By Phil Hecken, with Mike Engle
A short while ago, in the comments, a reader mentioned what we’re going to call a “dirty little uni secret.” That is to say, a uniform or jersey that is so bad, so crazy or so ludicrous, that one would almost be embarassed to say one liked it. My apologies to whomever first broached this topic, but said reader identified the 1997-2001 Anaheim Angels as being that team with that uniform which is so bad that it’s good. So bad, that one should be embarassed to admit liking it. So bad, that it’s a ‘guilty pleasure,’ so to speak. My apologies to whomever it was that brought this to the fore, but if you’re reading this today — please claim your “prize” for ‘suggestion of the week.’
A few weeks after reading this, one of the younger members of the UW crew approached me with his own “Uni Confession,” one which I will share with you shortly. That would be Mike Engle. Let’s get to know Mike a bit better before he spills his guts for us all.
Phil Hecken: How old are you, and what do you do during the day?
Mike Engle: I’m 20 years old, full time jazz music major at McGill University (I always keep a link to my MySpace in my name, I play vibraphone and I’m an occasional composer).
PH: How did you find Uni Watch?
ME: I actually found Uni Watch through ESPN.com’s Page 2. In Grade 11 (we’re talking 2005), I had a lot of free time during the school day, so I used to do a lot of ESPN.com “studying.” One way or another, I found Uni Watch, and started following the blog. The rest is history.
PH: What sparked your interest in uniforms?
ME: For me, Uni Watching evolved from exception watching. In fact, my first Uni Watch memory was at age 7, and it was an exception. You know the multiple skinny belt loops the Detroit Tigers wear? Well, in 1996, the KC Royals also had them. I found that interesting. I’m sure I asked my dad why the Tigers and Royals have different belt loops than everybody else, and I’m sure he had no idea and didn’t care.
By the way, my new favorite Uni Watch sub-topic is jersey numbers. I always dreamed of being on a team where I would get my own jersey, made just for me, with a number I chose (as opposed to picking a well-fitting jersey, and being stuck with its number). It’s a real downer for me when players just pick a random number, or the lowest available, or the worst, sticking with a stupid Spring Training number.
PH: Finally, what are your favorite uniforms?
ME: In my opinion, the perfect uniform is instantly recognizable without wordmarks or logos. Given this criterion, I like the whole maroon set the Philadelphia Phillies had (I can’t think of any other MLB team to use maroon, and it’s too bad, because it’s a good color), Terry Bradshaw’s Pittsburgh Steelers set (real tough guys shouldn’t have to wear that stupid italic font, and by the way, the current NOB font looks like the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? font), any Seattle SuperSonics jersey with the contrast-color arch across the jersey, and any Montreal Canadiens jersey with the torso stripe. Plus my two main rooting interests, the Yankees and the Jets, currently look really good while they play.
PH: Thanks Mike. Now, lets get into your dirty little secret. Your confession. Come on out of the Uni closet and share it with us.
Mike’s uniform confessions, i.e. “I know I shouldn’t like this uniform, and I know I’ll take some shit for liking it, but screw it, I like this uniform.” Here’s Mike:
I like the mid-90’s St. Louis Blues, with the diagonal stripes. A lot. I know I should dislike it because it has all three primary colors (all three should never look good together) and because of the really funky number font. But did you ever notice the tiny lines are always in groups of five? That’s a musical staff line. It’s genius. And remember, their shoulder patch was a trumpet and their crest was an eighth note. It makes perfect sense. And the slanted numbers … that’s a really ballsy move. It’s as if the designers knew they were going avant-garde, so they went all out and use every quirk to their advantage. The blue-and-copper Washington Capitals and eggplant-and-teal Mighty Ducks also had oblique stripes, but they had regular numbers that cut off the stripes. As if they were too afraid to go with their own design.
And speaking of crazy hemlines, I draw my line at the seasick Islanders. Yuck, no thank you. STRAIGHT lines please. You ever notice how the wavy “lines” with the teal thrown in for no good reason look like Aquafresh toothpaste? That’s a fail. But dear God, I’ll go to the grave asking for leniency on those 1997 Blues uniforms. Gretzky, MacInnis, Corson, Hull, Pronger, Fuhr…those guys had good uniforms.
