It is now officially early October, and while others are primarily focused on spooky season, I would like to take a moment to wish a very happy Major League Baseball postseason to all who celebrate.
Just last night, the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game, finalizing the American League Division Series brackets as the Tampa Bay Rays versus the Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox versus the Houston Astros. In the National League, the Atlanta Braves are set to meet the Milwaukee Brewers, while the best-record-in-the-league San Francisco Giants will face the Los Angeles Dodgers or the St. Louis Cardinals, pending the result of tonight’s National League Wild Card Game.
Since birth, my father has taught me the sweet, sweet suffering of being a ride-or-die Chicago Cubs fan (with “die” being my most recent state of Cubs fan-hood). As you already know, my beautiful Cubbies did not make the 2021 baseball post-season, but this year I’m still enthralled.
Why? Simply: Joc Pederson and his pearl necklace.
Though the Atlanta Brave had worn them in a game just a few days earlier, Joc’s iconic fashion choice first drew league-wide attention on October 2, when the Jewish American baseball player went up to bat against the Mets and pounded a home-run to deep right centerfield. As he rounded the bases, I think it’s fair to say that all eyes were fixated on the large string of pearls jauntily bouncing around his neck.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) October 3, 2021
Now, it’s important to note that wearing flashy chains during games is extremely common practice by athletes in Major League Baseball and across many other sports. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a male athlete wear a string of pearls during athletic competition before. In post-game interviews, reporters jumped at the chance to ask Joc about the significance behind his choice of bling, leading to my all-time favorite comment made by a professional athlete:
When someone asked Joc Pederson about the pearl necklace this week, he said there was no story behind it, that he’s just “a bad bitch.”
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) October 3, 2021
Whether Joc realizes it or not, his decision to wear pearls during a game, a piece of jewelry which is often associated with 1950s-era housewives and thus femininity, is a subtle act of transgressing sports fashion norms, the pervasive hyper masculinity of professional sports, and ultimately pushes gender boundaries in an extraordinary way. In short, it’s an act that took a lot of chutzpah.
Joc’s Jewish heritage comes from his mother Shelly Pederson (nee Cahn), whose family tree includes Jewish immigrants from France, Russia, Germany and Poland, and also includes Sephardic roots. Though Joc and his siblings did not have a specifically Jewish upbringing, Joc played for Team Israel in the qualifying rounds of the 2013 World Baseball Classic and in 2020 was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of Northern California.
The Braves have yet to play again since Joc homered in his pearls, but when they take on the Brewers on October 8, I sincerely hope he will continue to be the “bad bitch” of baseball.