Thursday, March 30, 2006 | 6:36 a.m.
If Mike Moorby had played football in the defunct XFL, I have a pretty good idea of what esoteric nickname he might have put on the back of his jersey:
He Hate They.
"They," in Moorby's case, is the New York Yankees, and although his dislike for the Bronx Bombers is deeper than the outfield with A-Rod, Matsui and Jason Giambi coming up, that doesn't set Moorby apart from any other Boston Red Sox fan.
What does set him apart is that he has turned his Yankee-hater passion into a profitable business venture.
Moorby was still wallowing in a bowl of clam chowder and a six-pack of Sam Adams after Aaron Boone's home run denied his beloved "Sawx" a World Series berth in 2003 when he sketched out what would become the official Yankees Hater logo - an interlocking "Y" and "H" that looks suspiciously like the Yankees' famous NY logo - only Moorby's has horns on it.
Eventually, he got around to putting the logo on a red-and-navy (the Red Sox colors) baseball cap and had a few dozen stitched.
"I thought I was going to lose every penny I put in," said Moorby, who when he's not hating the Yankees works as a financial adviser in New Jersey.
But then, as he put it, while watching March Madness unfold with a crew of his fellow Yankees Haters (and one misguided Yankees Lover) at a poolside cabana at Treasure Island, what had been "a highly orchestrated practical joke blew into something big."
That happened in April 2004, when almost as an afterthought, he sent a box of Yankees Hater caps to the Red Sox clubhouse with first baseman Kevin Millar's name on it. With his unshaven look and down-and-dirty style between the lines, Millar, Moorby thought, might find the humor in the Yankees Hater caps. Maybe he might even wear one.
Yeah, and maybe next time, Bill Buckner fields Mookie Wilson's nubber and steps on first base for the third out.
So imagine Moorby's surprise when the Boston Herald photographed not Millar, but Boston ace Curt Schilling wearing one of his caps at a Bruins hockey game on the same night the ESPN cameras spotted Schilling sitting in the stands.
"I got a call that said 'you'd better check out SportsCenter,' " Moorby recalled. "I was incredulous. I was getting so many calls, I had to leave work."
It wasn't long before Moorby set up a Web site (YankeesHater.com) and began offering the hats to fans. Although the red-and-blue Red Sox model is still the biggest seller, there are versions of the cap in the colors of some of the Yankees' other traditional rivals, such as the Orioles and Mariners. And of course, the crosstown Mets.
The hats have become so popular that Moorby has received a brushback pitch from both Major League Baseball and the Yankees, claiming that his caps constitute some sort of trademark infringement.
That's more amazin' than the '69 Mets. Baseball has guys trotting around the bases with syringes stuck in their buttocks, and it's wasting time and money trying to shut down a guy selling baseball caps out of the trunk of his car.
Legal experts have told ESPN.com that MLB and the Yankees don't have a Cubs-chance-in October of winning the dispute.
Still, Moorby said he was tickled when David Ortiz was interviewed in the Red Sox's 2004 championship DVD - the one endorsed and sold by Major League Baseball - wearing a YankeesHater cap.
While he owes it all to Millar (the straw who stirred the drink, Moorby says), Schilling and that photo, Moorby said Las Vegas also deserves a mention in the box score.
"During our March Madness 2004 trip, I gave prototype caps to several members of our group," he said. "We received great feedback at the time, and that led us to believe we had something.
"A little more than a month later, Schilling wore the cap."
Even though Moorby grew up in Bennington, Vt., smack in the middle of Red Sox country, I played devil's advocate - or at least Alex Rodriguez - and asked which came first: his disdain for pinstripes or his infatuation with making a quick buck.
"Sure, the idea was to build this into something that has commercial value, and the way to do that is to license it," Moorby said.
"But I still absolutely hate them."