By Phil Hecken, with Giancarlo
A couple weeks ago, in the comments section, reader Giancarlo raised an extremely germane comment/suggestion/question; to wit: What teams got their uniform exactly right from their inception, so much so that every subesquent uniform iteration that followed has failed to replicate the superior first effort for that team. In some cases, there have been several rebrands along the way, some of which fell laughably short of ever replicating the awesomeness of that first uniform.
Immediately, I shot an email to Giancarlo, who was more than happy to oblige me in coming up with the list, which, while quite comprehensive, is still far from complete. For the introduction to this undertaking, I’ll now happily surrender the floor to GC:
To be an ideal candidate for what I’ll call a “Fallen From Grace” team we should see a long history of failed attempts to improve upon the debut uniform. Preferably including some eyesores along the journey. On this basis the San Diego Padres are perhaps Number One in all the major sports. Even as a kid I remember how every year or two you could count on a new Padre uniform even uglier than the one before. By the same token, I think we should give a pass to teams that don’t have a long history yet, so while I think that the Marlins ruined their perfectly fine debut uni by emphasizing the black, I’ll give them a little time to realize the mistake.
In a different category are the teams that stuck with a winning template for a great number of years before suddenly losing all sense of judgement. I think the Vikings & NHL’s Sabres & Capitals might qualify here.
Then there are the tinkerers. Miami football fans got a perfect, almost pop art uniform design in 1966 with the Dolphins’ debut. Since then the dolphin in the logo has moved around & been redrawn, pants stripes have been widened & later separated, drop shadow has been added to numbers, the helmet logo has appeared on sleeves, aqua pants have appeared, navy has been added as an accent color, and so on. Have any of these features improved upon the 1966 uni? Not to this fan.
I also don’t like when a team is born with some kind of unique design element & for a later season just drop it & bland their look down. For example, the LA Angels with their halo topped caps of 1961. They found a great trademark that no other team could ever copy and then just mothballed it. The Brewers of 1970 inherited the scrambled eggs piping of the Seattle Pilots, which even if it made no sense was a distinctive oddity. In 1972 they gave that up and suddenly started looking like a college team. They’ve been uni-challenged ever since.
Thanks, Giancarlo. Great intro which sets up our list nicely. We’ve broken them down into the three major sports, plus hockey. The list, as previously stated, will prove far from complete, but it’s a great starting point. And with that, here we go:
Nominees & borderline cases for the Fallen From Grace category:
Fallen from Grace
Fallen From Grace
Fallen from Grace
(Atlanta) Hawks: Two years into their stay in Atlanta, the Hawks broke out these snazzy blue & green unis (the same year the Vancouver Canucks brought that color scheme into the NHL). It was a whole new identity for the franchise, so I’ll consider this their debut. In ’72 the blue & green vanished & the Pac Man logo came in. Afterwards, all downhill.
Cleveland Cavaliers (and 1974 update): While not obviously classic-looking, the more I see the Cavs Mark I the more right this uni seems. I confess I like their ’74 update just as much – maybe because that’s the look I remember as a basketball-loving youngster.
Fallen from Grace
Well there you have it. Admittedly, this list is probably far from complete, and you may even disagree with some of the choices. But for the most part, I’d say Giancarlo has nailed it. But what do you think? There must be more teams who “got it right the first time” and have never even approached that level since their first uniform. Those who didn’t quite get it on the first try may have improved upon that in their second generation, but have never even come close to tasting that uni-awesomeness since.
Let’s hear what you think.
When does a man really become a man? Some would say 18. Others would argue it’s 21. Then there’s Mike Gundy. One can only imagine the birthday wishes Ol’ Eddie sent him. In case you missed it, someone had a birthday this past Monday.
Here’s a belated Benchies Birthday wishes for one of our own.
Pick a Knight: Got an E-mail from Johnny Okray, who has some information and an interesting proposition for the Uni Watch community. Here’s Johnny:
My alum, St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI, is hosting an online survey to cast an identity for the SNC mascot.
Although SNC has been around for a very long time, they have never had a “real life” mascot. With the opening of their new football stadium next year, they are hoping to finally give SNC a new mascot.
Here is their identity site.
Just wanted to show you this in hopes of maybe giving people a chance to voice their opinion on the mascot site. Because who would I rather have choosing my old school’s new mascot? A bunch of old alumni, or Uni Watchers?
Thanks Johnny. So what say you, Uni Watchers, wanna help Johnny out and Pick a Knight for his old school?
