By Phil Hecken, with Chris Geis
On Uni Watch, there are “white whales” and then there are “white whales,” — the quest to find uniforms we’re sure existed, but yet we have no photographic proof — the reference of course being to Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab chasing Moby Dick; perhaps it’s not the best descriptor, but for our purposes, it will do.
Today, we can cross one more of those “white whales” off the list. It’s not quite up there with the “blue bronco” (Ricko’s almost life-long quest to find a color photo of the preseason helmet [and possibly a few games early in the season] worn by the Denver Broncos in 1962.) Most people who are familiar with the scenario believe the Broncos wore a brown pony on they helmets. Rick believes it was blue. Since we’ve seen no color photographs of the helmet, it remains a great, white whale.
We’ve had other minor mysteries solved on UW from time to time, but some still elude us, including the possibility that the Cleveland Indians wore an all blue uniform during their “caveman” years (the possible sighting of this uniform may have been in the 1975, 1976 or 1977 All Star Game); another new one is the Texas Rangers wearing a powder blue top over white pants, possibly during the 1975 season. Still other uniform and equipment mysteries have been solved, including the recent Chiefs’ Headdress Helmet, tracked down after many years by Paul. It’s always a joy for the truly devoted Uni Watcher to unearth (or maybe, catch) a white whale.
As I stated above, we’ve had another white whale sighting this week. It’s not as huge as would be a color photo of the
blue brown bronco of 1962, nor even the Chiefs’ Headdress, but it’s a great one nonetheless. And the man who has been at the forefront of this quest for years is none other than Chris Geis, who posts as Geeman. You see, he’s been swearing that the Pittsburgh Pirates, during their “We Are Family” years, wore their white pinstripes in a game at Shea, versus the Mets, also clad in white pinstripes.
Now, with all the possible combinations the Pirates wore during those years, you’d think there would be lots of white pins versus white pins matchups (it turns out there are a few), but no one had ever provided photographic proof. Thanks to a very important uni-tracking project being undertaken by Jerry Wolper, who has begun the process of documenting every combination the Bucs wore during the 1977-84 seasons (more on that below), plus the research contributions of UW uniform historian Tim Brulia, Chris’ memory of having seen a pins-on-pins game at Shea has been validated. During the course of the past week, Timmy & Jerry (and even Ben Traxel) have provided our photographic proof, in the form of newspaper accounts and baseball cards. They’re below.
But for a more personal account, here’s Chris:
In my mind’s eye the vision is clear: It is a warm summer weekend, late in the afternoon or maybe dusk. It is the last summer we would live in Queens, just a few miles from Shea Stadium, and the Mets and Pirates are on the television in our den, playing on WOR-TV, Channel 9. And both teams are wearing white uniforms with pinstripes.
“Hey, Dad,” I say. “Look at that. Isn’t that against the rules, with both teams wearing white uniforms?”
My dad once worked for the Mets and knew everything there was to know about sports, but all he could muster was an annoyed look at the scene and a comment about how that would make it difficult for the umpires to tell the players apart in a close play at the plate. He quickly moved on to more important household matters.
But I never forgot it. It was the first time I had ever seen two baseball teams wearing white in the same game, let alone white with pinstripes, and I’ve never seen it since. It violated every tenet of sports uniform wearing in my strict rule-abiding mind, and still does. Teams needed to differentiate themselves by wearing different uniforms, I insisted.
I have always loved sports, with baseball my first love, and have always kept track in my mind of teams’ uniforms. In those long, languid days of summer until my mid-teens, when I wasn’t playing some ball, I was thinking about it, watching it or listening to it on radio, or collecting baseball cards or reading the daily standings and batting averages that came out every Sunday. This included an informal cataloging in my mind of uniforms.
