In yesterday’s Ticker I linked to this old Red Wings photo and explained that the sleeve patch was for the Detroit sestercentennial (yes, that’s the term for a 250th anniversary).
That led Gridiron Uniform Database co-founder Bill Schaefer to post a comment pointing out that the Lions wore that same patch in 1951. He wondered if the Tigers had also worn the patch that year, and it looks like they did.
That got me wondering: How many other examples are there of a patch that has been worn by multiple teams in the same city? A few of us kicked this around in yesterday’s comments and came up with the following:
|1930||Boston||Boston tricentennial||Red Sox, Braves||Arguably the greatest patch in MLB history.
|1938||New York||1939 New York World's Fair||Dodgers, Giants, Yankees||Although the New York teams wore these patches in 1938, there were no World's Fair patches in 1939 — the year of the Fair itself. That's presumably because all MLB teams were wearing the baseball centennial patch that year. ... Also, note that this patch was actually two patches — the trylon and perisphere icons and the separate "1939" strip.
|1951||Detroit||Detroit sestercentennial||Red Wings, Lions, Tigers||
|1968||Chicago||Illinois sesquicentennial||Cubs, White Sox||
|1975||Boston||Massachusetts bicentennial||Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics (warm-ups only)||Patch was rendered in team colors.
|1975-76||Denver||Colorado centennial||Broncos, Nuggets (on the shorts)||For reasons that aren't clear to me, the Broncos wore this patch for one game in late 1975, but not in ’76.
|1976||Philadelphia||Philadelphia celebrates America's bicentennial||Phillies, Eagles, Atoms||Here's a better look at the patch.
|1976||Montreal||Montreal Summer Olympics||Canadiens, Expos||Okay, so it's not quite the same patch, but at least it's the same logo. I say it qualifies.
|1979-80||New York State||Lake Placid Winter Olympics||Sabres, Islanders||This one is state-based, not city-based, but it's the same basic concept. Oddly, the Rangers didn't wear this patch.
|1981||Los Angeles||Los Angeles bicentennial||Dodgers, Aztecs||Interesting to see a patch that's purely graphic, with no typography. Here's a closer look at the patch. That one appeared on Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss's jersey.
|1984||Toronto||Toronto sesquicentennial||Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Argonauts||
|1988||Calgary||Calgary Winter Olymics||Flames, Stampeders||
Interesting, right? Are there more examples out there? I’m sure there are. In fact, with the explosion of “Expressing support for [x]” patches, I bet there are lots of very recent examples. But remember: We’re looking only for cases that involve multiple teams in the same city wearing the same patch (not just expressing support for the same cause). If you have some of those to contribute, let’s have ’em.
As an aside: This is the second day in a row that I’ve inserted a table into the blog. Aren’t tables great? I love tables!
(Big thanks to Bill Schaefer, Mike Engle, Matt B, Chris H, and everyone else who contributed to the discussion of this topic yesterday.)
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ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, my latest ESPN column is about the unusually large concentration of uni-notable events on the upcoming calendar.
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Raffle results: The winner of the Harlem Globetrotters jersey is Chris Bakewell. When I asked him to make a $25 donation to the Peace Corps and send me proof of having made it, as stipulated in yesterday’s raffle terms, he responded by making a $100 donation! “Ugly jersey, great cause,” he said — well put. Congrats to Chris, and thanks to all who entered.
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Two Dollarama: A few weeks ago I reprinted an ode to the JFK half-dollar, which I had originally written back in 1997. At the conclusion of the piece, I wrote that once we got the half-dollar back into mainstream use, “Then we’ll get started on the $2 bill.”
I never got around to promoting or writing about the $2 bill (or getting the 50-cent piece back into mainstream use, for that matter), but now, thankfully, someone else has. The lovely and talented Heather McCabe recently launched a site called Two Buckaroo, a daily blog that chronicles the reactions Heather gets from cashiers, bartenders, and so on as she pays for small purchases with $2 bills.
Many of the cashiers Heather engages with say something like, “Wow, didn’t they stop making those years ago? Are they still legal?” Maybe you’re thinking that right now yourself. In fact, the Jefferson $2 bill is still very much in production, as it has been for most of the time since 1932 (there was a 10-year gap when it was discontinued, from 1966 to 1976, but then it was brought back to life). But much like the JFK half-dollar, it isn’t used much in everyday transactions and doesn’t get much respect.
Two Buckaroo aims to change that, or at least provide some good food for thought. It’s a genius concept for a media project — one I wish I’d thought of myself. (And yes, a couple of the most recent entries are a little raunchy — although certainly not veering into NSFW territory or anything like that — but that’s just an odd blip, not an indication that Heather plans to be working blue.)
Meanwhile, in a weird coincidence, reader Art Savokinas sent in the following submission yesterday: “A local pizza place in Exeter, Pennsylvania, uses half-dollars to advertise by placing stickers on the back of them. They have been doing it for over 20 years.” Hmmmm — I like that they’re putting JFKs into circulation, but I don’t like that they’re defacing them. Two sides of the same coin, eh?
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Research query: Do you collect those seasonal Hess truck toys, or maybe you know someone who collects them, or maybe you used to collect them when you were a kid, or maybe your brother collected them, or maybe you have fond memories of finding one of them under the tree at Christmas, or maybe you stumbled into a big display of them at the Hess station and knocked them over, or maybe you whacked someone on the head with one of them? Basically, if you’ve had any experiences whatsoever with Hess trucks, I’d like to talk with you. Thanks.
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Tick-Tock: Today’s Ticker was compiled and written by Mike Chamernik.
