By Phil Hecken and featuring guest author Lance Smith.
For the past several months, the comments section of Uni Watch has been graced with the uni-centric eyes of a certain reader who posts as “Squiddie.” I was especially enamored with not only the quality of his posts, but with the penchant he had for selecting fantastic photos which have been released onto the Life archive hosted by Google. Determined not only to get our man Squiddie to explore this wonderful resource further (and in the process, teach us how to go about it), I wanted to introduce him more fully to the UW audience. Squiddie, it seems, is one Lance Smith, and he’s a fascinating character and fantastic poster. So, without further ado, lets meet “Squiddie” and find out more about the Life archives, how to go about navigating them. I also talked him into “guest writing” a column using his keen eye towards selecting a few well placed (and researched) photos from the Life pages.
Phil Hecken: “Squiddie”?
Lance Smith: It’s left over from the Usenet days. (You kids get offa my net!) It’s stolen from a recurring joke on the rec.arts.comics newsgroup. It just has a nice ring to it. Plus everyone loves squids, right?
PH: Where does your interest in unis begin?
LS: I grew up in Minnesota with what I consider to be really classic uniforms from the Twins, Vikings and North Stars. Then it all went to hell when the Twins went with powder blue (see last week) and then the North Stars started adding black to their uniforms. (Oddly, I loved the Minnesota Kicks and their Wheaties color scheme.) So through much of the dark days of the 70s and 80s, I didn’t care much about what teams wore because the local teams were so awful.
I probably became more interested with the explosion in interest in minor league baseball in the late 80s. Established teams started to dump their parent club names and tried to make their own identities. There was also the rise of the independent leagues. I would pick up the Baseball America Directory every year just to check out the new team names and logos. Some uni attempts were and are pretty sad, but there was a lot change. The major leagues just can’t, and probably shouldn’t, change that quickly.
PH: So, favorite unis?
LS: My all time favorite shirts are the Renault Gitane cycling jerseys from the Bernard Hinault era. Second place would be the Newcastle United home shirts from 1999-2001 when they were sponsored by Newcastle Brown Ale. Yes, in European soccer/football you have to consider the shirt sponsor when determining the quality of the uni. (Someone in Thailand loves Newcastle shirts so much he has a blog up here.)
PH: Why the Life archive?
LS: I just came across a news item saying that Google was hosting the archive and started poking around . It’s one of the few instances of having both quality and quantity. There’s the attraction of finding famous photos of iconic political and Hollywood figures mixed in with a photo of a refrigerator in 1940s Pittsburgh. You just never know what you’ll find. J. Edgar Hoover shows Shirley Temple how to use a mechanical horse? Yeah, it’s in there and just a little creepy.
Plus there’s a certain amount of mystery. With the limited labels and tags, you often have to do the legwork. Given a date and a team, can you figure out who is the subject of a photo? Who is this Senator doing card tricks? It’s Clint Courtney. But who is he showing the trick to? Well…
PH: Heh. Thanks Lance! Shall we let the readers guess?
And so, ladies and gentlemen of Uni Watch, I present you with this ‘guest entry’ from Lance Smith. Enjoy.
If you’re over a certain age you probably grew up with Life magazine. Even if your family didn’t subscribe, you read it (or more accurately, looked at the pictures) in waiting rooms and barber shops. You killed time at your grandparents’ house by leafing through old back issues in their basement. It’s what you grabbed if you had free time in the school library.
Launched on November 23, 1936, Life was published weekly until December 8, 1972. (It was later reincarnated as a monthly magazine, and then again as a newspaper supplement.) Each issue was made up of about 50 pages of photos and their captions. Some of the photographs became iconic and many of Life’s photographers became famous.
Google announced that they would be hosting the Life archive in November 2008. Due to some unexpected free time, I’ve been looking through and blogging links from the Life archives since January. While most of my links have been non-sports photos, the first photo I did link to was Bill Veeck talking with Salvador Dali.
The Life photo archive is vast and not well organized. It seems to be continually growing, but maybe I’m just finding new things. Many photos aren’t properly labeled and some are only labeled with generic descriptions. While Life wasn’t as well-known for its sports photography, compared to its news and celebrity photos, there are some great sports collections to sift through. Here are some of my suggestions to working through the archive.
