Wednesday, March 15, 2006

MLB Teams To Wear Throwback Togas On Ides of March

Major league baseball has always been keenly aware of history.  Long after their deaths, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson remain household names in America.  This Wednesday, a legend from even farther in the past will be remembered.  On the anniversary of his death on the Ides of March, teams will honor Julius Caesar by wearing throwback togas during exhibition games.



This activity continues commissioner Bud Selig’s efforts to reach out internationally in the midst of the World Baseball Classic.  By honoring a former leader from a different part of the world, Selig hopes to add more fans from that region.  Teams were willing to go along with the plan, as long as the tribute occurred in the pre-season.  Last season, the commissioner faced widespread resistance in his attempt to do something similar on May 5, the anniversary of Napoleon’s death.  Because those games would have counted in the standings, Selig’s plan to play only short guys with French accents on that date was emphatically rejected.



Most importantly, as the Latin influence on the major leagues continues to grow, baseball will honor someone who spoke Latin.  White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is particularly excited to pay tribute to the legendary Roman.  Caesar’s phrase Veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) was particularly meaningful to Guillen after his team swept the Astros to win the World Series.  Ozzie plans to research more of Caesar’s favorite phrases, hoping to learn how to use profanity in a dead language.



Caesar’s assassination did have many parallels to present-day baseball.  Like a hitting coach, Brutus reportedly told his fellow Roman senators to “go out there and take some cuts.”  Unfortunately for Caesar, the Roman senators made far better contact than the Washington Senators.  He was stabbed 23 times, with his attackers pausing during the 17th stabbing stretch to sing “Take Me Out To the Senate.”  The most aggressive attackers were twin brothers Jose and Ozzie Augustus, who gave birth to the phrase “twin killing.”



Surprisingly, one of Selig’s biggest supporters in this effort is Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.  This spring, The Boss has been vocal in his criticism of the commissioner and his ardor for the World Baseball Classic.  However, Steinbrenner is eager to have his team display its pinstriped togas versus Houston on Wednesday.  As a result, a powerful dictator with a goal of world domination will be honored.  And so will Caesar.



The tribute could bring some awkward situations during play, with base running to be particularly affected.  Sliding while wearing togas could easily lead to cuts, and running around in sandals will hamper speed on the basepaths.  Also, laurel wreaths will not be as effective as baseball caps in keeping the sun out of players’ eyes.  On the plus side, the numbers on the back of the togas will be in Roman numerals.



Beginning on Thursday, the togas used in Wednesday’s games will be available for bidding on Ebay.  Look for the toga of Barry Bonds to be the most coveted item.  In the clubhouse, the Giants slugger has often emulated Caesar in the Roman senate.  He’s had lots of things stuck into his body.