Baseball News: Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Jerry Blevins was traded from the A’s to the Nats yesterday and responded to the news with a funny uni-centric tweet (from Michael McLaughlin). … Apparently Baseball Reference doesn’t know if the Marlins’ secondary color is blue or orange (from Britton Thomas). … “Great mesh pill box,” says Mikey Brethauer. … Albie Pearson wore No. 6 during his only two years with the Senators in the late 1950s, but David Firestone found a 1958 card where he’s wearing No. 7. … You’ve heard of birds on the bat? Check out Rice’s new jersey — owls on the bat! … It seems that former outfielder (and current Rays first base coach) George Hendrick has a thing for visors and windbreakers (thanks, Jake Kessler). … Check out this Pearl Jam concert video — was Eddie Vedder’s T-shirt based on the old Roberto Clemente memorial patch?” If so, I rather like it for its simplicity,” says James Ashby. … Jerry Wolper’s latest find: a 1955 Braves highlight film.
NFL News: The Saints are selling a team-branded football with “Since 1960” on it. “The Saints played their first game in 1967 (and I think the franchise was granted in 1966),” says Scott Held. “Someone at the slave factory making the footballs must’ve gotten a smudged fax or something.” … These are some of the zaniest mascots you’ll ever see. It’s no wonder most of them didn’t stick around (from Phil). … “I’ve seen the Bears wishbone logo get split or partally broken off before, but this is the first time I’ve seen the whole thing gone,” says Robert Bacon. “Guess it was so cold that the decal, frozen solid, just popped off after hit.” … Rob Selg found a pair of Hamburg Sea Devils shorts at a Salvation Army. The Sea Devils played in NFL Europe from 2005 to 2007. … “Still seven months to go,” says Brinke about the construction of the Niners’ new stadium, “but at least they have the sponsor logo up!” … Even though Peyton Manning was stuck in the training room during last Wednesday’s practice, he still wore his helmet in the cold tub so he could listen to play calls from his offensive coordinator.
College Football News: A reader who goes by Sernks sends along a photo of a collection of “Beat [School]” and other buttons. … UCF will wear white unis for the Tortilla Chip Bowl. … Chris Flinn notes that even junior colleges have bowl game sponsors. … Here’s the patch for the Military-Industrial Complex Bowl, and here’s what Colorado State and Washington State will be wearing for the Branded Activewear Bowl. … A guy on Twitter (@Hokie20) is trying to get UCLA and Virginia Tech to go color-vs-color for the Car Manufacturer Bowl (from Evan Stewart). … Check out the uniforms Temple wore in the 1979 Garden State Bowl. “I was pleased to see that Temple’s use of the block/checker pattern today is a throwback to a design they used to wear,” says Patrick Reynell. “But what is the deal with the huge white stripe on the shoulder pads? Just doesn’t go with the pant pattern at all.”
Hockey News: One of the linesmen in Tuesday night’s Blackhawks/Stars game wore an outdated jersey with no number (from Steven Luft). … Kyle Geralds created an interactive Prezi page that breaks down all the uniforms from the original Mighty Ducks film. Really detailed work, highly recommended. … The Penguins will unveil their Stadium Series uni on Friday at 2pm Eastern. For now they’re offering teasers, like this patch. … Here’s how Upper Deck makes NHL trading cards (from Trevor Alexander). … Charles Noerenberg checks in with a few items: the Wild altered the lace-up collar on their green jersey. It’s unclear if it actually is laced or if the lace is just sewn in, but it’s undoubtedly there to evoke a vintage feel; two Wild players wore helmets with mismatched shades of green; and last Wednesday Flames captain Mark Giordano appeared in a postgame interview wearing the team’s new alternate jersey, which was notable because they’d worn their regular home jerseys during the game! Did someone have Giordano don the alt just to goose jersey sales?
Soccer News: Nigeria’s World Cup kit was leaked (from Trevor Williams). … “There was soccer uniform-themed lingerie at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which was absolutely ridiculous,” says Yusuke Toyoda. “I mean, nobody uses a truncated icosahedron ball any more.” … Yusuke also noticed that Napoli wore its yellow third kit instead of its home blues on Wednesday.
College Hoops News: According to This page (type ctrl+f “Untucked”), the upcoming Sundance Film Festival will include a short documentary on Marquette’s iconic 1977 uniforms. Would this be the first movie devoted to a uniform design? A milestone in cinema! (From John Cary.)
Grab Bag: The University of Arizona is forcing a Virginia high school to change its logo (from Tommy Turner). … Schutt helmets will have some really wide stripes in 2014 (from Michael Princip). … Anthony Nuccio saw some Nike shoes and a shirt designed by a Native American artist at the Field Museum in Chicago. … A recent episode of How I Met Your Mother showed two characters wearing Washington Generals jerseys with non-matching uniform numbers (from Chris Flinn). … Not sports-related but a fun read: Deadspin critiqued the new Williams-Sonoma catalog (and, by extension, the whole lifestyle-porn industry). … Semi-uniform related and somewhat amusing: A Masshole wearing a Larry Bird jersey/suit snuck down to ringside and even got into the ring post-fight at the Pacquiao-Rios bout in late November. … A story on how a girl’s old Bat Mitzvah T-shirt ended up in Africa includes this line from the the girl’s husband: “I haven’t read the NPR story [on how American clothes are donated to Africa] yet, but when I see news photos about Africa, I’ve seen people wearing Chicago Bulls jerseys; I’m sure there’s not an NBA store in Botswana” (from Adam Soclof).
I should have had this for yesterday’s entry, but nobody had brought it to my attention: Right at the start of Monday night’s 76ers/Clippers game, Sixers guard Tony Wroten grabbed onto Clippers center DeAndre Jordan’s jersey and pulled the “Los Angeles” insignia right off of it. During the next stoppage of play, Jordan was provided with a new jersey. You can see all of this in the video clip above.
