Way back in March, I conducted an interview with David Frost, who’s one of the more accomplished DIYers out there. Then I was lazy about transcribing the tape, and then David sent me a bunch of additional material that was sort of overwhelming, and then, as many of you know, my life got very complicated in May and June. So the whole thing got back-burnered, which was embarrassing for me and no doubt very frustrating for David. Now I’ve finally put the whole package together, and I think you’ll agree that it was worth the wait.
Here we go:
Uni Watch: How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?
David Frost: I’m 35. I’m originally from Milwaukee, but now I live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. What brought me here is that I worked in minor league baseball for 13 years. I was lucky enough to build a couple of different ballparks and be part of a front-office staff. Basically, if a town was building a new ballpark, I was on the list of “Guys who can help you get your franchise started.”
UW: So are you a minor league executive, or a consultant..?
DF: I was until about four years ago. But then I got married and had a family, and working minor league baseball hours wasn’t going to cut it in terms of having a family. So I got out, and now I’m in real estate property management.
UW: Now tell me about all these jerseys you’ve made. As I’m sure you’re aware, yours are much more professional-looking than some of the other DIYs we’ve featured on the site. That doesn’t mean they’re better, but they do have a more polished look.
DF: Thanks, I appreciate that — that’s what I strive for. In college I worked as a buyer at a sports store, so I knew a little bit about uniforms and manufacturers, and that helped me get into working in minor league baseball, where I really cut my teeth in merchandising. I also have background in art, so I’ve also designed some minor league and college logos. But when I say, “designed,” I was more of the drawing guy, and then I had a friend who could put the drawing on the computer and make it look better.
Anyway, as a jersey collector, one of my biggest frustrations is that I always wanted one of the early Milwaukee Brewers jerseys. So about five years ago, I asked my mother-in-law to teach me how to sew. She’s a quilter, and at that time I just wanted to sew a patch on a jersey. So she showed me how to do that, and then I started looking at the jerseys in my collection, and I’m thinking, “OK, that’s a zigzag stitch, this is this stitch…”
UW: Oh, so she showed you on a machine, not just by hand?
UW: Do you have a machine of your own now?
DF: Well, my wife has a machine that had never been used. So I’m looking at all my jerseys and now the wheels are really turning. I’m thinking to myself that if I can just get my hands on some twill and some piping, I might be able to make the Brewers jersey myself. So that was the very first jersey I tried, and man, it was a grease fire. I should have been practicing more on other materials first.
UW: You were like the guy who runs a marathon without stretching first.
DF: Exactly. So I really practiced a lot. Believe it a not, I was stitching underwear.
UW: I believe we’re veering into the realm of too much information, David.
DF: Right. Anyway, I got a bit more confident, and I started calling up some of my old friends in the [sportswear] manufacturing world — places like Rawlings, AIS, or what have you — and said, “Hey, I’m just looking for scraps.” So I might get a box that had a piece of twill, and I’d start pinning it up the way I wanted it. The heat press I’d bought for the local minor league park 10 years earlier was still there, and they let me use it. So using that method, I was able to complete my collection, and I’ve also been able to create new jerseys that I put up on eBay. And I’ll say in my listing, “If you have a jersey you want me to make, shoot me an e-mail.” And I thought I’d get people asking for their old high school jersey. And I did get some of that, but what I really got a lot of was, “Hey, Mitchell & Ness doesn’t make this specific year of Padres jersey — can you do that?”
UW: So you just get jersey blanks?
DF: Yes. I used to spend a lot of time looking for blanks on eBay, but then I realized I could call upon my old relationships with vendors and salespeople. And they provide me with the blanks. So if I need, say, a white jersey with navy pinstripes, I can just call up this one guy, and I’m basically like one of his regular accounts. I get a great rate, I know it’s going to be a quality jersey, and that’s basically my canvas.
UW: What about logos and patches and things?
DF: Anything tackle twill, I cut by hand.
UW: I’m looking at a photo of a Braves jersey that you did, and the Braves script almost looks embroidered.
DF: I made that by hand. What I do is, I get the logos from Chris Creamer’s site. And all I know how to use is Adobe Illustrator — I don’t know CAD or anything like that. So I tweak the logos as needed and then I print them on card stock to make a stencil.
UW: And what about sleeve patches?
DF: Some I make, some I do the Willabee & Ward thing. See that gray jersey that has “Socks” on it? That pair of socks is basically a logo that I ripped from Creamer and then I cut all the pieces individually.
