If there’s one thing I learned about Pittsburgh during my recent visit, it’s this: The city is nuts about fish. There are fish mosaics in the sidewalk, giant fish sculptures in the Children’s Museum parking lot, and just about all the restaurants in town were touting their fish sandwiches — including burger joints, Arby’s, and Dairy Queens! Okay, so I was in town for the first Friday of Lent (a barbecue stand had a sign that read, “Eat our fish or go to hell!”), but several people told me that the fish sandwich thing is a year-’round obsession, which was something I hadn’t been aware of. Suddenly this movie title resonates in a whole new way.
Kirsten and I did enjoy a remarkably good fish sandwich at a VFW hall near our motel on Friday night, but I’ll get to our non-Uni Watch activities later. For now let’s talk about the Uni Watch party at Max’s, which was one of the best ever — epic turnout, great people, and the only bar I’ve ever seen with a cigarette machine in the men’s room. Here’s a rogue’s gallery of attendees (with apologies to anyone I may have missed or whose name I may have misspelled):
• The party provided a rare opportunity for a Uni Watch Pennsylvania summit meeting, as Morris Levin (who lives in Philly but was in the ’Burgh for work-related reasons) and Doug Keklak were both on hand. So was Morris’s daughter, Pardes, who was dressed for the occasion. That’s Morris’s wife, Rachel, on the left.
• As for Kek, he made sure to point out his script “Pitt,” a logo he’d sorely like to see back in circulation. He also said he considered putting a strip of blue masking tape over his Adidas logo, just for me, but eventually decided not to bother. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, Dougie!
• These are my friends Jennifer Baron and Greg Langel, who are the people behind this fantastic web site and its companion book (and who showed us all of their favorite spots around town on Saturday). Jen brought along her youth-league softball shirt, complete with an unfortunate sponsorship and one remaining letter from her NOB.
• Remember Ryan Connelly and his DIY Pittsburgh bus line jersey? In that entry he wrote, “I’m also working on a home/dark verison, which I know you’ll love (I found a thermal at the Gap with lots of stripes!), but I haven’t started it yet.” He finished that design in time to wear it to Max’s. Check out his great work on the crest, shoulder patch, and numbers. I was way impressed.
• The person on the right in this shot is Jerry Wolper, looking sharp in his 1960s Hershey Bears jersey, which accessorized nicely with his Uni Watch membership card. Here’s a closer look at the front and back.
• The guy standing next to Jerry is Chris Weber. Although he dressed in civvies, Chris brought the coolest show-and-tell of the whole party: a series of hand-rendered USFL score sheets from when he was a kid. Check out the detailing on the logos and facemasks — primo. He even added a little pair of aces next to the Gamblers’ team name. And of course he signed his work. Great, great stuff.
• On the left we have Phil Walcic, who was wearing a Tommy Salo jersey. The guy in the Buccos vest is George Fetkovich, who not only brought along his membership card but got bonus points for having the card match what he was wearing.
• Sean Fox had the most conceptually satisfying outfit of the day: He dressed as a Three Rivers Stadium usher, complete with team logos on one sleeve and “Staff” designation on the other. He said he got the shirt on eBay.
• Here we have the Kowalski brothers. That’s Matt on the left, wearing an ’82 Marino jersey, and Nick on the right, in a 2005 Roethlisberger Pro Bowl model — a rare design, since Big Ben didn’t actually make the Pro Bowl that season.
• No jersey for Jeff Banks, which takes a certain amount of guts at a UW gathering.
• But it takes even more guts to show up in a red Pirates vest, as Cory Nestico did. Fortunately, his jersey’s loathsomeness was counterbalanced by the splendor of Greg DiPietro‘s Pens sweater (which truly is a sweater — look at that knit fabric!). Here’s how they looked from the back.
• When Kirsten and I arrived at Max’s, the first people to greet us were Jesse Wiedaw and Becky Myers. (Becky, incidentally, was one of two people I saw over the weekend wearing the classic Tekulve design from Watch Your Back.)
• The Steelers have the Terrible Towel, and the Bills have — or, rather, had, very briefly — the Whammy Weenie. And Jason Bernard has the coolest T-shirt ever. That’s his galpal, the appropriately named Jenny Sweet, on his arm.
• Wayne Jones wore a Yale hockey jersey (and took a bunch of pics, which you can see here). Here he is chatting with Kirsten, who wore her old Harvard Graduate School of Design tee (it’s hard to see, but the skull’s teeth spell out “GSD”), because “it’s like a Pirates logo, sort of.”
• That’s Brent Wilson on the left and Steve Skurski standing next to him. Steve came all the way from Buffalo for the UW event, so he wins long-haul bragging rights for this party.
• Here’s Dan Kenaan in a Pittsburgh Rebels throwback (that’s from the Federal League, boys and girls). Dig the hefty sleeve patch. Someone else was wearing a slightly more knockoff-ish version of this same design, but he left before I could get a photo.
• As you may have noticed in some of the earlier pics, I broke my longstanding “Dress like a normal person” policy for UW gatherings and wore a jersey this time around. Here’s why: A few weeks back I ran that cycling book review, which included lots of photos of wool cycling jerseys. That led several readers to point me toward web sites that sell wool cycling throwbacks, and I was unable to resist this one (I mean, shit, look at that chain-stitching). Since I’m still in the “kid with a new toy” phase with this particular garment, and since I acquired it as a direct result of tips from UW readers, I decided to wear it to the shindig.
