The Canada Day Cap

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I am about to make a confession on the internet: I am a Phillies fan who still loves Scott Rolen. According to my friend Ben, I am in fact, the last Phillies fan who still loves Scott Rolen.

I wish I had a reason for exactly why he was my favorite player, but I was 7 at the time so I am not sure I needed one. I am old enough to remember Rolen as number 17 on my beloved Phillies (I’m relatively certain I still have his jersey somewhere), but at the time I was too young to understand exactly why he left (he demanded a trade), and why the fans so quickly turned on him. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1997. Even as a member of different teams, I always cheered him on during the 2003 All-Star Game in Chicago that I attended. I vividly remember my dad telling me at the time how wrong it was to cheer for him since we are Phillies fans, but I didn’t care; Rolen was my favorite player, regardless of what team he was on, and nothing was going to make me change my opinion.

After winning NL Rookie of the Year with the Phillies in 1997, Rolen was played with the team for five more seasons, winning three gold gloves before being traded along with Doug Nickle to the St. Louis Cardinals for Plácido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith. Polanco was decent after being traded (which would end up being the first of two tenures with the Phillies), but nothing extraordinary. Timlin played all of half a season, compiling a 3.79 ERA in 30 appearances. Bud Smith never threw a pitch for Philadelphia and was out of baseball entirely by 2004. In comparison, Rolen was outstanding for the Cardinals. During his first season with the team, he won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for third base, and was selected to his first of five consecutive All-Star Games. Eventually, the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series with Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen as their core.

Scott Rolen

Rolen was eventually traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where in his first of two seasons with the team he posted some of the worst stats of his career. Luckily for him, he was able to wear this awesome cap. Like every years Stars & Stripes cap, this version is only worn for one season, and since it would be a little bit inappropriate to throw the good old red, white and blue on Canada’s only team, the red and white maple leaf was used instead. I actually had no idea this cap existed until there was a traveling sports outlet vendor who came to Seton Hall selling a bunch of closeout merchandise including this gem; I sorted through mostly non New Era caps for close to an hour before I found this, and despite being a little big (I generally wear a 7 1/2), it was one I knew I immediately needed for my collection.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen (27)

During his second year with the Jays, batting .320 through 88 games, Rolen was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart, where his career had a resurgence, being selected to two All-Star games and winning a Gold Glove in four years as a (nearly) everyday starter and is credited as a major reason the Reds won their first NL Central Division title in 15 years. While he unofficially retired after the 2012 season, Scott Rolen will always be my all time favorite player. No matter which of his many caps he wore throughout his career, that was always true.

The Houston Astros Cap

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This logo will always have a special place in my heart; for as long as I can remember every single year around Octorber my dad played his DVD of the the 1980 NLCS feating the eventual World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros, which is widely considered one of the greatest playoff series of all time.

Houston Astros

Last year, the Astros made the move from the National League to the American League, finally balancing out the two leagues, and giving every division five teams. In addition to a new league, they got a new looking, getting rid of the brick colored jerseys and star logo that had become synonymous with the franchise in favor their orange and blue throwbacks featuring this classic logo.

Despite the updated look, the Astros were still stuck in their losing ways, having the worst record in baseball for the second straight year. They had the lowest payroll in baseball, and despite having numerous problems with hitting, their pitching was abysmal. Bud Norris was their ace for most of the season before being traded to the Orioles before the deadline. This forced them to gather anyone with an arm in a vain attempt to put bodies on the mound: this man was Philip Humber.

Philip Humber

On April 21st, 2012, Philip Humber pitched the 21st Perfect Game in MLB history as the Chicago White Sox defeated the Seattle Mariners. As anyone does with a perfect game, Humber had his moment in the spotlight, doing rounds on all the TV shows and dominating SportsCenter for a good week and a half.

Philip Humber is the definition of a one-hit wonder; since being drafted in the first round by the New York Mets, he has struggled to stay in a rotation, bouncing around the Twins, Royals and eventually White Sox farm systems. He has a career 5.31 ERA in 7 season (4 as a starter). The Houston Astros, who ranked no higher than 26th in most major pitching statistics, had him designated for assignment after going 0-8 with a 9.59 ERA. Eventually he was brought back up mid-August to play a long relief role. During this past offseason, he signed a minor league contract with the Oakland A’s with an invitation to spring training; at this point he would be lucky to stick around in the majors, and sadly his days as a starter are officially over.

