A really good book has just been published: Matthew Algeo’s Last Team Standing, which chronicles an odd chapter in NFL history: the temporary merger of the Steelers and Eagles (thereby creating the “Steagles”), which took place in 1943 due to manpower shortages caused by World War II.
Although not a uniform book per se, the book features lots of great uni-centric moments. Here are some highlights:
Page 21: “Fed up with sloppy uniforms, [NFL commish Elmer Layden] ordered players to wear knee-high socks, a curious preoccupation with hosiery that persists in the league to this day. (College palyers are permitted to wear their socks at their ankles if they choose.) Another of Layden’s sartorial innovations: He ordered game officials to wear color-coded striped shirts. Referees wore black and white, umpires red and white, linesmen orange and white, and field judges green and white. One official ridiculed the dress code as a ‘circus on parade.'”
Page 33: “[In 1943] the owners also voted to make helmets mandatory for the first time. … Not that the leather helmets then in use afforded much protection. Concussions were a common injury. In 1939 the John T. Riddell Company had patented a new plastic helmet that was lighter and stronger than leather (and it didn’t get moldy when wet, either). But plastic was needed for the war effort, so players were stuck with the high-crowned leather headgear. … Facemasks were practically nonexistent. Ted Doyle may have been the only player in the league wearing one. ‘I had a cap put on my tooth and didn’t want to have to replace it, so I had them put a nose guard on my helmet,’ Doyle explained.”
Page 50: “Finally, there was the prickly issue of uniforms. Eagles owner Lex Thompson would not allow his players to wear anything other than the team’s usual colors of kelly green and white. [Steelers owners Bert] Bell and [Art] Rooney wanted the team to wear the Steelers’ black and gold jerseys, at least when it played in Pittsburgh. In the end, Thompson won out. The team would wear Eagles jerseys for every game. Bell and Rooney probably gave in because it would have been too costly to clean and maintain two sets of uniforms all season anyway.”
Page 123: “[Due to the war] it was almost impossible to get the uniforms cleaned, since laundry services were inundated with military business. After his first day at training camp, tackle Al Wistert handed his sweat-soaked jersey and pants to the Eagles’ trainer, Fred Schubach. ‘We can’t get laundry service,’ Schubach barked. ‘Wear that stuff a while!’ Wistert took his uniform back home to his wife Ellie, who cleaned it in the tub.”
Page 155: “[During a game against the Redskins] Steagles guard Rocco Canale broke through the Washington line and ripped [Sammy] Baugh’s burgundy No. 33 jersey of his back — twice. (The jerseys were made of tightly woven wool and did not tear easily.) Baugh played much of the first half in tatters, his left arm exposed to the shoulder and his white undershirt visible on his back.”
And of course the book also features plenty of excellent non-uni material. The only downer is that there are very few photos. But the ones that are included are really cool. Highly recommended.
Garden Party: These people are having fun. Wouldn’t you like to be more like them? And you could have been, if you’d attended yesterday’s BBQ at Uni Watch Gardens (i.e., my back yard). Among the highlights:
• Lars Russell was clearly trying to curry favor with the striped socks. He had to leave early because he was hosting a BBQ party of his own.
• Here’s Superba Graphics prexy and Uni Watch logo designer Scott M.X. Turner and his wife, the lovely and talented Diane George.
It was great to see these folks, most of them for the first time. Thanks to all who attended.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Good catch by Anne Tynan, who notes that Colorado State’s Gartrell Johnson III had something written on his finger tape last Saturday. “My guess is that it’s a tribute to injured star running back Kyle Bell, for whom Johnson is filling in,” she writes. “No word on whether he has the roman numerals on his nameplate.” … Diacritical alert from Thomas Courtman, who sent along the Wikipedia entry for Brazilian footballer KakÃ¡: “The nickname KakÃ¡ from his native Portuguese, is pronounced as it is spelled. The accent would signify that the stress is on the second syllable. In Italian, the language of his current club team, the phonetic equivalent is written as KakÃ¡. However, the [name appearing on his shirt] is KAKA’ (with an apostrophe, rather than an accented ‘A’) for both his club in Milan and in the past for the Brazilian national team. In the World Cup 2006, the back of his shirt read KAKÃ.” I hereby beg everyone to please avoid all the obvious scatological jokes here. … More diacriticals, from the FIBA World Basketball Championship (courtesy of the ever-alert Jeremy Brahm): look here, here, here, and here. … More FIBA observations from Brahm: It looks like several of these players are wearing NBA socks; check out the crazy New Zealand outfits (with inconsistent shoe colors!); a Nigerian player had no name on his jersey in one game, and then his name magically appeared later on. … And still another Brahm catch: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats wore and auctioned off special white helmets yesterday (instead of their usual black), but that’s Canadian football, so nobody cares. … Mike Coles, of the Northern League’s Gary Southshore RailCats, was sporting some major pants rippage the other day (with thanks to Jeremy Bra– no, wait, this one’s from Mike Alper). … Not really uni-related, but close: U. of Florida had to call off a T-shirt promotion because the roman numerals on the shirt added up to 26, not 2006. Full details here (gold star for Shirl Kennedy).