You’ll often hear me say I’m doing a raffle or some other promotion in conjunction with “our friends from Distant Replays.” Chief among those friends is DR founder/owner Andy Hyman, who’s been a Uni Watch charter advertiser for two years now. He’s always been enthusiastic and supportive, and I like to think I’ve been the same toward him, but we’d never really had a substantive conversation until early October, when I got the following note from him:
I love many of the drawings that folks send in to your site, so I thought you might get a kick out of these that I did back when I was a kid. Found them in my garage and framed up for my three-year-old’s bedroom. I have more of this cool stuff, if you’re interested.
Naturally, this is precisely the sort of thing I love, plus it basically explains how Distant Replays came into being, so I told Andy to crank up the scanner and send me everything he had. It took him a little while to find the old drawings and such (and he says there’s still a lot more that he hasn’t located yet), but it was worth the wait. After he sent me the scans, I gave him a call to go over all the particulars. Here’s how it went down:
Uni Watch: When did you start doing these drawings?
Andy Hyman: Probably when I was about nine.
UW: And how old are you now?
UW: So it would have been the late ’60s.
AH: Right. I realized I loved sports when I was nine — the year of the Jets/Colts Super Bowl.
UW: And where were you growing up at the time?
AH: Huntington, New York.
UW: Ah, you were a Long Island kid, just like me! But you’ve previously told me you were a Colts fan, right?
AH: I was. Because my cousin Larry, who was six years older than me, was a Strat-O-Matic football fanatic. He loved the Baltimore Colts and he brainwashed me to love the Colts. So he had, like, these 8-milimeter films of Bubba Smith, and Mike Curtis ripping off Roman Gabriel’s head, and that was it — I was hooked. Even though I was from New York and the Jets were, you know, the thing. My sister loved Joe Namath and had pictures of him all over her wall. And when the Colts lost that Super Bowl to the Jets, I cried, and I tried ripping down those pictures. And she beat me up.
UW: Was she older than you?
AH: Yeah, by six years.
UW: So, getting back to the drawings, you just started doing them, the way kids start doing things?
AH: Yeah, it was all about the colors. I just loved the way the uniforms looked.
UW: Did you have color TV at that time?
AH: I did not.
UW: So how did you know which colors to use?
AH: I went and bought Sport magazine and Sports Illustrated, and I went over to my friend’s house — he had a color TV.
UW: Did you use colored penvils, or crayons..?
AH: Everything. Magic Markers, Crayola –
UW: Man, wouldn’t it be great if Crayola had a line crayons in team-based colors?
AH: That’d be awesome.
UW: So did you show these drawings to friends, or bring them to show-and-tell at school, or were they just squirreled away in your bedroom?
AH: It was just me, my cousin, and a couple of our friends who were in this little world of ours. So we kind of passed them back and forth to each other. But I just liked to draw.
UW: Why did you use the same pose for all these early drawings? Was it based on a particular photograph?
AH: No, it just seemed like that was the most basic thing. I was very into lining things up and making things straight, and I think that’s why I did it like that.
UW: What about the maniacal grin on everyone’s face?
AH: It was just my style. I don’t know. It was just — I just don’t know!
UW: Now, part of the fun of uniform drawings is getting to replicate the team logos. But you drew all these football players facing head-on, so you couldn’t do the full logos. Wasn’t that frustrating?
AH: I didn’t really have the skill, or didn’t really want to put the effort into getting the logos just right.
UW: Ahhh, so that’s like when you can’t draw hands or fingers very well, so you keep drawing people with their hands behind their back.
AH: I guess. The only one I really wanted to do in full was the Colts — that one I always did from the side.
AH: Some of them definitely were specific players. And for some of them, I don’t know why I did what I did. Sometimes the Magic Markers would blend and the guy’s face would turn out green. There are things like that that I wish I could go back and change.
UW: Yeah, there are some interesting color choices here. Like, there’s this one drawing where it looks like you’ve got the Eagles wearing yellow. Is that a situation where the colors just faded over the years?
AH: Yeah, probably.
UW: OK, let’s move on to another one of your early projects: Your Strat-O-Matic newspaper.
AH: Yes, that was The Strat-O-Matic Tribune. Basically, I played hundreds of games. Every day, that’s what I did, I played Strat-O-Matic.
UW: Against your cousin and those two friends you mentioned earlier?
