If you were so inclined, you could head over to MLB.com's online store and design yourself a t-shirt with a name, number and logo of your favorite team. If your tastes ran a little juvenile, you could design a shirt that read "NUTS 69" and wear it proudly to the next home game.
You couldn't, however, order a shirt with "ADENHART 34" on the back of it to wear as a tribute to the late Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart. Or a shirt with "MANTLE 7," "WILLIAMS 9" or "MAYS 24." Try and customize such a shirt and you'll get a message telling you that "Some entries are prohibited due to guidelines for past and present player names."
Deadspin, which received an e-mail from an Angels fan who wanted an Adenhart shirt, reports that Major League Baseball told them that the system won't allow use of real players who aren't on current rosters.
Except that you can get "NETTLES 9" and "MARTINEZ 24" Yankees shirts and a "STRAWBERRY 18" Mets shirt. And, furthermore, you can get an Adenhart shirt with any number other than 34, which doesn't make much sense if the whole idea is to prevent people from using past and present player names.
There's no rhyme or reason to it. You can get Strawberry, but not Barry Bonds. You can't get Mantle, but can get a Gil Hodges Mets jersey. Profane and original is okay, but honoring a fallen player isn't okay. It's enough to make you wonder if cats are chasing dogs at the league's offices.