1. To search the Life archive, you just need to include source:life in any Google image search (or you can use this portal).
2. The archive can be roughly divided into three sections: reference photos, weekly Life photography, and more recent celebrity photographs. If you really want a 1980s photo of Kirk Gibson and a Penthouse Pet, it’s in there.
3. Try general searches. You’re more likely to find interesting images if you look for a sport instead of specific team or athlete.
4. If you’re looking for specific images, try different approaches. For example, try separate searches for “Green Bay” and “Packers.” Either label might be used. Also try the name of specific athletes without the name of their city or team.
5. Reduce wide searches by eliminating keywords from the search. If you’re searching football and don’t need the photos of the LSU football team, add “-lsu” to your search. Most reference photos will have abbreviated labels. This makes them easy to eliminate.
6. Search for specific photographers or eliminate them from the search as necessary. While not all photos are dated, almost all of them credit the photographer who took the picture. If you find a photo you like, try to add the photographer’s name to the search.
7. Use decade labels. Many images without other labels will have a decade label such as 1940s or 1950s. Use these.
8. Try misspelling words. There is a set of 200+ photos under “Wimbleton.” A set of photos of Juan Manuel Fangio is filed under Fangie at Lemans. Many photos of Muhammad Ali are under Cassius Clay long after he dropped that name.
9. Be careful with plurals. Try searching for both the singular and plural of words.
10. Be patient. Keep trying. Bookmark the good stuff. You might forget where you found that photo of Minnie Minoso.
Of interest to UW are the sports profile shots taken of players in the locker room or dugout. The photos on the field are often too far away for details, but the photos in the locker room, often taken for profiles of particular players, can be Uni gold.
Cincinnati manager George “Birdie” Tebbetts was featured on the cover of July 8, 1957 issue of Time magazine. His Redlegs had finished two games behind Brooklyn in 1956 and put together a 12 game winning streak in the beginning of May 1957. Here he wears the sleeveless jersey adopted in 1956. Behind him you can see the pile of batting helmets. The white cap he’s abusing here was adopted in 1957. You don’t get much stripier than those stirrups.
Ernie Banks autographing baseballs in August 1955. This would be Banks’ second complete year with the Cubs and he would hit 44 homer runs and 117 RBIs. Good view of the Cubs logo and the zipper on the jersey. It’s also a very clean uniform design. What I like about this photo of Banks walking through Wrigley (other than the PBR cases) is how loose his hat is. We’re used to players caps being worn tight on their head.
Sal “The Barber” Maglie might be best known as Jim Bouton’s pitching coach in Ball Four. In 1952 he was still pitching for the New York Giants. Maglie had been a 23 game winner in 1951 and was on his way to 18 wins in 1952. I mainly like these photos because they show him interacting with the fans.
Do baseball teams still get nicknames? The Whiz Kids were the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies who, after a late season collapse in September, won the pennant on the final day at Ebbets Field. This photo of Willie “Puddin Head” Jones in September shows off the new Phillies pinstripe uniform. You can see his cap in the locker behind him. Compare it to the older uniform worn by Jones in Spring Training. Also check out this catcher’s mitt with crosshairs. Sort of the low tech version of the mitts with international orange to give a better target to young pitchers.
There seem to be more photos of the Dodgers and the Yankees in the archive. Not surprising as Life was based in New York and both were dominant during the 1950s. Roy Campanella shows off his battered hands in a 1956 profile. Good close up of the Dodgers logo. From the same profile, Pee Wee Reese changing in front of his locker is just a good photo of Dodgers locker room.
Sam Jehroe had been a star in the Negro Leagues. In 1950 he became the first African-American player on the Boston Braves and went on to win the 1950 National League Rookie of the Year. I like this photo of him in front of his locker because of the strange details like the Wheaties boxes and the Trailways calendar. Plus it’s a good shot of a classic Braves uniform. These shots here and here show Jethroe talking with manager Billy Southwork. Notice the missing light bulb and the strange pipes next to the bull pen phone. Still you gotta love those uniforms.
