Last Tuesday morning I drove out to Seaford, Long Island, home of the sports memorabilia auction house Lelands (I’m writing a business story about them for the Financial Times). I’ve devoted several blog entries to Lelands’ auction offerings — you can see examples here and here — so I was all pumped up to see some of their stuff in person.
As it turned out, most of the best items for their next auction weren’t available, because they were out being photographed for the next catalog. But there was still plenty of good material on hand — much of it hockey-related — and Lelands prexy Mike Heffner was nice enough to let me photograph a bunch of it. Here are some highlights:
• I loved all the chain-stitching on this 1970 Phillies jersey (worn by Byron Browne). Check out the chest emblem, the front number, and the back number (which was starting to fray — here’s a closer view).
• There was very little NFL stuff on hand. The primary exceptions: these Bills helmets.
• When I first saw this, my initial thought was, “Cool, a 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey jersey.” Then I turned it over and learned that it was actually an early Nordiques design, from the franchise’s WHA days. (I was apparently so flabbergasted by this discovery that I neglected to snap a photo of the front side.)
• My love of green and gold found Shangri-la in this Chicago Cougars jersey. And here’s the home version. Note the front jersey numbers, similar to what the Sabres did last year and what the Islanders have just unveiled.
• There was also a really cool set of WHA pennants (additional pics here, here, here, here, and here). I especially liked this one — like, is that logo an all-time classic or what? Let me go on record right here: I’d gladly pay an extra $10 per ticket to see hockey players smoking pipes while they played.
• Here’s a minor league team I hadn’t been aware of: the Cincinnati Swords.
• My biggest nightmare was embodied in this Nordiques jersey. “I didn’t realize they had purple trim,” I said to Mike. “They didn’t,” he said. “But some of the blue turned purple in the laundry. Look, it happened on the back, too.” At this point I ran screaming from the room.
Big, big thanks to Mike for his hospitality. And when my Lelands article is published (probably early next month), I’ll link to it here.
Research Project: Last week’s ESPN column about uniform prototypes led many readers to suggest a related topic: uniforms that made it onto the field (or court, or ice) but were worn only once. Classic examples would include the Phillies’ solid-maroon design shown at left (worn on May 19th, 1979, and then quietly abandoned after intensely negative fan reaction) and the Mavericks’ silver ensemble (October 28th, 2003). I agree that this is a good topic, and I’m going to write an ESPN column about it for later this week, as a follow-up to the prototypes column.
Before you flood me with additional examples, let me spell out what I’m not looking for. I don’t want throwbacks, commemoratives, MLB’s futuristic jerseys, special designs created for particular bowl games, or anything else that was only supposed to have been worn once in the first place. I’m also not interested in uni elements that are technically active today but rarely worn (I already devoted a column to that topic two winters ago).
What I want here are designs that were supposed to be full-fledged components of a team’s wardrobe but barely got out of the starting gate before being mothballed. Limiting the project to things that were worn only once would probably make for a very small list, so let’s expand the parameters to include things that were worn, say, up to three or four times. This would allow us to include the Orioles in solid orange (worn twice in 1971, according to this page from Bill Henderson’s CD, although I’d prefer to know the exact dates), the Twins’ Dairy Queen jerseys (worn on April 6th and 21st, 1997, according to reader Tim McCabe), the Mets’ white caps, which were worn just a handful of times in early 1997 (anyone know exactly how many, or when?), and the Phillies’ “bad luck” 1994 blue caps. But it would not include designs that were worn for an entire season before being abandoned, like the Lions’ blue pants (with gray socks!), which were worn for all of team’s 1998 road games.
One thing that should definitely be included: N.C. State’s unitards. As many of you know, I’m weak on college hoops — when exactly was this design worn, and how often? Also: What year was it that Jim Boeheim had Syracuse dress up in blue for one game, and does anyone have a photo of that?
Got more contributions? Let’s have ’em. And don’t delay — I’ll be delivering this column to my ESPN editors on Wednesday afternoon.
Membership News: About 40 membership kits went out in yesterday’s mail, and another dozen or so should be ready by the end of the week. Almost caught up! My continued thanks to everyone for your patience.
Incidentally, there’s an absolute doozy of a raffle coming up next month — one for which you’ll definitely want those three extra raffle entries that come with membership. Can’t tell you the details just yet, but a hint is lurking somewhere on this page.
And speaking of raffles, remember that entries are currently being accepted for the football helmet from Helmet Hut. The drawing is Thursday, 10 p.m., so e-mail your name to uniraffle at earthlink dot net by then. One entry per person, but membership enrollees automatically get three extra entries.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Yesterday’s entry prompted a couple of great follow-ups. First, as you’ll recall, yesterday’s post made prominent mention of Helen Robinson, the Red Sox’s switchboard operator who did double-duty as the team’s emergency seamstress. Jere Smith provided a photo of her. And second, the upside-down 8 on Fenway’s exterior facade can be seen in this photo, which was linked in yesterday’s comments by Rick Schoffelen (if you squint hard enough, you can see that the upper opening in the 8 is larger than the lower). … Several sources inform me that Reebok is poised to acquire Mitchell & Ness, with the deal slated to become public in about two weeks. … Latest example of NFL’s miraculous disappearing sleeves: the Ravens (here’s another shot). “What’s next, wife-beater tees?” asks Tim Walsh. … “Julio Franco reported to the Rome Braves, the Class A minor league affiliate for Atlanta, to finish out the month of August before being recalled to the big leagues in September when the rosters expand,” writes Jonathon Binet. “All of the Braves’ minor league teams where home whites identical to what the big league club wears. But it’s clear that Franco is wearing his Atlanta Braves jersey, and not a jersey issued by Rome. This photo gallery shows that Franco’s jersey has the MLB logo on the back collar, not the MiLB logo. Also, his jersey lacks the American flag patch that the other players are wearing. Finally, Franco’s jersey still has the Lew Burdette/Johnny Sain memorial patch that Atlanta is wearing this year, while none of the Rome players have such a patch.” … I love Tom Bachtell’s illustrations in The New Yorker‘s “Talk of the Town” section, but why the hell did he depict Barry Bonds wearing a double-earflapped helmet? … Great photo gallery here of the UCF staff applying decal’s to the football team’s helmet (with thanks to Kyle Mas). … Rugby news from Eric Bangeman, who writes: “England has unveiled their alternate World Cup uniforms. It looks like another bad Nike idea from the world of college football (think Florida and Va. Tech) has been transplanted across the Atlantic. Here’s a photo gallery. In this shot, you can see the different shades of red in the shorts; there’s at least 3 different shades of red in the uniform.” … No photos yet, but 20-year-old Tigers call-up Cameron Maybin wears braces. I can’t think of any other brace-faced MLBers — or NFLers, NHLers, or NBAers, for that matter. Anyone..? … Amusing gallery here of Evel Knievel uniforms (with thanks to Knievel-phile Steve Mandich, who also notes that the CBA team from Evel’s hometown of Butte, Montana, is called the Daredevils). … Todd Burus notes that Kevin Cash is back in the majors — and so is his front-facing helmet brim. … There’s been lots of chatter in the comments about the inconsistencies in how Mark DeRosa’s name has been styled on his jerseys, but I think Chris Andringa is the first to offer visual proof. Here’s DeRosa as DE ROSA at home, and here he is as DEROSA on the road. Andringa says he’s seen both typographic styles on both jerseys at various points, meaning DeRosa has worn four different jersey/name combos. … Ohio University has unveiled a line of “heritage logos” (details here), and their new uniforms are out too (with thanks to Tim Burke).