LOS ANGELES — By the look of things Friday night at Dodger Stadium, the two best teams in baseball were the Backstreet Boys and the Jabbawockeez.
A crew of house painters and a call list for a Johnny Cash biopic.
A staff meeting at a nuclear power plant and the cast from Cats.
When DJ LeMahieu led off for the New York Yankees in the first inning, he looked like the trapped king on a chessboard.
When A.J. Pollock led off for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning, it looked like somebody dropped a Tic Tac into a bowl of olives.
When the Yankees loaded the bases in the fifth inning, the field looked like a crossword puzzle.
For a puffin-inspired Players’ Weekend, Major League Baseball dressed home teams in white-on-silver-on-white, road teams in black-on-silver-on-black, along with caps with near-invisible logos and home uniforms with near-invisible numbers and names.
What I don’t know about fashion would fill every locker in every clubhouse in baseball. I’m sure the kids loved it. Somebody probably made a lot of money. Charities benefited, so put me down for a yay vote. What I typically care about uniforms would not fill a protective cup.
Yankees-Dodgers at Dodger Stadium beneath a pink and orange sunset, the Yankees with the best record in the American League, the Dodgers with the best record in the National League, visions of late October dancing in the heads of every blue-hatted (whether navy or royal) faithful in the six-decade-old stadium, well, that’s different.
As Vin Scully himself said as part of a pre-game voice-over, “They wear two of the most iconic uniforms …”
It’s not a crisis. It’s nothing worth being angry over. It’s just a shame.
The Dodgers batted beneath white helmets. When more than two or three of them clustered, they were conspiring stormtroopers. Or very safety-conscious milkmen. Or astronauts. The Yankees road grays stood watch in a hallway outside their clubhouse, those classics relegated to a rack rolled mostly out of view.
The two most enduring uniforms in the game -- along with, say, the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs -- were shelved (or stolen by the cat-burgling Yankees) for a well-meaning and yet poorly timed weekend in L.A. that could have been a history lesson.
To that end, according to two sources, the Dodgers asked MLB for permission to have both teams wear their traditional uniforms for at least one of the three games. They could have loopholed it for Sunday when the Yankees and Dodgers play the nationally televised night game and the weekend would be about over anyway. They were denied.
If the spirit of Players’ Weekend was in part to unify the players, it worked. Most were polite. Most granted that uniforms probably were more important to the fans than to the players. Most sighed, put the freakin’ uniforms on and played the baseball game. In Chicago, the Cubs opted against the NFL referee look and wore their traditional blue caps, because if there was anything stranger than everyone wearing white uniforms and white caps, canvases waiting for their colors, it was everyone wearing white uniforms and white caps except for the pitcher, who wore a black cap, signifying he was the villain.
Aaron Boone, the Yankees manager, grew up near here. He attended games here. He served as a batboy here. The field was among his favorite to play on. He returned as Yankees manager wearing a tapered Voldemort costume.
“The one thing I would say -- you know, Dodgers-Yankees, I feel like it would be cool that … this isn’t necessarily the best weekend for us,” he said Friday afternoon. “I think having this matchup and to have them in their uniform and us in ours. But that said, I think this is another one of those things, over the course of a long season, that is neat that MLB does.”
Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who, in the spirit of the weekend, went with the jersey nickname “Gardner”, observed, “The uniforms will be a little bit different. The white looks pretty bright.”
He smiled. Conversely, he offered, the black was quite slimming. To those who mourned that a twice-a-decade meeting of iconic franchises must be conducted incognito, Gardner said, “It’ll be a little weird. But, my answer to that is hopefully we come back here [this fall] wearing our normal uniforms. Then we’ll be able to see it.”
Cody Bellinger shrugged and said, “I’m off the helmets. They do look like a damn Q-Tip.”
To that end, many of those white helmets found themselves scuffed, dragged through the dirt and dipped in pine tar. Enrique Hernandez came to the plate wearing what amounted to a brown helmet, so lacquered with pine tar -- or something -- he could have left it stuck to the dugout wall between plate appearances.
MLB could have pushed the weekend around all summer and found reasons to avoid these hue-less games. If it wasn’t Yankees-Dodgers this weekend, it’d have been some other gripe last weekend, or some other exception next weekend. At some point, some team was going to have to be the international fencing squad and the other was going to have to be the pallbearers. It just happened to find this weekend, with these teams and those uniforms.
So, a very cool series lost a little of its color.
By the way, the Jabbayankeez won. They wanted it that way.