I spent most of Wednesday up in Bristol for some ESPN meetings. At one point I was sitting in the office of Chris Ramsay, who’s the ESPN.com basketball editor (and also happens to be Dr. Jack Ramsay’s son), and I noticed a little publication on his desk. It turned out to be a Black Fives postcard booklet.
I think most of you know about Black Fives, right? For those who don’t: It’s Claude Johnson’s ongoing project to celebrate, document, and, yes, merchandize early-1900s black basketball teams. Reader Nana Kwamie wore one of their jerseys to the Uni Watch party in Toronto back in 2007.
The postcard booklet was published in 2006, but I’d never seen it until I found there on Chris’s desk. He encouraged me to take it, so I did. Once I got home, I was blown away by the material. Here are some highlights:
• The biggest revelation for me is that many of these teams used warm-up sweaters. And not just any sweaters, but shawl-collared cardigans very much like the baseball sweaters used around that same time (and also very similar to classic curling sweaters). One shawl-collared pullover, too. I’ve gathered all the sweater shots into this set.
• I’ve always been a sucker for jerseys with sash designs. I suspect those sashes were just added for the team portrait (which is for the spectacularly named Independent Pleasure Club), but these look like they were a permanent part of the jerseys.
• Several teams used jersey designs with a chest yoke with a center point, which I really like. Here’s a more acutely pointed example (with quilted shorts!) and a design that combined the chest yoke with horizontal stripes.
• The Alpha Physical Culture Club used a stylized “A” very much like the one used today by the A’s.
• As noted in the Uni Watch Glossary, northwestern stripes got their name from the 1928 Northwestern football team. The basic concept of northwestern striping — a thick stripe bordered by two thinner stripes — clearly predates that team, as you can see on the socks in this 1915 team portrait.
• Check out the second guy from the right — interesting that his knee pads aren’t plain like all the others, no?
• Here’s a rarity: an all-black women’s team.
• Here’s one more women’s squad. The rather chaotic looking chest logo stands for Spartan Athletic Club.
The postcard booklet appears to be out of print now, but a copies are available here.
Yellowjackets, Blue Jackets, varisty jackets: Yesterday I mentioned that Stewart & Strauss was running a sale on its chenille letters and numbers, which I thought would be of interest to DIYers. But even if you’re not into the DIY thing, S&S also has a nifty online tool that lets you design and purchase your own jacket. It’s just like one of those uniform-builder applications except it’s for a varsity jacket, allowing you to specify everything from the base color to the snap colors. Good stuff.
Membership Update: We’re fully caught up on memberships. Every single order is now represented in the design gallery (including Peter Hymas’s Greg Lemond cycling jersey treatment, shown at right) and all but the last two designs in the gallery have been printed, laminated, and shipped. If you haven’t received yours, let e know. And if you want to sign up for membership, here’s where to do it.
Also: Someone from Blue Springs, Missouri, sent me a $15 money order, presumably for a membership payment. But I couldn’t read the person’s signature and there was no note enclosed with the payment, so I have no idea who it was from. If this sounds like you, please speak up. Thanks.
Uni Watch News Ticker: While driving home from Bristol on Weds. night, I listened to the Yanks/Nats game on the radio and heard something odd: Instead of assigning high uni numbers like 79 and 93 to non-roster scrubs, the Nationals just double up on the more traditional numbers. In other words, they had two players wearing No. 15, two players wearing No. 27, and so on. I’d never heard of this before. Do other teams do this? … Here we have what is arguably the greatest stripe-o-rama photo ever (great find by Don Gale). … The NFL is tweaking its uni number regulations (as noted by Brinke Guthrie). … Great gallery of early Wayne Gretzky photos, including many of the uniforms he wore while he was a kid, here (with thanks to Ian M.). … Dig Lamar Hunt’s groovy Chiefs stocking cap (cool find by Jason Gomez). … It’s hard to see in this photo, but the Devils used a throwback puck, as well as throwback uniforms, on March 17th. The parts of the design that are usually black were green (with thanks to Kevin Clark). … John Donovan recently scored this gorgeous varsity jacket. Interesting to see the name embroidered on the sleeve instead of the chest — don’t see that very often. … Looks like Frosty has a new DIY client: one of Vince‘s co-workers. … No surprise that David Wright is on the cover of Maple Street Press’s 2010 Mets annual. But it is a surprise that they chose a photo of him wearing stirrups. … “The Columbus Blue Jackets have done the world’s laziest redesign to their new AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons (formerly partnered with the Oilers),” writes Erik Gallant. “But at least they’ve mastered the ‘Paint Bucket’ tool in Photoshop.” … Weirdest logo creep development in quite some time: Former Oasis singer Noel Gallagher has had an Adidas logo on his guitar lately (good spot by Andy McNeel). … Some really nice curling sweaters on display in this video clip (with thanks to Jim Vilk). … New alternate uniform for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (courtesy of Jeremy Brahm). … Also from Jeremy: New clash jersey for the Brisbane Lions. … Someone on the Chris Creamer board has performed a valuable public service. … Totally digging the design on this old Westinghouse curtain.