New ESPN column today — here’s the link. (If it doesn’t work now, it should work by noon-ish eastern.)
Meanwhile: As you may recall, one of the most puzzling uni junctures of last year came when the Cardinals and Indians played in the inaugural Civil Rights Game, and wore some astonishingly uninspired uniforms for the occasion. I was never able to get a straight answer out of MLB regarding the uni designs (refresher course here), and I ultimately ended up assuming that the uniforms were either a last-minute stopgap move that had hurriedly been thrown together or else a failed experiment. Either way, I was certain they’d go a different route for this year’s installment of the game, which will feature the Mets and White Sox.
Shows what I know. A source who prefers to remain anonymous informs me that the Mets will be wearing this. The cream-colored background tone is a nice touch, but c’mon — are they really gonna stick with this template year after year? Unbelievable.
Stripe-O-Rama Revisited: Yesterday’s post about striped footballs prompted lots of good responses:
• From Tom Cotter: “According to this page, “A natural leather ball with white end stripes replaced the white ball with black stripes for night games” in 1956.
• From Tim Bullis: “If you scroll down to the middle of this page, you’ll find the following explanation:
The white football debuted in the NFL on the evening of Sept. 16, 1950. This was the much-anticipated NFL debut of the Cleveland Browns, the upstart newcomers and former champs of the recently absorbed/defunct AAFC, who would open the regular season by in expectantly whipping the incumbent NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia. It is considered one of the landmark games in NFL history, and the old white ball was a part of it. The white ball was adopted for night games primarily because it could be seen far better than the conventional brown variety under the poor stadium lighting of that era.
The league ordered the Browns to set aside their traditional white leather helmets for this historic game because they looked too similar too the white football being used. It was feared that an Eagle player diving for what appeared to be a loose ball might have instead found a head attached to it. That evening the Browns wore new burnt orange leather helmets. In 1952 the team switched to Riddell burnt orange plastic helmets with a single white center stripe. In addition to the Browns, the league required the other NFL teams with white or silver helmets (Cardinals, Lions and Colts) to use darker shaded helmets when they played at night. This practice of wearing dark helmets only for night games continued through the end of the 1955 season.
In 1956 the visiting teams were required to wear white uniforms to better distinguish themselves from their opponents for the rapidly increasing television audiences who, at that time, were limited to black and white picture tubes technology. Recognizing that the white uniforms would have given the visiting team an unfair opportunity to camouflage the white ball on running plays the league replaced the white “night” ball with a brown ball with a white circular stripe on each end prior to the start of the 1956 season. The retirement of the white ball eliminated the need for the previously mentioned teams to wear a special darker helmet for night games.
The players complained that the painted on white stripes made the too ball slippery but it was retained until the end of the 1976 season. As stadium lighting improved to meet the needs of color television, the white striped “night” ball was permanently replaced by the conventional all brown ball just prior to the 1977 season.
• Several people noted that the striped ball is still used in the CFL, and that the Arena League uses its own high-visibility ball. And then there’s the XFL ball. Best of all, Don Montgomery alerted me to the existence of the excellent Game Balls site, which includes this page.
But why was a striped ball used in Super Bowl VIII? Alan Gilbert says, “I have the actual CBS broadcast of SB VIII. It was overcast and drizzly, so Rice Stadium had the lights on. They went with the striped ball for that reason and it is mentioned in the broadcast.” But the real answer is lurking in this article (another Don Montgomery find): “In 1973, including that season’s Super Bowl, [the NFL] used balls with white stripes.”
So there you go. Thanks to everyone who contributed — I learned a lot on this one.
Seattle Reminder: By the time most of you read this, I’ll be on my way to Seattle. Remember, Uni Watch party tomorrow, 7:30pm, at the Pyramid Alehouse.
Uni Watch News Ticker: “A person with a lot of time on his hands replaced the video from the current Air Jordan commercial with old footage of some guy named Matt Bellner,” writes Lance Storm. “Great-looking uniform shots in the 60-second clip.” Indeed, this is really great — highly receommended viewing. … Great old Oklahoma State football pics here and here. In that last shot, No. 70 is Buddy Ryan (nice find by Clint Spaulding). … Some cool eBay stuff here, here, and here (courtesy of David Allen). … Several people noticed the tarheel logo on the shorts in this photo. Shouldn’t the heel be black with the rest of the foot being white? … Key passage in this story: “After sitting down, Lerner perched his feet on the table’s edge, inches away from an updated white model similar to the one the Browns wore in 1948, and could break out for a future special occasion” (good find by Nick Funaro). … Here’s the most relevant uni number of the week (with thanks to Eric Trager). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Why is the football field called a gridiron? Because it used to be, literally, a grid. … Corey Zoldan notes that if Mets players Ryan Church and John Maine got into a dugout scrap and had to be broken apart, this would be a prime example of a separation between Church and state. … Speaking of the Mets, Luis Castillo was victimized by the old bubble-gum prank yesterday. … Lots of cool Kansas baseball pics here. How cool are those caps! (With thanks to Gregory Johnson.) … Nice video clip here about the new Hawaii football uniforms (with thanks to Tim Snyder). … The Giants haven’t yet worn the Cool-Flow helmets. But Joaquin Jang reports that Aaron Rowland is wearing the newfangled lid in a promotional campaign. ” Fortunately, he and the other Giants have been wearing the traditional helmets in spring training, so hopefully the ad is just a one-time thing,” writes Joaquin. … Billy Duss, who’s an intern at the Minnesota State Capitol, reports that the Twins will wear a Minnesota sesquicentennial sleeve patch on May 9th-12th. “There will also be other festivities, including an old-timers game where, from what I have heard, the teams will be wearing 1850s-era uniforms,” he writes. … Do red soccer jerseys equal more goals? That’s what it says here (with thanks to Trevor Williams). … Those of you who know I love baseball sweaters will understand why I like this photo of the 1909 St. Louis Browns (nice find by Bruce Menard). … According to Mike Nachreiner, Pepperdine’s new Under Armour baseball pants have slits cut above the knee. What’s that all about? … “I happened to pick up the 1975 Oklahoma City 89ers card set,” writes Morris Levin. “Check out the jerseys!” … Note the non-matching University of Richmond helmets in this 1970s photo (good catch by Daniel Stevens). … “With MLS season just around the corner, a friend of mine and I were talking about the original MLS teams and jerseys, and WOW, take a look at some of these beauties,” writes Adam Taylor. “Sometimes I forget how crazy the nineties could be.” … Check out the uni numbers on the Florida practice shirts. … Remember the old bit about wearing clean underwear in case you’re hit by a car? The basebll equivalent would be to wear stirrups in case you’re hit by a foul ball. That’s Stump Merrill, who was clonked in the noggin yesterday (as spotted by John Brazil). … David Sonny came across some very old hockey gloves. He also adds: “I have heard the new Cincinnati Bearcats football uniforms are pretty freaking bad. Cat claw scratches down the legs, bearcat eyes above the nameplate — cartoon-ish and hip hop-ish.” Ugh. … If you’ve been waiting for your membership card, it went out yesterday. My apologies for the delay.