The Best Unofficial Baseball Shirts for Postseason Teams!

Last month’s look at unofficial and unlicensed baseball shirts was a big hit, even being picked up by SI.com’s Extra Mustard. So, since I’m never the type to quit while I’m ahead, I’ll do another. So, with the postseason starting tomorrow, here are the best unofficial and/or unlicensed (or, in extreme circumstances, just plain cool) t-shirts for those teams. Click the links to be brought to the stores that are selling them.

(Note: Some of these are not technically unofficial, but are rather licensed by individual players or the Hall of Fame. You’ll see, for example, a HOF Reggie Jackson shirt that conspicuously doesn’t have any Yankees logos on it.)

(GO BELOW THE JUMP FOR MORE)

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So are the Royals being this year’s designated villains a good thing or a bad thing?

Last night, the Kansas City Royals got into a bench-clearer. Again. This time with the White Sox. Who said what and did what will no doubt never be 100% figured out and there most definitely are plenty on both sides who made some very poor decisions.

But this is true: it feels like clockwork so far this year that the Royals are getting into some sort of fracas, whether vocal or physical. There was the whole thing with the Athletics that culminated in Kelvin Herrera appearing to throw at Brett Lawrie‘s head. There was the thing with Mike Trout. The Royals relief corps has probably spent more time running in en masse from the bullpen so far this month than most do in a entire season. Due to injuries in earlier starts and ejections in his most recent ones, Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura has yet to be pulled from a game because of managerial decision.

Perhaps it is all coincidence. Perhaps this is just the rest of the team being dragged into a vortex by a small handful of pitchers with chips on their shoulder. Perhaps the Royals will be upstanding citizens for the rest of the season. But, well, it’s probably too late to matter: baseball fandom-at-large has declared that the Royals are villains this year. One article declared them to be the most despised team in the league. They’ve turned to the Dark Side, become heels and taken up the role of bad boys (despite some pleas not to use that phrase).

Again, such labels are for the most part bunk, but the human sports fan loves to label things. It’s why the Yankees are often the “Evil Empire”, why some coaches are called “geniuses” or “slimeballs”, and why there was an entire documentary on why people hate Christian Laettner. It’s our way of projecting fairy tale ideals of good and evil and right and wrong onto what are essentially random events that, unlike the real worlds of politics, business and so on, actually have a score that leaves who won or lost in clear black and white print.

And so, the zeitgeist says that the Royals are the villains. Maybe they are. Maybe they aren’t. But is it a good or bad thing?

Well, one thing is clear: the Royals should stop having bench-clearing brawls and bean-ball wars. And definitely no throwing at heads. Somebody is going to get hurt sooner rather than later if these continue. Maybe it’ll be a Royal. Maybe it’ll be a player on another team. It must stop before it gets to that- there is no reason for people to get hurt over stupid grudges, hurt feelings, and violations of THE UNWRITTEN RULES (TM).

However, what about the emotions and swagger that the Royals are showing? The fist-bumps and exaggerated hand-claps, the shouts and screams of victory? No doubt some of the violations of THE UNWRITTEN RULES (TM) are because of this, and perhaps some of the incidents so far are related to these. And this leads to a bigger question within baseball: how much emotion and expression is too much?

A few days ago, you may have heard, Chris Rock did a monologue for HBO on why baseball no longer had the same hold on youth- especially black youth- as it once did. And while some of what he said was exaggerated for comedic effect, he hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that baseball, more than any other team sport, tries to hold back the public self-expression and emotion of individual players.

And what are the Royals doing? They are showing emotion. They are at times celebrating openly in manners more like basketball players or football players… and, yes, occasionally brawling like hockey players.

And is that bad? Aside from when they reach those tipping points where emotion becomes violence, are the Royals really showing disrespect to the game of baseball? Maybe, maybe not. Likely it depends on any given occurrence.

But perhaps the Royals are a breath of fresh air, a beacon of exuberance in a sea of the mundane. Perhaps the Royals are the villain that Major League Baseball needs, not the one it wants.

But, still… they have to stop getting into fights and beanings. Because there is most definitely such thing as too much emotion, and it’s when people might get hurt.

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): The Royals and the Inevitable Hangover

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, we look at the Royals.

The Royals had a wild ride last season, driving through the postseason like they stole it. And they would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for that meddling Bumgarner.

However, now the hard part: moving on. 2014 is over, the sweeping of the Angels and Orioles is in the past. Alex Gordon’s dash to third base is now but a memory.

And, perhaps most importantly, some of the key players from last season are gone. James Shields is now in San Diego. Billy Butler, long a mainstay in Kansas City, now is in Oakland. Nori Aoki is now a Giant. Josh Willingham, who hit a game-tying single in the Wild Card game last year, has retired.

To be sure, additions have been made and young players will continue to improve, but, well, it will be hard for the Royals of this season to match the run of last year, because getting to the World Series is hard. It’s a cold truth.

So, sorry, Royals fans, but it’s fairly likely you are in for a disappointment this year. But, rest assured, a bright future may still lay ahead, if the prospects work out.

But if not, hold on to those memories of 2014… because it was quite the achievement in itself.

The Previous BAL-KC Playoff Matchups… yes, there was one (and there could have been 3!)

Don’t believe the people who say that this ALCS is the first time that Baltimore and Kansas City’s baseball teams have met in the playoffs. It’s wrong.

Oh, to be sure, this is the first time the MLB franchises- the Royals and Orioles- have met. But it’s not the first time Kansas City and Baltimore have sent their nines against each other. It’s the second… and there could have been at least two more, had they been played. Using a few other resources, such as Baseball-Reference, SABR, and their joint wiki, here is the hidden history of Kansas City and Baltimore in the postseason..

