If you haven’t been following the comments lately, you might be unaware of an argument that’s been playing out regarding the Broncos’ 1962 helmets. I’ve got some additional fat to throw onto that fire today.
First, the basics: In 1962, the Broncos began the season wearing an orange helmet with a colored bronco logo decal. But the colored bronco was soon changed to white. It’s not clear, at least to me, at what point the color-to-white changeover took place — maybe during preseason, maybe early the in regular season, maybe midway through — but that’s not the big issue. The larger question is whether the colored logo was brown or light blue. Both sides have their partisans, but nobody’s been able to turn up a color photo from ’62, so visual “proof” is limited to the interpretation of old b&w photos.
The “blue logo” camp is headed by Ricko, who has the advantage of having actually seen the Broncos play back in ’62. He says the notion that the horse was originally brown, “may be the most often-repeated error in the uniform, and therefore the most widely believed untruth. I’d really like to strangle the guy who made that first wrong throwback helmet.”
But now the other side is being heard from, primarily in the personage of Tom Jacobsen. He’s the Broncos collector who provided all the material for this post last summer. After seeing this controversy developing in the comments section, he got in touch with Gene Mingo, Frank Tripuka, and Jerry Strum all of whom played for the ’62 Broncos. Then he got back to me with the following:
They all said the logo was brown. The thought was, the team was making such a drastic uniform switch [from brown/gold to orange/blue] that the brown horse logo would bridge the gap between the old and the new in terms of fan recognition. Lame thought, to me, but that was the logic. Could all these guys be wrong or have foggy memories? Sure, but until somebody has a color photo, I’m taking the players’ word over anyone else’s.
Tom also checked with Patrick Scoggins, who’s the guy behind this Broncos uni history page. Patrick cc’d me on his reply to Tom, as follows:
I have also seen/read this [about the horse having been blue, not brown] — it’s not a new theory. Not a single source proclaiming this, however, has ever been able to substantiate their claim with any iron-clad evidence. That said, it should be noted that there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the “brown logo” camp that could provide supporting evidence either. From my standpoint, I do not have any color photos from early in the ’62 season that could definitively put this to rest, one way or the other.
But here’s a bit of background: Several years ago, both myself and another helmet historian (can’t remember his name right off the top of my head) worked with a marketing guy from Riddell (Ken Draznick) who was trying to pin down all of the different AFL/NFL helmet variations because they were, at the time, planning to do a fairly large release of mini/micro helmet variations. In all of our communications re: the “early ’62″ helmet, we were much more focused on when the change to the white logo occurred; amongst the three of us, the understanding that the original logo was brown was sort of assumed or taken for granted. Maybe Ken had some previous supporting evidence or maybe he just took our word for it.
Subsequent to this bout of research, I conducted a phone interview with former coach/GM Jack Faulkner, who was the main guy responsible for the uni/helmet change in ’62. While I never asked him specifically, “What was the color of the original logo?”, there were several references to the “brown logo” during our conversation — references he never corrected or questioned.
At this point, I decided to cut to the chase do what I probably should have done all along: send a note to Helmet Hut prexy Curtis Worrell, who’s probably the most knowledgeable helmet historian in the business. Here’s his response:
Yeah, we have been pounded with e-mails about this one over the past couple of weeks. As you know, people make deductive reasons when they don’t have color photos. And some people just love to take the other side no matter what — those folks are always fun to deal with, ha!
We do not have color photos, but we’re searching right now with some organizations. We lean toward the brown bronco, because of the earlier helmets. Some people assume color coordination was as prevalent as it is today — “They wore blue socks, so you have to have a blue bronco.” But that’s just not the way it worked in the early days. I can give you example after example of non-color-coordinated setups. How bout using big 3″ black numbers on the side of the helmet with a navy blue stripe, like Illinois?
