Saturday, December 05, 2009

Baseball place No. 75: Distant Replays; and No. 75A: Gerry Cosby's and the first real jersey


Back in the day, you couldn’t go buy a baseball jersey at any strip mall or place an order for any team at MLB.com.

It took a special store to have such things.

Josh Pahagian takes us to a jersey store, Distant Replays in Atlanta, as place No. 75 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Sounds like a neat place, full of retro shirts, caps and jerseys. They have a nice Web site, too. But I’ve never been to the store.

But it reminded me of another store that, when I was younger, almost seemed as good as a trip to Cooperstown.

Alternative Place No. 75A: Gerry Cosby’s in Westbury, N.Y.

I love baseball jerseys about as much as the game itself. I’ve always paid close attention to what players were wearing, taking notice of every slight change and patch. The uniforms worn on the fronts of baseball cards were studied just as closely as the statistics on the back.

Growing up in the 1970s, there weren’t many places where kids could obtain something that looked like a real baseball jersey. Obtaining the real thing was beyond comprehension, of course.

And I had my assortment of Mets t-shirts, sometimes with SEAVER 41 emblazoned with iron-on letters across the back.

Then I heard that polyester versions of the jerseys in kids’ sizes were for sale. Naturally, I became somewhat obsessed with this, and my parents knew about Cosby’s.

I remember the first time we went to the store, which seemed to be filled mostly with hockey equipment. But there was a section of shelves filled with replica jerseys.

And the best part was that the store didn’t just have the Mets, which were the obvious and automatic first purchase. But there seemed to be all the teams. This was a slice of baseball heaven, right there in Westbury.

I remember making the clerk pull down shirt after shirt, building a pile of polyester on the glass-topped counter for me to touch and ponder.

And in that glass were the real deal, actual authentic jerseys. I was amazed that a person could buy such a thing.

Needless to say, my birthday and Christmas want lists for the next years were to be filled right there at Cosby’s.

Before long, I had acquired the Dodgers and Padres, Expos and Phillies, Giants and, best of all, a rainbow-striped Astros replica.

Kids in school didn’t get it. I remember one classmate looking at me in total disbelief and disgust, saying, “Why are you wearing an Astros jersey?”

The answer, of course, is that if you can come into possession of an Astros rainbow jersey, you wear it proudly. Duh.

In 1984 I received what might still be considered the best Christmas gift ever. Naturally, it came from Cosby’s.

I remember exactly where I was sitting in my parents’ den when I opened the box containing a real, live Mets home jersey, the pull-over with the racing stripes.

It was magical. And it was almost incomprehensible that I could own the very same jersey the Mets wear on the field.
We added the anniversary patch in 1986.

Naturally, this jersey was constantly and considered suitable attire or any occasion – including proposing to my wife. True!

I’ve collected many other major and minor league jerseys since, both authentic and game-worn. There was a time when they were semi-affordable, especially if I could find a good sale. Those days have passed.

And we went back to Cosby’s for several years because they could customize jerseys with the proper letters and numbers. Let’s just say there must have been much celebrating at Cosby’s when the Mets obtained Eddie Murray.

The first and most-special jersey no longer fits, but I was proud to pass it down to my son, who wore it to his first home Mets game when we went to Citi Field last year. It’s treats it with the respect a family heirloom deserves.

I believe the Cosby’s in Westbury is long gone, and I recently learned that the Madison Square Garden store has moved. The company’s Web site indicates it still sells all sorts of equipment.

I can’t tell if it still sells jerseys, but I hope so.

4 comments:

Tim W. said...

It's amazing how young you look. Don't get me wrong, you are aging nicely. It's just that you start to think, where did all that time go?
Nice pics Dave, keep up the good work!
TW GB

G-Fafif said...

Bought my wife her engagement jacket (trainer's model, white satin, like the one Tom McKenna wore in the team pictures) at the Westbury store. Skirted the site of the MSG store recently, never thinking to peek to see if it was still there. Just two blocks away, but kind of shocking.

Great remembrance of an otherwise unnoted NY sports institution.

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