When A's left-hander Dallas Braden went ballistic on A-Rod the other day, the whole nation got to see a small uni-related quirk that A's fans are already familiar with, namely that Braden likes to cut a notch in his undershirt collar.
Braden has been doing this for several years now (that shot is from 2008), even for his official team portraits (those are from 2009). On at least one occasion he's written "209" below the cut -- the area code of Stockton, Calif., his hometown.
So is this a comfort thing? An Adam's apple thing? A superstition thing? "He says he does it to give himself a little more freedom," says A's equipment manager Steve Vucinich (who also reports that Braden does the scissor work himself, rather than expecting the team's equipment staff to do it).
Braden used to be MLB's only collar-snipper. But this season he has some company -- or, if you prefer, competition -- in the person of Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier. In his case, the reason for the undershirt surgery is easier to discern: Ethier likes the feel of those new Nike undershirts but has a sponsorship contract with Easton, so he's stayed true to his brand by performing a quick swoosh-ectomy.
Will this collar modification catch on with other non-Nike players? If so, Ethier deserves credit for starting the trend. So over on the Uni Watch Blog, we recently conducted a contest to come up with a good name for Ethier's little neckline maneuver. The winning entry, submitted by reader Russ Chibe: Breathing Ethier.