Stirrups make a comeback with starters
Giants rotation plans to wear old-school socks, high pants
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For the Giants' starting pitchers, old-school means a new spirit.The starters intend to wear stirrup socks, a staple of bygone eras, as a demonstration of solidarity amongst themselves. Noah Lowry and Tim Lincecum displayed the look Friday while throwing off bullpen mounds. The pitchers' sartorial expression is consistent with the refreshed clubhouse atmosphere the Giants insist will prevail this year -- thus enhancing, they believe, their on-field cohesion. "It's more of a symbol of camaraderie than anything," Lowry said. "We're not worried as much about the look as everybody trying to say that we're on the same page here. Because that's what we've got, a tight-knit group." The notion of adopting the retro look began late last season when Barry Zito, who wore stirrups during much of his 2000-06 tenure with the Oakland A's, discussed the idea with Matt Cain. The starters raised the subject upon reporting to Spring Training this week and brought the issue to longtime equipment manager Mike Murphy, who unearthed some stirrups Thursday afternoon at the Giants' Minor League clubhouse. "I love that the guys are open to it," Zito said. "This is fun. We need to start having some fun, be a little quirky if you have to, have some personality." Younger fans might not know what stirrup socks are, since players stopped wearing them in the early 1990s. They served no practical function except to display stripes, logos or team colors. Stirrups were typically worn over long, smooth, thin white socks known as "sanitaries," which some players still don underneath thicker socks. A stirrup sock has no toe or heel. A strip of material fits under the foot, revealing the white sock underneath (the A's of the 1970s, who wore gold sanitaries, were a notable exception). Many players wore relatively low stirrups, exposing a small half-moon of white above the shoe, as Lowry and Lincecum did during Friday's throwing session. Aficionados of the 1960s and early '70s might recall various players, including legends such as Willie McCovey and Frank Robinson, wearing high, tight stirrups that featured skinny strips of material rising to mid-calf level. They looked sleek -- and cool. Since the stirrup was largely decorative, its disappearance was probably inevitable. Zito noted that running can be difficult while wearing them, which explained why he was tugging off traditional socks as he spoke. The stirrup's Major League extinction was hastened in the mid-1990s, when players began wearing socks with a stirrup pattern printed on them.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.