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On a whim, I bought this Humber signed ball, which happened to also be from the Astros Inaugural American League Season. I believe my thought process at the time was two notable events (a perfect game, and a team switching leagues) in one awesome baseball. While I would have preferred a White Sox one, this piece of baseball history was simply too cool to pass up, and thankfully I can say I have the New Era Cap to match.

The Gray Blue Jays Cap

Gray Blue Jays Cap

For some reason, I seem to have a soft spot for any Blue Jays apparel. Second to only my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, I have more Blue Jays caps than anything else. However, this is my first cap of the blue and silver logo used from 2004-2011. Specifically, this gray cap was worn exclusively from 2004 to 2005, before being replaced with a more traditional black cap with a silver “T” (pictured below). Some great Blue Jays players had the honor of wearing this elusive cap, including All-Stars Ted Lilly, Carlos Delgado and Shea Hillenbrand, as well as two-time Gold Glove Vernon Wells.* But to me, this cap was worn by arguably the greatest pitcher in Blue Jays’ history: Roy “Doc” Halladay.

Roy Halladay

I can’t imagine there will ever be a point in my life when the Blue Jays are not synonymous with Roy Halladay. In his 11 year career with the team, he was a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, and an AL Wins Champion. He also has numerous team records, highlighted by the most wins in a season with 22 during 2003. I remember visiting Toronto as a kid (which you can read more about here), and in a city where baseball takes a backseat to hockey, Roy Halladay still managed to be a hero. Whenever he was pitching, attendance at the Rodger Center soared. His jersey was among the top selling for most of his tenure, which is impressive for a smaller market team such as Toronto. But for all of his accomplishments with the team there were two things that alluded him: a no hitter and postseason play.

Roy Halladay

In 2010, Halladay was traded to my beloved Philadelphia Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, and agreed to a 3 year contract extension with a fourth year vesting option. With the addition of Roy Halladay, the Phillies were supposed to have the last piece of their puzzle to win the World Series for the second time in three years. Even though Cliff Lee was fantastic for for the Phillies in 2009 (winning both of his starts in the World Series), Halladay was seen as an upgrade due to his “potential future Hall of Famer” status, and Lee was traded to the Mariners the same day.

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a pitcher as dominant as Halladay was in 2010. Granted, being a Phillies fan I am at least a little biased, but the stats do not lie. I don’t remember then-Phillies pitcher Kevin Millwood’s no hitter back in 2003, so when Halladay threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins it was a miracle. He was everything we as a fanbase expected him to be and more. He even gave us the endless shirts with “Doc-tober” emblazoned upon them.

By this time, Halladay had the Cy Young locked up with 21 wins, but Doc still had something special left to show us. On October 6, 2010, in his very first postseason appearance, Halladay pitched the second postseason no hitter of all time against the Cincinnati Reds. It was truly icing on the cake to one of the best seasons by any pitcher of all time.** Despite finishing the postseason with 2 wins and 2.45 ERA, Halladay and the Phillies sadly fell short of their World Series aspirations. His 2011 season was almost equally impressive with an even lower ERA of 2.35, and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Clayton Kershaw.

But injuries cut Halladay’s career short, and he has since retired a Blue Jay. Tragically, he never got his World Series that he truly deserved. There is much more to say about his last two injury plagued seasons with the Phillies, and the debate of whether he is a Hall of Famer is something that deserves its own article(and will get it), but for now I just want to remember Doc as the greatest pitcher throughout my childhood and for one of my favorite quotes in baseball when referring to his first ever playoff appearance.

I came here to bury Caesar, not praise him

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Benjamin Christensen, who out of the pure kindness of his heart sent me this cap, knowing I had been looking for it for quite some time. It seemed the basically the entirety of the Internet was sold out; I couldn’t even find one on eBay willing to pay just about any price. When I asked Ben if he knew anywhere I could find one, and much to my surprise he told me exactly where I could find it, knowing for a fact he had one in my size sitting in his mother’s closet all the way back in Portland. To me, Ben is a king on the internet, specializing in all things baseball, beards and New Era Cap related, and his opinion is second to none on the subjects, even participating in the MLB Fan Cave as a representative of the Oakland A’s. He has all my thanks, for without him this article would not be possible. I highly recommend both following him on twitter (@Shakabrodie) as well as reading his blog (www.hatsandtats.blogspot.com). This cap meant a lot to me buddy, and I cannot thank you enough.

*These individual player awards only account for the two seasons this cap was worn.
**In my humble opinion.

