By Vince Grzegorek
Take a guess as to when inline skates were first developed. Go ahead. 1950s? 1920s? 1900s? 1850s?
Any takers on 1823? Because that is the correct answer. These skates were called the “Volito” and were used by ice skaters when there was no ice to be found. The unequal size of the wheels made this one of the more popular models because skaters could easily turn simply by shifting their weight from side to side.
This is just one of the many interesting equipment- and uniform-related tidbits found in the amazing “Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers” exhibit put together by the Smithsonian. Currently on display at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, the collection has toured the country for the past two years and has two stops left in Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, later this year (dates and locations available here.)
Other highlights include:
- Abercrombie and Fitch may be known today for trendy clothes and semi-pornographic advertising, but back in the day that wasn’t the case. Check out this badminton set they produced around the turn of the century The wooden frames tightened around the rackets to keep them from warping brings back fond memories of the racket my father gave me when I was younger.
- Here’s the towel that was literally thrown in by Max Schmeling’s handlers in the first round of his bout against Joe Louis at Yankee Stadium in 1938. It was thrown back out by the referee because it was against the rules for handlers to stop a fight by throwing in the towel.
- For her swim across the English Channel in 1926, Gertrude Ederle wore these watertight goggles she designed for the journey.
- For the 1988 Olympics, Brian Boitano wore these skates. Harlick (the manufacturer) added the American flags for good luck.
- Betsy Jochum wore this uniform for the South Bend Blue Sox in the All-American Girls Professional League. The Smithsonian notes, “According to the players’ manual, A Guide for All American Girls: How to Look Better, Feel Better, Be More Popular: ‘The smart looking teams invariably play smart ball and you can add to your own drawing power and crowd appeal by looking the part of a ball player on the field. Keep your shoes clean and shining. And see if you don’t feel better and play better ball.’ “
- If prototypes of the in-line skate were available in 1823, surely the roller skate was already perfected, right? Not really. It wasn’t until 1863 that James Plimpton patented a model that most closely resembles what we have come to know.
- It wasn’t any sort of marine species that inspired Owen Churchill to create his rubber swim fins around 1940, it was Tahitian swimmers he saw attaching woven leaves to their feet. Bet you thought it was a dolphin or something.
- The accent over the ‘e’ in Pelé in this New York Cosmos jersey looks more like an out of place, dangling apostrophe than anything else. It should be placed like this, or left off completely, like this (although, note Pelé includes the accent in his autograph.)
- Billie Jean King wore this outfit, which at the time was considered flashy, in her match against Bobby Riggs. Oh, how times have changed.
Loose Ends, Small Change: Some items I came across while searching through the National Archives online: FDR with his high school baseball team… FDR with his high school football team… Jim Thorpe in his Carlisle Indian School uniform… Finally, a wonderful old Louisville Slugger advertisement.
Distant Replays Gift Card and March Madness: The good folks over at Distant Replays have provided some more gift cards to give away, and just in time for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Since I’m the one who’ll be stuck grading these, we’re going to forego full bracket submissions, in the interests of preserving my sanity. Here’s how it’s going to work:
Pick one team from each region, and one additional team from any region as your wild card choice (five teams in all). You will receive points correlating to each team’s seed for each game that team wins. For example, a Number 1 seed will receive 1 point for each game it wins, a Number 5 seed will receive 5 points for each game it wins, a Number 12 seed will receive 12 points for each game it wins, and so on. Highest score wins. Given the number of entries I expect to receive, this seems to be the best way to avoid a tie. However, please provide your guess for total points scored by both teams combined in the championship game, just in case we do need a tiebreaker.
E-mail your list of five teams and guess for total points to uniraffle at earthlink dot net by 12:00 noon EST on Thursday, March 15th to be eligible. Obviously, no late entries will be allowed. One entry per person, please. 1st place: $200, 2nd place: $100, 3rd place: $50 in Distant Replays money. Winners should be announced on or around April 3rd. Good luck.