Come with me for a moment back to a simpler time. We're having a lazy, carefree afternoon at the ballpark, smelling the freshly cut grass, hearing the crack as bat meets ball and riding an opposing pitcher with catcalls from the bleachers. Is there an American of age who doesn't think back with some fond memory of baseball, or its kid sister, softball?
I remember a time during college when I was one of two women on a coed softball team. When I got up to bat in the last inning, looking like a 90-pound weakling, all the men moved in, some almost to home plate. With them breathing down my neck, a high pitch came. And . . . I popped it right over second base, caught everyone off guard and drove in the winning run!
Many of us keep moments like this lodged in our hearts. This may, in part, explain the interest in clothes inspired by the nation's national pastime. We've seen celebs -- Spike Lee comes to mind -- wearing baseball caps, jerseys and jackets for years. "Field of Dreams" helped fuel the look. And rappers including Kris Kross, who wears baseball jerseys backward, have made baseball gear hip.
Since the summer movie "A League of Their Own" has turned into a hit, watch for baseball-inspired fashions to remain popular through the fall, the holidays and probably into late spring.
More than a year ago, New York designer Byron Lars based his first collection on baseball. Another New York designer, Nicole Miller, added a curve ball to her spring line this year with a baseball group.
"There's nothing more American than baseball," says Donna Karan, who steals the major league look for her upcoming DKNY All-Star holiday collection.
Ms. Karan features black sequined baseball jerseys and white bodysuits that have her logo scripted across the front where you would expect a team name. She also includes baseball jerseys in silk or cotton with the DKNY script.
Sports fans should know designers are as apt to steal a hot look as Rickey Henderson is to take second. Do they care we'll be into the football and basketball season while they're pitching baseball clothes? Heck, no, they're making fashion, not uniforms.
Ms. Miller goes so far as to make a tie in her sports motif neckwear collection that depicts Babe Ruth as he appeared on his 1933 Goudey baseball card. But it reads "Georgia Peach" above him, a moniker that, of course, refers to the legendary Ty Cobb.
So Ms. Miller struck out on that one. But she hit a home run with the white tank dress she designed with red top-stitching that looks like a baseball seam. Geena Davis wore it to the premiere of "A League of Their Own."
"I was into baseball before it was fashionable, because I've always been into baseball," Ms. Miller says. "I always played softball as a kid. I was always a bit of a tomboy."
In the past, Ms. Miller has inaugurated new prints -- inspired by Cooperstown -- on boxer shorts, caps, ties and camp shirts that were auctioned off at parties with the proceeds going to the Baseball Assistance Team, an organization that helps former baseball players in need. And for three years, she has sponsored annual fashion shows with the wives of the New York Mets to raise money to fight leukemia.
San Francisco designer Nicholas Graham of Joe Boxer also likes baseball motifs.
"One of our best-selling patterns are the balls and bats," says Mr. Graham.
You'll find Joe Boxer red cotton, baseball-and-bat print pajamas in men's departments this summer, and for fall, Joe Boxer Boy! knit briefs with brown and white baseball-and-bat prints.
"Get a Grip!" is written on the back of Joe Boxer T-shirts with the graphic of a guy sliding into base and the infielder reaching to catch the throw. "Baby, I'm Safe" is on the back of another T-shirt with the same graphic. These are part of his new fall collection, too.
Some people with a passion for baseball are turning to vintage baseball jerseys.
"It takes people back to a time in their youth when baseball was different," says Don Steele of Mitchell and Ness Nostalgia Co., the Philadelphia-based makers of the Cooperstown Collection. "Players today seem to play more for money and not for the love of the game. Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio were heroes, and people who played for the love of the game. The shirts we make can be associated with these glory days in the game of baseball."
The Cooperstown Collection is a line of authentic reproductions of old-time major league wool jerseys. The styles pre-date 1975 and have hardball prices: $175 to $230.
Ebbets Field Flannels, a Seattle-based company, makes authentic wool flannel recreations of the pre-1970 minor and Negro League jerseys for $130 to $175.
"We were the first ones to do Negro League jerseys, and that's become very hot," says Jerry Cohen, president of Ebbets Field Flannels.
"The San Francisco Seals and Oaks and the Missions are three of the teams we do," he said. "All our jerseys are exact re-creations in wool flannel -- now they use polyester, double-knits -- with manual embroideries and lettering that is hand-cut and -sewn. Nothing is mass-produced."
The best-selling teams for Ebbets Field Flannels for the minor leagues are the Hollywood Stars, San Francisco Seals, and Portland Beavers, and for the Negro League the Kansas City Monarchs and Homestead Grays.
In the Cooperstown Collection, best-sellers are the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and the old Chicago White Sox. The New York Highlanders and 1905 New York Giants, which are both black jerseys, are favorites among women and young kids. This is most likely because of the color and not team loyalty.