Two thoughts about this:
1) I guess this would qualify as an argument in favor of distinct-lettered chest marks, instead of interconnected scripts. If the same thing had happened to a player on, say, the Spurs, he would have lost only one letter instead of the whole insignia.
2) Interesting to see that they had another jersey with Jordan’s number and NOB at the ready. Is this standard? Do players routinely change into new jerseys at halftime? If so, why does anyone ever end up in a blood jersey? I’ve emailed the Clippers and a few other NBA teams to see if they can answer those questions — no response yet. If any NBA team staffers are reading this, please fill us in. … Update: Just heard back from the Clippers: “Yes, we always have extra jerseys available for all players.” So there you go.
Meanwhile, speaking of in-game mishaps, there was a weird situation in last night’s Red Wings/Panthers game in Florida, as a pane of Plexiglass broke and had to be replaced. But for some reason the repair crew couldn’t remove the protective wrap from the new pane of glass:
Contrary to what the broadcasters said (and what hordes of fans then began parroting on Twitter), that isn’t plywood — it’s a standard Plexiglass pane, but they couldn’t remove the protective wrap. This created a very odd spectacle (photo courtesy of Phil, click to enlarge):
I’m told that they were finally able to remove the wrap in between the third period and overtime.
Meanwhile: I have a new ESPN column today (which I thought was going to run tomorrow) about the unusually large concentration of uni-centric events on the upcoming calendar.
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’Tis the Season: College football’s bowl season is now upon us. Unfortunately, almost all of the bowl games either have names that have been modified by corporate sponsors (the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl) or have names that are exclusively corporate-sponsored (the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl).
In past years, I’ve sporadically mocked the bowl naming process by referring to, say, the Chicken Sandwich Bowl (instead of the Chick-fil-A Bowl), or whatever. But I haven’t been thorough or consistent about it. That will change this year, as I’ve established a new name for each of this season’s corporate-named bowl games. Here’s the full list, in chronological order:
|OFFICIAL NAME||UNI WATCH NAME
|Gildan New Mexico Bowl||Branded Activewear Bowl
|Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl||Automotive Lubricants and Fluids Bowl
|Famous Idaho Potato Bowl||Tuber Bowl
|R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl||18-Wheeler Bowl
|Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl||Embarrassingly Named Restaurant Chain Bowl
|Sheraton Hawaii Bowl||Hotel Bowl
|Little Caesars Pizza Bowl||"Pizza" Bowl
|S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl||Credit Union Bowl
|Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman||Military-Industrial Complex Bowl
|Texas Bowl||Texas Bowl
|Fight Hunger Bowl||Fight Hunger Bowl
|New Era Pinstripe Bowl||Baseball Cap Bowl
|Belk Bowl||Department Store Bowl
|Russell Athletic Bowl||Sportswear Bowl
|Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl||Sports Bar Bowl
|Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl||Helicopter Bowl
|Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl||Mortgage Broker Bowl
|Valero Alamo Bowl||Petroleum Bowl
|National University Holiday Bowl||We Don't Even Have a Football Team But Somehow We're Sponsoring This Bowl
|AdvoCare V100 Bowl||Nutritional Supplements Bowl
|Hyundai Sun Bowl||Car Manufacturer Bowl
|AutoZone Liberty Bowl||Auto Parts Bowl
|Chick-fil-A Bowl||Chicken Sandwich Bowl
|TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl||Tax Preparation Bowl
|Heart of Dallas Bowl ||Heart of Dallas Bowl
|Capital One Bowl||Bank and Credit Card Bowl
|Outback Bowl||Steakhouse Bowl
|Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO||Rose Bowl
|Tostitos Fiesta Bowl||Tortilla Chip Bowl
|Allstate Sugar Bowl|
|Discover Orange Bowl||Credit Card Bowl
|AT&T Cotton Bowl||Telecom Bowl
|BBVA Compass Bowl|
|GoDaddy Bowl||Web Hosting Bowl
The names shown in the right column are the names that I (and all other Uni Watch writers) will be using when referring to this year’s bowl games. If you want to keep the names handy for future reference, I invite you to print out the full list.
I can already anticipate some of your reactions to this, so let’s shift into FAQ mode:
These alternate names are really annoying.
I agree — but they’re not nearly as annoying as the bowl-naming process. As you can see on my list, games without corporate naming sponsors, like the Texas Bowl and the Fight Hunger Bowl, will be referred to by their proper names. If and when other games go that route, we’ll be happy to refer to them by their proper names as well.
You’re taking it too far. Instead of referring to the Allstate Sugar Bowl as the Insurance Bowl, just call it the Sugar Bowl.
True, that approach would stick it to the corporate sponsor, but it would also allow the game and its organizers to maintain a certain degree of dignity — a dignity that they forfeited when they sold out their name to the highest bidder. My intent here is not just to mock the sponsors but to mock the entire bowl-naming process.
If that’s the case, then how come your Naming Wrongs T-shirts said things like “I Still Call It Comiskey” and “I Still Call It Mile High”? Shouldn’t they have said, “I’m Calling It Cell Phone Stadium” and “I’m Calling It Car Insurance Field”?
Fair point. But stadiums and their names are local civic assets that mean a lot to local fans. Our intent with the Naming Wrongs series wasn’t just to mock the system of corporate naming rights but to provide hometown fans with a way of reclaiming what had been taken from them. I don’t see bowl game names as the same kind of thing. Well, maybe they’re the same kind of thing for the community where the game takes place, but not for the schools that will be participating in the games or the national audience that will be watching. You may disagree, and that’s fine.
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Special One-Day Raffle: I am occasionally on the receiving end of free jerseys, T-shirts, and the like. Last month, unsurprisingly, one of those items was camouflage-patterned. Here, take a look (and click to enlarge):
I’m not going to wear it myself, for obvious reasons (plus it’s too big), and I don’t feel comfortable giving it away in our annual year-end raffle. So I was going to drop it off at our local fabric recycling depot, but then I had a better idea.