Curtis said he’d let me know if/when he turns anything up. Personally, I don’t have a dog in this fight — I’d just like to get the matter resolved. Which leads me to something else Curtis told me: “Don’t be so eager to clear things up or settle matters. This is what keeps people coming back and wanting more! I don’t want to know everything… some secrets are great! Keeps you young!” I know what he means — sometimes the mystery is more fun than its resolution. Still, I’d like to get this one settled. Stay tuned.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Tigers pulled a much better April Fool’s stunt than I did. Here are some good pics of Curter Granderson, Magglio Ordoñez, and Brandon Inge (with thanks to Ben Kelly). … As for my hoax, it had legs. … And hey, the bogus jersey we mocked up is pretty much the same thing as a jersey Brian Fairleigh already owns. “I bought it in December of 2004,” he says. “It’s authentic Reebok, a Shaun Alexander replica.” … Second and third pics in this photo gallery show good views of the Phillies’ gold-trimmed Opening Night jerseys, along with their new alternate helmet (with thanks to Chris Ashworth). … Cool article here on USFL gumball helmets (with thanks to Jim Randsell, whose Sports Design Blog is worth checking out). … Someone really ought to get a Uni Watch membership card based on this design (with thanks to Eli Carr). … Here’s a Uni Watch-ish treatment of hospital scrubs (with thanks to Jason Hillyer). … Two tremendous auction finds by Bruce Menard: a 1929 Boston Braves jersey (be sure to click on the photo and check out the rear view) and a 1924 Bruins jersey. … And speaking of auctions, check out this Babe Ruth cap — especially the tattered but legible name tag (big thanks to David Brown). … Judging by this auction, it appears that Martin Brodeur sometimes marks the knob of his stick with the opponent’s city. Anyone know if he always does this? (As spotted by Jake Elwell.) … Another groom who wore athletic sox to his wedding: Mark Rybczyk, who wore stirrups (“unbeknownst to my wife,” he adds). … Interesting uni-numerical sequence here (nice find by Will Melbye). … NYC has a new soccer team, and Hugo Lindgren doesn’t like its name. … In case you hadn’t heard, the most ridiculous merch outlet ever is now open for business. … Brilliantly simple (with thanks to Jim Kohan). … Always fun to see how Michigan’s various teams incorporate the winged helmet motif (with thanks to Ethan Crooks). … Has Kevin Durant been wearing these sneakers for a while, or are they new? (As spotted by Brad Keppler.) … Latest baseball team to wear camouflage to “honor” the military: Wichita State. … Killer DIY work by Jim Vilk, who’s re-created the Cavs/Bullets ’76 playoff matchup out of Lego. “The players can pass and shoot,” he says, although we might need video to get the full effect. He’s also made a soccer game out of electric football figurines. … Speaking of DIY, Ryan Connelly has made himself an Outlaws mountain bike sweater. Here’s the backstory: “Back in 1995 or ’96, I played dek or floor hockey for a team called the Outlaws. I designed the team logo (arguably my first DIY project!), so i wanted to do a DIY with both a wordmark across the front and a racing number like they use in the Tour de France (white, on the back of the sweater). But instead of using my last name, I used an old user name I’ve had for years, Houndogg. I used the Outlaws skull and the outline of Pennsylvania for the left-sleeve patch [which looks really cool up close — PL]. Nothing is sewn together — everything is glued together except the gray layer on the wordmark.” Good stuff, especially when you consider Ryan’s doing all of this in this workspace. … Still more DIYing, this time from Matt Powers, who teaches at a school that recently put on a production of Damn Yankees. “I ended up DIYing all of the templates for the logos on the uniforms, ordering the blank caps, as well as finding the stirrups at Twin City Knitting,” he says. “The seamstress, who is also one of the school’s security guards, and I have become fast friends! I was also charged with coming up with the T-shirt and marketing design for the play, most of which I subcontracted out to my sister, a graphic artist in Boston.” … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Color footage of the Bills, from 1964! … You might have heard that the Pirates lost to a community college team yesterday. What you probably hadn’t heard is that Pirates fans had designed a T-shirt mocking the college team. Details here. … Joe Alvaro reports that vendors at the new Yankee Stadium are all wearing reverse-field pinstriped jerseys and Yankee caps. The sleeve insignia is “Legends Hospitality.” And for those of you who don’t live in NYC, the calorie counts are required by law here at fast food outlets. … The Nuggets wore their green “Earth Week” uniform last night, forcing the Jazz to wear white on the road. They also had green headbands, green-trimmed sneakers, and special warm-up T-shirts. … The Bobcats will be wearing green uniforms tonight. And apparently the ball has green trim too.