The phenomenon first attracted attention during the 1979 World Series when black youngsters in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, many of them avowed Oriole fans, took to wearing the caps of the rival Pittsburgh Pirates, Gay Nineties-style headgear resembling visored hatboxes. The Pirates went on to win the World Series, and the club's distinctive black-and-gold-striped cap became the rage among black and Hispanic youths across the country, the haute couture, if you will, of the streets. Since then the fad has transcended its original association with the Pirates; kids now wear the turn-of-the-century-style caps in a multitude of colors, sometimes bearing the insignia of other major league teams. David Koch, president of the New Era Cap Co., official supplier to the Pirates and most other major league teams, says the design also is being copied by many high school and college teams.
How did a team from Pittsburgh, of all places, become the harbinger of a major fashion trend? In fact, the Pirates were one of several National League teams that adopted oldfangled-style caps during the 1976 Bicentennial season, but they alone retained the style. Meanwhile, the Pirates were replacing the Dodgers, Jackie Robinson's old team, in the affections of many black fans. The Pirates had 15 black and Hispanic players on their 25-man roster and had made the soul-disco song We Are Family their unofficial team anthem; it probably didn't hurt, either, that their colors are the same as those of the Steelers, another Pittsburgh championship team that relied heavily on black players. Then there's the club's ever popular captain, Willie Stargell, who has dedicated himself to battling sickle-cell anemia, a disease that mainly afflicts blacks. Ralph Cooper, the director of New York State's Harlem-based Governor's Office of Urban Affairs, goes so far as to say that "people in the black community started wearing the cap out of reverence for Stargell."
Considering all this, it's too bad that the old-fashioned cap is sometimes referred to as the "Cap Anson look." A 19th-century ballplayer who had a career batting average of .333 (and whose nickname, as it happens, was derived from the fact that he was the longtime captain of the Chicago White Stockings), Anson was a Hall of Famer, but he also was a bigot who waged a successful crusade to rid baseball of two black players who briefly performed in the major leagues in the 1880s. You'll excuse us if we prefer to think of the style of cap now so popular among street kids as the Willie Stargell look.
April 26, 1981
THE SOUTH FLORIDA YANKEES
It's all over, fans, and the Yankees have won in a walk. No, not the American League East—it's still a little early for that—but The Miami Herald's contest to elect a "step-team" for south Florida. Last month the newspaper invited readers to choose one of the 26 major league franchises as their adopted team for this season (SCORECARD, March 9) and promised to cover the winner as though it were Miami's own. The results reflected the large number of transplanted Northeasterners residing in the Miami area: the Yankees received a whopping 39.8% of the votes cast (1,002 out of 2,518), followed by the Orioles (who make their home in Miami during spring training) with 16.7%, the world-champion Phillies 9.3%, the Mets 6.8% and the Red Sox 5.8%. The Yankee landslide represented the triumph of blind emotion over the cool logic of a Miamian named Ron Berceli, who unavailingly cast his ballot for the Chicago Cubs. Noting that the Cubs play their home games in the only big-league ball park that has no lights, Berceli argued that "the Sunshine State's greatest city ought to adopt a team that plays most games in the sunshine." Alas, the Cubs had the backing of only 1.5% of the south Florida electorate, tying the Kansas City Royals for 10th.
Stanford Basketball Coach Dick DiBiaso had a problem. Charles Hunt, a 6'6" star at Oakland's Head-Royce High School, had made up his mind to attend Stanford, but the decision couldn't be considered binding until Hunt signed a national letter of intent. College coaches like to have such letters signed at the earliest opportunity, both to fend off rival recruiters and also to create a bandwagon effect that might influence the decisions of other coveted recruits. Trouble was, under NCAA rules, the signing period wasn't to begin until exactly 8 a.m. on April 8, an hour after Hunt, a baritone as well as an athlete, was due to leave with the school chorus on a three-day trip to Los Angeles. And DiBiaso didn't want to wait until Hunt returned home to sign him.
With the connivance of officials at Hunt's high school, a scheme was devised. Early on the morning of April 8, Tim Miller, DiBiaso's assistant, drove out of the school's parking lot and followed the bus carrying Hunt, the rest of the chorus and faculty chaperones as it began the 380-mile trip to Los Angeles. Shortly before 8 a.m., the bus stopped along Highway 580 in Livermore, 30 miles southeast of Oakland, and all 50 occupants piled out. At 8:02 a.m., Hunt signed a letter of intent to matriculate at Stanford, using the hood of Miller's 1979 Toyota Corolla as a writing table. Pictures were snapped, and Hunt's fellow chorus members cheered. Then, after he and Miller shook hands, Hunt and his friends reboarded the bus and resumed the trip to Los Angeles.
Was the elaborately planned roadside signing ceremony really necessary? Replied Miller: "Crazy things can happen if you don't sign students as soon as possible. We wanted to be available."
