Last week’s ESPN column about DIYers mainly featured people whose projects had already appeared here on the blog. The primary exception was Robert Marshall, a self-described “OCD DIYer” who’s been peppering me with tons of fascinating material over the past few weeks. Here’s his quick bio, from an e-mail he recently sent me:
I’m a Baltimore native, an Ohio State graduate, and a Chicago resident. Now 38, I make my living as an artist, with a small studio in the Pilsen neighborhood. My bread and butter is stained and blown glass, a skill I picked up over the years, but my roots are in painting, sculpture, and alternated materials like plastic resin.
“I started drawing uniforms as a kid, which turned into obsessive black-and-white pencil drawings of players and coloring in my Strat-O-Matic cards as a pre-teen. I later designed uniforms for various intramural squads in high school, where I also made sure my football uniform looked respectable with accoutrements like spatted shoes, and I double wrapped my stirrups with a cuffed pant in baseball during the high-stirrup era because it was just downright proper. In college I hand-sculpted and -painted bobbleheads that I would sell to alumni at football games, before I was arrested for this practice. Like many others, I still obsess over uniforms, and sometimes I take a break from my workday art to envelop myself in this escapist OCD-DIY ‘art.’ “
As you’ve probably gathered from that little screed, Robert’s a bit of a character. He appears to have some seemingly irrational dislikes (capital letters, the number 8, any use of white in a home football uniform), although I’m obviously in no position to rag on someone over those sorts of eccentricities. And at one point during our correspondence, he off-handedly mentioned that he would have attended the Chicago Uni Watch party in 2007, “but I have this policy of not going to bars where they let third-trimester pregnant women bartend while they smoke cigarettes and get hammered (I do both, but am not pregnant either).” Um, right.
Anyway, Marshall is also a fairly ingenious artist, at least judging by several of the projects he’s shared with me. His work is clever, gorgeous, and clearly based on the same sort of detail-obsessive sports passion that fuels Uni Watch. He also appears to be extremely prolific — one of those people who make you realize how little you’ve accomplished.
Some people might find that depressing; personally, I find it inspiring. With that in mind, here’s a look at Marshall’s oeuvre:
• Big Ten duckpin bowling set: I love this! Marshall has a set of pins that he originally used for a game called cat bowling (“It consisted of me keeping track of all the pins that they or I knock down in the studio on this homemade Baltimore-themed score sheet”). More recently, he’s given them a Big Ten paint job, with his alma mater serving as the fierce ball that plows into the hapless pins. You can see close-ups of each pin design here — they’re brilliant, although you may notice that Marshall has taken a few liberties with some of the uni designs. He provided a lengthy explanation for that, and also gave the rationale for each pin’s facial expression, all of which is so involved that I’ve chosen to give it its own separate page. It’s totally worth checking out, so open it in a separate window now and go back to it after you finish reading the rest of this entry.
• Softball trading cards: In 2007, Marshall started designing trading cards for his local artists/musicians softball team. The best part (aside from his team’s striped socks) is that he included details like the rear-card cartoon, the trophy graphic, even a checklist!
“Everyone on the team got three cards, complete with personal fact comics, fictional stats, and I packaged everyone’s cards in wax paper with gum (fruit stripe, of course),” says Marshall. “This year’s 1959-based designs were far superior, but the disc where those are saved is on the fritz.”
• Natty Boh jersey: I’ll let Marshall tell the story of this one:
A few years back I started playing in a table hockey league here in Chicago. … When I joined the league, I decided to represent my hometown of Charm City, and introduce these Chicago natives the Land of Pleasant Living’s version of Old Style, otherwise known as National Bohemian beer, with a homemade sweater. Now, I never ever wear jerseys, but I made an exception when playing thockey in this (before you get any ideas about “Grizzly,” it refers to a bear encounter I had in Banff, Alberta, some years ago — a story for another time).
The jersey is an old striped Cleveland Barons sweater dyed with a bit of yellow Rit, giving it more of a “vintage” cream look. Twill numbers were cut and sewn. And what sweater is complete without a stupid, out of place sleeve patch? As with all Balto-based teams, I went with the flag, which I covered with a crab because nothing goes better with an ice-cold Natty Boh then Maryland blue crabs.
• And speaking of table hockey…: Marshall’s extended family is big on table hockey and he’s created all sorts of projects to facilitate their activities, including custom-designed teams, Baltimore-based board advertisements (total genius, right?), and team T-shirts for family members and significant others.
And there’s more:
For my brother’s kids, I’ve hand-painted players representing 10 international teams — everything from USA 1980 to Canada 1972, and so on — so they could interchange the teams, have tournaments, stay out of their parents’ hair, etc. Other teams represented include the Russians (I used the jersey from ’72 and the breezers from ’80), the Swedes, the Fins (I wouldn’t paint this for a pile of cash, so instead I used their lion and their actual flag color), the Czechs, the Poles, and the Deutsch.
And then there’s my favorite project: the game I made for myself featuring the North Stars and Capitals. Now, for this game, the players are not real, in that there is no Dino or Dino, but I used some sculpture skills to manufacture mock players with 3-D hair, beards, etc. I hope you can see the detail okay.
