Al Oerter died yesterday. He’s the only discus thrower I can identify by name, although I’m not sure if that says more about him or about me. He was one of those legendary freaks — a four-time Olympic gold medalist (including once while competing with a pretty serious injury) who later came out of retirement and just missed making the U.S. team one last time at the age of 43. Despite his athletic prowess, he suffered from high blood pressure, which contributed to his death at the surprisingly young age of 71.
Oerter competed in an era when track and field uniforms were totally Joe Friday: tank top, shorts, a pinned-on number, and you’re good to go. Throw in a diagonal stripe and he basically looked like a Greek god, which is what we want our Olympic track and field athletes to look like, right?
But the most interesting chapter in Oerter’s career, at least uni-wise, came in 1964, when he hurt his neck and then tore some rib cartilage, forcing him to compete while wearing a neck brace. Let’s face it, it takes some serious guts to go out there looking like you’re trying to score a whiplash settlement after a fender bender.
And what do discus throwers wear today? Some, like the disgraced Hungarian Robert Fazekas (who was stripped of his 2004 gold medal after running afoul of doping rules), stick to the basic shorts and tank approach — really no different than what Oerter wore back in the day. But others, unsurprisingly, take a somewhat more contemporary approach. Even less surprisingly, it turns out that this sport, like all the others, has a “Look at me!” contingent — or at least that’s what I originally thought. As Chris Skumin points out in today’s comments, “That picture is of Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania, from the 2001 World Championships — that was their national uniform that year. It may be gaudy, but he isn’t making an individual statement. Remember, this is a country that wore tie-dyed basketball uniforms!”
Last-Chance Raffle Reminder: Today’s the last day to enter the raffle for the game-used futuristic Royals jersey. To enter, send an e-mail here by 10 p.m. eastern tonight. One e-mail per person, but everyone enrolled in the Uni Watch membership program by the time of the drawing automatically gets three bonus entries. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.
Speaking of the membership program, some new designs are up in the design gallery. Comments, as always, are encouraged.
Uni Watch News Ticker: I’m still catching up on stuff from the weekend comments, so forgive me if you’ve already seen the first few items here, starting with this: Kelly Pavlik and Jermaine Taylor both wore NCAA-inspired trunks for their middleweight title fight on Saturday night: an Ohio State design for Pavlik and a big Razorbacks logo for Taylor. … Those Huskies throwbacks looked my-t-fine. … By now most of you know that NCAA teams can have two players wearing the same number as long as they’re not on the same side of the ball. And that can lead to odd scenes like this one, which took place after Auburn’s last-second field goal on Saturday. … Someone needs to sign up for a membership with a Columbus Cottonmouths design motif, just so we can have Scott reproduce that font. … Weird to see DeShaun Jackson wearing two jerseys on Saturday. … Schutt’s web site shows the Ion helmet’s chinstrap buckling like this — note the unusual way the strap goes through a little slot in the facemask. So why does Brandon Jacobs wear his Ion like this? Giants equipment director Joe Skiba explains: “The Ion has a marked area on the top of the shell where a high hook-up can be drilled. Schutt leaves us the choice either to use the chinstrap/facemask combo or drill the ‘high hook-up’ snaps into the shell. Remember, all head shapes and chins are different, therefore it is permitted for a player with a Schutt helmet to use a Riddell or Adams chinstrap. Whichever chinstrap best suits the players fit should be used.” … Auburn will be wearing 1957 throwbacks this Saturday. Details here. … No photo, but LaDainian Tomlinson’s American flag decal was still AWOL two days ago. … Still more complaints about the new NHL jerseys (with thanks to Casey Collins). … Jeff Bethune recently discovered the book Chicago Sluggers: The First 75 Years, which features tons of great old Cubs and White Sox pics. He’s scanned 19 of the photos and arranged them into a gallery here. … Very odd scene in Saturday’s UNLV/Reno game, as both teams wore light jerseys (although one was arguably “colored”). … Eric Schaeffer alertly notes that Kyle Kendrick was wearing an elastic belt yesterday, while the rest of the Phillies (at least the ones in that photo) were wearing leather belts. … Last week Bob Weston said the name on Ryan Theriot’s jersey appeared to have a strategically positioned space, creating “THE RIOT.” But he didn’t have visual proof — until now. … If you can get past the obvious thing in this photo, you’ll see that the Heat will apparently have a 20th-anniversary patch this season (good catch by Michael Alper). … The Pistons have a new patch, too. You can get a better look at the design on their home page (wait for the upper-left corner animation to play itself out). … Rugby World Cup news from Caleb Borchers, who notes that the Italian team has been wearing a bizarre ribcage design. … Chad Johnson was back in black chinstrap mode last night. … Mark Mihalik notes that Khalil Greene has been wearing these NFL receiver’s gloves on his glove hand (but he wears standard Nike batting gloves while swinging the stick).