SI Vault
Edited By Jerry Kirshenbaum
April 27, 1981
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April 27, 1981


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The phenomenon first attracted attention during the 1979 World Series when black youngsters in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, many of them avowed Oriole fans, took to wearing the caps of the rival Pittsburgh Pirates, Gay Nineties-style headgear resembling visored hatboxes. The Pirates went on to win the World Series, and the club's distinctive black-and-gold-striped cap became the rage among black and Hispanic youths across the country, the haute couture, if you will, of the streets. Since then the fad has transcended its original association with the Pirates; kids now wear the turn-of-the-century-style caps in a multitude of colors, sometimes bearing the insignia of other major league teams. David Koch, president of the New Era Cap Co., official supplier to the Pirates and most other major league teams, says the design also is being copied by many high school and college teams.

How did a team from Pittsburgh, of all places, become the harbinger of a major fashion trend? In fact, the Pirates were one of several National League teams that adopted oldfangled-style caps during the 1976 Bicentennial season, but they alone retained the style. Meanwhile, the Pirates were replacing the Dodgers, Jackie Robinson's old team, in the affections of many black fans. The Pirates had 15 black and Hispanic players on their 25-man roster and had made the soul-disco song We Are Family their unofficial team anthem; it probably didn't hurt, either, that their colors are the same as those of the Steelers, another Pittsburgh championship team that relied heavily on black players. Then there's the club's ever popular captain, Willie Stargell, who has dedicated himself to battling sickle-cell anemia, a disease that mainly afflicts blacks. Ralph Cooper, the director of New York State's Harlem-based Governor's Office of Urban Affairs, goes so far as to say that "people in the black community started wearing the cap out of reverence for Stargell."

Considering all this, it's too bad that the old-fashioned cap is sometimes referred to as the " Cap Anson look." A 19th-century ballplayer who had a career batting average of .333 (and whose nickname, as it happens, was derived from the fact that he was the longtime captain of the Chicago White Stockings), Anson was a Hall of Famer, but he also was a bigot who waged a successful crusade to rid baseball of two black players who briefly performed in the major leagues in the 1880s. You'll excuse us if we prefer to think of the style of cap now so popular among street kids as the Willie Stargell look.

It's all over, fans, and the Yankees have won in a walk. No, not the American League East—it's still a little early for that—but The Miami Herald's contest to elect a "step-team" for south Florida. Last month the newspaper invited readers to choose one of the 26 major league franchises as their adopted team for this season (SCORECARD, March 9) and promised to cover the winner as though it were Miami's own. The results reflected the large number of transplanted Northeasterners residing in the Miami area: the Yankees received a whopping 39.8% of the votes cast (1,002 out of 2,518), followed by the Orioles (who make their home in Miami during spring training) with 16.7%, the world-champion Phillies 9.3%, the Mets 6.8% and the Red Sox 5.8%. The Yankee landslide represented the triumph of blind emotion over the cool logic of a Miamian named Ron Berceli, who unavailingly cast his ballot for the Chicago Cubs. Noting that the Cubs play their home games in the only big-league ball park that has no lights, Berceli argued that "the Sunshine State's greatest city ought to adopt a team that plays most games in the sunshine." Alas, the Cubs had the backing of only 1.5% of the south Florida electorate, tying the Kansas City Royals for 10th.


Stanford Basketball Coach Dick DiBiaso had a problem. Charles Hunt, a 6'6" star at Oakland's Head-Royce High School, had made up his mind to attend Stanford, but the decision couldn't be considered binding until Hunt signed a national letter of intent. College coaches like to have such letters signed at the earliest opportunity, both to fend off rival recruiters and also to create a bandwagon effect that might influence the decisions of other coveted recruits. Trouble was, under NCAA rules, the signing period wasn't to begin until exactly 8 a.m. on April 8, an hour after Hunt, a baritone as well as an athlete, was due to leave with the school chorus on a three-day trip to Los Angeles. And DiBiaso didn't want to wait until Hunt returned home to sign him.

With the connivance of officials at Hunt's high school, a scheme was devised. Early on the morning of April 8, Tim Miller, DiBiaso's assistant, drove out of the school's parking lot and followed the bus carrying Hunt, the rest of the chorus and faculty chaperones as it began the 380-mile trip to Los Angeles. Shortly before 8 a.m., the bus stopped along Highway 580 in Livermore, 30 miles southeast of Oakland, and all 50 occupants piled out. At 8:02 a.m., Hunt signed a letter of intent to matriculate at Stanford, using the hood of Miller's 1979 Toyota Corolla as a writing table. Pictures were snapped, and Hunt's fellow chorus members cheered. Then, after he and Miller shook hands, Hunt and his friends reboarded the bus and resumed the trip to Los Angeles.

Was the elaborately planned roadside signing ceremony really necessary? Replied Miller: "Crazy things can happen if you don't sign students as soon as possible. We wanted to be available."


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