Nashville’s doubleheader wins over Mobile on June 4, 1950, a crowd of 6,932 was treated to fundamental Vols-style baseball: low-scoring, solid pitching, and dependence on the long ball.
In the first game, Vols pitcher Jim Atchley allowed only six hits, one a homer by Fred Postolese, in Nashville’s 5-2 win. In the second game, lefty Bob Schultz gave up only four hits, one a homer by Cliff Abertson, in a seven-inning affair for a 3-2 win. To aid the reliable hurlers, Bama Ray hammered his first round-tripper of the season, and Carl “Swish” Sawatski had one in both games.
Fans also got a rare glimpse of baseball phenomenon: The Mobile club wore shorts and introduced them to the Sulphur Dell fans in the first game of the evening.
Nashville Tennessean sportswriter Russ Melvin used the occasion to take a small dig at the visitors the next day, changing “Bears” to “Bare(s)” in his game summary and photo caption. Columnist Raymond Johnson got in on the jovial sarcasm, too. In his “One Man’s Opinion” column, he wrote:
“The way Jim Atchley and Bob Schultz handcuffed the Bares in their first appearances of the season in the Dell made all of the complainers look a bit silly…”
Attacking the fashion statement made by the opposing team, tongue-in-cheek or not, Johnson continued to use the term “Bares” throughout his column.
“…The Bare shortsmith (Postelese) lofted the ball over the screen with a mate on base…”
“…The Bares came through with three miscues that made possible the victory…”
He then turned his complete attention to the uniform issue with this paragraph:
“There are conflicting stories about which baseball team was the first to wear short pants in a baseball game. The Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League broke out their version in 1950, too, and wore them for four seasons. Some reports say the Texas League Houston Steers invented the brief trend in shorts in 1949.”
Mobile introduced short pants to the Southern Association in a game at Ponce de Leon Park in Atlanta on May 15. Cliff Aberson, who had spent a portion of the previous three years with the Chicago Cubs, took credit for Mobile becoming a topic of conversation around the league by wearing the baseball Bermudas.
“I had a long talk with Mr. Edgar Allen (Mobile president) after I joined Mobile. I had worn them for a couple of games out on the coast with Hollywood where they really went over.
“The riding just comes naturally anyway. We expect it and pay no attention to it. It’s funny, though, how after our first game in a town the fans don’t seem to have any wisecracks left.
Johnson explains comfort was not the only reason the to make shorts a part of the uniform.
“Were they successful in accomplishing what they set out to do? If the intent was to allow breath-ability for players in the sweltering days and nights of Mobile’s humidity, then the answer is “yes.” If the intent was to bring attention to the ball club by creating interest in something off the cuff, the answer is also “yes.”
One who was not in favor was Chattanooga Lookouts owner Joe Engel.
“It’s a shame and a disgrace for them to wear those silly uniforms. They are making a sissy game of the national pastime.”
Engel was known for whacky promotions and gimmicks to get fans to the ballpark he named Engel Stadium. Banner sportswriter Ezell adds his reason for Engel’s criticism.
“Doubtless Joe wished he had thought up the idea first.”
The fad did not last beyond the season. Mobile management trunked the short pants as the club fell from first place to last place once the team started using them. Two years to the day that the wonder shorts of the baseball world went on exhibit at Sulphur Dell, the Milwaukee Journal reported the fate of the ill-gotten apparel. The shorts ended up with the El Centro (California) Imperials in the Southwest International League (Class C) for use during the 1952 season.
Wearing shorts did not help the Imps either, as their season was also short. The club withdrew from the league on July 13.
On August 8, 1976, the White Sox donned short uniform pants for the first game of a doubleheader against Kansas City in Chicago. The team switched back to uniform pants for the second game and broke them out for two games a few weeks later.
Since then, short pants have not returned to the majors. But on that special night at Sulphur Dell, the Mobile uniform experiment certainly brought much attention to the Bears’ “abbreviated uniforms.”
The Sporting News
 Russ Melvin, “Atchley, Schultz Hurl Dellers to Twin Win,” Nashville Tennessean, June 5, 1950, 13.
 Raymond Johnson, “One Man’s Opinion Column, Nashville Tennessean, June 5, 1950, 13.
 Nathan Masters. Hollywood’s Baseball Team Wore Shorts For 4 Seasons,” June 27, 2014, https://www.kcet.org/lost-la/hollywoods-baseball-team-wore-shorts-for-4-seasons, accessed May 15, 2020.
 Paul Lukas, “Hmmm, Did Joseph Cooper Wear a Mask?,” July 9, 2008, https://uni-watch.com/2008/07/09/hmmm-did-joseph-cooper-wear-a-mask/, accessed May 15, 2020.
 Bill Ezell, “Do Bears Like Shorts? Yes, It’s Unanimous,” Nashville Banner, June 5, 1950, 14.
 Milwaukee Journal, June 4, 1952.
Sam Gardner, “40 years ago today, the White Sox wore shorts for a game,” November 15, 2016, https://www.foxsports.com/mlb/story/40-years-ago-today-the-white-sox-wore-shorts-for-a-game-080816, accessed May 19, 2020.
© 2020 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.