I was about to turn 11 when the Pirates came out with their multiple sets of black, gold, and white uniforms, which they mixed and matched without limitation, and I loved them. It spiced up the boring white and gray background of the game, or so this kid thought. Now, of course, I would find some of the new uniforms appalling and my tastes run much more to the traditional. But the Pirates – and A’s, Orioles, Giants, Indians, and others who broke the uniform color barrier when I started following the game — will always have a soft spot in my heart. (The first World Series that I remember was the A’s-Reds affair in 1972. I still have all the baseball cards that came out the next year from each game, and the A’s alternated with white, gold, and green jerseys for those games and did the same in the 1973 and 1974 series.)
Of course, I did not think to document the Pirates-Mets game, but I was certain that it had happened. Then along came UniWatch, and documentation (“where are the pics?” “won’t believe till I see pics!”) became vital and enjoyable. I first mentioned on the message board, either last summer or the summer before, that I had seen the Pirates and Mets both wearing white pinstripes in a game at Shea in 1977 or 1978. The response was skeptical. I called it my white whale, determined to find proof somehow or another. But alas, job responsibilities and other matters never really allowed me time, or perhaps I was too lazy to make time, to do it. But I kept putting out the bait for others to track the whale down. It was the summer of ’77 or ’78, I said. I knew that because it was either the summer before we moved to North Carolina or the summer that we moved to North Carolina, and it was early in the Pirates’ bumblebee years (1977 was the first year they used the unis). Uniwatchers quickly directed me to the Mets’ schedule for those years. I suggested that it was either mid-July 1977 or June 1978.
I did this several times over the last year or two until finally a few weeks ago one of the readers said he was going to track every uniform the Pirates wore that year. There would be lots of time reading microfilm in libraries, but I knew it would uncover the truth. Then a few days ago, I mentioned it again. There was more skepticism from Phil. Perhaps it was tongue-in-check skepticism, but good old fashioned Long Island skepticism nonetheless; he mentioned that the tooth fairy and Easter Bunny would be found at the same time as the all-pinstripes game. So I put down the challenge: Just check out the New York newspapers’ microfilm at the library for the July 1977 or June 1978 Pirates-Mets series, and you’ll find proof.
Another reader (“timmy b” – not sure if he is the same reader doing the Buc tracker) took the challenge. Bless you, timmy B. And he found the proof: Yes, the Pirates did wear white pinstripes at Shea in 1977, and the Mets were also wearing their home white pinstripes. (It wasn’t one of those reverse-home games like the Blue Jays and Phillies played a few weeks ago; I was sure of that.) It is right there in The New York Times’ articles of July 18, 1977. And he threw in some baseball cards of the Pirates wearing pinstripes — cards that I have had for years — and lo and behold, I slapped my forehead and realized the pictures for those cards were taken at Shea. The Mets are not in the pictures on those cards, but I spent enough time as a kid at Shea, even after I moved to North Carolina, to know it was Shea. All these years I had proof of that game in a shoebox and I never knew it. [Note: Ben Traxel did unearth this baseball card, which, while note completely pins versus pins, does show the Bucs wearing pin pants — PH]
(It turns out that this all-pinstripes affair occurred just a few days after the famous New York City blackout of 1977. I lived through that blackout, but in my mind the two events were separate and I never connected them. Of course, the TV was on when I saw the game, so the power had clearly come back by then. But if the power had not come on, I probably would never have noticed it.)
This is why Uni Watch is such a wonderful thing. The collective power of readers, their memories, and their motivations to document uniform history is awesome. Last summer UniWatch unearthed that the Indians had worn blue jerseys and red pants, and white jerseys and red pants, in some games in 1977. I always tried to keep track of teams’ uniform combinations, especially teams like the Indians and Pirates, but I had never seen those combos on baseball cards, on TV, or in the papers. Not even Mark Okkonen’s great book had them.