CARVING UP THE BEEF
If this keeps up, there won't be any suspense left in life at all. Besides Paul Zimmerman telling us how NFL teams will fare in next week's draft (page 54), now here's Joe Terranova with his annual revelations as to which college football teams will benefit most from the recruiting wars. Terranova, a marketing researcher for the Ford Motor Company who makes a hobby of keeping tabs on such things, says that these schools came up with the best recruiting crops in '81:
1. Notre Dame. Rookie Coach Gerry Faust signed "a collection of athletes at least equal to the Browner, Fry, Hunter class that led to a national championship in 1977." The Irish landed such blue chippers as Quarterback Ken Karcher, touted as being possibly "another Joe Willie," and running backs Chris Smith, who "may be the only player in America to compare favorably with Herschel Walker (from a pure strength standpoint)" and Mark Brooks, star of Faust's juggernaut at Cincinnati's Moeller High and Ohio's 1980 AAA player of the year.
2. Oklahoma. Among the schoolboy phenoms soon to be Sooners are Greg Sims (no kin to Billy but "probably the best defensive lineman in the state of California"), Tony Casillas ("garnered equal accolades in the state of Oklahoma") and Lawrence Hardin and Keith Stanberry ("vicious hitters and the most highly sought-after defensive backs in the Lone Star State").
3. Michigan. Running backs Rick Rogers ("left scouts drooling") and Brian Mercer ("easy to bring down if you can catch him") are Ann Arbor bound, as is receiver Greg Washington, who as a high school player was "pound for pound the best athlete in Michigan."
4. Florida. "If they ever award one of [Coach Charley] Pell's young line recruits a game ball, he'll probably eat it." The Gators also signed a gifted running back, Greg Bain.
5. Alabama. "David Gilmer (6'5", 255), Hardy Walker (6'4", 270) and noseguard Chucky McCall (6'2", 240) are all possible All-American candidates.... Terry Sanders from Birmingham may very well be the best kicker in the nation."
Rounding out the Top 10 are Florida State, USC, Stanford, Pittsburgh and Texas, all of which may draw inspiration from the fact that Georgia placed no better than eighth in Terranova's poll in 1979 and seventh in 1980, yet emerged last season as the national champion.
SAME GYM, DIFFERENT GENDER
It may say something about the growth of women's intercollegiate sports that there are at least two former major-college men's head basketball coaches now coaching women's teams at their original schools. Sox Walseth, who was the men's coach at Colorado from 1956 to 1976, last season became coach of the Colorado women's team and promptly led the Lady Buffs to a 28-5 record and an AIAW Division I regional championship. Last week Joe Stowell, Bradley's men's coach from 1965 to 1978, was hired to coach its women's team, which he pledged to upgrade from small-college status to AIAW Division I. Considering that Stowell, like Walseth, had been fired as his school's men's coach, it was slightly disconcerting when he said, cheerfully, "I don't think coaching girls will be any different."
A fire at a Boston Edison substation last Wednesday afternoon left Fenway Park without electric power during the Red Sox' 7-2 win over Baltimore before 8,925 shivering fans. Because of the power failure, there were no lights in the public rest rooms, and some players griped that the clubhouses were too icy for them to get properly warmed up, but one spectator, SI reporter Bob Sullivan, had no complaints. Sullivan found that along with Fenway's other renowned charms—cozy dimensions, real grass, etc.—the absence of electricity helped evoke the image of "what baseball must have been like circa 1905." He reports:
Whenever you pass through Fenway's brick portals on a bright, sunny day, you're immediately struck by how dark it is under the stands. This day it takes a particularly long time for the eyes to adjust. No lights are on, no public-address announcements are heard, and the clocks that should indicate five minutes till game time aren't working. It is left to P.A. announcer Sherm Feller to open a press-box window, poke his head out and, with a bullhorn, call out the starting lineups. The words are barely audible to the umpires and managers gathered at home plate, who laughingly ask Feller to speak up. Without John Kiley's electric organ to get things going, Feller now must assume another chore. "I'm going to start this off in a logical key," he shouts. "Ohhhh, say can you see...." The national anthem gets off to a shaky start, but soon the crowd takes up the tune. It's a soft, oddly stirring rendition. At the end the applause is vigorous.
With the electronic message board in center blackened, the scoreboard in left, the only one in the American League still set by hand, takes on attention-riveting importance. But communication with the press box is uncertain. While the four runs the Red Sox score in the first inning are duly recorded, the Oriole run in the second is ignored. Word is passed along to the scoreboard operators about the missing run, and it's finally posted—for Boston, making it, erroneously, 5-0. An emissary jogs across the leftfield grass to advise of the mistake, and by the top of the next inning, the O's finally are credited with their run.
Some fans learn how to keep score this afternoon; if you already know how, you're enlisted to tutor. In the absence of the usual drumbeat of amplified information, people seem to pay closer attention to the action on the field. Not a hit or a good play is missed. Despite the cold, most of the crowd remains until the end of the well-played game, during which there have been not only no P.A. announcements or organ music, but also no larger-than-life instant replays or cheery greetings to visiting school and civic groups. All in all, a chilly early-season afternoon at the ball park to be cherished.
THEY SAID IT
•Pat Dye, Auburn's new football coach, making a pledge that some War Eagle fans might find unsettling: "We are looking for people who want to play real bad."
•Stan Hochman, Philadelphia Daily News columnist, on hearing that North Carolina basketball player Mike Pepper had once been offered a half scholarship to Randolph-Macon College: "Does that mean that Randolph wanted him and Macon didn't?"