UW: So that’s not a stitched patch — it’s pieces of tackle twill?
DF: Exactly. Like on that Braves jersey we were just talking about, the tomahawk is all twill. I went in there and added all the little red pieces, all the gold pieces. And then for some of the border, I set the sewing machine for a really thin setting, almost like a chain stitch, and went from there.
UW: And what about heavy-duty things, like this Milwaukee script baseball jacket?
DF: That’s tackle twill as well. The jacket itself is something I found on eBay for $11. It was some kid’s high school letterman jacket — it had a swimming patch on it and all this other crap, which I removed. But it fit me perfect. I mean, that’s a jacket I wear every day. I just went home to Milwaukee, and people were stopping me, saying, “Where did you get that jacket?” And I’m like, “Well, if I told you I made it, would you believe me?” and they just laugh. And I say, “If you want, look me up on Facebook or eBay.”
UW: OK, so now I’m looking at this early Astros jersey, with the shooting star. Now, on the original version that the team wore back in the 1960s, the tails or streamers on the star were all chain-stitched, which I gather is something you were not able to do.
DF: That is correct. About 99% of what I do is tackle twill. I have dabbled with felt a little bit lately, but I’m very upfront in saying I use today’s materials. So sometimes I’ll get someone who says, “I want an old White Sox jersey with a zipper,” and I’ll say, “Well, I don’t know how to do zippers — yet.” For some people, that’s a dealbreaker; for others, they don’t care as long as you can give them the basic look. And the look is definitely something I can do.
DF: Oh, that’s actually a good story. To make those, I take a gold piece of twill, and then the blue is a piece of 3/8″ braid. I have a stencil that I use for this, to make guide marks on the twill, and then I use Liquid Stitch to glue the braid onto the twill nice and straight. It dries overnight, and then I stitch it to the twill. And then the twill has the heat-adhesive bottom, so I can position it how I want it and then stitch it onto the sleeve.
UW: So you started doing this about five years ago. How many jerseys would you say you’ve done in that time?
DF: Probably 80 or 90.
UW: Do you wear these around, or keep them in the closet, or what?
DF: My personal collection is about 50 jerseys, and I made about half of those. I’ll wear them when I’m playing cards with the guys on a Saturday night or something like that.
UW: And mot of the others you made either in response to specific customer requests, or just to put up on eBay?
UW: What do you charge?
DF: It depends on the jersey. I just got an inquiry from a guy who wants a 1943 Senators jersey. And that’s basically just putting one row of horseshoe piping or braid around the collar, a navy “W,” and the “Health” patch, which I can find on eBay for maybe $7. So a jersey like that, I’d say maybe $85. Now something like that Braves jersey, that’s much more intricate. That would be $260, which is the most I’ve ever charged.
But the main thing is that I enjoy it. It’s turned into my late-night hobby, which I like. My wife will be sitting on the couch watching The Bachelor, and I’ll be next to here cutting out letters. So that’s gonna be a big part of our quality time together. Wait, don’t write that, Paul. Seriously, though, I watched the World Series last year, but I didn’t actually watch much of it — I mostly just listened to it.
UW: A lot of Uni Watch is written under similar circumstances. You’re taking it to a different level than most of the other DIYers, because you’re using real blank jerseys instead of a long-sleeve tee from Wal-Mart, plus you’re using real braid, and so on.
DF: I have some customers who’ll send me their old shirts, and I’ll reproduce them. Being from Wisconsin, for instance, I’ve made a lot of older Green Bay Packers jerseys.
UW: Right, with the padded elbows and all.
DF: Right, and that guy sent me a J. Peterman sweatshirt — you know, Peterman, the guy Elaine worked for on Seinfeld — and he dyed it himself, because he was really anal about the color. And he said, “If I dye it, will you do the rest?” And I said, “I’d be honored.” I’ve now done five more jerseys for him, for his kids.
UW: Were you surprised to see other people making their own jerseys?
DF: Very much so. But the thing is, I’m not just making them for myself or even for my customers. With my kids playing travel ball, I’m kind of like the team mom. There was this tournament a year or two ago where they had to have a sleeve patch, and the coach said, “OK, we need to have this patch on all the jerseys by tomorrow — who can do it?” And he’s looking at all the moms. And I just raised my hand and said, “Give ’em to me.” And he says, “Does your wife sew?” And I say, “Just give ’em to me.”
