You know the gasoline brand Phillips 66? Back in the late 1940s they had an employees’ basketball team. They were called the Phillips 66ers, and they wore a “Phillips 66” insignia on their chest. And that’s where things get confusing.
I became interested in the 66ers after coming across this photo in the Life magazine archives. As you can see, both players facing the camera have two sets of front-jersey numbers. The script 66 is obviously part of the team insignia, but what about the block numbers? Never seen uni numbers positioned like that before. One guy’s got No. 66 (plus a 6 on his shorts, plus-plus presumably another 6 on his shorts that’s out of view), which just happens to be the name of the company, while the other guy’s got No. 33, which just happens to be exactly half of 66 — two mighty big coincidences. Maybe these are team identifiers, not uniform numbers. Did all the white-clad players have this block 66, I wondered, with all the dark-clad players wearing the block 33?
That’s the only photo I found that shows two teams of 66ers playing against each other. But I soon found several shots that show one team of 66ers playing against a non-66ers opponent, and an interesting pattern emerged for those upper-chest block numbers. This shot shows a player with a block 55; this one shows 11, 99, and 66 again (plus something not quite legible on the player bringing up the rear); this one shows 22; and I guess the photographer really liked that 66 guy, because he’s also shown here, here, and here (and yes, it appears to be the same player each time, despite switching from white to dark uniforms).
Obviously, those are all double numbers — boxcars, snake eyes, etc. First I thought, “Aha! Each player probably just has a single-digit uni number, and he also wears that number on each collarbone, creating the illusion of double numbers. It’s overkill, but it solves the mystery!” But if we go back to this photo, we see that one of the 66ers is wearing double-zero on his back, so that shoots down the single-digit theory.
“Aha again!” I thought. “They all have double-numeral uni numbers. It’s weird, but hey, it’s their style.” But then I went back to this shot, which shows a 66er wearing No. 34 on his back. So much for that theory.
Finally, I came across this shot, which seems to show a 66er wearing 90 on his chest. This is the only example I’ve seen in which the block numerals on the front of the jersey don’t repeat.
At the very least, this is a case of very unusual uni number placement. Toss in the boxcars/snake-eyes factor and the weird repetition of 66 and we’ve got a real puzzler. Got potential explanations? Let’s hear ’em.
Uni Watch News Ticker: My two cents on the Army/Navy shenanigans (already covered in depth by Phil yesterday): I thought Navy looked great — if they wore that uniform on a regular basis, that’d be jake with me. As for Army, if I wanted to watch G.I. Joe, I’d cue up this. … Speaking of the Army uniforms, here’s an article about the company that manufactured them (with thanks to Jesse Gavin). … The Cavs apparently like their throwbacks (thanks, Phil). … Check out this shot of FIU players warming up prior to Saturday’s game — tough to be sure, but it looks like No. 15 has a different piping pattern. … Wanna have your mind blown just a little bit? Try this on for size. That solid-green Packers portrait comes courtesy of Tom Farley, who sent along a bunch of mid-century NFL shots from his photo collection. “You can see that the Packers’ early-’50s green was much closer to kelly than the forest green Lombardi brought in,” he notes. The other pics he sent include a Colts/Packers shot from 1955 or ’55, an awesome Packers huddle from 12/10/61 at Kezar Stadium in SanFran, a late-’50s Colts/Niners shot (Kezar again), and a distant shot of the Packers and Cardinals, circa 1940 (“I know it’s at State Fair Park in Milwaukee — you can make out the dirt auto-racing track and the protective fence, complete with barbed wire, in the foreground — but I can’t recall if I ever established which game it was,” says Tom). Amazing stuff. … Now I’ve seen everything: Uni Watch cited (although mis-styled) in an eBay listing. And not just in the headline — note the first line of the item description (with thanks to Paul Hemingway). … Seattle’s new soccer team has unveiled its new uniforms. … What’s with the black heart patch on Eric Zeier’s jersey? (Photo courtesy of Taylor Darsey.) … Note the differing nameplate typography for the Sutter brothers in this shot (good find by Jeff Barak). … Bunch of really fun Georgia Tech 1950s program covers here (with thanks to Chris Wheeler). … Bill Radie notes that the jerseys in NHL 09 include an impressive detail: the stitching for the fight strap. … Interesting use of hockey-style jerseys here (with thanks to James T. Huening). … Here’s a memorial format I’ve never seen before: a long black strip. That’s the Indiana Ice of the USHL, whose team president Michael Schupay recently passed away. The strip (which was just worn this past weekend and will now be replaced by a patch) was even worn by the team’s mascot and cheerleaders (with thanks to David Soline). … Dylan Glickman notes that the Lebron logo, which was on Ohio State’s shorts as recently as November 24th, has more recently been replaced by a swoosh. Anyone know why? … Color vs. color alert: Maquette/Wisconsin from Saturday. … And here’s another one: UCF/USF, also from Saturday. But there’s a story behind this one, as explained by Doug Richards: “UCF had just finished a five-game road trip, and head coach Kirk Speraw wanted to do something special to pump up his team now that they were back home. The players headed out for warm-ups wearing their usual white home uniforms. But when they entered the locker room after pregame warm-ups, they found new gold uniforms waiting in their lockers.” … Nice to see Under Armour is now making police cars (with thanks to John Flanagan). … Decal problems yesterday for Antonio Pierce and Le’Ron McClain, on both sides of his helmet (screen grabs courtesy of Rob Perkey and John Okray, respectively). … If you choose to believe this article, those annoying biceps bands originated at Penn State (with thanks to Chris Flinn, who also put together a nice batch of Army/Navy screen grabs). … Great find by Jeremy Brahm: an Ichiro footwear timeline. Surprising to learn that the Broncos have a helmet cart featuring their pre-Nike design. “Apparently they use this to do parking lot promotions before games,” says Jeff Husted. “I asked if they had one with the current logo, but apparently they don’t.” … Doug Keklak got some good college football screen grabs showing unusual NOBs for Cincinnati’s Corey Smith and Tulsa’s Damaris and David Johnson (also note the rounded nameplates), plus decal problems for USF’s Benjamin Williams. … Dig this awesome shot of Sid Luckman. … The Bills had a “home” game in Toronto yesterday, so they wore this logo as a jersey patch. … Latest memorial for Bill Keightley: Kentucky wore black uniforms last night, and everyone had this NOB. … Moon over Baltimore last night (with thanks to Tim Burke). … Hopped in the car yesterday with my friends Jon Hammer and Karen McBurnie and headed down to Philly, where we checked out the R. Crumb and Peter Saul exhibits. On the way back, we stopped for adult beverages at the totally swell Jay’s Elbow Room (additional view here), where an unusual uni-related detail present itself: When we asked why the bar’s coaster design features an elephant, we were told that the original owner back in the ’40s was a big Philadelphia A’s fan. I trust you all get the connection.