And that’s my Uni Watch guilty pleasure.
Thank you Michael. But … we’re not quite done here. I asked Mike for a second confession — since we all have at least one: “A second Uni Watch confession? At that rate, I’d probably go with this Pittsburgh Penguins jersey. I LOVE black and gold together like this. Gray is also a nice third color here. Stripes galore, and nice torso stripe, proving you don’t have to be the Habs to do that look.”
“So, what about you Phil?” you must be thinking. “You must have a ‘guilty uniform pleasure’. Well, my therapist said I should never reveal this, but OK. It’s this. Yep, I admit it — the “lightning” yellow of the Oregon Ducks football team. I don’t like any of their other combos, don’t like it when they combine the yellow with another color and I don’t like the yellow lid. But I do like that yellow uni. Wow. That didn’t exactly feel good to get off my chest — my therapist warned against it … but what’re ya gonna do?
Now then, Uni Watchers — what’s YOUR guilty uniform pleasure?
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: OK. The location of this should be easy. The game itself? Not so much. First clue should be the specific uniform being worn by the home team. It was only worn during two seasons. Once you can narrow that down, the result is (or shouldn’t be) that far behind. I’m looking for the location, date AND game score for 100% credit here. This one should be pretty difficult. Don’t forget to tell us HOW you solved it. Ready? Guess The Game From The Scoreboard
Answering my call last week for “Uniform Tracking” we have Jeff B. (be sure to click on his name for a link to his website) who’s been tracking the Minnesota Twins. Here’s his amazingly detailed report (and his decidedly decidedly low-tech tracking method).
The Twins have 5 different jerseys this season, the same number as last year. I thought there were going to be 6, with the addition of the throwback alternate in celebration of the Twins final season in the Metrodome, but, in what seems like a late decision, they dropped their blue road alternate jerseys, which had “Minnesota” across the front, which were first introduced in 1997, the first year of alternate jerseys for the Twins. While the road alt was blue, the notorious red home alternates were also introduced, only to be ridiculed and abandoned after only two games. The current home blue alts, with “Twins” on the front were debuted in 1998.
Perhaps they dropped the blue road alt because I sent them a snarky email suggesting the addition of a red road vest jersey, which would give them a different jersey for each day of the week…
The Twins are wearing two patches this year. One for the final season of the Metrodome, and a second memorial patch for the passing of owner Carl Pohlad. Having had a previous memorial patch for his late wife Eloise, this might very well be the only husband and wife both having had memorial patches on a team’s jerseys.
One thing about the patches that bothers me in the placement. I would have thought the Metrodome patches would have been placed on the sleeves of the jerseys in preparation for the season. When Mr. Pohlad passed away in January, I assumed that his patch would have either been on the right sleeve above the team logo, as the late Calvin Griffith’s “CRG” patch was, or above the Metrodome patch, assuming those would have been on the jerseys already.
Much to my surprise, the “Carl” patch was placed below the Metrodome patch. I find it very odd that the “Carl” blimp was not placed in a more “heavenly” position, floating peacefully in the sky above the dome. But instead, “Carl” finds himself buried underneath the Metrodome in a rather Jimmy Hoffa style. Aside from the “heaven” and “hell” aspect, I just find it visually jarring that the smaller patch is being crushed visually by the weight of the larger patch.
My tracking chart is divided into six columns, one for each of the five jerseys and an additional one to indicate home or road. The reason for that column, which would normally be unnecessary, will become apparent soon. I have tracked if the team has won or lost, and who the starting pitcher was.
The 5 Twins jerseys are their Home Whites, Road Greys, both introduced in 1987, their “Home” Blue Alternates (1998), their Home Vest Alternates (2006), and this year’s new Throwback jerseys, which were said to be the ones the team wore during their first season in the Metrodome in 1982. The problem with that claim is that the jerseys worn in 1982 were pullovers, and this years Throwbacks are button down jerseys, worn only in 1972 before changing to the pullovers.
