It’s October, which can only mean one thing. Well, perhaps two. Halloween, when everyone enjoys dressing up, comes at the end of the month. October’s also MLB playoff time. Baseball players are getting all spiffed up to go to the ball park so they can slide around in the dirt and grass to try to win a championship. While they must wear a regulation uniform, players can show off some individual style with their impressive jewelry. Yes, diamonds, as well as gold and pearls, can be spotted on the baseball diamond.
Why on earth would a ball player need to wear expensive jewelry while on the field? And sometimes players are literally on the field if they slide or try to make a diving catch. Three reasons have been suggested for this head-scratching behavior. First, a religious conviction may prompt the wearing of jewelry. Cross necklaces, for example, can be worn to express one’s faith. This accessory is often accompanied by chest pounding and pointing skyward after a great play or crossing oneself before batting.
Style is a second reason to wear expensive, perhaps even gaudy, jewelry while engaging in athletics. A player wants to make a fashion statement. His uniform looks exactly like that of all the other members of the team, but he can stand out by being bedecked with bling.
Superstition could be the third reason for putting on glitzy jewelry for a game. Baseball players are well-known for being superstitious. Some won’t change socks or shave while they have a hitting or winning streak going; former Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs would only eat chicken before a game. Athletes may view a necklace as a good luck charm. Fans in the stands, however, are more likely to equate fancy jewelry with dollar signs and could be blinded by the light reflecting off that rope hanging around Mr. Pro Athlete’s neck.
The 2021 Official Rules of Major League Baseball are extremely detailed; yet, jewelry wearing by players is not addressed in Rule 3 about Equipment and Uniforms. While I did read Rule 3, I confess I had neither the time nor the inclination to read all 191 pages of the Official Rules; however, a quick review of the table of contents failed to reveal a section on diamonds on the diamond, pearls on the playing field, or gold behind the glove.
Since jewelry apparently isn’t banned, high profile baseball players often display shiny accessories. Take Los Angeles Dodgers’ right fielder Mookie Betts (whose initials spell MLB), for example. As if the nickname “Mookie” (short for Markus) didn’t make him stand out, Betts wears a sizeable gold chain to catch your eye. So the story goes, he got the necklace from a fan during a spring training game for the Boston Red Sox, his former team, in 2018. What a well-heeled fan!
But wearing expensive jewelry during a game comes with perils. The accessory can break right there on the field. In 2018 N.Y. Mets player Yoenis Cespedes broke his diamond necklace while sliding into second base. Umpires and players alike were finding diamonds in the infield (not the sky) as the game continued at Citi Field in New York. During a 2017 ALCS game between Houston and the Yankees, Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. broke his black diamond necklace requiring him to dig around in the dirt on the mound to locate the pieces.
But in 2021, the big news regarding baseball players wearing jewelry comes during the playoffs and involves Joc Pederson of the Atlanta Braves. Although just traded to the Braves from the Cubs back in July, Joc has endeared himself to Braves fans who are enjoying what they have dubbed “Joctober.” Aside from his hot bat, Joc is attracting attention for the string of pearls he first sported during a pinch hitting appearance on September 29th. Previously having worn black and gold chains, Joc probably figured something more elegant was required at this elite and elevated playing level.
What’s the reaction to Joc’s accessory? His fashion choice has hit it out of the park. When his solo homer provided the only run scored by the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Brewers, social media attributed Joc’s success to his wearing the pearls. Joc, of course, continued to wear the pearls and tweeted a photo of himself wearing them in Game 3 of that series where he hit the go-ahead homer. He captioned his picture “pearl JAM.” When the Braves clinched a NLCS spot, Joc celebrated by spraying champagne, holding a cigar in his mouth, and wearing his pearls, which he has confirmed to reporters are real.
It’s pearl pandemonium for Braves fans who were seen at Truist Field in Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS wearing replica pearls. Hey, if it’s good enough for Joc to wear to the game, it’s good enough for them to wear while cheering Atlanta on. The ever astute Braves marketing team arranged for $5 replica pearls to be available for fans to purchase at the park. To absolutely no one’s surprise, all 5,000 on hand were sold out after Sunday’s game. Yes, Joc is not only a major league ball player, but a jewelry trendsetter as well.
Why does Joc wear pearls? Is he superstitious? Is he making a style statement? Joc answered the question simply: “I like it. It looks good.” But Joc and his fellow Braves will need to do more than look good for him to sport the pearls during the World Series. They must also play well to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and advance. Even if Joc’s team goes down in defeat, he’ll look smashing as the Braves’ hopes of winning the World Series are smashed.
Have you been watching the MLB playoffs? Should athletes be allowed to wear jewelry of any kind while on the playing field? Does Joc’s wearing a string of pearls detract from the game or add to the fun?