Thanks for all the info and photos, David — and thanks also for your patience. Sorry it took so long to get your story out there. And again, if you missed the link near the top of the entry, there’s a step-by-step example of how David creates a jersey here.
Research Request: My Page 2 colleague Patrick Hruby is going to be spending a day with one of the Smithsonian’s curators and checking out their sports collection. “I’m going to focus on strange and unusual stuff, and also the stories around and behind acquiring and preserving items,” he tells me. “For instance: they have a condom with Mickey Mantle’s picture on it (reason #1,021 why the Mick was fortunate Deadspin did not exist in his era). I’m just wondering if you have suggestions of things to look for or ask about.”
I’m not all that familiar with the Smithsonian’s collection, but maybe some of you folks are. If so, please feel free to contact Patrick directly. Thanks!
Uni Watch News Ticker: FSN Florida was in such a hurry to salute Mark Buehrle’s performance yesterday that they made a rather unfortunate typo when describing his accomplishment (brilliant screen capture by S. Finch). … Speaking of yesterday’s perfecto, this article includes the nugget that Buehrle and the home plate ump in yesterday’s game, Eric Cooper, both wear No. 56 (with thanks to James Huening). … Big kudos to Brandon Davis, who pointed out something I’d forgotten about: Rajai Davis wasn’t the first one to wear those A’s logo stirrups. Esteban Loaiza wore them back in 2007. … Meanwhile, I heard from A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, who explains the situation as follows: “Rajai needed a new pair of stirrups and saw the logoed stirrups and decided to try them. He had four RBIs — a Rajai record! — which cemented the thought of wearing them daily the rest of the year. Loaiza might have been the first to wear the logo stirrups.” … And sure enough, Davis was wearing the logo-emblazoned hose again last night (screen shot courtesy of Chris Gordon, who also notes that Mark Ellis was wearing a gray-underbrimmed cap). … Bryan’s latest cycling crash? Nope, it’s a shot from the 1930 Tour de France. Lots of additional pics here (nice find by Vince LoBosco). … I may have linked to this in the past, but just in case: Here’s a nice site devoted to Phil Neel, the artist who drew all of Auburn’s program covers from the 1950s through the ’80s, along with ticket art and other graphics. Great, great stuff (big thanks to Jeff Hunter). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: According to this game report, Manny wore civvies under his uniform on Wednesday. Key passage: “‘I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit,’ said Ramirez, who arrived at his locker and peeled off his Dodgers shirt and white pants to reveal street clothes.” … Very cool NFL lunchbox available here (with thanks to Marc Swanson). … Jesse Gavin checks in with lots of observations from the Iowa State Softball Tourney, including teams wearing basketball-style tank tops, tie-dye-ish jerseys, pinstriped shorts (ugh), bizarro piping with a sublimated clipper ship, and odd helmet striping, plus a player wearing No. 02 and a facemasked pitcher. Also, Jesse didn’t mention this, but it looks to me like the baserunner’s helmet in this photo has a molded ponytail channel. I’ve seen ponytail holes before, but never a separate channel like that. … Good article on the Vikings’ equipment manager here (with thanks to Brian Schulz). … Remember, Doug Keklak is putting together a western PA Uni Watch outing to a minor league ballgame. If you want in, contact Kek pronto. … Speaking of Kek, he was watching a documentary about Barrett Robbins and noticed that Robbins and his TCU teammates all had first initials on their NOBs in the early 1990s. … Shortest hockey pants ever? Could be, could be (with thanks to Gabriel Manga). … “Green is the new pink,” says Kenn Tomasch, who reports that the Chicago Red Stars will go green this Sunday. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Next year’s MLB All-Star Game logo has been released. … Tons of awesome baseball photos in the University of California archives (with thanks to Mike Hersh). … With AC Milan and Chelsea set to play a match in Baltimore, The Baltimore Sun has posted a tremendous slideshow of Baltimore soccer history (with thanks to Coachie Ballgames). … My Page 2 buddy Jim Caple muscled in on my act yesterday by writing a story about Ebbets Field Flannels outfitting the Iraqi baseball team. … The Mets announced that they’ll deny press-box access to New York Post reporters in retaliation for the Post having published nude photos of Tony Bernazard. As soon as this news came over the wire, all the other NYC papers promptly published the photos too so they could avoid having to cover the Mets anymore this season.