Through May, the Twins have worn their white jerseys at home 9 times, with a record of 5-4. It took until 7th home game to actually wear them for the first time this season.
The one major quirk with the Twins this year has been the appearance of the Home Blue Alternate on the road. I wonder why they chose to drop the Blue Road Alternate since they have now worn their Home Blue on the road 7 times this year already. Their overall record in the Blue alt is 8-9, 7-3 at home and 1-6 on the road. The Home Vest Alternate has a record of 4-1, while the Road Greys come in at 5-10 through the end of May.
The Throwback Alternates have been worn for all Saturday home games this season with their Alternate Red caps with the blue visors. The only exception to this was Memorial Day Monday, when they also wore the Throwback with the Red Stars & Stripes caps that all teams wore. Their record in the Throwback jerseys is 3-3.
Speaking of caps, the Twins have so far worn their blue “TC” caps at all home games in the White, Blue and Vest jerseys, and their “M” logo road caps for all road games in their Grey and Blue Alt jerseys.
It appears that the starting pitcher has the choice of what they jersey they wear, as Scott Baker has chosen the White jerseys 4 times at home and the Blue once. He has opted for the Blue once and the Grey once each on the road.
Nick Blackburn has gone White 3 times and Blue twice at home and Grey four times and Blue twice on the road.
Francisco Liriano has been made to wear the Retro 3 times and chosen the Vest twice at home, while splitting between the Grey and Blue 3 times each on the road.
Kevin Slowey is the most predictable of the group, chosing the Blue at home 6 times, with one Saturday Retro dictated to him. He’s opted for the Grey all three starts on the road.
Glen Perkins has worn the Vest 3 times, the Retro once and the Blue once at home and both the Blue and the Grey once each on the road.
R. A. Dickey started once in the road Grey and Anthony Swarzak has two starts at home in the Retro once and the White once.
So far the only anomalies for the Twins have been the Throwback jerseys on Memorial Day Monday, the Home Blue jerseys appearing frequently on the road and the Carl patch buried but good under the crushing weight of the Metrodome patch.
And now, a NOB research project, by UW Historian/Research Architect, Timmy Brulia:
This is Timmy B, the guy who created the “NFL White At Home” database that chronicles what teams have worn their white jerseys at home in the NFL since 1957, and the “Pro Football Uniforms 1933-1958″ database, which describes the uniform designs for each team in the NFL and AAFC from that era.
My next attempt at a database is for all the teams that have worn the player’s name on the backs (NOB’s) of their jerseys in the “Big 4″ sports of football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Specifically, when they started doing it.
Up until 1960, there was only one documented example of a team with the NOB, the defunct New York Americans of the NHL in the 1926-27 season. Then in 1960, the Chicago White Sox began wearing NOB’s on the backs of their away blouses. Later that year, the upstart American Football League featured several teams that wore them at the start of the season. From all indications, by season’s end ALL teams wore NOB’s in the AFL. The Raiders went so far as to feature the players’ FIRST name as well as their last.
When the AFL merged with the NOB-less NFL in 1970, the NFL absorbed the idea and adopted the look for all 26 teams.
The NBA, already with several teams sporting NOB’s, took a shining to the idea and also made NOB’s mandatory starting with the 1971-72 season.
Not wanting to be left behind, the NHL adopted a league wide NOB policy in 1977-78 (with ONE notable exception which we’ll get to later).
Finally the National League, in 1979, mandated that all 12 teams at least have NOB’s on the teams’ road jerseys. To my knowledge, the American League never has adopted an NOB mandate. However, the NL’s rule seems to have been “waived” or not enforced as the Ddogers went NOB-less for several years earlier in the decade.
The purpose of the database is to be an easy to follow guide as to WHEN teams started to wear NOB’s, either before a league-wide edict, or especially in MLB, when there were gaps from exactly when they first started wearing NOB’s, then dropped them, and then added them. So if you’re wondering when – say the Braves – started wearing NOB’s (1963), when did they stop, and when did they resume the NOB’s. So, as an example, the Braves entry might look like this (years may NOT be correct):
Braves: 1963-1964, 1976-current.
or for hockey:
Rangers: 1970-71 thru 1976-77 (home only), 1977-78 to date.