So here’s the deal: I will raffle off this jersey today, provided that the winner is willing to make (and can show proof of having made) a $25 donation to the Peace Corps, thereby symbolizing that not all soldiers are heroes and not all heroes are soldiers. (And yes, the apostrophe catastrophe on that page is disappointing, but I’m willing to cut the Peace Corps some slack.)
Jersey specs: Made of lightweight nylon/polyester/Spandex mesh; tagged as a large; measures 24″ from pit to pit and 34″ from the top of the back collar to the bottom hem; has No. 1 on the back; all graphics are sublimated, except for the American flag patch on the front, which is sewn on. (Sorry, I don’t have the matching shorts.)
If you want to enter the raffle and are willing to make the Peace Corps donation if you win, send a blank email with your name in the subject line to the raffle address by 10pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.
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Baseball News: Looks like Rajai Davis, who usually wears stirrups, may be headed to Motown. Who was the last Tiger to wear stirrups? (From Matt Hoffman.) … Tyler Kepner is down at the MLB winter meetings, where he saw a socks/stirrups display by Twin City Knitting. … Who’s that in the Little League uni? None other than indie-rocker and Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle. “That’s from Claremont, California, circa 1979, when I actually made a decent play or two,” he says. “The magic of that Mets name, no doubt. The team was coached by Robert Mezey, a poet of some note and the man who, many years later, taught me poetry at college level. Without his tutelage I would not have become the writer I became; huge figure in my life.” Jeez — my Little League coaches were all plumbers and electricians. … Curtis Granderson, newly acquired by the Mets, had a pinstriped No. 3 jersey for his introductory press conference yesterday. … Speaking of the Mets, can someone please explain to me why 64-year-old skipper Terry Collins was wearing this godawful purple outfit at the winter meetings? Sheesh! … Tim Hudson, recently acquired by the Giants, will be wearing No. 17. … The logo for the Twins’ annual TwinsFest event features the mascot characters on their logo wearing earmuffs and shaking hands above a frozen Mississippi River (from Mike Klug). … Crummy image quality but still cool: an old Salt Lake City team with a bee chest logo (big thanks to Bill Francis). … Patrick Walsh DIY’d himself this awesome St. Looey Cards Christmas stocking, complete with stripes! Nicely done. … This is pretty awesome: As the Royals celebrated Steve Busby’s no-hitter in 1974, a scuzzy-looking fan ran onto the field, grabbed KC catcher Fran Healy’s cap right off his head, and tucked it into his jacket with a shifty look on his face. But then a KC coach (or player..?) confronted him and retrieved the cap. You can see the whole thing unfold in the first 35 seconds of this video (big thanks to Matthew Prigge):
Lots of other good stuff in that clip, too — the photographer with the cigarette dangling from his lip, the other photographer with the loud-patterned slacks, etc. Ah, the ’70s! … And speaking of video, here’s a major find: Jerry Wolper came across the official year-end highlight movie for the 1956 Kansas City A’s. “Lots of uni goodness, some All-Star Game footage, and some 1956 Americana too,” says Jerry. Here, check it out:
NFL News: Back on Monday I mentioned Andrew McKillop’s database of NFL snow games. Scott M.X. Turner was poking around on that page and found a link to a newspaper account of a 1950 Eagles/Giants game with the headline “Eagle Fans Chase Ref.” Yowza! “Sounds like the greatest game we never saw,” says Scott. … With the Super Bowl coming to NYC, the Transit Authority has designed a special transit map for the occasion (from Dave Rakowski).
College Football News: Here’s how Yankee Stadium is shaping up for the Baseball Cap Bowl. Additional view here (from Warren Junium). … In a related item, the head coaches of the two schools participating in that game — Rutgers and Notre Dame — posed for a very unfortunate photo-op yesterday. But hey, given A-Rod’s legal troubles, those may be the only No. 13 jerseys we see at Yankee Stadium for a while (from Dave Rakowski). … North Texas will wear black for the Heart of Dallas Bowl (from Chris Mycoskie). … Some great vintage college football program covers here (from Sean Clancy).
Hockey News: Reader Brian Thompson wondered what the story was behind the patch in this old Red Wings photo. So I went to the excellent NHL Patches site — a great and underappreciated resource — and found the answer. … Totally NSFW (or at least not for the squeamish): A player in a minor league game in Quebec took a skate blade to the cheek and suffered a seriously gruesome facial injury. Yikes! … Here are the very nice throwback jerseys for this week’s AHL Frozen Frontier game in Rochester (from Patrick Mackin).
Soccer News: Cerezo Osaka from the J-League will wear an all-pink jersey next year (from Thomas Fiers). … Not sure how many of these we may have covered already, but Trevor Williams sent along a batch of World Cup away kits (for all of these, scroll down to see the away kit): Spain, Germany, Argentina, Russia, and Japan. Also: New away kit for Sweden, although they aren’t in the Cup. … Several Turkish players are in hot water for wearing and displaying pro-Mandela undershirts the other day (thanks, Phil).
Basketball News: The Bobcats will unveil next season’s Hornets logos on Dec. 21. No mention of uniforms in that story, though. … I think we’ve seen this old photo of Oscar Robertson wearing a mask before. What we haven’t seen, I’m pretty sure, is this shot of the mask itself (great find by Jared Wheeler). … Here’s the logo for the D-League All-Star Game (from Conrad Burry). … Kansas player Andrew White III has RNOB (from Coleman Mullins).
