When I was 16, I started reading a new sports magazine. In one issue, their Q&A column included the following question: “I keep hearing about this nude female mud wrestling thing, but I don’t understand it — what’s the deal?” The magazine’s answer: “The tricky part is finding the nude female mud. After that it’s pretty self-explanatory.” In another issue they had an article on sports etiquette — the polite thing to do when playing baseball, the polite thing to do when playing football, and so on. The last section, devoted to “Dangerous Sports,” read like this: “The only polite thing to do when engaged in dangerous sports, like auto racing, hang-gliding, cliff-diving, and so on, is to die. After all, that’s what everyone’s waiting around for.”
The magazine in question was Inside Sports, which launched around 1980. As the above-quoted passages suggest, it was clever and irreverent way before ESPN developed a reputation for those qualities, and it also featured serious, smart reportage. The two big sports mags back then were Sports Illustrated and, my favorite, the now-defunct Sport (which had published a letter of mine when I was 13, something I was insufferably pleased about for weeks), but Inside Sports was much more intelligent and ambitious than either of them, featuring an editorial voice that I now recognize as having been derived from Esquire, Rolling Stone, and other non-sports mags.
The golden age of Inside Sports, if you want to call it that, didn’t last very long. The intelligence and cleverness soon flattened out, and the magazine became much more conventional, so I stopped reading it. It was later sold (several times, I think) and become a struggling fringe player in the sports media world. I don’t recall when it finally went belly-up, but I’d long since moved on.
I still have fond memories of those early issues, however. So I was intrigued when reader Mike Cesarano (who compiled the Mets uniform breakdown featured on the Ultimate Mets Database site) recently got in touch with the following communiqué:
Paul, remember the magazine Inside Sports? I remember seeing a prototype of a new Yankee uni modeled by Phil Rizzuto in an issue of that magazine in 1980 or 1981. I remember that it was black and white with a red N on the right breast and a red Y on the left breast. … It would be cool to track down a pic of this. I’ll look but I thought you might remember the same pictures.
I didn’t remember this at all, but I encouraged Mike to find the issue in question. He said he’d investigate on eBay and get back to me.
That was back in mid-August. I’d forgotten about the whole thing until two nights ago, when Mike e-mailed to let me know he’d found a copy of the issue. He attached a bunch of scans — and they’re doozies.
Here’s the scoop: For their April 30th, 1980 issue, Inside Sports commissioned fashion designers Geoffrey Beene, Halston, and Oscar de la Renta (or as Fitzy likes to call him, “Oscar de la Go Fuck Yourself”) to create new baseball uniforms for the Cardinals, White Sox, and Yankees. Then they had those teams’ TV announcers — Jack Buck, Harry Caray, and Phil Rizzuto, respectively — model the unis and had Roy Blount Jr. chronicle the proceedings. The results, rather predictably, were pretty brutal, as you can see here, here, and here.
I’m not even going to discuss the uniforms, because they’re ridiculous. In fact, the whole concept was pretty stupid, but it’s worth remembering that uniform coverage was pretty much non-existent back then, so this was uncharted territory (you can see the entire article here, here, and here, and I strong recommend check out the joke in the next-to-last paragraph). There’s all sorts of interesting uni-related chatter, and Blount — then, as now, a very good writer — gets off some good lines along the way (his simple assessment of the Padres’ uniforms (which at the time looked like this): “Remember those Buicks with all the extra chrome?”). The most telling passage comes when he sums up the state of uniform design:
Light, bright, tight, stretchy double knits have replaced voluminous flannel; pullover shirts have tended to replace button-ups; and elastic waistbands have supplanted most belts. (How many sentences like that do you read in sports magazines?)
Poor Blount, feeling all self-conscious (and, probably, worried about being called gay) just because he was writing about uniforms. He couldn’t have foreseen the advent of something like Uni Watch. But in his small way, he and Inside Sports helped lay the groundwork for it.
Friendly Reminder: As of next Monday, Uni Watch reveille will blow at 10:15 a.m., not 9:00 a.m. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Uni Watch News Ticker: As we all know by now, Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s 14-letter surname is the longest in MLB history. It is not, however, the longest in professional history (i.e., including the minors). That distinction apparently belongs to Eric Stuckenschneider (16 letters!), who played in the A’s and Dodgers systems in the 1990s. He never made it to the bigs, but he must have been invited to spring training one year or something like that, because Eric Walker has turned up pics of an A’s jersey with Stuckenschneider’s name. Spotting phonies has never been my strongest suit, but this looks pretty authentic to me, right down to the tagging. Anyone more versed in game-worn jerseys care to weigh in? … Cubs backstop Geovany Soto has his nickname on his chest protector collar (as spotted by Jon Aubry). … Kevin Wright reports that the Milwaukee Admirals will have pink ice on October 19th, 24th and 27th (for breast cancer awareness, natch). “I’ll be in attendance for at least two of these games so I’ll be sure to take some great pictures,” he says. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Here’s the anti-cancer decal NHL teams are wearing. … Weirdest injury in years. … Good find by Mark Loveland, who notes that Uni-watching extrends to politics. Be sure to check out the first comment — definitely someone who Doesn’t Get It™. … According to an item at the very bottom of this article (which I first saw on the Chris Creamer board), the Titans will wear navy jerseys with light-blue pants this Sunday, which means they’ll look like the far-left design shown here. … Yesterday I linked to this photo, showing the bizarre color scheme of Waukegan High in Illinois. Jonathon Tillis has now provided an explanation: “Waukegan High split into two schools for a while: Waukegan East, whose colors were yellow and purple, and Waukegan West, whose colors were yellow and green. Around 1991 the schools merged back together. They couldn’t eliminate the purple without upsetting the East students and the same for the green with the West students. So they kept all three colors.” … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Martin Gerber is waiting for his mask to be painted, so for now it’s solid black. … Rank (or at least superstardom) has its priveleges (with thanks to Jesse Swanko). … Lots of late-breaking items from Douglas Mooney: Manny Corpas was just cooling off; the Panthers have had to delay some uniform number changes because the new jerseys weren’t ready; Devin Hester blacks out the swoosh during photo shoots because he hasn’t yet signed a shoe deal; and a bit of field hockey controversy regarding a statewide protective eyewear rule in New York.