Last Tuesday I had a small Ticker item about how the old Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA used to put first intials. in addition to last names, on the back of every player’s uniform (as you can see in this video clip). That prompted an interesting reply from Bob Halfacre of AIS uniforms, who happens to have some very strong thoughts on the matter:
First initials on jerseys may be my greatest professional pet peeve. My disdain for them rivals your distaste for purple. I have always hated them and will fight clubs from placing them on their jerseys to the bitter end. Clubs that we provide lettering for who don’t use them include the Anahiem Ducks (Niedermayers) and the LA Kings. You also won’t see them on the Mets. To quote the great longtime equipment manger/traveling secretary Charlie Samuels [we're gonna have to agree to disagree on that assessment of Charlie. -- PL], “What the fuck are they wearing numbers for?” I couldn’t agree more. It eventually leads to one of players being out of the lineup or off the club and the other one sporting an initial for no reason.
A few specific experiences:
• The San Francisco Spiders of the old IHL had every player’s first initial on their jerseys. It was at the insistence of the owner’s wife.
• When Reggie Smith was with the Dodgers, he was adamant that his jersey have “R. Smith” on the back. He didn’t care if the Dodgers had another Smith or not.
• Tim Brown of the Oakland Raiders always wore “T. Brown” on the back of his jersey, whether or not the Raiders had another Brown. His first NFL jersey was that way and I think he was superstitious about it.
A specific instance that I remember is when Howard Johnson joined the Mets in 1985: His jersey read “H. Johnson,” but manager Davey Johnson just kept wearing “Johnson” — no initial — which I always interpreted to mean, “I’m the main Johnson around here.” (And please, let’s not have a slew of johnson jokes in the comments section.)
As for the “They’ve got uniform numbers, so why bother with the initial?” gripe, it’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s a bit of a straw man argument. If you take that line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, it becomes, “They’ve got uniform numbers, so why bother putting names on the jerseys in the first place?” I still haven’t heard a completely satisfying answer to that one.
Membership Update: Preparations continue for the launch of the Uni Watch membership program (if you missed the initial announcement, look here), including a new twist regarding the membership card: As I mentioned last week, you can choose your own uniform number for the back of the card, along with your choice of lettering styles for your name (vertically arched, radially arched, NFL-style, subscript [a new offering!], or no name at all). HOWEVER, if the Uni Watch colors aren’t good enough for you, you can instead choose to have your name and number rendered in the style of your favorite team (but we’ll remove the border and bunting around the edge, so the colors won’t clash). There are a few gaps in our typeface collection, but we can do most MLB, NFL, or NHL teams. Unfortunately, no NBA teams for now. And to nobody’s surprise, I will not permit anything involving the Vikings, Ravens, Rockies, or any other purple-inclusive team. Also, please don’t ask for minor league or old historical teams, since we don’t want to drive poor Scott Turner crazy as he prepares the cards.
Personally, I’m kinda hoping you’ll all choose to stick with the Uni Watch colors for your name and number (as I’ll be doing on my own card) — Uni Watch is our team here, after all. But at least now you have some additional options.
And if you want your name to include your initial, that’s okay with me. But we won’t tell Bob Halfacre about it.
Meanwhile, don’t forget that I’m raffling off a free membership as we speak. If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and send an e-mail to uniraffle at earthlink dot net (one per person, please), and I’ll announce the winner when the entire membership program is ready to go, which I hope will be within a few days. Be patient, people — it’s gonna be worth the wait, I promise. (Extra-special thanks to Ben Thoma, who whipped up the super-cool raffle ticket graphic.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: Cinematic report from Jared Peterson, who writes: “The Syracuse Athletic department has put up a gallery of pictures from the set of the upcoming Ernie Davis biopic, with 1959 Syracuse uniforms.” … Greg Evans reports that the Anderson Joes, whose logo was the subject of much discussion here last week, had their home debut over the weekend. Additional photos of their retro-style uniforms are available here. … Brilliant catch by Ferdinand Cesarano, who writes: “I was watching a little of the LSU/Stanford college softball game on ESPN on Saturday and noticed that LSU’s jerseys buttoned in the direction of men’s baseball jerseys [i.e. buttons on the right, buttonholes on the left], but Stanford’s jerseys buttoned the opposite way, like a women’s coat. I watch very little women’s softball, but it seems that most college softball jerseys that I’ve seen button in the same direction as men’s baseball jerseys.” … Rugby update from Caleb Borchers, as follows: “The American tradition of wearing patches to commemorate appearances in championship games is certainly preferable to what went on in rugby this weekend. The Bulls, who won the Super 14 final, wore this jersey. Note that to commemorate the occasion they added the verbose ‘Finaal Bulls v. Sharks Durban 19 MEI 2007.’ (I don’t believe that the Final of May are misspelled. Instead they are in Afrikaans, even though the Super 14 is a primarily English-speaking league.) They also have put each player’s first name on both the front and back of the jersey near the top, something they had not done all season.” … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Nice video report here on ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte and his special lefty/righty glove. … I loooooove this guy’s baseball uniform drawings. … Anthony Memme has come up with a rare sight: Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons in an actual jersey (instead of that annoying smock he usually wears)! … Uni Watch intern Vince Grzegorek notes that Fausto Carmona tends to leave the MLB hologram sticker on his underbill (additional pics here and here). … Also from Vince: Bernie Williams got an honorary degree from Iona College the other day, leading at least one graduate to wear the Yankees logo on his mortarboard. … “The Capitals signed and introduced 2006 No. 1 pick Nicklas Backstrom on Monday,” writes Michael Alper. “It’s interesting that they had him pose with the current jersey, since the Caps are introducing new ones in a few weeks. It’s also interesting (and pretty sad) that it was a cheap replica jersey, not even a game-issued or authentic one — note the CCM logo on the left sleeve. It’s also dumb that he posed in an empty locker room!” … Interesting documentation of game-used Roger Clemens jersey here — among other things, he likes to have the front shirttail tags removed (courtesy of Kevin Gee). … Tough to see in this screen grab (snapped by Tom Mowbray), but pitcher Winston Abreu was wearing shades during a night game yesterday. … My vote for the Miss Universe pageant is going to the Canadian entrant, Inga Skaya, for obvious reasons (with thanks to Nick Vossbrink). … The double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats wore a Manchester Police Dept. patch last night in honor of a slain officer, and are also retiring his badge number (with thanks to Eric Martin and Mike Hennessy). … Don Whelan notes that uniform designer and longtime Uni Watch pal Todd Radom designed this really nifty clock as part of a fundraiser for the American Institute of Graphic Arts (you can see the rest of the clocks here).