I’m probably the first writer to cover the sports uniform beat on a regular basis — or even to conceive of uniforms as a legitimate sports beat to begin with — but that’s not to say uniform coverage didn’t exist prior to the advent of Uni Watch (indeed, I cited a key 1970s example just the other day). Reader Doug Mooney recently found a bunch of uni-related articles in the archives of the New York Times, and they clearly show that uniform coverage was alive and well in the 1950s. Here they are, listed chronologically:
• April 2nd, 1950: “Hollywood Sets New Baseball Fad; Players Wear Shorts, Rayon Shirts.” This article is about, of course, the Hollywood Stars, who wore shorts in 1950 (additional info here). Key quote, from one of the Stars’ players: “Let ’em razz us, they’ll all be wearing them in another year or so.” Uh, right. Full text available here and here.
• February 26th, 1956: “Cards Redesign Suits.” This short AP item is of particular interest, because it refers to the uniforms that the Cardinals unveiled in this photo. As you may recall, the road jersey shown in that shot — the one with the “St. L.” insignia — was never used, and the circumstances surrounding it have never been fully explained. I devoted a blog entry to that subject about a year ago.
• August 12th, 1956: “What’s a Man to Wear Afield?” The subheading of this article, which ran in the paper’s Sunday magazine section, reads, “If he is a member of the Cincinnati Redlegs, he wears a vest instead of a shirt and pants with built-in knee pads,” which gives you an idea of the subject at hand. To provide some context, this was the season when Cincy’s uniforms changed from this to this. Key quotes: “The Redlegs’ new uniforms are as spectacular, in terms of costume, as the rabbit ball was in terms of window-breakage when Babe Ruth single-handedly revised baseball” and “The pitchers, whose arms supposedly so exceptionally precious, of course, are expected to wear their [under]sleeves long, to avoid chills, vapors or other calamities.” Lots of other good details regarding fabrics, tailoring, performance features, and more. And here’s a tantalizing tidbit: At one point the article mentions that Branch Rickey “attempted to put the Pittsburgh team into shorts, like lady softball players.” I’d never heard about that one before. Anyone else? Essential reading, available here.
• February 24th, 1958: “Giants Favor New Slim Look for Men in Gray Flannel Suits.” This item — written by Gay Talese, no less! — is one of those filler stories that writers come up with on slow days during spring training. Of course, one man’s filler is another man’s front-page news, and this article does not disappoint. Key quote: “[Ray] Kolas, who works for Wilson Sporting Goods, twirls his tape measure around 600 players each season. He keeps a measurement chart report on each player that would do credit to Brooks Brothers. For instance, on his chart of the Detroit pitcher Jim Bunning, Kolas noted: ‘Taper shirt — has small hips (no seat).’ ” Several other gems too, all available here.
• February 1st, 1959: “Major League Fashion Note: New Flannel; Nylon-Wool Fabric Reduces Uniform Weight by Half.” We all know that the Pirates were the first team to switch to solid-polyester double-knits, in 1970. But when did synthetic fibers first start being incorporated into MLB uniforms? According to this article, it was in 1959, when most teams went from solid wool to a 60/40 wool/nylon blend. The article also includes loads of uni-related ephemera, including this classic: “Yogi Berra, Yankee catcher and a dude, tops the best-dressed players with eight pairs of pants. Relief pitchers and bullpen catchers are not hard on clothes, except pants seats.” Get the full scoop here and here.
I know that’s a lot of material to read. But trust me — these are all well worth your time.
In a college all-star game following the 1971 season (Senior Bowl, perhaps), the South team had two quarterbacks who’d both worn No. 7 during their stellar careers. So Florida’s John Reaves wore 7R and Auburn’s Pat Sullivan wore 7S, respectively. Unfortunately, I can’t find a photo.
Intriguing, right? I didn’t have time this week to go hunting for a photo. But Bob’s brother, Davis Jaye, did. He contacted the Senior Bowl, whose offices were only too happy to provide him with these pics of Sullivan and Reaves. Big thanks to both Jaye brothers for their stellar contributions to the historical record.
Roster Restoration Update: We’re still missing 17 names from the membership roster (in case you’ve missed it, about 90 names were wiped off the list by a software glitch, and I’ve been trying to get everything back to normal). So if you haven’t already done so, all enrolled members should PLEASE check the roster listing. If you don’t see your name there, e-mail me your name, membership uni number, membership level, and why you chose your number. If your name linked to a photo, please re-send it. And if you’d like to help speed up the process a bit more, pick out your card from the design gallery and send me its URL. Big thanks for everyone’s help.
Meanwhile, anyone recognize today’s showcase card? It’s from the Arena League’s Colorado Crush.
Uni Watch News Ticker: My article on bullpen buggy history, which was posted yesterday on ESPN, is here. … Big kerfuffle in Florida over the proposed new uniforms for workers at Miami-Dade International Airport. Full details, plus an amusingly worded reader poll, here (nice find by Jonah Bamel). … Bowling Green’s athletic director discusses why the school changed its helmet design this season here (with thanks to Tom Konecny). … If you’ve ever wanted to dress up Steve Spurrier, here’s your chance (with thanks to Ronnie Poore). … I did a blog entry on World Series press pins about a year ago, but now Zach Siron has found a bunch of them for sale on eBay. Some real beauties, too. Look here, here, here, here, here, and here. Plus Zach also found an All-Star Game press pin and Gabby Hartnett’s lifetime pass (“which were apparently given out to players who had retired with much acclaim, local sportswriters, or other similar stars,” says Zach). Great stuff. … Florida State will be wearing their black uniforms against Duke next weekend. … The Green Bay Press-Gazette just posted a small gallery of Packers photos from 1942. Of particular interest: The ref’s beret (note the separate stripe pattern on the sleeve cuff, too), the uniforms being worn by the Western Army All-Stars (they’re the ones with the stripes), and these totally cool dusters.