Buried amidst yesterday’s avalanche of Cowboys/Redskins comments was a small mention of the Belleville Bulls, an OHL (Major Junior) team that’s instituted an unusual quirk this year: They’re wearing uni numbers on their shorts.
This design element (which is also featured on the Bulls’ home uniform) raises an interesting question: Are uni numbers on pants ever a good idea?
In order to assess this query, we first need to look at the history of this phenomenon. Okay, then, one sport at a time:
Baseball: The first MLB team to wear pants-borne uni numbers was the 1975 Astros. By 1980 they’d taken the number off the pant leg, but the concept was revived in 1982 by the White Sox, who kept wearing the digitized pants even after switching to a different uni design — seven seasons in all. I’d like to think we can agree that these all fail the “Is it good or is it stupid?” test. Special Uni Watch bonus points to Floyd Bannister, who somehow managed to wear every one of these uniforms during his career.
Football: I’m aware of three NFL teams that have worn uni numbers on their pants: the 1982-89 Cowboys, the 1982-86 Colts (only at home), and the 1984-87 Packers. Not quite as bogus as the MLB examples, but still pointless, needless, a solution to a non-problem.
Hockey: The Belleville design is the first instance I’ve ever seen of uni numbers on breezers. There’s a certain appealing novelty to the look (just as there was, I’m sure, when the Astros and Cowboys introduced pants numbers to their respective sports), but it still feels like over-design to me.
Basketball: Lots of NBA teams have worn uni numbers on their shorts over the years. The current trend, though, is to go numeral-free, as the Bucks, Suns, and Sonics have all abandoned their shorts numbers in recent years. For some reason these all seem less objectionable than the examples from other sports. There’s something about the number on the shorts that resonates with a “Property of Athletic Dept.” sort of feel, which I kinda dig. Wish more NBA teams would go this route.
Soccer: As most of you know by now, my scope of soccer knowledge is very, very limited. But one thing I do know is that many (most?) teams wear uni numers on their shorts. Seems harmless enough, although I think I’d prefer to see it on the side, not on the front. I trust all you soccer fans out there will post some comments filling us in on the history and protocol for this uni element.
As for other sports, like rugby, volleyball, and the like, I hereby yield the floor to those of you who are better versed in those arcane disciplines. But I think our basic point is made: Uni numbers on pants are fairly rare, and for the most part that’s a good thing.
Austin Update: Thanks to all the Austin-ites who responded to yesterday’s query about possibly holding a Uni Watch gathering on the 27th (i.e., a week from tonight). The response was pretty sizable, so let’s definitely plan on getting together that evening.
I insist that we meet at a barbecue joint, and I’m partial to the ones that are outside of town (yes, I’m familiar with the area). I’d prefer Kreuz’s or Smitty’s in Lockhart, but they both close early, so that’s no good. Let’s make it 7:30 p.m. at the Salt Lick in Driftwood. Cool?
ITEM! Membership News: For those of you who’ve been waiting for us to lift the ban on NCAA-themed membership card designs, your patience has been rewarded: As of right now, NCAA designs are kosher. Actually, we already did one of them months ago — the Yale rugby design shown at right (which I liked so much when it was presented to us that I forgot all about the NCAA ban).
A few things to remember: The more obscure the school and/or sport, the more important it is for you to provide a rear-view photo. A backup design option is always a good idea, too. And the ban on purple-inclusive designs still stands. Aside from that, it’s open season — fire when ready.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Steiner Sports is selling a game-worn Manny Delcarmen World Series cap, and it turns out he had lots of underbrim scribblings. … Remember Lawrence Tynes’s Umbro cleats? Joe Skiba reports that the NFL has instructed him to black out the logos. … Maybe the NFL should have a talk with Brandon Marshall, too, because the Reebok logo was missing from his sleeves last night. Wasn’t like that a few weeks ago. … Back to Joe Skiba: Remember how the “ny” logo on the Jints’ nose bumpers switched from red-outlined blue to blue-outlined red a few games ago? Skiba says he likes the latter design so much that he’s gonna stick with it. Jeez, why not just make the helmets solid red and be done with it. … Jere Smith notes that Rajon Rondo frequently wears his headband upside-down. … Cincinnati maven David Sonny (who recenty conducted an interview with the Bengals’ equipment manager — look for that to appear here soon) reports that new Reds skipper Dusty Baker has claimed his usual No. 12 from Edwin Encarnacion, who will now wear No. 28. … The Canadiens retired Larry Robinson’s number (which he never wore on his shorts) last night and trotted out all the usual trappings — the all-honoree warm-up, the chest patch, etc. Happily, Robinson wore a straight-hemmed CCM jersey for the occasion, instead of the shirttail-hemmed models being worn by the current Habs. … ¡Cuba si, capitalism double-si!: After losing in the final round of the Baseball World Cup, Cuban pitcher Pedro Lazo sold his jersey to a collector after a sotto voce negotiation in a darkened corner. … Before Lloyd Carr dressed like this, he dressed like this and this (nice find by Doug Mooney). … According to this message board post (sent my way by Andres Douzoglou), Arizona State uses tape stripes on belts as an award system, like helmet merit decals. I’ve never heard this before. Anyone know more about it?