Grab Bag: Here’s an article on unlucky uniforms (from Rob S.). … The magazine industry is bad and the bowling industry is worse, but the venerable Bowlers Journal just marked its 100th anniversary and is still going strong. … The Fruit Stripe trend has reached the world of high school basketball. That’s Albertville High School in Alabama. “Trust me, they’re just as ugly in person,” says Jonathan Lancaster. … Not sports-related, but thought-provoking and very entertaining: The Gawker brain trust had a length debate about whether the city of Detroit should sell its art collection. Good reader-posted comments, too. Recommended reading. … Ever wonder what Santa would look like if he got a brand makeover? Right, me neither, but here it is anyway (from Bernie Langer). … Here’s a good case for a new concept for ticket designs (from Sean Clancy). … New logo for Wrestlemania, if you’re into that kinda thing (from Trey Ashby). … Interesting cross-sport news from Leo Strawn Jr.: Melbourne FC — that’s an Aussie rules football team — will have “MCC” on its 2014 jerseys. “That stands for ‘Melbourne Cricket Club,’” explains Leo. “The footy team was spawned from the MCC, and to this day they share (along with other clubs) the Melbourne Cricket Ground.”
If you can’t see the slideshow, click here; to see a larger version of it, click here
At last month’s Uni Watch party, reader Walter Helfer brought along an old sketchbook filled with amazing MLB uniform illustrations that he’d done in the early 1980s — one page for each MLB team. They were beautiful, detailed, and annotated with all sorts of pithy commentary. This was essentially Uni Watch before Uni Watch was Uni Watch.
As soon as I saw Walter’s illustrations, I knew I wanted to feature them here on the site, so I asked him to send me a batch of scans, which you can see above. I also invited him to write a little something about them. Here’s what he submitted:
I was an artistic kid and had trouble wrapping my head around sports. Always threw to the wrong base and couldn’t hang onto the basketball to save my life! But something clicked in eighth grade and I embraced hockey. The colors and iconography appealed to me, plus I knew how to skate. Baseball only started to grab my attention around my senior year in high school — there began to be enough teams with garish uniforms that caught my eye. I also realized I enjoyed watching pitchers and being able to tell them apart by watching their windups.
Drawing athletes and uniforms turned out to be a great icebreaker and allowed me to introduce myself to new kids and to network. I welcomed a genre that allowed me to practice copying graphics and typefaces, and hopefully overcome my colorblindness. It now occurs to me that the baseball pictures were my earliest stab at rendering an entire league; when I tried to move on and complete other sports projects, the exercises took on a rote quality and I started to become bored.
I hope nobody takes umbrage at the snarky things I said about certain teams. By the same token, when I tried to praise something, it often came off as over-earnest and corny. Keep in mind that all of these were the work of a 20-year-old.
The more I looked through Walter’s work, the more questions I wanted to ask him, so I conducted an email interview with him. Here’s how it went:
Uni Watch: So these illustrations were done in 1982, when you were 20 years old. Is that accurate?
Walter Helfer [that's him at right]: Yes. I was a sophomore or junior in college. Drawing helped me to unwind between studies.
UW: What kind of art education did you have, if any, prior to doing these?
WH: Figure drawing in my first year of college; before that it was experimenting with paints and watercolors in high school, with some still life and sculpting. I have a vivid memory of a middle school art class where all the boys drew and colored in the football helmets of their favorite teams. That may have been the spark that turned me on to sports.
UW: Did you do all the drawings freehand, or did you employ tracing, projection, etc.?
WH: By this time I was drawing academically, building figures out of cylinders, spheres and cones, so yeah, it was freehand. I like tracing, but I had progressed beyond that point by the time I was seventeen.
UW: Did you use colored markers, colored pencils, paint, crayons, or what?
WH: You name it! Crayons were pretty well in my past. On a recommendation from my dad, I used Magic Markers. It was important to have a medium that dried quickly and wouldn’t come off on other sheets of paper when they rubbed together. You’ll notice t
>he white pinstripes on the Cubs’ road uniforms were done in white pencil; I hadn’t yet discovered the utility of Dr. Martin’s white ink or ruling pens. I wanted the option to take the pinstripes out if I didn’t like the way they looked! In college I discovered Pantone markers. They laid down a nice, even wash of gray or pastel blue for the road uniforms.
UW: Are all of the illustrations based on photographs? If so, do the illos match the teams of the original photos? In other words, would you sometimes use a photo of Team A to create an illustration depicting Team B (keeping the pose but swapping the uniform)? For example, the Brewers’ home player looks so much like Goose Gossage! Was that really a Brewer, or did you just put a Brewers uni on a depiction of Gossage? Similarly, the Twins home player looks like Steve Bedrosian.
WH: Actually, the Twins pitcher was modeled on Dick Tidrow. [D'oh! Should've known that. — PL] But I had favorite players, and Rich Gossage was one of them. Everything is modeled on a photograph, taken from a Street & Smith’s magazine or Baseball Digest, or what-have-you. I took pains to swap the uniforms; it was crucial to me to make that creative decision and render a team of my own choosing.
UW: It seems like you usually (but not always) depicted one player wearing fairly traditional stirrups and another player wearing much higher-cut stirrups. Was that intentional?
WH: No, that was the fashion in that era. Some guys had the spaghetti straps, others wore the stirrups in the Uni Watch-approved fashion. Even then I appreciated stripes on the stirrups, and made sure to call attention to them. Only a couple of players stood out, like George Hendrick or Rusty Staub.
UW: It seems like a surprisingly high percentage of your illustrations show players wearing eyeglasses. Coincidence, or was that something intentional on your part?
WH: No, that was by accident. Even though I’ve worn glasses since the second grade, and another of my favorite pitchers was Kent Tekulve, I wasn’t cognizant of it. You should mention this to my sister, the optometrist! She thinks I never draw anyone with eyeglasses!
UW: With a few exceptions, you always depicted white players. Again, coincidence or intentional?
