New ESPN column today — here’s the link.
Meanwhile: I love ripple effects. Case in point: Two or three weeks ago I got an e-mail from Ronnie Poore, telling me that he’d spotted something interesting in a photo that had run in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated. He no longer had his copy of the magazine, and neither did I, but he offered to ask around his office to see if anyone else had one. Eventually he wrote back to say he’d come up with a copy — did I want it? Sure, I said. So he mailed it to me, along with a letter explaining what had caught his eye in the photo he’d previously mentioned. I ended up linking to the photo — a shot of the 1965 NFL draft — in this past Monday’s Ticker, where I noted, as Poore had in his letter to me, the stirrups on the little figurines.
And that could have been the end of it — a typically wonderful example of a Uni Watch reader going the extra mile to bring a small detail to the attention of the larger readership. Nice.
But then the ripple effect kicked in. The day after I ran that Ticker item, I got a truly magnificent response from Vinnie Dinolfo, as follows:
The figurine was a bendable toy named Johnny Hero, which came out shortly after GI Joe. All 14 NFL teams were available as a Johnny Hero doll, which came complete with a miniature football uniform, plastic helmet, plastic shoes, and plastic football. I received the Cleveland Browns Johnny Hero for Christmas around 1966. The doll had socks, shoes, pants, a jersey, and shoulder pads to go along with the helmet and football. All the parts were removable. The white Browns pants were shiny satin and the jersey and socks were a T-shirt-like material. My Mom ironed the front and back numerals onto the brown football jersey (the Browns always wore white jerseys at the time, so that caused me slight disappointment). I chose No. 86, for Gary Collins. The brown sock was supposed to be worn under the smaller white sock, as my father pointed out. Apparently, whoever dressed the dolls shown in the 1965 draft photo put the socks on in the wrong order.
The best part of the uniform was that all of the stripes on the jersey, pants, socks, and helmet were perfect (which can’t be said about the current Browns socks). Johnny Hero was slightly larger than GI Joe and would lead the Browns to victory over GI Joe (wearing those helmets from the bubble gum machine) in my imaginary NFL title games. Unfortunately, the Johnny Hero doll was made of foam rubber and wire. The foam rubber eventually dried up and disintegrated, so the wires became exposed. I eventually lost all the uniform pieces that outlasted my doll. And sadly, the Browns have yet to win the NFL title since my Johnny Hero-worshipping days.
Wow. I’d never heard of Johnny Hero dolls before, so I went to eBay and typed “Johnny Hero” into the search engine. And that’s when the ripple became a tidal wave. Johnny Hero’s default outfit was a boring track suit, but you could customize him to be a member of just about any NFL or AFL team, and many of the little uniform sets available for sale were completely amazing. A quick search turned up kits for the Giants, Steelers, Vikings, Niners, Chargers, Lions, Colts, Cowboys, Packers (that sound you just heard was my pulse thumping a bit faster), Jets, Rams, Redskins, Pats, Eagles, Bears, Bills, Raiders, Oilers, and, yes, the Browns (with the never-used logo helmet!). Yeah, they got a few of the details wrong, but whatever — I think the uni sets still look wicked cool. You can get a closer look at the level of craftsmanship by checking out the close-up photos here and here.
You say you’re more of a baseball fan? No problem — you could also dress up Johnny Hero as a member of the Pirates, Phillies, Red Sox (looks like they cut corners by using those same stirrups for the Cardinals), Yankees, Indians, Senators, Angels (note the franchise’s old “LA” helmet logo), Orioles, Mets, Tigers, Twins, Giants, Dodgers, or Cubs.
I don’t know why, but many things are really appealing when rendered in miniature, and that definitely applies to these little uniform sets. Does anyone out there collect these?
(Update from this morning’s comments: Lots of great Johnny Hero info, including an FAQ section, care instrux for the uniform sets, “anatomical” details, lots of pics of the dolls dressed up in the uniforms, and a whole lot more, here. Wish I’d found this before writing today’s entry.)
Speaking of Heroes…: A tip of the Uni Watch cap to New York Times writer David Picker, who’s just written one of the most complete and informative uni-related articles I’ve ever seen. It’s about those five-toed Japanese socks, which several of the Red Sox are wearing (and not just the team’s two Japanese pitchers). The article covers just about every conceivable base and provides a wealth of invaluable info — essential reading. Check it out here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Yankees held a pregame memorial ceremony for Virginia Tech last night, plus they put the VT logo on the field, on their caps, and, although it’s hard to make out, on Jorge Posada’s shoulder pad (with thanks to Vincent Barone for that screen grab). … According to this item about the NFL’s new anti-concussion measures, “The NFL rule requiring every player to wear a chin strap that is completely and properly buckled to the helmet will be strictly enforced.” Does that mean that the many players favoring this style will have to buckle up? Or does “completely and properly buckled” simpy mean at least one connection on each side? Stay tuned. … While researching something else, I came across this photo of Alex Delvecchio. Note that his captain’s C is outlined, rather than solid. (It’s also on the “wrong” side, but that was pretty typical for him — well, usually). … Reprinted from last night’s comments: Still more great photos from the Ernie Davis biopic shoot here.