Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Batman Bellino and Officiating T-Shirt Traditions

Is Dan Bellino secretly Batman? Spotted wearing a Batman logo t-shirt underneath his black umpire uniform polo in Houston this week, Bellino's potential superhero allegiance adds another wrinkle to the age-old question of what to wear underneath an officiating uniform shirt.

Look closely: Dan Bellino might be Batman.
Though MLB's guidelines vaguely account for just a "neat [and] professional" appearance, black and blue are baseball's unofficial umpiring colors and often make an appearance as a base layer.

Generally speaking, MLB issues or makes available to its umpires a variety of base layers, some of which have even been available to the public on websites like (Copyright 2003, Joe West Co.), such as the black and blue t-shirts with MLB Umpiring logo located in the upper left quadrant.
Related PostUmpire Uniform History & Return of the Shoulder Rings (3/31/17).

Here are the most common base layers in the game today:
MLB Umpire Logo Tee-Shirt
This shirt, which comes in black and blue to match the two uniform polo styles, first made its appearance after the AL and NL staffs merged, and the black-and-blue uniform tops became standard.

It is manufactured by Majestic Athletic, which also provides MLB's outerwear.

Greg Gibson, for instance, used to routinely wear the blue tee as his base, though the black shirt was always more common.

Moisture-Wicking Undershirt
Nike is the brand that generally supplies Dri-FIT material, which the company advertises as a high-performance microfiber fabric made of polyester that keeps athletes dry and comfortable by moving sweat away from the body and to the fabric surface, where it evaporates.

The aforementioned MLB Umpire Logo Tee, by contrast, is 100% heavy weight cotton, which itself absorbs moisture. Pictured to the left is Bob Davidson in the moisture-managing black Nike shirt.

MLB Umpire Logo Turtleneck (Mock Neck) Shirt
The modern turtleneck and mock neck is born out of a National League tradition from the 1970s, when NL umpires began wearing black turtlenecks under blue blazers for more comfort, compared to stiff collared shirts that were worn at the time. In an attempt to unify the League's look, baseball issued umpires a mock turtleneck shirt with MLB logo on the collar, especially useful for colder climates. Nike's mock necks also have made appearances.

Jim Joyce would often wear the turtleneck when temperatures allowed.

Here are a few unique shirts that have appeared in baseball:

Mike Reilly's Notre Dame T-Shirt
We recall the story of former AL and MLB umpire Mike Reilly, who wore the same Notre Dame t-shirt underneath his chest protector for nearly 30 years-worth of plate assignments.

At some point along the way, the shirt finally fell apart, and Reilly cut it into pieces, placing one in his pocket before every game. Former crew-mate  Eric Cooper also is a fan of Notre Dame, and they occasionally would be seen pre-game in various Fighting Irish gear or jerseys.

John Hirschbeck's White Shirt
Hirschbeck also wore the moisture-wicking material undershirts, but would opt for white instead of black. Several other umpires over the years have also worn white base layers—the brothers Welke come to mind—but black still remains the overwhelming standard.

Nothing at All
Several umpires throughout the league prefer no base layer whatsoever, especially when the weather conditions are hot and humid.

Sam Holbrook, pictured in a sky blue polo, is one of a handful of umpires who have subscribed to the au naturel look.

The Reverse-Nothing at All
In 1969, NL Umpire Ed Sudol wore a white t-shirt during a game in Chicago after the day's weather proved too hot for his uniform jacket. As the story goes, Sudol began the day in the traditional plate umpire blazer, but removed it between the fifth and sixth innings as the temperature surpassed 90-degrees with 93% humidity, and officiated the remainder of the contest in a white t-shirt and inside chest protector worn outside of his base layer.

Related: When Uniforms Get Lost
Sometimes, the umpire's uniform doesn't quite make it to the ballpark, and the umpires are forced to improvise. On more than a few occasions throughout Major League history, teams have helped outfit the umpires for the game, making for some entertaining photos showing umpires dressed in team logo apparel officiating a regulation contest.

Pictured to the right is long-time National League umpire Eric Gregg wearing a Cubs jacket, supplied by Chicago when the umpiring crew's luggage went missing en route to Wrigley Field.

The best improvised uniform in professional umpiring history, however, might just belong to Ed Montague, who called a Phillies-Mets game behind the plate in 1982 wearing a red Philadelphia Phillies home jersey (pinstripes, shin guards, chest protector, and all) topped with a backwards-billed blue Mets ball cap.

Related PostTrain Delay: Umpires Stuck in Traffic, Game Stalled 16 Min (4/10/13).


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