There are few decisions I take as seriously as deciding which player’s jersey I will don. I know, I know, some of you may think this to be trivial since there are certainly weightier matters in life. For the unenlightened this may seem trite, but for the sports junkie, choosing the right jersey is a critical statement about you as an individual and what you value.
As a (tortured) lifelong Cubs fan I learned this at a young age. I wanted a jersey more than anything, and luckily Pro Image Sports had recently opened in my local mall at Boise Towne Square. There were a few viable jersey candidates on the Cubs of the late 80’s early 90’s. My favorite player as a kid was The Hawk Andre Dawson, who won a fluky MVP award in 1987 for leading the league in home runs for a dreadful last place team.
There was perennial All-Star second baseman and future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. He was a Chicago mainstay as the quiet leader on and off the field. Steady, consistent, with flashes of greatness.
Pitcher Greg Maddux was on the front end of a Hall of Fame career himself. He won one of his Cy Young awards in a Cubs uniform and had already established himself as a cerebral menace on the mound later known as “The Professor”.
All of these players were fan favorites and worthy candidates to rock their jerseys with pride. But none were the one for me at a young age. The player I was fond of wasn’t the best player on the team. The three mentioned above are either in the Hall of Fame or on their way there in Maddux’s case. No, Grace was a slick fielding three-time all-star first baseman that had a personality and swagger bigger than his game.
He never lead the league in home runs. He did cooler things than that, like never wearing batting gloves in his entire career even though batting in Chicago weather in the cold spring is like hitting a tire iron. He always had his jersey dirty. No injury ever beset him that some pine tar and dirt couldn’t cover up. He was funny in interviews (his Jim Rome segment is still legendary), likable by fans and opponents alike. More than anything, he just seemed like one of the guys. He was cool. A buddy you’d like to have a beer with and listen about minor league road trips through Tuscaloosa.
I bought a Grace N0. 17 jersey. And rocked that thing with pride everywhere I went. Walking into the cathedral that is Wrigley Field for the first time with it on felt like I was immediately immersed in a sea of 20,000 of my best friends because they knew a guy wearing a Grace jersey appreciated the finer aspects of the game, like a guy whose helmet was always covered in pine tar.
Grace was never as commercialized as some of his more famous counterparts (except when it came to “slump-busting”). If you wore a Grace jersey you showed you were someone who wasn’t your average fan. You liked someone who was the essence of why you loved the game of baseball in the first place.
It goes the same way for me with each of my other favorite teams and players. I typically don’t prefer the undisputed star of the team, but the guy who I can liken to the easiest. The blue collar grinder. The fella who at least makes you feel like they appreciate the opportunity they have in life and play every moment as if it is their last. I appreciate those values in the professional athletes I root for and it corresponds with the jerseys that I’ll buy.
The thing I’ve always loved about Pro Image Sports stores is it makes me feel like a kid again buying my first Cubs jersey. It doesn’t matter that I’m an adult now. I can still buy a jersey in any sport and feel the swell of shared common values with a player and fan base attending a game that is unmatched anywhere else. Pro Image Sports takes pride in always carrying a depth of teams and players so you can find the right player that represents YOU. The player who represents the values you share. It is more than just carrying the Top 10 players in each sport. Pro Image Sports is where sports fans are born, and offering fans the opportunity to buy their first or fiftieth jersey is a pleasure our owners relish in across the country.
We want to hear your stories. So what about you? Which is your favorite jersey and why? What made you choose the player you did over the countless others you had the opportunity of purchasing? It is quite possible a great story may be rewarded with a great jersey from one of our 100 plus fan caves across the country.