Mobile in Shorts: Da’ Bares of Baseball

Nashville’s double header win over Mobile on June 4, 1950, was basic Vols-style baseball: low-scoring, solid pitching, and dependence on the long ball.

In the first game Vols pitcher Jim Atchley allowed only six hits (one a homer by Fred Postolese) in Nashville’s 5-2 win, then lefty Bob Schultz gave up only four hits (one a homer by Cliff Albertson) in a seven-inning affair for a 3-2 win. To aid the stalwart hurlers, Bama Ray hammered his first round-tripper of the season and Carl “Swish” Sawatski had one in each game.

Tennessean 06-05-1950 Moblie Bears Bares Nashville Vols Sulphur Dell ShortsA crowd of 6,932 was also treated to a rare glimpse of baseball phenomenon: The Mobile club wore shorts, and introduced them to the Sulphur Dell fans in the first game of the evening.

Nashville Tennessean sports writer Russ Melvin used the occasion to take a small dig at the visitors the next day, changing “Bears” to “Bare(s)” in his game summary and photo caption[1] . Columnist Raymond Johnson got in on the jovial sarcasm, too. In his “One Man’s Opinion” column, he wrote[2]:

“The way Jim Atchley and Bob Schultz handcuffed the Bares in their first appearances of the season in the Dell made all of the complainers look a bit silly…”

Attacking the fashion statement made by the opposing team, tongue-in-cheek or not, Johnson continued to use the term “Bares” throughout his column.

“…The Bare shortsmith (Postelese) lofted the ball over the screen with a mate on base…”

“…The Bares came through with three miscues that made possible the victory…”

He then turned his complete attention to the uniform issue with this paragraph:

Tennessean 06-05-1950 Moblie Bears Bares Nashville Vols Sulphur Dell Shorts Raymond Johnson

 

There are conflicting stories about which baseball team was the first to wear short pants in a baseball game. The Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League broke out their version in 1950, too, and wore them for four seasons[3]. Some unconfirmed reports say the Texas League Houston Steers invented the brief trend in shorts in 1949[4].

What is certain is who was to decide when the Mobile club wore their shorts. It was the players:

The Sporting News 07-07-1950 Mobile Bears Shorts

Were they successful in accomplishing what they set out to do? If the intent was to allow breath-ability for players in the sweltering days and nights of Mobile’s humidity, then the answer is “yes”. If the intent was to bring attention to the ball club by creating interest in something off the cuff, the answer is also “yes”.

The fad did not last beyond the season. Mobile management trunked the short pants as the club fell from first place to last once the team started using them. Two years to the day that the wonder shorts of the baseball world were displayed at Sulphur Dell, the Milwaukee Journal reported the fate of the ill-gotten apparel: The shorts were sold to the El Centro (California) Imperials in the Southwest International League (Class C) for use during the 1952 season[5].

Use of shorts did not help the Imps either, as their season was a short one. The club withdrew from the league on July 13. In july 1976 the Chicago White Sox donned short uniform pants for a portion of the season, but they soon lost their appeal to the fans and short pants have not returned to the majors.

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

Sources

Nashville Tennessean

The Sporting News

uniwatch.com

[1] Nashville Tennessean, June 5, 1950. Retrieved from http://www.newspapers.com

[2] Johnson, Raymond. (June 5, 1950). One Man’s Opinion column. Retrieved from http://www.newspapers.com

[3] Masters, Nathan. (June 27, 2014). Hollywood’s Baseball Team Wore Shorts For 4 Seasons. Retrieved from https://www.kcet.org/lost-la/hollywoods-baseball-team-wore-shorts-for-4-seasons

[4] Lukas, Paul. (July 9, 2008). Hmmm, Did Joseph Cooper Wear a Mask?. Retrieved form http://www.uni-watch.com

[5] Milwaukee Journal, June 4, 1952. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/newspapers

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