I recently scored another vintage uniform catalog. It features some particularly vibrant examples of things we’ve seen before, plus a few things I’ve never seen before. Here are the highlights:
• Good assortment of football jerseys here (the one at upper-right is unusual — you don’t normally see a raglan-sleeved football shirt) and here (love the repeating stripes on the green and black models). As usual, though, my favorite page is the listing of optional details. Interesting to see that the yellow sleeve-number panel (labeled “E26”) was already being referred to as a “TV Insert” in 1963.
• Here’s a standard assortment of football pants. What interests me is the listing of extras. First, note option K14L — I’ve never that type of harness-style color paneling before. And just above it, look at option K7L, which is described as, “Back of knee. Triangle.” Seems like something Nike or Reebok would do today, no?
• Good assortment of old-school hoops jerseys here (note that two of them are sleeved) and here. But once again, the listing of options is where the action is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crotch extension on a basketball jersey before. And look at item SKB — rib-knit trim at the hemline! I’d give anything to see a team actually wearing that.
Cap-ital Punishment: So I attended yesterday’s press conference about MLB’s “Welcome Back Veterans” program. They had most of the star-spangled caps on display (for some reason I was really fixated on the treatment of the Angels’ halo), along with the special ball and base that will be used during this promotion. There were lots of big shots on hand, including David Wright (whose presence was disturbing for me — shouldn’t he have been taking a pregame nap or something?) and Fred Wilpon (whose presence was disturbing for other reasons), plus about half a dozen Iraq and Afghanistan vets.
I don’t like the caps at all, but the charity initiative, at least as described, is clearly a good one, with lots of organizations participating on a pro bono basis (for further details, look here). After a presentation that lasted a little over a half-hour, the floor was opened for questions. The first two of these were total softballs — a guy from MLB.com, for example, asked Wilpon, “Fred, could you tell us a little more about why this is so important to you?” Someone else asked something of a similar tenor.
There’s nothing wrong with those types of questions, of course. There’s also nothing wrong with the kind of question I then asked, which went like this:
All the materials related to this promotion say that “a portion of the proceeds” from the cap sales will go to the charity program [look at the last bullet point here, for example]. Can you tell us what percentage that portion is?
The reason I ask is that some fans — including many who have already expressed their opinions to me as news of this initiative leaked out over the weekend — may view this program as just another merchandising program to move product and generate revenue. So what portion of the cap proceeds will go to the charity? And if it’s not 100%, why not?
And man, you could practically hear them crossing my name off their Christmas card lists. MLB PR czar Rich Levin glared at me like I’d just hocked a loogie in his cappuccino or something. “The answer is that that hasn’t been determined yet,” he growled. “But this is a charity initiative — it isn’t about generating revenue.”
“I’m not suggesting otherwise,” I responded. “But there’s a certain level of cynicism out there among some fans, so I was giving you a chance to clarify…”
“We reject that,” he snapped. “We reject the cynicism.”
And that, my friends, was the end of that. No more questions, cue the photographers for glad-handing pics. Afterward, two gentlemen who were involved with the vets’ program (i.e., not MLB employees) approached me and said, “I thought it was a very good question, and I don’t think you got much of an answer.”
When I got home, I found an e-mail from a local newspaper columnist of my acquaintance. “Loved your question at the news conference,” he wrote. “Then you vanished seconds after. Did security haul you away?” Actually, I’d hung around for about 10 minutes afterward. Anyway, I wrote back, “Heaven forbid anyone should ask a non-softball question, right?” To which he responded, “The reason that he got all offended was because you nailed him! Of course it’s just another marketing initiative! LOL.”
Actually, I’m a little less cynical than that. I think it’s more that Levin, and a lot of the other MLB suits, are completely out of touch with the way fans think. And if I told him that, he’d probably say, “Oh no, that’s not true — we do all sorts of focus groups to keep us in touch with fans’ opinions,” without realizing that that’s part of the problem. These guys are so corporate, so expense account, so executive suite and boardroom, they have no freakin’ clue what it’s like to be an average baseball fan, and even less clue as to how their machinations are perceived by the rest of us. They live in a hermetically sealed bubble, sort of like a permanent luxury box. So when they come up with a nice idea — and that’s certainly what the Welcome Back Veterans program is, stupid caps or no stupid caps — they pat themselves on the back and are genuinely surprised when someone (me, in this case) has the temerity to ask a real question that requires a real answer.
Footnote: An MLB spokesman later said he’d try to find an answer to my question.
