Next year, the Phillies and the Mets will meet 3,500 miles away in a British showcase that’s nothing less than an opportunity to revolutionize baseball fashion.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the 2024 match-up this week, in between claiming his statements about the Oakland Athletics were “taken out of context” and admitting he probably shouldn’t have let the Houston Astros players get away with cheating.
“We want to show the fans here in London the very best form of baseball,” Manfred said, apparently having not watched Kyle Schwarber play left field or the Mets try to do anything.
Manfred talked about growing the game and how the London Series, played since 2019, is part of an overall strategy to make 30 billionaire team owners more money. But it’s also a chance to capitalize on the history between London and Philly.
It’s all too easy to imagine a game where Philadelphia players wear colonial garb and the British are decked out in thick red jackets. Each time they start a rally, Paul Revere rides across the jumbotron shouting “The British are coming!”
But since the Phillies won’t actually be playing ~against~ London, the uniform options are more limited. Was there any difference in fashion between Philadelphia and New York in the 1770s?
“The short answer is: only if you were well off,” suggested local Twitter history expert @historiancole. “Philly was the top colony at that point. They had money and the elite, not to mention the top of the industry for textiles. Ben Franklin wanted us to have silkworms lining the trees. We did not do that.”
What rich Philadelphia men did was adopt a style called “macaroni” that borrowed British affectations, according to the Library Company, dressing in “tightly-fitted garments with puffed shirts and overly-styled powdered wigs.”
(These are literally the upper class dandies being mocked in the song “Yankee Doodle,” by the way. You might have guessed “doodle” does not mean “respected person.”)
Some might say this is going too far in a direction that isn’t really relevant. But at least I’m not suggesting New York and Philadelphia take on their respective personalities in the Revolutionary era.
In his 1985 paper, “The Personality of Cities,” Morton Keller wrote that Philadelphia “has managed for centuries to exude an overpowering aroma of insularity and somnolence.” Drowsy? Philly? He’s obviously never been in town for an Eagles game or a rotisserie chicken-eating on an abandoned dock, but still. Cities’ personalities can change over time.
Though New York’s doesn’t seem to have shifted much. Said John Adams of the Big Apple in 1774, “With all the opulence and splendor of this city, there is very little good breeding to be found… they talk very loud, very fast, and all together.”
Or as Byron Rufus Newton wrote in his 1905 satirical poem:
Vulgar of manner, overfed,
Overdressed and underbred.
Heartless, Godless, hell’s delight,
Rude by day and lewd by night.
Purple-robed and pauper-clad,
Raving, rotting, money-mad;
A squirming herd in Mammon’s mesh,
A wilderness of human flesh,
Crazed with avarice, lust, and rum,
New York, thy name’s delirium.
This is in contrast to Philadelphia, which Keller calls, “the great urban success story of colonial America.”
It feels almost wrong to suggest a situation where the Phillies are members of opulent high society and the Mets are the scrappy underclass, as both teams have well-cultivated reputations as underdogs and have rarely spent time as dominant clubs. Alternately, it seems right to see them playing in powdered wigs. This is perhaps an idea for any future Phillies City Connect jerseys, which they will also receive in 2024.
Would dressing this way for a baseball game immediately make our Phils the target of ridicule? Yes. But…did you watch that Braves series? That might happen regardless of what they’re wearing.
The point is, if we throw the Mets in some peasant duds from the era, and put the Phillies in macaroni mode, the league could really get some eyeballs on this London Series in 2024. And Rob Manfred might be able to make a public statement that isn’t just correcting a previous one.