• Jackson Pawlicks cap: “An old neighbor used to say I was a lot like Jackson Pollock, locking myself away for extended periods of time (drinking too much) and working working working on my art,” says Marshall. “I don’t know that I agree with her, but that very night, I crafted this hat. It is cut felt sewn to an old KC Monarchs lid. I have a lot of cats, so it’s a mythological team, the Jackson Pawlicks. Har.”
• Jackalopes jersey: Marshall’s been working on this jersey, which I believe he plans to wear on Opening Day (or, as he calls it, “the holiest of holy days”). At some point in the process he was undecided on whether to go with navy numbers or red (for now he’s opted for navy) and whether his sleeve patch should include a crown (I think he’s gone with “yes”). More photos to come, I’m assuming, when the jersey is finished.
• Natty Boh Cornhole set: Marshall is also a cornhole devotee, which has given him excuse for him to create another tribute to his favorite beer. He also notes that this cornhole design bears at least a superficial resemblance to a certain baseball uni component.
Ladies and gentlemen, that brings today’s show to its conclusion. I hope you found it as edifying as I did. And I don’t mind saying that if this remarkable procession of creativity hasn’t filled you with wonder and inspiration, I’m afraid there’s no hope for you.
That thing that happens every year around this time: Yesterday was National Act Like a Moron Day, so the Red Sox wore green jerseys and caps. So did the Phillies. All the other teams resorting to this now-rote stunt just took the lazy route and wore green caps, including the Braves, Tigers, Cubs, and Giants. As usual, though, the Mets really outdid themselves, packing their cap with five colors. I tried to ask Jeff Wilpon about this but his secretary said he was busy with a clerical matter.
In addition, the Bulls wore green (forcing the Celtics to wear white on the road), this guy wore green-trimmed sneakers, the Coyotes wore green warm-up sweaters (pre-autographed for subsequent auction), and FSN Pittsburgh’s Dan Potash wore an old Pittsburgh Shamrocks sweater on the air (thanks, Kek). Can I have my favorite color back now?
And now another note from Vince: As some of you have discovered, we maxed out the number of entries for our NCAA Tournament contest group, so I created another group, UniWatch2 (ID# 171936, password: stirrups), which you can join by heading to this link. If you’ve already joined the first group, please don’t enter again. Honor system here, people. And since I can see everyone’s e-mail addresses as the administrator, if I catch any double entries, you’ll be disqualified.
I think you can join anytime up to tip-off tomorrow, but sooner is obviously better, so sign up now. (For details on the prizes, look here.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: Getting back to DIY for a sec, gumball collector Bill Jones (who, as an aside, is trying to get Guinness World Record certification for his helmet collection) created a nice birthday present for his son by taking an old Starting Lineup hockey figurine and repainting it to match his son’s hockey uniform — voila! Here’s the rear view. … And Terence Kearns made himself a nice New York Giants sweatshirt. “I bought a black 50/50 hoody on eBay for $16, iron-on transfer paper (25 sheets for $25), and awesome felt lettering ($15) and put it all together for $33 total!” he says. “I found the cool 1951 Giants logo for the right sleeve and the 1932 cap insignia for the left sleeve on Chris Creamer’s site, ironed them on, lined up the felt letters and pressed them on as well (since they had fabric adhesive backing), and presto — a throwback hoody my Dad would’ve been proud to wear!” … Interesting old basketball uni design shown here (with thanks to Jason Adkins). … Does this mean Fred Wilpon can sign some more free agents? Oh wait, there aren’t any decent free agents left. Thanks a lot, IRS! … Can anyone remember why the 1992 Cowboys wore two memorial decals? (As submitted by Steve H.) … Ryan Connelly found some cool old stuff, including an early helmet lamp and Chief Wahoo’s long-lost cousin. … Alex Edler of the Canucks caught his pant leg on the on the gate latch while coming out of the penalty box on Sunday night and ended up having the stripe ripped clean off his left pant leg. He played like that for the reset of the game (major props to Canucks exec Jonathan Wall). … Great googly-moogly! That ugly-ass uniform belongs to the Mahoning Valley Phantoms of the NAHL. … Tons of really beautiful old modernist posters here (thanks, Kirsten). … Vertically striped sock alert! That’s Taylor County (Georgia), circa 1967 (big thanks to Becky Taylor). … Also from Becky: This shot shows a Marietta High School player with a facemask and also shows Beach High with SNOB (school name on back). … Always weird to see Joe D. dressed like this (with thanks to Paul Wiederecht). … New identity set for the West Virginia Power here and here (with thanks to Joshua Exline). … The new Wisconsin state slogan is
a total fucking embarrassment a bit controversial (with thanks to Brinke Guthrie). … A few days ago I asked what the “Pops” patch was for. The answer is here (good detective work by Doug Kalemba). … Under Armour is planning to get ’em while they’re young (thanks, Phil). … I like Curtis Granderson, but I may have to revise that assessment if he keeps doing stupid stuff like wearing “USA” eye black (with thanks to Bernie Langer).