’t say it didn’t exist in canada.
          *flairs nostrils*

          • I just know that nationalism is shoved down Canadians’ throats as much, if not more than in the USA. My wife (then girlfriend) moved from the US to Canada for a couple of years until we both moved to the US this year, and she was surprised at how much nationalism there is in Canada, with a lot of it anti-America than pro-Canada. She had absolutely no idea a good portion of Canadians did not like Americans, and she heard a lot of passive-aggressive comments. I’m absolutely not saying you’re necessarily one of them, but there’s a lot out there. “American” is a bad word up there (American-style attack ads, American-style health care, American anything).

            And as a defense mechanism, a maple leaf gets jammed on everything in Canada, including sports logos (getting back to the original post). One of the worst culprits being an unnecessarily large, completely out of place, maple leaf on the Jays logo.

  5. I’m pretty sure New Era caps are all manufactured in the States…Buffalo, maybe?

    And if we’re all going to get a cheap heart-swell by paying lip-service to a job the vast majority of us wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, couldn’t New Era have at least covered the Blue Jay in CADPAT, the Canadian camo pattern?

  6. Sometimes american patriotism is overblown. when i travelled to Texas in 2003 or 2004 i encountered no instances of Freedom Fries, from what i heard on the news in Canada, that’s all they were going to be serving

    • Go to Philadelphia and try Gino’s Cheesesteaks. Not only is Pat’s (across the street) the better sandwich but Gino’s STILL has Freedom Fries. They also have a sign that says “This is America! Speak English when ordering!” I was absolutely floored to see that.

  7. I really think not a lot of the money goes to the charity. And quite honestly, I think it’s a cheap way to try and use an image as iconic and meaningful to a country as the flag to get boatloads of cash. I don’t like it one bit and I think it’s wrong.

    Also, why don’t the Blue Jays cap sales go to help Canadian veterans? That one is just bizarre to me.

  8. Hmm, exactly how is camouflage patterning considered “Stars and Stripes”? Shouldn’t it just be called, and I know I going out on a limb here, “Camo” hats? The Jays’ hat looks HORRIBLE in it.

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