By Vince Grzegorek
Most of you know that I live in Cleveland, and that I tend to mention Cleveland sports every once in a great while. And at the risk of sounding like a complete homer, and even though the Spurs closed out the series last night, I wanted to dedicate an entry to one of the cooler uni-centric stories that came out of the NBA playoffs and finals — and it just happens to concern the Cavs.
A few weeks ago I sent a note to Paul mentioning that the Cavs had hung some huge jerseys from the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland. According to the story, they were 35′ x 25′, weighed 102 pounds each, and had “Rise Up” on the nameplates. Decent enough Ticker fodder, but nothing earthshaking, right?
But then I started to think more about the background of the jerseys. Who had the idea? How long did they take to make? How do you go about making absurdly huge jerseys? Are they exact replicas? So I got in touch with Michael Thom, Director of Merchandising for the Cavs, and he was gracious enough to explain exactly how these huge jerseys came to be.
Apparently, the display was the result of a marketing brainstorm on how to take the “Rise Up” campaign (which has been this postseason’s marketing slogan) to the public. The first thought was to drape various statues around the city with oversized jerseys, an idea Thom said came from a similar marketing campaign done by Adidas for the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas. But they decided that Cleveland’s statues were too widely dispersed across the city in nooks and crannies — they wanted a more prominent location.
The Terminal Tower, situated directly across from the arena, was an obvious choice for its size and prominence in the city’s history. After the location was set, the four huge jerseys went from concept to production to installation (the latter of which, incidentally, was the most costly step in the process) in just under two weeks, and were launched with a celebration on April 20. (In addition, they made a inflatable 15-foot version, which was featured at a fanfest and then was placed next to the arena for fans to sign.) They hang from the 37th to the 34th floors, so unless you work on a high floor of an adjacent building or have a good set of binoculars handy, this is what they look like.
But Thom was kind enough to pass on some great photos of the huge jerseys lying on the ground at Action Sports America (a company that apparently specializes in making big jerseys) just after they were finished being put together. Additional views here and here.
These photos helped answer my big question: Are they exact replicas? The answer, of course, is no. The navy alternates don’t have the same side paneling and detail as the real jerseys. Even the Adidas guide for retailing the replica jerseys has the same mistake. Thom lamented that since everything had to be done in under two weeks, and materials and sewing time were at a premium, some things couldn’t be reproduced exactly. Unsurprisingly, however, the Adidas logo is nice and noticeable.
One of the few questions that Thom couldn’t answer (in addition to: What size do you think the jerseys are?) was where the jerseys would end up once they’re taken down. Because of their size, no real good suggestions have emerged for preserving them for posterity, although he did say they will obviously need to be dried out and cleaned. Any Cavs fans have a 35-foot-high room in their house that needs some unique décor?
Membership Update: Paul here (thanks for handling the lead entry today, Vince), with the latest membership news. If your uniform number is clickable on the membership roster, your card has been mailed out — I’d think many if not most of you should be receiving them by now. For those whose numbers aren’t yet clickable, Uni Watch design director Scott M.X. Turner is now back from vacation and working on the next batch of cards as we speak. I figured he’d have a lot to do upon his return — you know how stuff piles up when you’re out of town — so I told him, “No rush.” To which he responded, “To me, there is a rush — people are waitin’ for them!” Is this guy the sweetest, most inspirational lug you’ve ever seen or what?