AH: Well, you can play Strat-O-Matic solo. I played the majority of the games solo. I would just go crazy — I’d be there at the dining room table screaming, “Oh my god, back-to-back home runs!” or “A no-hitter!” or whatever it was. But my mother’s at work while I’m doing this, so nobody knows, and I’m thinking, “Gosh, if only someone could know the excitement I’m going through here!”
UW: So that’s what the newspaper was for — to share the excitement?
AH: Well, yeah, it was. And keep a little box score for each game write a headline for it, and I’d do that for each game. Or I’d create a game recap, like a news account, complete with a photo. And I played literally hundreds and hundreds of games. And then I’d go, “How can I…” — uh, how did you just put it?
UW: Share the excitement?
AH: Right! So I’d be thinking, how can I let my cousin know, let the world know? And that’s why I did The Strat-O-Matic Tribune.
UW: And how many issues of this do you produce?
AH: I probably did 30 or 40 issues — of the regular one, which was a one-pager. But then I did The Strat-O-Matic Tribune Special, which there were like 10 of. Those were eight pages long, and that’s what I haven’t been able to find, and it’s killing me. I had color drawings, and I’d take photos out of magazines and paste them in, to make believe those photos were happening in the game I was playing.
UW: Would you xerox these?
AH: I wouldn’t. I’d just make one.
UW: An edition of one?
AH: One, yup, one copy. I’d let my cousin read it. Of course, nobody else in the world would care — it was just me and him. So I’d send him one of the issues…
UW: You’d send it — so he lived somewhere else?
AH: He lived in Scarsdale.
UW: So you’d mail these to him?
AH: I’d mail them to him, yes. And he wrote The Strato-Gazette — that was his paper.
UW: Oh, he had one too?
AH: Yeah, but he didn’t come close to keeping up with me. He wasn’t as interested.
UW: So when you’d mail these to him, would you want them back?
AH: I did, yes. And one of them came up missing — issue No. 9!
UW: So this was a loan, like a library?
AH: Yeah, you could say that.
UW: Now I have to ask you about this “Certificate of Strato” — what is that?
AH: Basically, when we were gettin’ a little older — maybe 13, 14 — I got a few friends in my neighborhood to get into it, and we had this marathon of games, y’know? We’d have a sleep-over and we’d start at eight o’clock — or wait, we might actually start right after school, so maybe three o’clcok — and we’d play until we got bored or fell asleep. We did this several times. One time we played like 11 games, another time 15 games. It was intense.
UW: It was epic!
AH: It was epic! And one of the guys was Russian, another one was Polish, and I was Jewish, so we wrote “Polok Jew Russian United” on the certificate.
UW: Sort of a gesture of eastern European solidarity.
AH: Y’know, it was just about trying to make this cool-looking certificate as neatly as I could with my writing. I don’t know, we just had to make sure everyone knew we’d played this many games.
UW: It looks like you kept your records in a Strat-O-Matic folder..?
AH: Yeah, that’s where I kept all the stats.
UW: So this was like the Elias of its day.
AH: Exactly. And after seven games I’d have an All-Star Game. See, it takes months to play seven games for all 28 teams. That’s one thing that always bothered me: You’d get the new cards for the 1972 season, say, based on stats from 1971, and you’d start playing out the season, and in your dreams you could play a regulation 162-game season. But then the real baseball season starts — the regular one, that the real players are playing — and immediately it’s like, “Oh no, I’m falling behind.”
UW: Because they can play a dozen games in one day, which is a more than you can do.
AH: Right. So Richie Allen’s hitting .200, or whatever, but in my league he’s hitting .300 and it starts feeling old. So I’d do All-Star Games after seven games — I’d compile all the records and choose the players who were doing the best and get ’em in there.
UW: Tell me about this state report on the state of Maryland.
AH: Oh, the reason I included that with all this other stuff is to show how I was so consumed with the Colts. I don’t think I got an F on that — maybe a D.
UW: What grade was this?
AH: Third grade, I think. Maybe fourth grade. I basically put all of my efforts into drawing that Colts helmet, as opposed to actually doing the report, which I totally plagiarized on the last day. Because Maryland is about sports!
UW: Did you choose to do Maryland?
AH: No, it was assigned to me!
UW: Wow, you must have loved that! Hey, speaking of the Colts, what’s with this Bubba Smith image?
AH: That was a woodcut, or linoleum print — I did that in art class. I thought it was pretty cool.
