FRANCONA OUT OF UNIFORM? MAYBE HE’S ON TO SOMETHING

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I’ve long held the belief that during the course of any baseball game, from T-ball to the majors, you will see something that you’ve never seen before.

Of course, I usually mean on the field, between the lines. But what I heard happen last week during the Red Sox-Yankees series in the Bronx got me to thinking.

Let me set it up for you. During the first inning of the second game, while Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter was on second base, the fashion police stepped into the Red Sox dugout in order to conduct an inspection. Eddie Maldonado, a “resident security agent,” demanded that Red Sox manager Terry Francona prove he was wearing a game jersey under his pullover. Francona was a bit distracted at the time. After all, Jeter has a good set of wheels and if Francona takes his eye off him for a brief moment, Jeter could wind up stealing third. Or the batter could lay down a bunt and the Sox could have players out of position. Maldonado said it couldn’t wait. He wanted a look under Terry’s sweatshirt immediately.

It was bad form for Maldonado to conduct this inquisition during a game. Check the shirt before or after the game, not while there is action on the field.

Francona was righteously indignant.

Major League Baseball executive Bob Watson said that the league is cracking down on dress code scofflaws. Francona says he wears the sweatshirt to help his circulation. What?

I guess major league rules require all team members — players, coaches, even bat boys — to wear a team uniform, complete with jersey, pants, stirrups and cleats.

Which brings me to the question I’ve been asking since I was about 12. Why?

Why do baseball managers have to wear a uniform? It makes no sense. It serves no purpose, unless you were a player/manager like Pete Rose.

I’d rather see baseball managers and coaches dressed in much the same manner as, say, the team trainer — a nice jersey bearing the team logo, khaki pants and athletic shoes, oh, and the team hat.

Just look at the umpires. When I was a kid they used to wear a sports jacket. Now they dress in a nice black or navy blue polo shirt and gray slacks. That would look more professional than middle-aged, fat guys in skin-tight stretch pants.

Three names come immediately to mind — Tommy Lasorda, Lou Piniella and Don Zimmer. They look like stuffed sausages.

And baseball is the only sport in which the head coach, (manager) wears a player’s uniform. Can you picture Doc Rivers on the Celtics sideline wearing a tank-top and shorts? I want to see Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien wearing the pads and helmet and skates. Football? No rules. Sideline fashion runs the gamut. Legendary Dallas Cowboy head coach Tom Landry was noted for his pressed suits and fedora. Current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick comes to the games looking like an unmade bed, including a stained sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off just below the elbows.

If Major League Baseball wants to preserve the “image of the game,” and present something on the field that looks classy, maybe they should start with the players themselves. More directly, Manny’s hair. And what’s with all these pitchers wearing necklaces and pendants that they have to tuck back in their shirts after every pitch. Is that a Scapular around Curt Schilling’s neck? Is that a candy necklace around Hideki Okajima’s neck? Remember back in the 1980s when Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd was told he couldn’t go to the mound looking like Mr. T?

Times have changed, and not always for the better. If major league baseball can relax the rules when it comes to hair and jewelry, can’t they put the managers in some nice casual clothes?

One thing is for sure. I’m glad Bill Parcells was never a baseball manager. I couldn’t bear to look.

E-mail Dennis Shaughnessey at dshaughnessey@lowellsun.com.