Edgar Martínez Chattanooga Lookouts Shirsey
When did the common shirsey (shirt+jersey) become a thing? And I don’t mean cotton replica jerseys from the 70s like the one Mary Tyler Moore wore while washing her car. I mean the straight-up T-shirt that usually features the team logo on the front and a player’s name and number on the back. The shirsey. You see a million of them at sports games. I own a few that I feel self-conscious about wearing anywhere outside of a sports game. Anecdotally, they seem to have gotten popular some time in the 2000s. I’m old enough to remember the sports world of the last millennium and I cannot for the life of me remember shirseys really being a thing until like the the mid-2000s.
But this page is not a comprehensive history of the shirsey. Someone else should do that. I don’t have the time. But the question was raised by this amazing garment that I once found on ebay, bought, and certainly do have the time to talk about: a vintage Chattanooga Lookouts Edgar Martínez shirsey. It’s one of the weirdest things I own.
Here’s a quick description. This is an authentic vintage t-shirt. It feels old and has original tags. It’s a bright gold (brighter than the pictures, really) color with a screen-printed blue Chattanooga Lookouts logo on the front. This is the logo that the Lookouts used in the 1980s when they were a Seattle Mariners affiliate. Also on the front is Edgar’s number 10 in velvety stick-on navy blue numbers.
On the back of the shirsey, we have the same velvety stick-on letters arranged in arch forming the, uh, arrangement MART “INEZ”.
OK. Catch your breath. You are not in this alone. There are many burning questions raised by this shirsey. Let’s run through them.
Question 1.) Why the heck does it say MART “INEZ”? It makes no sense to me. The best I can guess is that his nickname on the team was “Mart” and they wanted to put quotations around “Mart” but there was a miscommunication at the factory or print shop and they accidentally did the quotes on “inez.” And that’s the best I can guess. What other possibilities are there?
Question 2.) How did the letters and numbers get stuck on? It was probably a panel that was lined up by hand and then peeled up with the letters remaining. I don’t know why I care about this, but it’s a question I have. Was it done at the print shop or did some bat boy do it in the team office in Chattanooga?
Question 3.) When was this shirt made? Was it made in 1985, Edgar’s first year with the Lookouts? Or was it ’86, when he returned to the Southern League despite a successful run in Triple-A. I guess it’s possible that it was made after he was a big-leaguer. We see a lot of that sort of throwback merch nowadays, but Edgar didn’t become a regular for the Mariners until 1989, at which point Chattanooga was in their second year as a Reds affiliate. My best guess is ’86. Maybe Edgar became a fan favorite in ’85, and then was honored upon his return the next year. I mean, sort of honored.
Question 4.) When did shirseys become a thing? I’m convinced this sucker is from the eighties. If so, that is one old shirsey.