The more you poke around in various archives, the more surprising it becomes that nobody ever came up with a dedicated uniform column or beat before I did. There’s certainly been plenty of uni-related material published over the years, and some publications have even pursued extended uni-centric themes. We’re going to look at two of those publications today.
The first example is the May 16, 1962, edition of The Sporting News. I came across this issue when Ricko told me he remembered TSN running a Willard Mullin-style uni-centric comic or cartoon on the front page during the ’62 season. I poked around and, sure enough, found this (not just Mullin-style, but actually by Mullin).
The cartoon is awesome — if you haven’t already done so, take a second to read all of it — but that wasn’t the only uni-related content in that issue of TSN. The front page also featured this article about 19th-century uniforms (here’s the jump), which was accompanied by lots of little sidebar items: This one is about the short-lived 1800s practice of each position being assigned a different-colored cap; this one is about the sloppy uniform standards of the 1890s; this one shows a Cooperstown exhibit of an 1876 uniform; and this one shows the cover an 1890 uniform catalog that I would sorely love to own. Note that the caption indicates that point collars on jerseys were no longer used by 1911, but subsequent Okkonen research indicates otherwise (there are several additional examples, too). Once again, I’m not playing “Gotcha!” here — just providing yet another example of how hard it can be to pin these things down, and how skeptical we should be of pronouncements that claim to establish definitive dates for poorly documented eras.
A quarter-century after that Sporting News issue, Sports Illustrated ushered in the 1989 baseball season with, among other things, a lengthy examination of uniforms in its April 5, 1989, issue. The special section was called “Fabric of the Game,” and it’s worth reading — start here, and then move on here, here, here, and here. As you can see, there are also lots of sidebars devoted to things like stirrup styles, the ever-evolving White Sox, some of history’s more questionable design decisions, and so on. Most of it is pretty good — worthwhile reading. If you have a hard time making out the type in the pages I’ve uploaded, go to this link, click on “Show Thumbnails,” scroll ahead to pp. 112-13, and then click “Zoom In” for a better view as you page through the material (or you can read the text-only version — no photos or other graphics — here).
It was almost exactly 10 years later that I approached SI with the idea for Uni Watch. They were very receptive, and I even wrote two pieces for them, but they both got bumped when “more important” stories came up. Then MLB floated an idea about possibly putting ads on jerseys (I remember reading that article on the subway while on my way to cover a non-uni story for a design magazine — funny how certain things can stay with you like that), and I figured, “Great, that’s my beat!” but my SI editor assigned the story to someone else. Between that and the two bumped articles, I was getting the pretty clear message that SI wasn’t taking Uni Watch or me very seriously, so I told them, “Y’know, this doesn’t seem to be working out” and took the column to The Village Voice instead (much lower visibility, natch, but it turned out to be a good incubator for the project’s voice and vision). In retrospect, maybe I should have approached The Sporting News — Uni Watch would’ve been a nice continuation of what I now realize has been their longstanding devotion to uni-related material.
Uni Watch News Ticker: “I teach 4th grade and come across sport books and picture books all the time,” writes Ryan Simmelink. “I came across the book Oliver’s Game by Matt Tavares, which is about a grandpa who had a shot at playing with the Cubs back in 1941. Tavares must have done some research, because many of his pictures are very detailed and accurate. In this picture, you can see the zipper on the jersey. This one is baggy and shows the vest. And this one shows the correct wishbone-C on the caps.” … Very interesting photo here from the 1968 Tangerine Bowl. As you can see, it appears that Ohio University was using “OHIO” as their NOB (excellent find by John Schaefer). … Brian Hilemon notes that Jake Peavy saluted Greg Maddux by going shin-cuffed and faux-stirruped on Wednesday night. … Good video report here about the Oregon equipment room (with thanks to Adam Reinwald). … Totally digging the buttons on Melaine Walker’s track suit (additional views here, here, here, and here). I assume they’re just ornamental, not functional, though. Anyone know for sure? … Wanna compare the Hornets’ old and new color schemes? Look here (old on the left, new on the right). … Two small but telling photos of Andy Chalifour: Here’s Glenn Hubbard wearing a cheekbone mask on his helmet, and Charlie O’Brien apparently wearing a brimless catcher’s helmet (plus some startlingly orange gear). … Bowling Green, Kentucky, is getting a new A-level baseball team, and you can vote on what it should be named. Naturally, I voted for Cave Shrimp, not only because it sounds great but also because the crustacea in question are described as “sightless albino shrimp,” which presents some awesome uni and logo possibilities. … Chris Coste’s mask used to have a Liberty Bell and a Phillies “P,” but lately he’s switched to a plain mask (sorry, no photo). Why? Branding, of course. For details, look here (with thanks to Jon Cannella). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: FNOB alert in Buffalo. … The Giants have overhauled their history section. Lots of cool photos (with thanks to Chris Gilligan). … Reprinted from last night’s comments: News (but no photos) here about the Lightning’s goalies will be wearing on their masks this season. … Phillies will be wearing 1970s throwbacks tonight. … Some really interesting info regarding recent Saints prototype designs here (big thanks to Trev Trahan). … Nice view. Details here (with thanks to Matt Shevin). … This site in a nutshell. … Sorry, no Portland report today — haven’t had time to write it up. It’ll run next week.