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: Every game is memorable. Every out is precious. And for those in attendance, it’s always nice to know that the game you sat through set a record for something. This one is slightly tricky, since there’s a “catch” to the date. Ready? Guess The Game From The Scoreboard Date, location and final score, please, and be sure to link to your answer. And, as always, if you enjoy the game, please send me some new scoreboards! Drop me a line. Thanks!
Back again with more Uniform Tweaks, Concepts and Revisions today. Lots to get to, and if you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
First up today is Neil Paine, who’s taking the UW Uni Tweaks ™ and running down the court with it over on another blog. Hey, the more the merrier!:
Just wanted to say that I started doing some NBA tweaks at the Basketball-Reference blog, inspired by what you guys have been doing:
I love the concept of redesigning uniforms, and I had made some NBA unis in MS Paint in the past, so I finally got around to making some tweaks myself this weekend. I would not have had the courage to do a post like that if you guys hadn’t started giving an outlet to aspiring uni re-designers at the UniWatch Blog, so thanks, and keep up the great work!
User Affairs Coordinator
Next up is the Former Dirt Dart, Walter Young, who decided to make the Amazin’s look, um….different. Yeah…that’s the ticket:
I decided to basically throw all of the Mets uniform colors into a blender, and see what comes out. Both Home & Road uniforms retain a small touch of traditional coloring for flavor (and whimsy). Piping on both uniforms is is coordinated with the color-way of each jerseys word-marks/lettering/numbers.
My Home uniform is more based off of the Mets primary “ball and city-scape” logo than the traditional & current home uni-sets.
The Road uniform retains the traditional “NEW YORK” word-mark, while going with a seriously old school dark road-uni look.
Moving along, we have Patrick Lange, who returns the kelly and gold to Minnesota:
Loved the North Stars look so I applied that treatment to the current Minnesota hockey team.
And closing the show…it had to happen some time. Here’s “Mr. Murray” with some BFBS observations, and then some soccer uni tweaks. Yep…soccer:
Black-for-black’s-sake is something I’ve been stewing about for a while now, because one of my favorite teams pulled it this year. The Boston Blazers (National Lacrosse League) introduced an alternate uniform this year, giving them red homes, white aways, and (surprise!) black alternates. There is clearly black in the logo, but it’s a silhouette, so of course it’s black. I would be content to grumble and live with the alternates, but one thing makes it an absolute travesty — aside from their home opener and closer, they wore black alts for the remaining six home games! Wearing a black alt is one thing, but to wear it for six out of eight home games…it kinda ceases to be an alt. And it makes my eyes hurt.
In addition, I’ve got some uni-tweaks…well, they’re more like “uni what-ifs”. I’m a New England Revolution (Major League Soccer) fan, and decided to see what their 2008-2009 uniforms could have looked like had they used a different template — not necessarily better, just different. Here are the (mixed) results: actual 08-09 kit (for comparison), Houston Dynamo-esque, San Jose Earthquakes-esque, Real Salt Lake-esque, and Seattle Sounders FC-esque.
Thanks for your time.
That’s all for this tweak show. Check back next time for more.
And finally, today’s Kentucky Derby Day. I didn’t do anything new or special for today’s post, but I thought, for those of you who may not have been readers a year ago, or who may not have seen this one if you were, I’d run the good part of last year’s Kentucky Derby column. It’s timeless, as is the event. Some good stuff in there. If you read it last year, take a refresher course. All good things in all good time.
So, the Derby’s today. The Kentucky Derby. You know, the “Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports.” The kick-off to the triple crown. The Sport of Kings (or is that boxing?). No matter. It’s Derby Day and that means eight hours of buildup on ESPN and then well, two minutes of racing on whatever network owns the rights to the actual race. Probably the Peacock. I’ll have to check. Wanna know how to pick a winner?
In past years, Mr. Lukas has already covered your Kentucky Derby party, your Preakness Silkiness and your Belmont Shooin, so right there you have all you really need to know about the sport, the hoofwear and the spread to break out. It’s all pretty good stuff, actually (the horse racing part, not necessarily the columns — those are spot on).
I wanted to begin this with a set of photos from Lance Smith, who has sent me a few beauties from the Life archives. So, real quick, here’s some Derby bits from Squiddie:
There’s a big set of photos from the 1955 Kentucky Derby. Swaps won that year ridden by Willie Shoemaker. It’s mainly fans and colorful characters photos and less actual Derby photos — like these two gentlemen
I like this color photo. That’s the start of the 1959 Derby. The winner was Tommy Lee. (Man, there’s some obvious jokes there and none of them repeatable in polite society.) Again the winner was ridden by Willie Shoemaker. His number was 8 so I think he’s the yellow livery five from the right.
