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Keep this info under your hat

You can learn a lot from how someone wears their baseball cap.

July 16, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE

You can tell a lot about a ballplayer by the way he wears a cap. Is he a traditionalist? A trend-setter? A slob?

To many of us, a cap is just a way to keep the sun off. To a ballplayer, it's a signature piece -- a calling card, a prop, a lucky charm. It's also a very good thing to throw in the air to celebrate a huge win.

Almost every Little Leaguer has stood in front of a mirror, trying to get the brim of a cap just right. Same with major leaguers.

As we head into the most blistering part of the season, here's a tip of the hat to today's styles, which seem more varied than ever:

The Hip-Hoppers

Juan Pierre, Dontrelle Willis

The look: A little loopy, but lots of street cred. Note the crooked angle, as if he just got bonked on the head. These caps tend to be oversized and worn low to the ears. In Pierre's case, he wears the hip-hopper cap with the traditionalist knee-high pants, making for an interesting old school-new school conflict. As always, Pierre is a bit of an enigma -- the total team player but still his own man. Baseball's Bella Abzug.

Be prepared to discuss: Where you get those fly kicks? (Translation: Where you get those nice shoes?)

The Flat Tops

Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Jerry Ferrara

The look: Flatter than first base, this cap is favored by many twentysomething players and the chubby dude who plays Turtle on "Entourage" (Ferrara). Also known as the "Oops, I sat on my cap" look. It's not as hip, or as cockeyed, as the hip-hop cap, but still has a certain edge. Bro, if you like to wear your pants like pajamas -- or frequently pass out in your clothes -- this is probably the look for you.

Be prepared to discuss: Video games and the UFC.

The Sweeping Curve

Chad Billingsley, Ray Liotta

The look: Many of us grew up with the style, including occasional Dodgers spectator Liotta (not surprisingly, Shoeless Joe favors a honking curve). This is the look you spend all season trying to perfect. To get it, flip your cap upside down with the brim facing toward you. Curve it in your hands till the edges touch. Repeat. The thin sheet of PVC inside most caps will begin to hold shape. Some followers also use rubber bands to tame their visors overnight.

Be prepared to discuss: "Field of Dreams," the NFL, deep-sea fishing.

The Good Ol' Boys

Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia,

Michael Moore

The look: Cap tilted back about 45 degrees, allowing in the sun and fresh ideas. It's a welcoming look, favored by veteran managers or hayseeds like me or Michael Moore. It says: "Welcome to my general store. How ya doin' on bait?" This is a pregame look for many managers, such as Torre and Scioscia.

When the game begins, they tend to flip it down into cruising mode. They've got better things to ponder than how they look.

Be prepared to discuss: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or the best way to fillet a walleye.

The Salted Margarita

Jonathan Broxton, Eric Gagne, Steven Spielberg

The look: These caps appear to have fallen overboard and recovered two weeks later on a guano reef near Mexico. More of a sweat band than a cap, it is favored by big guys who lose five pounds per start -- through one giant pore in their forehead. Cap eventually consists of uric and phosphoric acids, with some earth salts and other impurities. If you ever see a cap like this, immediately call a hazmat team.

Be prepared to discuss: T-bones vs. rib-eyes, inboards vs. outboards, Skoal vs. Copenhagen.

Other Classic Hats

Gilligan, Cuba Gooding Jr.,

Henry Blake.


Erskine also writes the Man of the House column in Saturday's Home section.

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