UW: And what about this Larry Brown drawing? That’s a little more advanced than your earlier ones.
AH: I think I copied that from this book of Sunoco football stamps in the early 1970s.
UW: Yes, I had those! You’d buy the album, which had blank pages, at the Sunoco station, and then you’d get the free individual player stamps to paste into the album. That’s something I really wish I’d saved. I’d kill to have that back [although it turns out there's plenty of them available on eBay, which I may have to pursue now that Andy's reminded me about it].
AH: I made my mom go to every Sunoco and get the stamps, because I had to have every damn one of ’em.
UW: I remember I’d draw the ones I didn’t have. I specifically remember drawing Vic Washington, who was a running back on the 49ers. I didn’t have his stamp, and of course I had to have the complete 49ers page filled in, because they were my favorite team, so I just drew his stamp and put it in there. It was a really bad drawing, too. Anyway, that’s where you took that Larry Brown pose from?
AH: Yeah, and I ended up doing it over and over until I had it down. I could do that right now, in fact. Instead of writing rock bands on my book covers, I was doing drawings like that one.
UW: I understand you were a big boxing fan, too.
AH: Again, that was because of my cousin was a big Smokin’ Joe Frazier fan, and one day I thought to myself, “Hmmm, let’s do Strat-O-Boxing.” And I kind of invented it all on my own. I used the same principles, with the three dice and all, and I had a lot of fun with it.
UW: Did you ever send a letter to the Strat-O-Matic people to tell them you’d invented a new game?
AH: I never did. But my wife, when she saw all this, she said, “You should send this to Strat-O-Matic.” So I might just do that.
UW: Now what about this hockey illustration — is that paint-by-numbers?
AH: Right. I did a lot of that. But they kind of annoyed me because the colors they specified for the ice never looked real. So I struggled: Should I paint this the colors they want, because that’s what the rules say? Or should I color it the way I want, because I think their colors look like crap?
UW: That’s pretty much the dilemma of life in a nutshell right there, right?
AH: It also bothered me that most of the color-by-numbers goalies didn’t have masks, and this was right around the time most goalies were wearing masks, so it looked wrong.
UW: I had one of those tabletop hockey games — and old one, because it had belonged to my older brothers. The players were made of metal, not plastic, and the goalies didn’t have masks. But by the time I was playing the game, every goalie in the league wore a mask except for Andy Brown of the Red Wings. So I draw little masks for each goalie, cut them out, and taped them to the goalies’ faces — except for the Detroit goalie, who I left bare-faced.
AH: Man, when we were done playing Strat, we’d play that game too!
UW: So do you have more of this stuff, or has it been thrown out, or is it in storage, or what?
AH: You know, a lot of it I can’t find right now. But I know it’s around — it’s just a matter of finding it after moving so many times over the years. My mother still has some of it, I think.
UW: Speaking of your mom, what did your parents think of all this at the time?
AH: They were as happy as they could be.
UW: They didn’t say, “Why are wasting you time on this stuff”?
AH: No, never. I mean, sometimes they’d say, “You can’t play until you do your homework,” but that’s all. They totally were supportive of it.
UW: Were they sports fans?
AH: Not really, no.
UW: Were they happy that you were drawing, because it meant you were being artistic and creative?
AH: Yeah. My dad is an amazing watercolor artist, my mom’s a great artist, my brother, too. He did the murals outside the Distant Replays store.
UW: Oh, so the artistic thing runs in your family.
AH: Yeah, I’m the least talented one.
UW: And now, of course, your career is based on vintage sports graphics.
AH: Yup. And my mom likes to say, “I always knew keeping all those records and statistics would help you one day.”
UW: So you were born to do this.
AH: I think I was, yeah.
UW: Do you still play Strat-O-Matic?
AH [somewhat sheepishly]: I don’t.
UW: Why did you stop?
AH: I went to college and, you know, other stuff took over.
UW: Did you play sports as a kid, in addition to playing Strat?
AH: Yes. We played youth football, and I played lacrosse all through junior high, high school, and college. There’s a good picture of me, showing my afro, on the Distant Replays site.
UW: Whoa — dude, that’s, uh, really something. What about your pee-wee football days — did you have cool uniforms?
AH: My first year we were the Browns. White helmet with a brown stripe, boring. My next year we were the Vikings. We had gold jerseys with yellow and white stripes on the shoulders, but again, white helmets with a purple stripe and maybe a “V” on the helmet.
