The Pro Bowl, an annual Uni Watch bête noir, took place yesterday, but I’ll get to that debacle tomorrow. Today I want to take some time to address some sad news that came down over the weekend, namely that Karl Ehrhardt — better known to Mets fans as the Sign Man — had died on Thursday. You don’t have to have grown up watching Ehrhardt’s antics, as I did, to appreciate his contribution to athletics aesthetics. Although not a uni-related figure per se, he was definitely part of the Shea Stadium landscape from 1964 through 1981, just like the old Dodgers Sym-Phony was an integral part of the Ebbets Field scene.
When I went looking for photos of Ehrhardt to run with this piece, I was stunned by how few images of him were available on the web. Aside from the one shown above (here’s a larger, uncropped version, and dig that usher’s uni!), the only others I could find were this and this, along with two more recent shots taken at Ehrhardt’s home a few years ago.
But I remember plenty of other signs Ehrhardt held up over the years. When a ball went through an infielder’s legs, it was, “Look Ma, No Hands!” When Jose Cardenal struck out, it was always, “Jose, Can You See?” According to a 2006 article, “He took roughly 60 signs to each game; he once owned as many as 1,200, but only 12 remain.” Does anyone have more pics of Ehrdhardt’s work? If so, forward them my way and I’ll assemble them into a gallery.
Will the Mets memorialize Ehrhardt with a sleeve patch? I doubt it — he was never tight with the Wilpon/Doubleday ownership group (they didn’t like him holding signs that criticized the home team, although they eventually invited him back to Shea for the team’s 40th anniversary in 2002). But man, think of the graphic possibilities of an Ehrhardt patch! Consider, for example, the logo that Uni Watch’s own Scott M.X. Turner created for Jon Springer’s Mets by the Numbers site. Now imagine something like that with “Karl” or “K.E.” on the sign — would that make an awesome patch or what? And it would be especially apropos for this, Shea’s final season.
In any case, Ehrhardt will live on in the minds of all Mets fans — and, I hope, all sports aesthetes. R.I.P., Sign Man.
Membership News: My apologies to those of you who’ve been waiting for your membership kits. A combination of factors conspired to delay the latest batch a bit longer than usual, but a bunch of kits mailed out on Friday (including today’s showcase card, based on the Marquette hoops team), so watch your mailboxes.
Uni Watch News Ticker: “I’d heard that Babe Ruth was a catcher before he turned pro, but I had never seen a picture until now,” writes Cork Gaines. “The strange thing about the photo is that Ruth (back row, left end) is holding a right-handed catcher’s mitt. As a former catcher myself, I know there’s an advantage to being right-handed (throws to second tend to tail to the correct side of the bag, better positioned to throw out someone stealing third), but I never thought the advantage was so great that a lefty would play the position right-handed.” Anyone know more about this chapter of Ruth’s life? … The Museum of Flight in Seattle has a new exhibit devoted to flight attendants’ uniforms. Details here and here, and there’s a great photo gallery here (with thanks to Larry Draper and Brian Terreson). … Several readers are reporting that the Georgia Tech football players voted on new uniforms for next season. “They’re switching back to ‘old gold’ instead of ‘Vegas gold,’” says Ben Beck. “Word on the street is white shirt/gold pants for both home and road. Still deciding on which helmet, though.” Dan Skankar says there’s also talk of a blue pants option. … Good assortment of NBA All-Star Game uniforms on view in this video clip (with thanks to Josh Hansen). … Report from a reader who prefers to remain anonymous: “The UAB football program is officially switching to Nike for the upcoming season, and is getting a jersey redesign. I’ve seen them, and they are very similar to the Miami jerseys when they were first redone, with a gold stripe coming up the sides and meeting at a point in the middle of a green or white field. I’ll try to get some pictures of them soon.” … Fun design-your-own-uni site here (with thanks to Brennan Sullivan). … More green dots may be on the way. … Depending on how you look at it, this is either history’s worst attempt at radial arching or else an endearing case of typography illustrating the word in question. … Want a nice glove in the face? Here’s an entire article devoted to that tactic. … Incredible though it may seem, there are ways to raise cancer awareness that don’t involve the color pink. Case in point: The French rugby team wore a yellow daffodil patch on their right jersey sleeve in their 6 Nations match against Ireland on Saturday (with thanks to Ross Lake). … I think this means he’s injured, right? … Speaking of pink, check out the color-coordinated logo creep on ASU coach Charlie Turner-Thorne’s collar (awesome catch by Andres Douzoglou). … Xavier wore throwbacks yesterday — nice. … Good catch by Ben Waschman, who spotted the ACC black memorial strip for the Virginia Tech shootings on Duke’s black alternates (it’s on the upper-right chest, opposite the American flag on the left). … Reprinted from last night’s comments: This year’s Stanley Cup finals patch will apparently look like this. … Coupla soccer notes from Jeremy Brahm: First, AC Milan is partnering with the fashion label Dolce & Gabanna. And FIFA has awarded a jersey badge to AC Milan for winning the FIFA World Club Championship in Japan in December (details here and here).