Man, they used to be really blatant about doping in the 1950s — (in fact, Needles won the 1956 Derby). BTW, here’s Swaps in 1955 with Willie Shoemaker in the Winner’s Circle. Finally, here’s a set of photos of 1964 when Northern Dancer won it. Wasn’t as easy to get a good photo back then.
Thanks Lance. We’ll have more from you tomorrow!
Lets break the Derby down into its few basis elements.
The Hats: For many, it’s all about see and being seen. And that means sporting the classiest chapeau, the hottest hats, the largest lid or the tastiest topper you can find. Some are simply stunning. But usually, especially since the aforementioned mint julep is a part of the day’s activities, the choice of headwear is never boring, although frequently what is lacking in taste is more than made up for in original design. Of course, some might say this is the height of douchebaggery. But where else can you wear a funny hat, get liquored to the gills, AND walk away with more bank than you came? Not too many places.
The Silks: Those colorful outfits the jockeys wear? Yup, silks. And there’s nothing purdier than seeing them on top of the ponies on race day. Whether they’re heading for the gate before the race or just breaking on their run, there’s something incredibly beautiful about what can only be described as poetry in motion. When you get a muddy track or an overcast day, the men in silks just seem to burst into magnificent color throughout the race.
The Roses: They call the Kentucky Derby the “Run for the Roses.” Why? Well, because the winning horse gets a shitload of the pungent red flowers. Sometimes they even put ’em on the jockey. They’ve been doing it forever. It’s a nice tradition. Seems like every year the bouquets and blankets get bigger and bigger.
The Steeples: No matter when the race, no matter what the year, there are few landmarks so associated with a single event than the famous steeples at Churchill Downs. And why not? They make a fantastic frame for a shot. They are as much a part of the race as the race itself. Anytime you see a picture that includes this architectural icon, you know it’s Churchill Downs, and you can be pretty certain it’s from The Kentucky Derby.
The Starting Gate: Not nearly as iconic as the steeples, but still an integral part of the race. There is usually a pretty large field in the Derby, and the gate used to be both beautiful and classic. As time progressed, however, it sadly became less classic and more of a corporate billboard. Here’s what it looked like last year. Can they put any more shit on there?
The Bugler: Some call him the trumpeter, others call him the bugler. But no matter what you call him, there is no more anticipated music maker on race day at Churchill Downs than the man in the funny red jacket. Well … maybe the people enjoy a rousing chorus of My Old Kentucky Home more than they do the call to post, but the bugler is the most anticipated
fat man in a red jacket fat man in a red suit in Kentucky on the first Saturday in May.
The Pose: Ah yes. The win. And with the win comes the pose. It’s not unique to the Kentucky Derby by any means, but there’s something about winning the Run for the Roses that makes the win all that sweeter. It’s like the ultimate aphrodesiac right there.
The Red Carpet: Wait…what? This aint the Oscars. No, but that doesn’t mean the really special people don’t get the Hollywood treatment. After all, what would the Derby be without Visa and some Grade B talent to share in the fun? OK — VY looks great in that suit, but really, you have to wonder
lic if he really likes the ponies or the attention. Seriously, are they there to hit the Exacta or just to show off a really nice hat?
The Jockey Room: I’m not sure what exactly they call the place where the jockeys hang out before and after they race. But it is a really cool place where they keep all the silks. So many to chose from. I wonder, do they just randomly pick one or what? “I like this purple one, I think I’ll wear this one today.” No?
The Rail: No photographer worth his salt would take a shot at the Derby without taking one from beneath the rail. It is the classic shot of the race. No matter what the year, no matter what the horse, you can always count on the classic shot perfectly framed by the rail.
The Finish Pole: That almost sounds like an oxymoron or a really messed up European. But in reality, while the horses cross an invisible “line,” they are actually passing the finish pole. Now, the lettering on the obelisk has changed slightly over the years, the grand finale of the race has always been accomplished by crossing the finish line and passing the finish pole. Yep. That’s one sweet sight for a weary rider after the most exciting two minutes in sports.
Enjoy the race today. Throw a party. Make some mint juleps. Wear a silly hat. Go on — you know you want to. It’s Kentucky Derby Day. Take me down, little Susie, take me down.
Alright Uni Watchers, we’re puttin’ a bow on this one. Have a great Saturday.
/Thanks to everyone who inquired about the status of my pop last night.
If Jack Nicklaus can win the Masters at 46, I can win the Kentucky Derby at 54. — Willie Shoemaker