Finally it’s the Giants vs. the Braves in 1950. Jim Hearn confers with an umpire. Just a good shot of the scoreboard and advertising at Braves Field.
Phil here. Kudos and thanks
Squiddie Lance for that fantastic write up. I’m sure he’ll be back again with me for more. I know I’m gonna change that tune, when I’m back on top, back on top in June.
Back For More: So, yesterday I took some heat for my lack of photoshop skills (and rightly so, since I basically have none). BUT … reader, OCD-DYIer and all-around good guy Robert Marshall does. So, he offered to mock-up those Nats “alts” I had proposed yesterday. And he did a much better job than I could ever have hoped to do myself. So, with that … I resubmit my proposed changes for the Natinals away unis:
Here’s the current away jersey without the “DC” patch & logo creep. Not bad, I admit. But I think it looks better without the white outline. Pushing the envelope just a tad further, here’s the roadie with the wordmark in blue, with white outline. And then, there’s that jersey with blue wordmark & no white outline. And just for shits and giggles, I asked Robert to make a couple more — that same jersey, with blue piping, and that same jersey with no piping at all. I think I’m in love. I must note, Mr. Marshall thinks the Nats jersey with the red lettering, but sans the white outline, is the way to go, and it must have killed him to have me ask him to do the blue. But that last one — the one with NO PIPING and BLUE WORDMARK (which y’all probably find boring as hell), I think that’s what the Nats should go with, as long as they’re going to wear blue caps. But that’s just me. Thanks Robert, for the p-shops! You da man!
Uni Matchup Of the Year took place last evening when the Seattle Rainers and Oakland Oaks engaged in a good old fashioned game. Actually it was the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners in 1939 (I believe — MLB Network announcers [or the announcers from which MLB was getting the feed] were kind of uncertain if it was 1937, 1938 or 1939) throwbacks (from the old Pacific Coast League). Generally a beautiful looking game, except that the modern day catchers gear kind of ruined it just a bit. Well, that and the fact that the “Oaks” wore white shoes, which I’m fairly certain wasn’t a part of the original uni package. They did go all out on the unis and helmets (although, back then, they didn’t wear helmets), however, and damn … look at this ting of beauty. And here’s another great look. Only one other thing (sorry, no pics and I didn’t get screen grabs) which was a little bothersome — the coaches all wore the “modern” jackets in the dugouts, so visually, it was not a good (or matching) look. Photos last evening were very slow to hit the wires, so if anyone finds more today, please post them. I’m not certain if Paul is planning to do a write up on this in the coming days, but any and all visual evidence of this game would be greatly appreciated.
This and That: Hole. Lee. Shit. … What the hell is Tim McGraw doing with the Kentucky Derby trophy? … “It really hasn’t sunken in to the fullest that we lost a guy that was unbelievable” …Whoa — Bimbos everywhere … Speaking of Bimbos, I think I’ll get the kit top and socks for Paul for his next birthday … Ping Pong doesn’t get a lot of UW love — and with good reason … Lots of baseball news here, including a jab at the Natinals, in this first month roundup … The obligatory “steeples and rail shot” for Mine That Bird — and the obligatory pose and poseurs … So this is Progress? … If you think Seattle and Oakland were rocking the throwbacks, Amherst & Williams are REALLY going to rock the diamond, old school style … Can anyone tell me who makes these kits? … This may be the ONLY time you ever hear me wishing for a sponsor’s name on the back of a jersey … More Derby pics: This is either really right or really wrong (and in case you’re actually wondering — her name is Randi Baremore) … “The uniforms worn during an April 11 sectional match at Oregon State were impermissible. The offense? Five players were playing without pants. Or underwear.” — Only at the U of Zero … Amazingly, the rest of the league is starting to notice that the Yankees are playing in front of a lot of empty seats … James Huening found this and wanted to share: Randy Brown is selling the three championship rings he won with the Bulls … Sad news last evening, as Jack Kemp passed peacefully into the presence of the Lord shortly after 6 o’clock.
As funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down — ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around. Have a great Sunday folks.