What sort of uniform does a snowshoe racer wear?
I confess that I had never considered that question — or even realized there was such a thing as snowshoe racing — until reader Lance Smith recently sent me a bunch of old Life photos documenting a foot race on showshoes, which included hurdles (which apparently caused some wipeouts) and a bit of a pile-up at the finish. Note that several of the runners had matching sweaters, including at least one design that was my-t-fine (are all those medals for winning the race or just for having the best outfit?). And look, the racers even had expert medical care and, uh, high-tech facilities.
All those photos carry the same somewhat unsatisfying caption: “Showshoe Convention, February 02, 1950” (no location is listed, but Lance thinks it’s in Lewiston, Maine). What goes on at a snowshoe convention? A whole lot of fun stuff, at least judging by this remarkable photo (let all the details sink in — there’s a lot going on there). And a most of the officials seem to have worn cool uniforms of their own. trés romantique!
What’s this all about? According to this page, Lewiston used to be “the undisputed snowshoe capital of the United States.” It’s not clear if any other places actually tried to dispute it, but whatever. The article continues:
Many local people still recall the international and national [snowshoe] conventions held here through the years since 1925.
They featured large parades, with dozens of drum and bugle corps, an elaborate centrally located ice palace, snowshoe competitions and a coronation ball and an awards ceremony. The local population, not to mention the merchants, hotels and restaurants, looked forward to these festivities, which brought life to the darkest part of winter. Extra cars were charted on the Grand Trunk Railroad for the hundreds of conventioneers who came from Canada.
But I don’t mean to engage in an empty nostalgia exercise about an obscure fringe sport. No, I mean to examine the current state of an obscure fringe sport! Because it turns out that snowshoe racing is alive and well today, with its own national organization, national team, and national championship race, all of which was news to me. Judging by the photos I’ve found, it’s not the most visually compelling sport, although you occasionally get some comic relief. I think it’s fair to say that none of these outfits comes close to matching the sweaters in those 1950s photos.
Have you ever snowshowed? I did once, about five years ago, in Alaska. I was on a press junket and got to do all sorts of stuff I’d never done before, like ice-fishing (fun until the whisky ran out), snowmobiling (a blast), dog sledding (very cool, and we were right on the actual Iditarod Trail!), and, yes, snowshoeing. I’d seen all those cartoons where people tie tennis rackets to their feet to form ersatz snowshoes, but I’d never seen the real thing. Frankly, it didn’t seem particularly appealing, but I thought, “Give it a try — you never know.” In the back of mind, I envisioned something like this.
It was exactly zero fun. Brutally hard work, and I couldn’t even enjoy the gorgeous surroundings because I had to keep looking down at the snowshoes to make sure I didn’t trip or slip. I’m sure some of you Canuck types are gonna tell me I wasn’t doing it right or the shoes were the wrong size or whatever, but save it — I won’t be trying that again.
And you’re telling me people actually race in these things? Maybe they just want to scurry to the end as quickly as possible so they can take the damn things off.
Poster Children, Continued: Yesterday’s post about NFL posters prompted Jim Mellett to grab his copy of the book The Professionals: Portraits of NFL Stars by America’s Most Prominent Illustrators and take photos of a bunch of the pages. “The book contains 72 color portraits of NFL greats like Earl Campbell, Joe Greene, Frank Gifford, Bob Lilly, and Jack Ham,” writes Jim. “The illustrators are just as great, with the likes of Merv Corning, David Grove, Bart Forbes, Chuck Ren, and my friend George Gaadt, who’s done artwork and photographed games for the NFL for many years.” Jim, who’s a fine illustrator himself, has generously offered to document the rest of the book’s pages — I’ll let you know when he send along the additional material.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s post also inspired Jim Lonetti to share a bunch of MLB posters from the same era. “It’s interesting that the background of the Twins poster includes the Washington monument, as a nod to where the team came from,” he notes. “I know I’m missing some. Does anyone know a website that has them all collected?” Good question. Anyone..?
A few extra-curricular notes: Some quick updates on a coupla items of interest:
• The Baltimore Uni Watch party will take place on June 17th, 7pm, at the Hillendale Bowling Center. No need to bowl if you don’t want to, and it’s BYOB. I have to leave at 9:30pm sharp, so get there on time, etc., etc.
• The “Naming Wrongs” T-shirt series is about to swing into full gear. We should have the Comiskey and Joe Robbie shirts up for sale momentarily, with the Jake and Mile High designs ready soon thereafter.
• For those who want to see the Candela Structures exhibit, the City Reliquary will be open tomorrow and Sunday from noon-6pm.
• Kirsten and I will be appearing on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show next Thursday, June 11th, from 11:40am to noon. We’ll mostly be discussing the Candela exhibit, but I believe Brian also plans to ask me some questions about Uni Watch and “I’m Calling It Shea.” You can stream the broadcast live using the tabs on the left side of that last link.