We’d already gotten a pretty good taste of Pittsburgh in the three days prior to the party. Among other things, we visited the Andy (where we had fun in the Cloud Room and saw the Vader Project, among other things) and the Frick, rode the Duquesne Incline (it puts the “fun” in “funicular”!), had a fine breakfast at the Gab & Eat and another at the Blue Flame, saw a rock show (Emily Rodgers, Southeast Engine, and Lohio, at the Club Café), ate dogs and fries at the O (can someone please explain why they even bother to offer salads?), learned that Vincent’s Pizza Park wraps its pizzas in big sheets of paper instead of putting them in pizza boxes, saw plenty of cool signage, visited the National Aviary (the lens was fogging up cuz we were in the “tropical area”), and got lost in the mind-blowing Jerry’s Records (where I bought this for Kek, to repay a gift he’d sent to me a while back).
We also had a really good time at the Heinz History center, which includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. I took a lot of pics there and will have a separate report on that sometime in the next week or so.
But the best part of our trip, at least for me, was when Jen and Greg took us to Braddock, a town on the city’s eastern outskirts that’s more than a little bit down on its luck. Had a round of beers at one of the local watering holes and took lots of photos — some very sad, some inspiring. I’ve put about 30 of them here.
Not bad for a four-day excursion. But I’m still kinda processing the thing about all the fish.
(Big thanks to Kirsten, Jennifer, Kek, Wayne J., and Ryan C. for the use of their photos. Thanks also to the several readers who generously presented me with gifts, and to everyone else who made this such a great time. You’re all aces.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: The WBC is shaping up as a major logo- and ad-fest. In addition to the Canadian ad patch noted yesterday, the Japanese have a huge cluster of ad and logo decals on their batting helmets, the Dominicans have a sleeve-patch ad, and check out the size of the ad patch on Mexico’s sleeve. I’ll see if I can get a complete rundown of all of these. … Major prototype find by Ken Levin (and I hope Joe Hilseberg is sitting down for this one): “A pal of mine shared photos of a very unusual salesman’s sample/prototype Orioles away jersey from 1996. It’s different to say the least: orange placket and sleeve piping, a sleeve patch of the Bird making a jumping catch, and the misshapen ‘Orioles’ script that adorned their jerseys for a season or two in the mid-’90s. Note the abrupt angle change and very long connection between ‘Ori’ and ‘oles’ that straightening out the placket wouldn’t even fix, and the fact that the second ‘o’ looks like it would topple over if the ‘l’ wasn’t there to support it!” Anyone else love that sleeve patch as much as I do? … Speaking of the Orioles, there are some terrific candid shots of the 1979 team in this blog post (with thanks to Bob Andrews). … ¡Ay caramba! … The ever-observant Rev. Nørb checks in with this NOB report: “I don’t know what the record is for the most instances of the same letter in someone’s NOB, but the Green Bay Gamblers USHL hockey team has a player whose surname is Ceccacce — five of a kind!” … Awesome cycling logo here (with thanks to Sean Clancy). … Thomas Vanek will be wearing this faceguard to protect his broken jaw. “I’m even more interested in the fact that he’s shown drinking out of a water bottle labeled ’26,’ his uni number,” writes David Abbatoy Jr. “I’ve played hockey for 25 years, including college hockey, and I’ve never seen anyone have their own specially-designated water bottle.” Anyone know more about this? … I knew that the A’s wore nickname NOBs back around 1971, but I didn’t know the nicknames included quote marks. That screen grab comes from this superb video, which also includes shots of Sal Bando wearing cut-off windbreaker sleeves under his vest jersey and Ray Fosse wearing a mask whose cross-straps look to be a bit more toward the back of the head than usual (with thanks to Roger Faso). … Let’s take a trip to Gerry Cosby’s. The undeniable highlight: this awesome 1935 Wembley Lions hockey jersey (here’s the rear view). … Here’s a real oldie: a 1908 Sears baseball uniform catalog. I already own a very similar edition from 1911, so I’m not gonna bid on this, but one of you people should grab it. … Other uni and equipment catalogs currently on the market: 1958 Wilson, 1957 Worthington, 1916 Reach, 1974 Spalding, and 1964 Adirondack (beeYOOteeful!). And this isn’t exactly a catalog, but it’s related and hilarious. … Yao Ming wore his shooting shirt backwards last night (courtesy of Brett Crane). … It’s amazing I get anything done, what with the impossibly cute distraction usually found on my desk. She held that pose for about 20 mins. yesterday afternoon. … Major news in the auction world, as a huge stash of unopened 1930s trading cards and related trinkets, including some amazing baseball-themed stuff, has been discovered (big thanks to David Brown). … WBC note from Willet Hossfeld, who writes: “I was at the Dominican Republic vs. Marlins warm-up game Tuesday, and two recent additions to the Dominican team (both of whom are also members of the Marlins) had no names or numbers on their backs. The first is Miguel Fermin; the other, I believe was Manny De Aza, who is not listed on either roster, but I saw him play for the Marlins two days earlier against the Cardinals. Unfortunately no pictures.” … Reprinted from last night’s comments: USFL FNOB alert. … Eee-yikes! Those are the new Kutztown cycling uniforms (thanks, I think, Phil). … Also from Phil: New logo for Jack in the Box, and the recession doesn’t seem to be hurting Adidas.