MLB jersey controversy is strangely similar to hilarious 'Seinfeld' plotline

Cotton breathes.

At least, that was George Costanza's pitch 30 years ago.

Uniforms have been the talk of Major League Baseball spring training early in 2024, with players complaining of cheap-looking new jerseys and "see-through" pants – forcing the players association to get involved, drawing responses from the league, commissioner and Nike.

Nike's stated goal with MLB uniforms in recent years has been to make them lighter and airier, increasing comfort and performance for players – particularly in the hot summer months.

A plan with similar intentions was hatched in a 1994 episode of "Seinfeld."

George, then working for the New York Yankees, pitches an idea for the team to switch from polyester to cotton uniforms after feeling Danny Tartabull's jersey.

"Imagine playing games and your team is five degrees cooler than the other team," George tells then-Yankees skipper Buck Showalter, who buys in immediately. "Don't you think that would be an advantage?"

The uniforms were a big hit in the first game for the fictional Yankees, with George reading quotes from players in the next day's paper:

  • Wade Boggs: "What a fabric. Finally we can breathe!"

  • Luis Polonia: "Cotton is king."

  • Paul O'Neill: "I never dreamed anything could be so soft and fluffy."

But things took a turn when the cotton uniforms shrunk for the Yankees' next game.

"They look like they're having trouble running. They can't move, it's their uniforms. They're too tight!" the announcers proclaim. "They've shrunk! They're running like penguins!"

Ultimately, 1985 AL MVP Don Mattingly splits his pants off-screen.

While cotton – "a natural fiber," as George notes – hasn't figured into MLB's real changes, the Constanza incident 30 years ago was a preview of the unintended consequences brought about by dramatic tweaks to baseball's uniforms.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB jersey controversy draws parallels to hilarious 'Seinfeld' plot