WH: That is a coincidence, I’m afraid. I have a better angel who nudges me to make portraits of diverse groups of people, but that always follows a period of deliberation. When inspiration strikes, it takes the form of “Young white male frowns at a spaceship” or “Young white male boards a trolley car.” When I make an illustration of a woman or a person of color, it’s because I allowed the mental image to percolate for a few hours before committing it to paper. I’m not as color-blind as I would prefer.
UW: A lot of the players seem to have the same (or at least very similar) faces. Were these faces based on real people in
WH: As luck would have it, my favorite celebrity at that time was Adam Rich, the mop-topped child from Eight Is Enough. Look at my baby-headed Mariners infielder — infielder”>he wore No. 8! My favorite people always seemed to have big heads of hair, and Adam came on the scene at an auspicious time. I was drawn to mop-topped students at school, I liked shaggy cartoon characters, I liked hirsute athletes. Of course now I’m bald, so it’s karma!
UW: In a few instances, NOBs are visible on the backs of your jerseys, but the names shown (Hlubek, D’Benedetto) are names that don’t appear in the MLB player registry. What’s the story behind these names? Like, did you just invent generic NOBs, or do these names mean something to you?
WH: I used invented names, usually as an excuse to experiment with an especially lovely typeface, like the White Sox’s fancy block, or Philadelphia’s vertical arch. I think Dave Hlubek was the guitarist for Molly Hatchett, but I’m fuzzy on that! [True enough. — PL]
UW: You have (or at least had) interesting handwriting, especially your “E” and “A.” What’s that about?
WH: You have Rick Griffin to thank for that. Outside the sports realm, I enjoy psychedelic art and inventive lettering. (On a related note, if I ever buy a major league baseball team, Roger Dean is designing our lettering!
UW: Do you have other illustrations from other seasons, and/or for other sports?
WH: Hockey and football were right up there with baseball. Checking my archives, I see that I didn’t save as many of those pictures. Maybe they weren’t up to my high standards. If I colored in the uniform but neglected to outline the drawing with a thin black marker, that was problematic. It suggested I ran out of interest as soon as the uniform was done, and the rest of the drawing didn’t warrant finishing.
UW: Did you end up going into an artistic job/career/etc.?
WH: Yup, I’m a graphic artist in Manhattan. And things are trending upward, because I never have time to check in on Uni Watch when I’m at work!
UW: These drawings are now over 30 years old. Why have you saved them all these years?
WH: The completeness of the project seemed to warrant it. Usually, I’d embark on some sort of profound task, and lose interest a few entries in (typical Aries), but this was one I actually saw through that had some scope to it. If I’d done the Original Six NHL teams, I might have done it too quickly to appreciate it.
UW: Anything to add?
WH: Yeah, I published a comic book in 1989. It was called Oblivion, and I wrote it out of an urge to cash in on a trade that was wildly expanding. This was around the time of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and people who saw my sketchbook artwork were always saying, “You should totally do a comic book.” So I did, only I didn’t enjoy the writing. It was fatuous and turgid. Plus, I was a staff of one, and couldn’t follow a schedule. So by the time the second issue came out, my distributors had lost interest. Lessons learned: use someone else’s money next time, and find someone to do the writing.
Great stuff. Big thanks to Walter for sharing his artwork and thoughts. To everyone reading this, I strongly recommend spending some serious quality time with Walter’s illos and commentary — it’s totally worth it.
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By Brinke Guthrie
Interesting item here (and shown above). The tag says it’s from Starter, but I’m not sure I believe that. Those are official Chicago Bears logos at the top, for sure — it’s that “other” Chicago logo that caught my eye. Sittin’ cross-legged on the floor, 25 or 6 to 4.
Okay, so what else do we have this week? Let’s take a look:
• Merry Christmas from your 1969 San Francisco 49ers.
• Look at this 1967 NFL electric football game. You didn’t get players with this version. Did these little colored helmet circle things all end up in the corner of the end zone, too?
• Received this via Twitter: Andy Crossley sent in this World Basketball League jersey. Wait, the World Basketball League? Was I asleep for those four years?
• Check the quaint high school-style artwork on the cover of this 1966 Packers program. Can you imagine the NFL using this now?
• Speaking of cover artwork, this 1958 Rams yearbook cover just knocks me out. How clean and retro.
• Back in the day, even when I saw this at the local drugstore in Dallas as an 11-year-old, it bugged me: This Chargers gumball helmet was not even close to accurate.
• And I clearly remember these in Dallas too: a 1971 Springbok Cowboys puzzle. Didn’t get it ’cause puzzles frustrated me no end. They still do, actually. Nice artwork, though.
• And we wrap up this week’s haul with a grab bag of early-1970s NFL merch. What really interests me here is the 1970s NFL merchandise catalog. That could fill up a future Collector’s Corner installment all by itself!
Seen something on eBay or Etsy that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
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Tick-Tock: Today’s Ticker was compiled and written by Garrett McGrath, except for ’Skins Watch, which was handled by Paul.
’Skins Watch: Here’s more on the move to restrict Native American team names in Houston schools. Key quote: “The time has come for the Houston Independent School District — the most vibrantly diverse school district in the nation — to acknowledge that some decisions made generations ago need to be reconsidered. Traditions are important. But respect for cultural difference and sensitivities matters more” (thanks, Phil).
Baseball News: The Yankees are adding a plaque in Monument Park for Nelson Mandela. It will be unveiled, fittingly, on Jackie Robinson Day. … Jarrod Saltalamacchia posed with his new Marlins jersey and his record-setting NOB yesterday at the Winter Meetings. … The Diamondbacks are auctioning off the opportunity to photobomb their 2014 team photo. … Boston Magazine is running a picture of Xander Bogaerts hugging the Commissioner’s Trophy on their cover this month–but he is wearing “Postseason” patches on his sleeve and cap (from Alex Spanko).