The Retro Blue Jays Cap

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Since I was young, my father worked for a toy company based in Toronto, Canada. For most of my life, my father would spend at least one week in his company headquarters, and often times would go to Blue Jays games with his friends who had season tickets. My father has on more than one occasion said that he has adopted the Jays as his second favorite team. His coworker and her family come down just about every summer and spend a few days, and baseball is always the topic of conversation; they may be the only people in Canada who just don’t care about hockey.

I have only been in Canada once when I was about eleven, and had the pleasure of staying at the Renaissance Hotel, which is unique in the fact that it is literally attached to the Rogers Centre, the home of the Blue Jays. We were one of the lucky ones whose room’s window looked out onto the field. Imagine as a little kid, looking out the window and seeing a baseball diamond right outside. I was literally in awe, and it is something I will never forget.

The night we got there the Blue Jays got to play the Oakland Athletics. I really don’t remember too much of the game except sitting in one of the two giant lounge chair feeling like I was on top of the world. I was looking out my window to see professional baseball. Admittedly I wasn’t as big a sports fan then as I am today, but it was something that I absolutely loved. We even had the TV on in the background to hear the play-by-play. To this day it remains one of my favorite sports related memories.

Rogers Centre

This is the view from one of the hotel rooms looking out onto the field

In our second day in Canada, my family went to visit the Centreville Amusement Park, which is actually a small island that you have to take a ferry to just outside of Toronto. There was all the stuff you’d expect from an amusement park: a ferris wheel, bumper cars, and a huge tent where you can spend extravagant amounts of money for a hot dog. As we were leaving the island, there was someone handing out free stuff to everyone boarding the ferry. Just as any little kid would, I ran over there as fast as I could eager to take whatever they were giving out. Turns out, it was Blue Jays/Yankees tickets for their game that weekend. Yes, they were literally giving away tickets to a Yankees game. That should be enough to explain how little people appreciate the sport of baseball north of the border. Sadly, we were headed back to the states and I was unable to attend that game.

No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot remember the year that all of this took place. I know at this point Roy Halladay was their star player and had already won his first Cy Young award. My best guess is 2006, which places me around age 11. I still have those Blue Jays/Yankees unused ticket stubs somewhere which would have the date, but I don’t think it would be worth the effort.

Exploring the city was one of the greatest things I had ever seen. If you have never been to Toronto, it’s simply a much cleaner and friendlier New York City. One of the two things that I vividly remember was that they had entirely different candy; the standout in my mind was the Aero bar. To the best of my knowledge, it was simply a chocolate bar that had air whipped in it leaving small holes throughout it. Imported from England, they were unavailable for purchase in the US at the time, but to a young version of myself, it was the greatest thing ever. I even made my mom get some to eat on the plane ride home. The other part of Toronto that stood out to me was how clean the Subways were. If you have ever taken the subway in New York, these look the a crystal palace. They are absolutely pristine. I have always wanted to go back there, since now that I am older and would likely appreciate it even more.

As I said in one of my previous posts, this hat was a birthday gift to me from my college suite-mate Sean and his girlfriend Jenna. In general, I am a huge fan of any two-tone cap, but they had no idea of that at the time. Jenna picked the hat solely based on looks, knowing nothing about the team or logo, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice she made. The Blue Jays have had a bunch of very unique looks over the years, but in my opinion this is easily the finest.

First used as part of a team makeover in 1997, the cap coincided with the arrival of free agent Roger Clemens, arguably the best pitcher in team history. In his first of his two seasons with the team, he had one of the best seasons in MLB history. Pitching the triple crown, Clemens finished with a 2.05 ERA, a career high 292 strikeouts and 15 straight wins, shattering Blue Jays team records in the process. While he was accused of PED use later in his career, the general consensus is that during this season it was all natural. That type of season is hard to replicate for even the best pitchers; the only pitchers to do it up to that point were Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove and Lefty Gomez. The very next season Roger Clemens did the same thing, pitching the Triple Crown once again. While he will always be remembered for his seasons with Red Sox and Yankees, some of the best years of his career came with their division rival. He would never again pitch for the Triple Crown.

Sadly, some error in someone’s judgement 5 years later lead to this hat being replaced in favor of the unpopular “Blue Jay on PEDs” doing its best Barry Bonds impression. Sadly, I cannot find a picture I am licensed to used, go just head over to this link to see what I mean. It proved so unpopular they retired it the very next season, replacing red with silver on their color palette and going for an entirely new look. When you have a logo so bad it gets Canadians to care about baseball you know you did something horrifically wrong.

I don’t want to leave out the people who made this article possible: Sean and Jenna. I cannot thank you both enough for the generosity you have shown me in the very short time we have known each other, and I want you to know how much I love this hat. Jenna, you made a great choice.