This very brief article is about the 1997 Cincinnati Road jerseys and the theme is once again variations. The story begins with Deion Sanders and his misguided tribute to Jackie Robinson. 1997 was the 50th Anniversary of Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in major league baseball. Teams wore a patch commemorating this event and his number was retired by all major clubs, but for Sanders this was not enough. According to Sanders, he saw that Robinson wore his sleeves short via an image on a Wheaties Box and his own sleeves on his road jerseys shortened. Here is where it starts to get interesting. As you can see by the Wheaties Box, Jackie’s sleeves were not all that short. As a matter of fact, if you look at Brooklyn Dodger team photos from 1947-1957 time frame, you will see the same thing. If there was a Brooklyn Dodger who wore shorter sleeves, it was likely to have been Gil Hodges…OK Dave, stay on topic.
If you look at images of Sanders first offerings in 1997, his jerseys actually still have the “R” Russell logo on them. I am not sure if they were ordered this way or the sleeves were cut and the reattached. However when MLB authorities saw this customization, they were none to please and informed the Reds that Deion’s uniforms had to be like that of the rest of team. What did the Reds do? Well according to at least one source, After several Reds players talked it over, Larkin called general manager Jim Bowden to see if the club would alter everybody’s uniform to the Robinson style. He agreed, and
at a cost of $2,000 had a Cincinnati tailor snip off all the sleeves.”
What I found strange about this was the cost. This was especially interesting because when the auction was held for the estate of former Reds owner Marge Schott, some of the lots included the trimmed material from the sleeves of these road jerseys. With the sleeves shorted, the “R” Russell logo was removed from them and this shows up in period images. Why was Barry Larkin the one to go the Reds GM Jim Bowden on this issue? In April of 1997 Larkin was officially named the Reds Team Captain and this is the first year his jerseys bore the captain’s “C”.
What does all this mean, probably not much. However if I was looking for Deion Sanders road jersey from 1997, I would expect to find it with the Russell logo and for his teammates, without.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
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For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com