Meanwhile, I’ll announce a new raffle on Monday, which means a membership benefit will come into play: All enrollees will get three bonus raffle entries.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Not to knock Vince’s fine lead entry, but the best uni-related thing you’ll read today will almost certainly be this absolutely essential article about North Carolina’s myriad baseball uni combos. Crammed with interesting details and info, it’s earns Uni Watch’s highest rating. … Got a note yesterday evening from Jen Muller (who publishes a pretty sharp Yankees-centric blog), with a subject line that read, “Bobby Abreu’s belt (or why I spent the afternoon taking pictures of Bobby’s ass).” Her note was as follows: “Going through some pictures I took at last Saturday’s Yankees/Pirates game, I noticed that Bobby Abreu had some sort of gold circle on his belt. I took my camera again to this afternoon’s game, and sure enough, there it was again. Here’s a different angle. Do you have any clue as to what this is?” Nope. Anyone else? … Latest ridiculous example of the Nike branding juggernaut: If UCI wants to have its merch (which is made by New Balance) sold during the College World Series, all the gear will have to carry a swoosh, because Nike is the CWS’s official merchandiser. Completely offensive details here. … McFarlane has come out with three new Cubs figurines, but Brian Newport has spotted problems in two of them: Greg Maddux doesn’t wear his stirrups like this, and they somehow dressed Derek Lee in home pinstripes with a road cap. “I suppose if the Cubs aren’t cursed on the field, they’re cursed on toy store shelves,” says Newport. … Excellent interview from last year with the Indians’ equipment manager here (courtesy of Clevo’s own Vince Grzegorek). Best quote: “I had a player once who complained that the Chief Wahoo on his cap was not straight. He went through a whole box of a dozen caps, looking for one that he thought the Chief Wahoo was straight. But they all looked straight to me.” Please — everyone knows Chief Wahoo is gay. … Great eBay find by Robert Eden: a 1940s football official’s uni — with a button-front jersey! … Lots of other great stuff on eBay right now, including a bizarre solid-orange 1930s baseball uni (sponsored by Gulf Oil) and 22 yards of pinstriped wool flannel fabric (make your own unis!). Plus lots of nice vintage uniforms here, here, here, here, and here, some amazing varsity-style jackets here and here, and an absolutely killer Blackhawks sweater here. … Colorado State’s football team will wear 1957 throwbacks for their first home game this fall (with thanks to Rob Montoya). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: MLB won’t allow the Royals to wear powder blues at home (scroll down a bit to find the appropriate item on the page). … Speaking of KC, a source who prefers to remain anonymous claims to “have it on very good authority that the Royals will be returning to blue shoes/belts for next season.” … Great tidbit from yesterday’s comments: This week’s Sports Illustrated cover photo originally included reliever “Bazooka” Joe Smith, but he was cropped out of the final shot. … Chelsea FC’s new away kits will look like this. … Matt Lyon passed along this item about how the Astros’ recent draft signees were brought in for a round of BP and given uni numbers corresponding to the round in which they were taken, which led to some odd situations (number-centric part of the article begins in the fourth graf). … Great little tidbit in last night’s comments, courtesy of Matthew Self: “Adam Melhuse was traded from the A‘s to the Rangers a few days ago. He was interviewed by Rangers play-by-play man Josh Lewin before tonight‘s game. When Lewin asked him what the biggest uniform thing for him to get used to was, Melhuse replied that it was weird for him to look down and not be wearing white cleats anymore.” … Manny went high-cuffed last night. … David Chisholm notes that the Adidas striping on the NBA refs’ sleeves forced their O’Brien Trophy patches to be awkwardly off-center. … The Marlins wore 1997 throwbacks last night, and several readers noted that they didn’t include the Jackie Robinson patch that all MLB teams wore that season. Near as I can figure, however, the Marlins never wore the Robinson patch with their vest jerseys in ‘97. The patch was on their home pinstripes and road grays, but the right sleeves of their vest undershirts appear to have been blank all season long (additional pics here and here), and they weren’t smart enough to put the patch on the front of the vest, like the Reds did. … Note, incidentally, that the Marlins’ version of the Robinson patch was teal, instead of blue like everyone else’s, which always struck me as a very inappropriate liberty to be taking. … Also: While looking for Marlins pics, I found this shot, which shows Kevin Brown saluting injured teammate Alex Fernandez with a cap-inscribed “32” (not so unusual) and Charles Johnson doing the same with a notation on his catcher’s helmet (very unusual). … “Check out the outfield the Cubs had on Thursday when the last out was recorded,” writes Chad Peiken. “Are Pagan, Pie, and Soriano celebrating the victory, or their hosiery choice?”