Caps of 2020, Where Art Thou? The Year in Review
2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. For those of us that still prefer to buy made in USA MLB on-field player's caps, the pandemic has made buying them a bit more complicated. With the closure of New Era's plant in Derby, NY in June of 2019, you can no longer purchase "what the pros wear" in stores other than what was remaining in stock. My plan from here on out is to purchase team issued caps directly from the teams.
From what I have been told, the last caps that the Derby plant made were for special event games in 2019 (Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July, the All-Star Game Workout/Home Run Derby caps, and certain "turn back the clock" caps. The Hialeah, Florida plant was up and running before the Derby closure, and they made the main All-Star on-field caps, Player's Weekend caps, and certain turn back the clock caps as well. Many teams began receiving standard on-field caps from Florida, such as a Diamondbacks "gradient" cap that I purchased from the team. If you cannot tell by the look and fit, Florida caps can be ID'd by brown text on the white "size band" between the back of the sweatband and crown. None of them are meant to be sold in retail; they are for MLB team issue only. However, I have learned that there are exceptions...
Many collectors were delighted in 2020 when many special events caps from 2019 began to surface at "Ross Dress For Less" discount clothing stores. They were from Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July, the All-Star Game Workout/Home Run Derby caps, All-Star on-field caps, and Player's Weekend caps. There were a mix of made overseas and made in USA stock. The made in USA caps were easy to identify because they lacked New Era's trademark visor stickers. This was the retail debut for the made in Hialeah caps and most likely this will be the most common way they will ever show up. Since the made in USA caps were not made for retail, I wonder where they came from. Were these leftovers from the factory? Were these leftovers from the teams and they were sent back to New Era? Quite frankly I have no idea, but it was interesting to find these surplus team issued caps at a discount price, even tough the selection was random and each store was hit or miss.
Another way that they can show up is when a certain cap is phased out. The Pirates phased out their "pillbox" caps in 2020. eBay seller "Bootonclub" is currently selling made in USA pillbox caps. The one that I received was made in Hialeah. I inquired about their stock and they informed me that their 7 1/4 and 7 3/8 stock were made in Hialeah and the rest were made in Derby. What most likely happened was this was New Era's leftover team stock that never made it to the team and was sent out to retail after the Pirates made the call to no longer wear them.
As for buying team issued caps directly from teams, that was another story. The pandemic hit in the spring and all teams shut down operations. Once the season started back up, very few teams were selling game used and team issued gear. Some teams were operating game used sales with only one person in charge. Teams that have third-party companies handle their game used gear were not selling anything at all as the third-party employees could not be at the stadium.
When game used caps showed up in 2020, it was the spring training caps at first. The 2020 spring training caps were highly publicized for being complete abominations. I had zero interest in buying any. When Jackie Robinson weekend passed, the first real game used caps of 2020 began to become available. I purchased a San Francisco Giants cap worn by Alex Dickerson, who made headlines this past season for receiving a false-positive Covid-19 test. The cap was made at Derby. Ironically, the Giants were also one of the first teams to offer the most game used equipment from the 2020 season despite California (especially the San Francisco Bay Area) having some of the most strict Covid-19 policies.
Made in USA postseason patch and 2020 World Series patch caps surfaced in retail, likely due to the fact that teams in the post season had been wearing the same styles for a long time and thus New Era still had caps made at Derby in their stock. I found this out through Hat Club, which had received some made in USA Rays World Series caps. By the time I got to the website, they were all sold out. I called the Rays team store, which still had the alternate Devil Rays caps with World Series patches in my size.
When the season ended, I reached out to every team that had new on-field caps for 2020 to inquire about game used caps (Padres, Rangers, Brewers, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Nationals). Unfortunately, I hit a brick wall. Some teams didn't reply, some responded with somewhat sarcastic one-sentence responses saying that they didn't have any for sale, and some offered to put me on a "list" to be notified if/when they become available. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. However, it was 2020, what can you do? With fanfests appearing to be canceled, I'll just have to keep waiting until the other caps become available. Some game worn 2020 cap are slowly trickling onto MLB Auctions, so maybe more will eventually show up.
I did have some luck. I was able to acquire regular season non-special event new-for-2020 team issued caps from the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals slightly modified their classic cap logo for 2020. However, the transaction with the Cardinals was slightly challenging because they did not sell the 2020 caps by size; they sold them by player. I basically chose players at random but luckily I was satisfied with what I received.
The only other new style I was able to acquire were some gamers from the San Diego Padres, but they were from the Jackie Robinson weekend celebration and included the "42" patch on the side. The 42 patch caps have been the most widely-available game used caps of 2020, with a large number of teams making them available during the season or following its conclusion. Aside from the Padres, I was able to acquire game used 42 patch caps from the aforementioned Giants and Cubs as well, but I had seen several other teams make them available.
Much to my shock, upon receiving the Padres caps I noticed that they were made at the Derby plant. The Padres did not unveil their new caps and uniforms until five months after the plant closure. New Era must have had at least roughly six months notice of the new cap designs in order to have these made before the plant closure. The Cardinals caps that I received were made in Florida. Whenever the other team issued new 2020 styles become available I will have to investigate and see if they were made at Derby or not.
In the meantime, I've been raiding eBay and my local malls for remaining made in USA caps in my size that I never got around to buying. So far I've managed to buy most of what I wanted but the selection is drying up. There are still a few that I need. Hopefully I'll find them before they're too hard to find.
In other brand news, Ebbets Field Flannels put out many stellar caps this year, but among them was my favorite, the 1964 San Jose Bees. Their version was based off of an original that I own that was worn by Tom Burgmier in 1964. I was beyond ecstatic when I saw that they had been released and immediately bought several.
Let's hope for better selection and success in 2021!