After having been acquired from the Minnesota Twins in June of 1976, Danny Thompson only appeared
in 64 games for the Texas Rangers that season. By December 10th of that same year, Thompson had
succumbed to leukemia. When the Rangers took the field in 1977, they honored their recently departed
infielder by departing from convention by wearing both a mourning armband and Thompson’s #4
on their left sleeves. While finding these additions to a major league uniform was not new, their
Prior to 1972, teams would typically wear a black armband on their left sleeve in tribute to a deceased
player or someone else who had a close affiliation with the team. In 1973, the Pittsburgh Pirates were
the first club to feature a player’s number as part of their tribute to Roberto Clemente. Two years later,
the Houston Astros would follow suit, displaying the circular “40” patch in honor of pitcher Don Wilson.
In 1976, The New York Mets paid tribute to both their departed first owner (Mrs. Joan Payson) as
well as their first manager (Casey Stengel) via their uniforms featuring the traditional armband on the
left sleeve. Additionally, the center of the 1976 Mets Yearbook featured a wonderful two page photo
essay titled “Casey and Lady-For Whom the Bells Tolled.” Simple and classic elegance befitting both
However, for the first time in major league history, the 1977 Rangers opted to combine these two facets
of player number and armband. What I think is even more interesting is that all of this was actually
combined as the construction was in fact done with a single section of fabric. The appearance of this
design was certainly a rarity in 1977. Fast forward a few decades and surviving examples with the
original #4/armband combination are extremely rare. While I imagine there might be a few more of
these uniforms out there, I have only seen a couple of them actually offered in the hobby over the past
decade. I also know that the #4/armbands were subsequently removed for extended use on some level
as I have seen those jerseys appear with far greater frequency than those with this accoutrement intact.
The removal of these various player patches or armbands is not uncommon. Rather just the opposite is
true, so finding them original to garments presents a real challenge to team, style or theme collectors
(yes, I know of folks whose collections’ center on jerseys with armbands and similar patches).
While I by no means have a complete or extensive collection of these uniforms, my on-hand knit
reference library does include a few of them from the 1970s & 1980s:
1973 Pittsburgh Pirates (Clemente “21” patch)
1975 Houston Astros (Don Wilson “40 patch)
1976 New York Mets (Payson/Stengel Armband)
1977 Texas Rangers (Danny Thompson #4/Armband)
1984 San Diego Padres (RAK lettering for Owner Ray A. Kroc)
1986 Milwaukee Brewers (“Sully” patch for long time clubhouse man Robert Sullivan)
1988 Baltimore Orioles (EBW lettering for owner Edward Bennett Williams)
1988 Milwaukee Brewers (“HK” patch for former manager Harvey Kuenn)
For next year’s National in Chicago, we are toying with the idea of featuring a different display of jerseys
for each day of the event. Should we go this route, I think a day dedicated to shirts like these as well as
patches might make for some interesting show and tell. Would love to hear your thoughts on this…
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.