What I am asking of you, the Uniwatch faithful, is for your help. I think I can cover the NFL and the NHL pretty well. However, for the NBA and especially MLB, if you can send me any photo samples with some verification as to when certain teams started and/or stopped wearing NOB’s it would be hugely appreciated and I will make sure to give you props in the database with your particular contribution(s).
To close, as promised, the NHL exception for 1977-78. In 1977, John Zeigler took over as NHL President, succeeding the long tenure (30 years) of Clarence Campbell. One of Zeigler’s first actions was to mandate that all NHL teams get with the program and affix NOB’s on the team sweaters, both home and away. 17 of the 18 teams complied, with no problem. One did not. The Maple Leafs owner, the crusty Harold Ballard, refused to follow the edict. They went half a season before Zeigler finally said to Ballard, put ‘em on or be fined. Finally, Ballard complied, by having blue NOB’s on the away blue sweaters! Zeigler, said, “Not funny” and then was ready to clamp Harold with some fines. At last, some time in late February, Ballard and the Leafs followed orders, but only for the blue jersey, with white letters. However, Ballard said to Zeigler, I will not do it for the home whites as he had an iron-clad clause with the Maple Leaf Gardens program printers NOT to adorn NOB’s on the home jerseys. Zeigler relented but ordered Ballard to comply fully starting with the 1978-79 season, which he did.
Thanks and again any and all help will be appreciated!!
You can reach Timmy by emailing him with any info.
Last Call For the RPM Stirrup Club: Got a note from Robert Marshall, the bobble boy. “phil, could you give a last call on the oriole stirrup, and make mention this weekend that i sent out this email to people that contacted me, and that if they didn’t get this email, that they should get in touch with me again? i think everyone is on here, but maybe i missed someone. i will be placing the order tuesday, so get in before then, i will not order extras. and they take tck 2 weeks to manufacture, so you should have them in less then 3 weeks from tuesday.” So, here’s that last call:
1) Cost $11 per stirrup. We will go through paypal, and use his rpmarshall art email address. Mr. Marshall does not intend to profit from this, but he doesn’t want to lose either. One of you sent Robert a payment for $10 (that is fine, don’t send him an extra 1$, you can work it out on the next pair), and those paypal bastards took $.60. but the breakdown is this: $7 for stirrup/$1 shipping from tck/$.50ish per envelope/ $.50ish paypal/$1.75 shipping to you (he just shipped a pair 1st class)=$10.75, which leaves $.25 for Robert’s gas/time/cover overruns, and he thinks that is more then fair. So, if you want 3 pairs, Robert will know by the $33 total. Make sure you give him a shipping address through paypal if you can. Please make this as easy on him as possible.
2) No, you are not obligated to buy every stirrup. They are calling it a “club”, and it would be nice if people were “generally” in, but nobody is in a must buy position. Robert will continue to add to this email list, and you will get emails every time they go for another ‘rup. If you want off the list, tell him, and he will take you off. Sure, you may occasionally get duplicate info, but it is easier for him to just have a general email to all involved, and not respond individually, he does not want to turn this into a job, he just want to get us all the stirrups we want :)
3) Clearly the next three ‘rups are the red sox, cardinals, and a’s, a popular, yet distant third choice. Robert provided this graphic with some other possible upcoming rups, most were suggested, others he just added to round out the image. He says we knock out the mlb’s first, then go from there, but we might mix in a crazy one here or there. Also the opening size will vary, this first pair is a 5″, and Robert has a feeling people will be happy with this size, it shows sani without getting crazy (staying classy), but we will more or less match the opening to the era. Or if 24 people get in, he can order twelve (min) 5″ and twelve 7″, he will make as many people happy as he can.
Wow…that’s a lot of stuff…so much so that there won’t be any “This and That” for today, but we’ll be back with one for tomorrow.
Everyone have a great Saturday. Don’t forget — tell us your “uni secret,” take a guess at the scoreboard, and give Timmy & Robert a hand. Ok? Ok!