 

1923 Little World Series: Kansas City Blues def. Baltimore Orioles, 5-4

Throughout history, there have been many incarnations of a Triple-A World Series, pitting the best teams in America that aren’t Major League. And in 1923, we had the only time that we can be sure Kansas City and Baltimore played each other in a postseason series, as they faced each other in a best-of-9 series, at the time going by the name “Little World Series”, although the Sporting News also referred to as the “Junior World Series”. It was a match-up between the American Association and the International League.

Winning the IL for the fifth straight season, the 1923 Orioles were in the midst of perhaps the greatest minor league dynasty in history, as they would ultimately win the IL every year from 1919 to 1925. Under Jack Dunn- best known for being the man who discovered Babe Ruth- they’d gone 111-53 to win the pennant by 11 games over Rochester, and would later be named as the 19th greatest minor league team in history. Their roster was stacked with players who either had or would have major league careers.

The most notable, of course, would be 23-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Lefty Grove, who pitched to a 3.11 ERA as he set the IL record for strikeouts in a season that year with 330 Ks in 303 IP. However, his 27-10 record wasn’t even the best on the team- that belonged to the 29-year-old Rube Parnham, who went 33-7 with a 3.18 ERA. The righty, interestingly enough, only pitched in six MLB games in his career for the 1916-1917 Philadelphia Athletics.

Also on the Orioles that year was Grove’s fellow Hall-of-Famer Chief Bender, then 39 years old, who had pitched in all but one of his 459 career MLB appearances on the mound (in addition to some small stints as a position player). Pitching in 18 games with Baltimore, he was less than effective and had a 5.03 ERA.

Other notable Orioles included Tommy Thomas (who would go on to pitch parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues), 2B Max Bishop (who tied for the IL lead in HR at 22 and who would go to 15th all-time in MLB OBP), Jimmy Walsh (who had been primarily an outfielder in the majors during the 1910s) and Clarence Pitt, a mid-season acquisition from Rochester who hit .357 in 1923 but who never played a MLB game.

In contrast to the runaway Orioles, the Blues had been in a neck-and-neck race before grabbing the AA title. In fact, in a article dated Sept. 30 in the October 4 issue of Sporting News, it was said that it would be “almost a miracle” if they were to come through in their race with the St. Paul Saints. That same article, entitled “St Paul Counting Team As Safely In”, is in fact more of a preview of a Saints-Orioles series than anything. But Kansas City won an astounding 10 of their last 11 games to finish the year with a 112-54 record, the second best in the history of the American Association and just barely ahead of St. Paul at 111-57. Unlike the Orioles, the Blues lacked many big names or future stars, instead being made up mainly of older veterans, such as their 37-year-old player-manager Wilbur Good (who’d played parts of 11 years in the bigs), 30-year-old Bunny Brief (who had already played all 184 of his MLB games), and 36-year-olds Beals Becker (who had been second in the 1914 National League batting race) and Lena Blackburne (most known for his role in the infamous “rubbing mud” that is placed on baseballs before being put in play). There was also 25-year-old Dud Branom, who hit .348 but would ultimately only have 30 games with the Athletics in 1927. Pitching-wise, the Blues were led by Jimmy Zinn, who went 27-6 with a 3.94 ERA, and Ferdie Schupp, who went 19-10 with a 4.23 ERA. Also in the rotation: Ray Caldwell, winner of 134 career MLB games.

Bad weather plagued the Little World Series, and in fact it ended after MLB’s World Series. Starting on October 10th in Kansas City, it didn’t end until October 25th- 16 days later- in Baltimore, where Kansas City won the 9th and deciding game 5-2, defeating Grove and Parnham in the final game behind homers by Bill Skiff and Brief. It was only because of Baltimore’s play at home that the series had even gotten that long, as Kansas City had gone 3-1 to start the series.

That would be the last time Baltimore and Kansas City would have two professional baseball teams meet in the playoffs… but it’s not the last time that it could have happened.

1929 Negro World Series: The Kansas City Monarchs would have played the Baltimore Black Sox

The Negro Leagues were infamously disorganized, with record-keeping at times being hit-or-miss and the with league schedules often haphazardly taking place between barnstorming tours and other exhibitions. In addition, there was the problem of money (several Negro Leagues ended up folding long before integration) and, of course, the racism they faced, which often closed them out of stadiums and hotels. So, with that in mind, perhaps it is isn’t surprising that the Negro World Series (also called the Colored World Series, depending on the era) was an on-and-off affair. Well, in 1929, it was an “off” year, thus depriving the world of a matchup between the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League and the Baltimore Black Sox of the short-lived American Negro League.

We’ll never know what would have happened had they done so, but any such series would have featured at least three Hall of Famers: Jud Wilson (with Baltimore), Bullet Joe Rogan (with Kansas City) and Andy Cooper (also with Kansas City).

1939 Negro World Series: The Kansas City Monarchs would have played the Baltimore Elite Giants

Ten years later, the Negro American League champion Kansas City Monarchs would have faced the Negro National League champion Baltimore Elite Giants. But, like in 1929, the Negro Leagues World Series was not in existence at the time.

That was a shame, as this series would have been even more star-studded than the 1929 edition would have been. Hall of Famers Hilton Smith, Turkey Stearnes and Willard Brown, as well as Buck O’Neil (who should have been a Hall of Famer for his work off the field alone), were on the Monarchs, while the Elite Giants had a 41-year-old Biz Mackey and a 17-year-old catcher named Roy Campanella.

We’ll never know what might have happened, but it really fires up the imagination, doesn’t it?

So, there you go, the previous playoff match-ups between Baltimore and Kansas City. Oh, sure, two of them never really happened, but, still, that’s way more than is needed to render any claim that this is the first time that Kansas City and Baltimore have met in the playoffs false!