UW: Did you wear your uniform just so, with everything tucked in just right and all that?
AH: Of course. I wanted, head to toe, to look like Bubba, so I had the hand pads and the arm pads. But the frustrating thing is that all the helmets had the two-bar quarterback facemask. How could I look like a defensive lineman with that kind of helmet?
How indeed. Such equipment-based annoyances notwithstanding, Andy’s artwork ranks alongside that of Marty Hick (profiled here) and Tyler Kepner (profiled here) in the homespun uni drawings sweepstakes. Totally charming, totally inspired. Good on ya and all that, Andy.
Uni Watch News Ticker: I don’t usually crow about non-uni vintage clothing acquisitions, but I’m all jazzed about this 1960s Norfolk jacket I picked up over the weekend — complete with belt and rear box pleat. The fabric is this gorgeous brown/hunter/burgundy herringbone pattern, and I don’t mind saying that the thing looks pretty damn swank (but yes, I really need to clean that mirror). … Some great old 1958 Giants/Lions footage available here. … Pete Carroll has finally confirmed what’s long been rumored: USC and UCLA will both wear their colored home jerseys this Saturday. And there was dancing and happiness throughout the land. … In a vaguely related item, Idaho State and BYU had a went color-vs.-color last Saturday (with thanks to Frank Mercogliano). … And there’s a good clip here on Shea Stadium’s construction, featuring Casey Stengel holding forth on a variety of topics. … Craig Bates recently found an old Oilers helmet lamp (and yes, it still works). … Missing letter, or just a fold in the fabric? (As spotted by Matt Edwards.) … Last year we noted that several of the Cowboys were wearing Strap-Loks (that little white plastic clip on the high strap). Now Matt Powers has noticed several of the Broncos wearing them as well. … Harvard’s women’s hockey team debuted new black tops and socks on Saturday (with thanks to A.J. Frey). … Here’s something you don’t often see: high school throwbacks. That’s Steinert and Hamilton, both of New Jersey, playing the 50th installment of their rivalry. Additional pics here (with thanks to Robert Carabelli). … Yesterday I noted that some Thousand Oaks players had white helmets while others had green. Here’s the explanation, courtesy of Thousand Oaks grad John Hartman: “The tradition of the ‘green helmet at Thousand Oaks goes back to the ’70s. It’s actually an award given out to players who excel on defense (no offensive equivalent). The tradition was lost a few years ago when all the white helmets were changed to green, but somebody made the right decision this year to go back to white, thus the ‘green helmet’ was reborn. The running joke we always heard from other teams was ‘What’s the matter, you guys can’t afford matching helmets?’ They quickly shut up when they were lit up by a green helmet recipient.” … Last week I linked to a shot of Jim Abbott bunting. Andy Chalifour reports that the flip side of that card shows something almost as rare: Abbott on the bases. … Tons of old Nebraska bowl photos, some dating back to the 1940s, here (with thanks to David McGee). … Good article here about NC State using the new Xenith helmet (with thanks to Wayne Koehler). … “This isn’t uni-related, but The Price Is Right decided to paint the Big Wheel purple,” writes James Leroux. “The result was so ugly, it’s only being used for one week.” … Benjamin Page notes that Chester Taylor of the Vikings wear a “C. Taylor” nameplate, even though the Vikes haven’t had another Taylor since Travis Taylor in 2006. “However, they start three Williamses on defense (Kevin, Pat, and Madieu), none of whom has a first initial,” he adds. … Louisiana-Lafayette will be wearing throwbacks tonight. The “USL” insignia refers to the school’s previous name, University of Southwestern Louisiana (courtesy of Chris Mycoskie). … Japanese ballplayer Hichori Morimoto was recently given a pay cut — a rarity in Japan — and here’s how he reacted at a press conference (with thanks to, of course, Jeremy Brahm). … Are those rosary beads on MJ’s right wrist or what? …Notable sights from last night’s Jags/Texans game: Houston doused in cocktail sauce, Jack Del Rio in leather fetishwear, and Steve Slaton with a slight decal glitch. … The mighty Fleer Sticker Project site is taking its second annual look at endearingly kitschy Sears Wishbook catalog merch. Check it out here. … Anyone know why Texas A&M was wearing a jersey patch on Thanksgiving? … Reprinted from last night’s comments: Back in his college days at Michigan, Marty Turco wore mismatched leg pads.