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These Women Have Baseball Sized Up

May 11, 1986|Associated Press

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — A group of women in this college town halfway between Nashville and Knoxville know some trivia about major league players that would leave even diehard baseball fans surprised.

Forget about the usual bantering over home runs, batting averages and runs batted in. Some of these women can discuss the inseam length of the Cincinnati Reds' Pete Rose, the waist size of the New York Yankees' Dave Winfield, and the sleeve length of the American League's most valuable player, Don Mattingly of the Yankees.

These are the seamstresses of the Wilson Sporting Goods Co., who toil each March with needles and thread while the players are in spring training.

Wilson's plant produces uniforms for 15 of the 26 major league teams, and outfits players on some professional football teams.

Each year, major league teams order from 80 to 130 home and road uniforms for their players, manager and coaches, who are measured during spring training for tailor-made uniforms.

If a player wants extra sleeve room or extra-tight pants, a uniform made to his demands is ready by opening day.

Zada Cobble, a single needle operator for Wilson, said Rose is one of the most finicky players, because his weight fluctuates during the year, requiring changes in his uniform.

Production of the uniforms is such a time-consuming job that for the entire month of March, the only uniforms made at the facility are for the major leagues, said plant manager Zena Mitchell.

He said retired seamstresses are brought back to handle the load.

Mitchell, who started with Wilson in 1948, noted that uniforms have changed over the years, especially in the type of material used.

"They used to use a real heavy flannel in the 1940s and '50s," Mitchell said. "Today they've gone to a lightweight synthetic."

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