Meanwhile: About seven hours later, David Wright made an error that led to four unearned runs. He later booted another ball (initially scored an error, then changed to a base hit) and went 0-for-3 at the plate. I rest my case.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Cool-looking vintage uniform catalog – which, unfortunately, I was outbid on — jersey. … Jeffrey Moulden was watching a broadcast of Vinny Testaverde’s first game at Miami (9/7/85) and was surprised to see that the ’Canes wore solid orange (additional pics here and here. … More Textile Mill League throwbacks from the Greenville Drive — I’ve set up a small slide show here (with thanks to Michael Bonasia and Billy Crowe). … “Went to an American Legion baseball game on Friday,” writes Michael Orr. “The West Columbia (SC) team does not have a uniform helmet design for their players, so the guys just wear their regular high school team helmets. This player goes to Airport High School in West Columbia, whose batting helmets apparently have side decals instead of having the logo on the front. I’ve never seen this before.” … The Cubs may be the only MLB team to use an embroidered appliqué on their batting helmets, but there’s at least one minor league team that does it: the Iowa Cubs. And look, they’ve even got the trademark symbol on there (big thanks to Dave Dolmage). … Ever since this site’s very first entry, I’ve been saying that athletes, and their uniforms, have been looking more and more like superheroes. Oregon’s football uniforms are an obvious example, but I didn’t realize Oregon had actually created little comic books for recruiting their top prospects. Unbelievable (with thanks to Greg Riffenburgh). … “The CSC cycling team has picked up a new co-sponsor, Saxo Bank,” reports Benjamin Graff. “Here’s the new jersey.” … Two promising-looking baseball exhibits currently underway at the Bennington Museum in Vermont (as forwarded by Erik Little). … “Mike Stein, a local Philly designer, was hanging outside my local coffee shop, and his tat stood out,” writes Morris Levin. “I’d know that design from the Phils’ 1976 jersey sleeve anywhere.” … Awesome article here about the organist at the College World Series. “Note the fried cheese curds on the organ,” points out Bryan. “Everything for the CWS is either fried, cheese, fried cheese, or beer.” Depressing excerpt from the article: “[Organs at ballparks] peaked in the 1960s and 1970s. Their numbers have dwindled since. The Hall of Fame’s research director, Tim Wiles, traced at least part of the beginning of the end to a change in ownership for the Mets after the 1979 season. The longtime organist Jane Jarvis was nudged out at Shea Stadium in favor of canned music. Teams wanted their music to rock, not reverberate.” … Not uni-related, but interesting nonetheless, from yesterday’s Times: “For the third consecutive game, [Mets manager Jerry] Manuel removed his starting pitcher in the middle of an inning. For the third consecutive game, the starter — this time, Mike Pelfrey — remained on the mound until the reliever arrived.” Seems to me that this used to be common years ago, but at some point pitchers began walking to the dugout as soon as the skipper arrived on the mound. Can anyone confirm or refute? Any idea when the changeover took place? … “It appears that Chris Sabo was way ahead of the Jamie Moyer curve when it comes to having a team logo on low-riding stirrups,” writes Robert Eden. “What’s all the more remarkable is that for years, Sabo had cultivated the fake stirrups look that we all know and loathe.” … Remember yesterday’s Ticker item about Bill Freehan wearing his uni number on his left sleeve during the ’68 World Series, while the other Tigers wore it on the right? Don Montgomery found another left-numbered Tiger from that same World Series: Willie Horton (who had the number on the proper sleeve earlier that year). … An injured hiker who was stranded in the Bavarian Alps was rescued after using her sports bra to signal local lumberjacks (it’s not clear whether the lumberjacks were attracted by the bra or by her bralessness), which I’m sure will lead to a new ad slogan: “Just Undo It.” … As many of you are already aware, this Virginia Tech jersey is up for sale on the web, although the Hokies haven’t yet confirmed that this will be the school’s new design. The full ensemble will apparently look like this, at least according to this blog entry (courtesy of Ryan McGhee). … “You may have heard that NY Ranger Sean Avery was an intern at Vogue,” writes Dan McCue. “He’s offered up his list of the worst sports uniforms ever. He also explains why he wanted to intern at Vogue. Best line: ‘If you feel like teasing this hockey player about an obsession of his that you might think is a little unusual, go right ahead. Just know that you may get your ass kicked by a very expensive pair of shoes — and that they’ll probably match both my belt and my shirt.'” … I’ve occasionally mentioned the Midnight Sun Game, which takes place every year in Alaska. But here’s something I hadn’t seen before: Players wearing Native Athabascan clothing prior to the 1964 game (great find by Mike Caulfield). … Speaking of finds, Jim Pericotti has discovered something I don’t think anyone else has brought up before: Maryland wears white uni numbers on their white helmets. What’s that about? … Yesterday I mentioned that Roger Federer would be wearing this logo on his sneakers. Turns out he’s also got it on his belt (good spot by Brinke Guthrie). … Jason Giambi’s mustache is getting lots of attention. … Mike Fiala just checked in from Vienna, where the European Soccer Championships have been taking place. “Adidas obviously made it their goal to win the advertising title, as they put a giant shoe for every participating country in front of Vienna’s Museumsquartier,” he writes. “Each shoe is as big as a compact car. Another annoying thing, although i haven’t seen it in person yet, is a 33m-tall Petr Čech in front of one of Vienna’s best known and beloved landmarks, the Riesenrad.” But hey, when I complain about the encroachment of advertising in public spaces, I’m just being an alarmist, right?