It happens every season, merchandise manufacturers do their best to get items available for sale to fans and on the players in the clubhouse the second a team clinches either a championship or a berth into the post-season.

Being so prepared naturally there will be items produced for teams that don’t end up winning… So, every October for longer than I care to remember, I scour the Internet.  I seek out online shops who have images of this merchandise up on their websites up in an attempt to be ready to sell as quickly as possible, the real fun of course is finding the t-shirts and caps of the teams that don’t win the big game – this is what I like to call “Phantom Merchandise”

Why is this fun?  I dunno, people say I’m a weird guy and I imagine they’re right, but here in the Phantom Merchandise world the Texas Rangers are back-to-back World Series Champions, congrats guys:

And in the Phantom Merchandise world we now know what a Milwaukee Brewers-Detroit Tigers World Series would have looked like last season… would Prince have still gone to the team that they just played in the Fall Classic?

And naturally this doesn’t just apply to Major League Baseball, we’re just focusing on baseball here on this blog, but just to give you an example of the rest of the sports world…

So… What happens to all this merchandise?

Good question.

According to a story on ABC News from 2007, the NFL ships all their surplus phantom championship merchandise to struggling third world nations where they are distributed to those who cannot afford to purchase their own clothing.  Somewhere far away there’s a guy who thinks the Buffalo Bills were the greatest NFL dynasty of all time…

Despite a lot of requests I get from fans for help in purchasing this gear any way possible I can’t really help them, this merchandise is never sold, it’s never intended to be seen by the North American public.  Sometimes they’ll find their way out into the market, you can find a few here-and-there on eBay and I’ve heard reports of Chicago Cubs 2003 World Series Champions t-shirts showing up at Goodwill and second-hand stores in Illinois – now that would be a real “thrift-store gem”.

Personally I only have one phantom championship item, a Toronto Blue Jays 1985 American League Champions pennant I happened to find on eBay a few years ago:

As for this season, my findings have actually been the most sparse I’ve ever encountered, figuring it has at least something to do with my tendency to publish these things on my blog after every championship is awarded, but alas, here’s what we have for 2012 MLB Postseason Phantom Merchandise…

2012 Postseason Caps

These items are new in Major League Baseball, typically the special patches for postseason play are only affixed to teams when they qualify for the World Series.  Because of these new patches we were able to find a whole whack of phantom postseason caps…


Clubhouse Postseason t-shirts

The purpose of these shirts were that they would be worn by the players celebrating in the clubhouse following the clinching of a playoff berth (not a division championship), unfortunately I was only able to find two of these shirts:

And to finish this off, what I consider to be the greatest phantom shirt from the 2012 MLB crop:

Yup, they sure do…

Comments (14)

  1. i’ve often wondered about these things – thanks for sharing some of your collection, chris! do you know if anyone goes out to acquire these items ‘for keeps’?

  2. I want that Pirates shirt.

  3. BTW, I got a Pirates 1991 National League Championship banner.

  4. Hey the Pirates played a couple games in October. Actually, they played a whole three game series in October! Against a playoff team! And won it!

  5. That last one can’t be real. It just can’t.

  6. I’d pay like 6 times face value for the Pirates shirt.

  7. Since when did Nike make MLB gear? Maybe that Pirates t-shirt is just a photoshop creation? In any case, it’s funny…

    • Check out any Nike store. One of them in Toronto carries a whole line of “Joey Bats Knows”, “Brett Knows”, etc.

  8. The 85 Blue Jay pennant is the same pennant that hung on my bedroom wall as a child and made a young boy cry a few times

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more than that Pirates shirt…

    As for Phantom Merchandise, I did once see a lady on the bus with a “Buffalo Bills – Superbowl Champs” t-shirt. I’m from Hamilton, so I guess it isn’t terribly shocking…

    Now Chris, my question is this – let’s say you’re in Game 7 of the Series and home team loses… would there be merch in the stadium, ready to be sold at game’s end, that would then get put away supposedly never to see the light of day?

  10. I do like that they don’t just toss the stuff, that it’s used to help clothe the needy in some dark corners of this world. Puts some good into your team losing, I guess.

    Perhaps the greatest piece of phantom merchandise: an official 1994 World Series baseball. My uncle owns one. I’ve heard there aren’t many in existence any more, but some were produced. I wonder how much it’s really worth.

  11. The 85 Blue Jays WS pennant was in a department store somewhere around Niagara Falls (Canada side) in the spring of 1986. I remember getting that and some other Blue Jay items when we vacationed there (don’t recall the store)

  12. There is a closeout/odd lots,and irregulars store called Gabe’s here in WV that sometimes gets in irregular ,misprinted or discontinued clothing. I have seen T-shirts in the past for the Arizona Cardinals superbowl champs, and the Patriots 19-0, so some of these closeout/discontinued items stores do get them in besides foreign countries.

  13. “MLB Postseason” looks really, really stupid on merchandise

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