NFL News: “I don’t recall NFL officials doing this before,” Cork Gaines says. “In the Monday Night game, the ref wore a position-appropriate white head warmer, while the other officials had black head warmers.” … The Bears retired Mike Ditka’s No. 89 last night. And in a very cool move, they also retired his sweater vest. … 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh switched to wearing cleats on the sideline not for style but because he was wearing improper footwear when he tried to break up a sideline tussle on Oct. 20. “No traction,” Harbaugh says, “I don’t want to be in that situation again.” (from Jameson Costello) … The bloodclot Arizona Cardinals are 14-3 overall and have won 8 in a row including the win this past weekend over the Rams (from Michael McLaughlin). … We all know the Cowboys put little Dymo tape NOBs on their helmets — they’ve been doing it for decades. But check this out: Last night the Dymo label on Jason Witten’s helmet had his number and the name Betsy. According to some quick Googling, Betsy isn’t Witten’s nickname or anything like that. Anyone know more..? (Screen shot by Steve Sarran.)
College Football News: “Louis Nix is well known for his strong connection with the Notre Dame student body,” says an ND fan. “On Sunday he tweeted a picture notifying his followers that left a bag of team issue gear in the middle of South Quad on the Notre Dame campus. It did not take long for students to find.” … Clay White and Jeff Alexander noticed the trend of long and loose sleeves on players making a comeback during the Civil War game last month. The trend reminded them of Ken Dorsey.
Basketball News: The New York Knicks can shelve their new alternate orange jerseys, having worn them the league minimum sixth time on Sunday during their 114-73 blowout by the Celtics. They’re 0-6 in the orange jerseys.
Grab Bag: For the Masses: Chris Weber is trying to figure out who manufactured the San Fernando High School Football uniforms, any ideas? … MLS announced that the new World Cup ball will be used for next season. … The 1932 USA Olympic Bobsled Team had some terrifying masks (from Jake Elwell). … New logo in the works for the next generation of New York City cabs. … What would the union jack look like if the Scottish bit were removed? (from Tom Mulgrew) … $400 is a steal for this camo sport coat (from Patrick O’Neill). … “Simpson Race Product has taken the HANS device — a revolution in auto racing uniform safety systems — and made a number of changes to make it even more comfortable for the driver,” says David Firestone.
If you can’t see the slideshow, click here
Whatever else you can say about football, you have to love that the game goes on no matter what the weather (well, tornados and serious lightning notwithstanding). We all got a vivid reminder about that yesterday, as Old Man Winter set up shop in several NFL stadiums, setting the stage for some extremely entertaining action. Seriously, did you see some of those highlights? Even with all the snow-blowers, the snow on the field in Philly looked like it was a good four inches deep! With the Super Bowl slated for its first-ever cold-weather outdoor site, I think I speak for everyone here when I say all I want for Christmas is very snowy weather here in NYC on Feb. 2.
One uni-related note regarding all this: I find it pretty amazing that so many players choose to go bare-armed in the snow. Like, isn’t this the type of weather they invented water-repellant base layers for?
If you want to see more, the NFL has set up its own snow-centric slideshow here. And here’s a nice public service: Reader Andrew McKillop has compiled a database of every snow game in NFL history. Good stuff!
In non-meteorological developments from around the league yesterday:
• In the Niners/Seahawks game, Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane’s sleeve swoosh was facing the wrong way.
• In that same game, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch wore teammate Derrick Coleman’s helmet.
• And one more from that game: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was wearing cleats!
• Always love seeing a player use a sock as an arm sleeve. That’s Sean Smith of the Chiefs.
• For the first time this season, the Dolphins wore their aqua pants and blue-topped socks, and boy did the socks look weird. (As you may recall, we first discussed the socks about seven months ago.)
• The Cardinals once again went full bloodclot — and once again won! I read somewhere that they have a ridiculously good record when wearing solid-red, but now I can’t find the source. Little help..?
• The Jets wore mono-green.
• The Browns wore their brown pants, which is fine by me as long as they wear the striped socks (although I hate it when players modify their socks to position the stripes down by their ankles, as Josh Gordon did in that photo).
• The Saints wore their black unitards.
• Classy moves in New England and Green Bay (and maybe other stadiums as well..?), where the pregame activities included a moment of silence for Nelson Mandela.
As for Saturday’s college action, Phil and his contributors had good coverage in yesterday’s entry, and I have only one thing to add to that: Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State appeared to cause OSU special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs’s swoosh to go limp.
(My thanks to all contributors, including Rob Ingersol, Ramon Meza, Jeff Moulden, Chris Perrenot, Sean Robbins, Derek Woodley, and of course Phil.)
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Culinary Corner: One of our annual holiday season traditions here at Uni Watch is the publication of my recipe for homemade Irish cream. In other words, homemade Bailey’s. In other words, melted ice cream that gets you drunk. It’s super-easy to make, it’ll make you the hero of whatever party you bring it to or serve it at, and lots of you have told me how much you like it. Here’s how to do it:
Start with some decent Irish whiskey — Bushmills, Jameson, Tullamore Dew, something like that (but not super-high-end stuff, because the nuances will be lost in this preparation). Pour a pint of the whiskey into a large-ish container and then add a can of sweetened condensed milk; a pint of heavy whipping cream; a tablespoon of chocolate syrup; a teaspoon of vanilla extract; a teaspoon of instant espresso dissolved in two tablespoons of hot water; and a quarter-teaspoon of almond extract.
Mix well (if the container has a tight lid, you can just shake vigorously), refrigerate, serve over ice, and get ready to become the most popular person in the room. No need to thank me afterward, but you’ll want to do so anyway — trust me.
Whatever the expiration date is on the heavy cream, that’s how long your Irish cream will last. But you and your friends will finish it way before then — you’ll see. I suggest that you reserve some of it and pour it on your cereal at some point during the holiday season, a little preparation that I like to call “Top o’ the Mornin’.”