• And as you may have noticed, we have a new advertiser: Farkas Eye Black. Please give them a look, and continue to support all our sponsors. Thanks.
Uni Watch News Ticker: What happens to all the hats that get tossed onto the ice after a hat trick? Answer here (with thanks to Jake Reed). … Another ace panoramic team portrait from Bruce Menard, this time of the 1913 Philadelphia A’s. … Anyone know the story behind this cap that Ozzie Guillen was wearing the other day? (With thanks to Paul Mazzarella). … Tons of amazing early-1900s baseball photos in this Flickr set (great find by Mike Hersh). … The Islanders plan to introduce their top draft pick with their throwback alternate jersey. … Rugby snafu report from Eric Bangeman, who writes: “The British & Irish Lions have played their first two matches on their tour of South Africa, and each one has seen a uniform gaffe by the home side. In the first game against the Royal Bafokeng XV, the Royals had a problem with mismatched fonts that affected eight of the team’s 22 players. And in Wednesday’s match against a South African team also called the Lions, home team flanker Todd Clever had his jersey pulled off during play at the very end of the first half and had to carry it until a break in the action.” … Almost had a heart attack when Roberto Pacheco sent me this photo, which appeared to show Wade Boggs wearing a Cubs batting glove — shades of the Buckner double-curse! (If you’re not familiar with that epochal Uni Watch moment, look here.) But then I went to the SI Vault and zoomed in on the Boggs photo, which revealed that the logo on his glove was not a Cubs logo after all. Phew. … Quite the numerical odyssey for Ramon Castro, as reported by Steve Johnston: “With the Mets, Castro wore No. 11. When he joined the White Sox in KC after being traded, the Sox were wearing a throwback uniform against the Royals, so I’m guessing that’s why he had to wear No. 44, which was Corky Miller’s number — the player he was replacing. Then he was going to wear No. 55. That has changed again because Wednesday night he decided to wear No. 27. This has to be some sort of record for uniform numbers in six days.” … Footwear news regarding the NBA Finals (with thanks to Greg Riffenburgh). … Brandon Merchant sent some pics chronicling the evolution of on Little League team over several decades. “We’re part of a league in Charlotte that has a ton of history and tradition,” he says. “My team is one of the originals — Al Browne’s Service Station (now just ‘Al Browne’). We go back to 1952 and I have a scrapbook that has most of the team pics and other snapshots, etc. from our history.” … Here’s a new kind of apostrophe catastrophe. Explanation, courtesy of Ferdinand Cesarano: “English footballer Gareth Barry, who had played for Aston Villa for 12 years, has recently moved to Manchester City, causing quite a stir amongst the Villa fans. Last season, Barry was rumoured to be moving to Liverpool, which also got the fans a bit riled — so much so that they produced this sign.” … Ewwwwww. … Well I’m glad that got that sorted out. … Several readers have noticed the MLB logo appearing on the front of Mark Teixeira’s undershirt collar. Now Tyler Kepner has gotten the scoop: “Yanks have a new Nike prototype shorts-sleeve undershirt with the MLB logo on the collar. You see it here and there in the clubhouse, but as far as I know Teixeira is the only one who wears it. MLB wants to see how well their logo shows up when players wear it on the field, and evidently they’re very happy with how it looks on Teixeira.” Yes, I’m sure they are. … Lots of interesting jerseys available here (with thanks to Franklin Freytag). … Now that the NFL has opened the door to ad patches on practice jerseys, everyone’s getting in on it. … Tangled up in blue last night in Tampa — even the ump’s in on it (screen shot courtesy of Ben Teaford). … “I was watching my high school’s softball team playing and noticed they had a lot of helmet decals for all sorts of accomplishments,” writes Andrew W. Greenwood. “You can tell what most of them are for, but others — like the old Atlanta Falcons logo — are harder to gauge.” … So was that a kenesio tape sleeve Dwight Howard was wearing last night, or were the stripes just ornamental? I didn’t actually watch the game, sorry, so forgive me if this was discussed during the broadcast. … Howard also had white sneakers, while the rest of the Magic wore black. … And pretty amazing to see that they came up with an O’Brien Trophy headband. Was anyone wearing it besides Courtney Lee? … Nathan Lynes reports that the USA soccer team wore gray socks with their home kit two nights ago, instead of their usual white. … Here’s Randy Johnson wearing No. 26 with the Expos — but not the Montreal Expos. As you can see, it’s actually the double-A Jacksonville ’Spos (good find by Doug Brei). … Day game for the Mets yesterday, so David Wright went high-cuffed, but he was back to wearing solid socks instead of stirrups. Dang. … Melissa, who didn’t give her last name, notes that Kevin Youkilis has “ENY” on his batting glove. “I’m guessing maybe it refers to his new wife, Enza,” she writes. “Still, not sure what the N would stand for — her maiden name is Sambataro, and her son’s name is Michael.” … UConn is getting some no-frills football uniforms (with thanks to Stefan Schubert). … The U. of Floriday has severed its relationship with Russell Athletic.