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Ho-ho-ho: With Christmas fast approaching, here are a few thoughts:
• If you’re thinking of getting a Uni Watch membership card for that special someone (or for yourself) and want it to arrive by Dec. 25, I suggest that you order it now. I’m not setting a hard deadline yet, but creating the membership cards takes time and effort, so please don’t wait till the last minute.
• Want to order a membership card for someone but don’t know what design to get for the lucky recipient? Easy: Order up a Membership Gift Voucher, which your giftee can redeem for the design of his or her choice.
• If you think a certain set of theoretical T-shirt designs might hypothetically find a good home under your tree or in someone’s stocking, let’s discuss.
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Blazers contest — last call: Today’s the last day to submit entries for my Trail Blazers redesign contest on ESPN. Now or never, people!
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’Skins Watch: School officials in Houston are considering a new policy that would ban team names based on ethnic, racial, or cultural stereotypes, which would affect at least four Houston high schools with Native American-based team names (from Cort McMurray). … The move toward that potential new policy in Houston was prompted in part by a recent request from Houston-area State Senator Rodney Ellis to have the Lamar High School Redskins change their name. Senator Ellis, incidentally, is black, thereby proving yet again that only white people care about this issue. … Yep, no question about it, Native American sports imagery brings out the best in everyone. Too bad they didn’t have enough space to work in a Trail of Tears reference (thanks, Phil). … The Orsikany Central High School Redskins in upstate New York are the latest front in the controversy over Native American team names (from Jude Seymour).
Baseball News: Robinson Cano was named after Jackie Robinson and has worn No. 24 — an inverted version of Jackie’s 42 — since 2007. But that presents a problem now that he’s signed with the Mariners, because 24 was Junior Griffey’s number (from Andrew Cosentino). … Mets fans, check out this nice shot of Shea Stadium getting ready to host its first game in 1964 (you da man, Phil).
NFL News: Good spot by Jeff Moulden, who was watching some 1988 Browns footage and noticed some inconsistent typography between the TV numbers and the chest numbers. … Mmmm, love this shot of old NFL helmets (from Willard Kovacs). … What would you give to have NFL players stop giving the first down signal in the middle of a drive? I’ll start the bidding at my left nut.
College Football News: Really interesting story about how three dozen Arizona State players have been participating in a new concussion study. Recommended reading (thanks, Phil). … Minnesota will wear white helmets in the Texas Bowl. “Now if only they could pay for the marching band to get new uniforms,” says Thomas Hack. “We’ve had ours for more than a decade and have to sew them back together as they keep falling apart on us.”
Hockey News: Former Buffalo Bills RB Thurman Thomas attended Saturday night’s Sabres/Canadiens game in Montreal and was given a Habs jersey with his old Bills uni number. And what was he wearing underneath? A Sabres hoodie. Insert joke about Thomas losing his hockey helmet here (from Mike Engle). … The Kings wore throwbacks on Saturday night (thanks, Phil).
Soccer News: Saturday’s MLS Cup match between Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City wasn’t just color vs. color — both teams had one contrast-colored sleeve. “It’s really not my favorite MLS jersey trend,” says Laurence Holland. “It looked like the championship was being contested by two teams of figure skaters.” … Premier League teams saluted Nelson Mandela over the weekend with a minute of appause and, in some cases, black armbands. The minute of applause is interesting — is that what they do in Europe, instead of a moment of silence? (From Yusuke Toyoda.) … Also from Yusuke: “On Friday, the usually dominant Barcelona recorded only its first win in six tries while wearing the yellow and red ‘Senyera’ unis.”
College Hoops News: I caught a glimpse of the Xavier/Bowling Green game in a bar on Saturday and noticed that Xavier’s uni numbers and NOBs are positioned ridiculously high on the back of the jersey. What’s that about? Is that an Xavier tradition or something? … In that same game, I saw a Bowling Green player wearing a fairly large wad of gauze on his right temple — must have sustained a pretty nasty cut. Couldn’t find a photo, alas. … Nebraska and Creighton were both wearing new alternate unis when they played each other last night — BFBS for Nebraska and GFGS for Creighton. … Two odd things about Temple’s new alts: First, those wings on the shorts are maybe just a tad too big (duh). More befuddlingly, as Patrick Reynell points out, gold isn’t one of Temple’s school colors so what’s with the gold trim and gold shoes? Smells like an Under Armour stunt.
Grab Bag: Back in May I did an entry on the old college tradition of making freshmen wear beanies. I didn’t know that my own college — SUNY-Binghmton, which had previously been known as Harpur College — once had a beanie protocol of its own, but I learned about it in the latest issue of our alumni magazine. … David Firestone was at the mall and saw a shirt with every Superman logo ever used. … Also from David: Interesting piece on how toys are marketed to boys vs. girls by their color schemes.
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If you can’t see the slideshow, click here
What Paul did
last night yesterday afternoon: The very wonderful City Reliquary — the small Brooklyn museum that I’ve been involved with in varying capacities over the past decade — has a new exhibit about the history of donuts in New York City (several items from which are shown above). Yesterday they convened the inaugural meeting of the Donut Dunkers Club — a throwback to the old National Dunking Association, which once claimed five million members.
This seemed like an event not to be missed, snowy football games or no snowy football games, so off I went. Brief presentations were made, donuts and coffee were provided, and then we proceeded to dunk, adhering to the old NDA rules. At the conclusion of official business, we were all issued official membership cards. Huzzah!
The person behind all this is the lovely Julie Thomson, who curated the exhibit. (Here’s a closer look at the pendant and pin she was wearing in that last photo.) If you want to see more of her obsessive donut pursuits, check out her blog and Twitter feed.