Uni Watch has also recently helped confirm that the A’s wore all-green and all-gold uniforms in the 1970s. I vaguely remember seeing baseball cards with one or both uniforms as a kid, but over the years I must have lost them, because they are not in my shoeboxes; I checked last summer after that photo of Vida Blue in all-gold from the 1975 All-Star game was posted on UniWatch. [Remember, Vida was absent from the 1975 ASG team photo — PH] A few days ago we got confirmation on UniWatch, with photos, that they wore both.
Two summers ago UniWatch readers also helped me clear up another mystery from my youth. In 1975, when the Orioles debuted their bright orange jerseys, they had a matching orange-front cap. I loved both and wore both as a kid, even though I’ve almost always been a Red Sox fan. I always thought there was a matching orange-front helmet, maybe because that’s what made sense to a 9-year-old, but I wasn’t sure if I had ever seen it; I just assumed there was one. I collected helmets as a kid — usually bought them for $2.50 when I went to Shea, which was five or six times a summer, often even after I moved away — and I had the white-front helmet but could never find the orange-front helmet. Did they even have one? I couldn’t document it one way or another. So I put out a call on UniWatch two years ago this month to see if anyone knew. Within a day or so UniWatch readers came up with a baseball card of Reggie Jackson in that orange Orioles jersey and a white helmet. This was conclusive proof that they had never worn an orange-front helmet, because Reggie played only one year with the O’s, 1976, and that year was the last year that the O’s wore the orange-front cap; after that, they wore the white-front cap with the orange jerseys.
Summertime is a beautiful thing. The pace slows, and memories of our childhoods flood our brains. Baseball was an integral part of my childhood summers, and unearthing these baseball uniform mysteries from my youth has been a fun throwback to a more innocent time. Thanks, UniWatch. Now let’s find another white whale.
Thanks Chris, for that nice trip down memory lane, and for sticking to your guns (even when I was only half-kidding you) about the pins-on-pins being as likely as the “tooth fairy.” It was with GREAT pleasure and surprise when Timmy sent me those clippings, and it was due in no small part to the efforts of Jerry Wolper, who’s been undertaking his “Buc Tracker” project. Although he’s made tremendous progress so far in documenting every combination the Pirates wore during the “bumblebee” years, he’s not ready for the final release of the results yet (but he has shared his findings with me.
Once we got “proof” of the pins on pins, I asked him how many other instances of such wearings he had found, and here’s what he had to say:
There are a number of instances where the Pirates wore
their white “pinstripes” on the road against a pinstriped home team.
Looking at jerseys, I have
5/29/77 Chicago (according to Jerry Reuss; probably includes white pants)
7/15/77 New York (game 1; nothing for game 2)
7/17/77 New York (game 1; nothing for game 2)
8/16/77 Chicago (photo on left)
Of those, I know they wore white pants on 7/17/77, 8/17/77, and
8/18/77. I don’t have a pants color for 5/2/77 or 6/18/78. And,
besides those nightcaps, there are a bunch of dates where I haven’t
found a picture yet, so I don’t claim this list is complete. (There
are also games with a colored jersey and white pants, but the point
has already been made.)
The attached photos are the best I found where you can see both teams’ pinstripes.
And thank you Jerry.
Tremendous job by all, and again a BIG thanks to Chris, Timmy & Jerry, and everyone at UW who helps us find the unfindable, who makes our pursuit more than a blind shot in the dark. We’ve still got a few more whales to track down. But now we’ve got another one in the books.
What about you, readers? Is there a certain uniform you *swear* you saw at one time or another, but have yet to officially document? Let’s hear about it. Just two days ago a very minor *white whale* was found. On June 29th, mere hours before Timmy & Jerry sent me their visual proof of the pins-on-pins, I mentioned my own white whale — I had remembered the Yankees wearing a New York Black Yankees throwback, and I thought “the gambler” (Kenny Rogers) was pitching. Just two days ago, (scroll down for the nested comments — still trying to figure out how to directly link to comments) reader Adam wrote: “Speaking of throwbacks and what nots… does any one else remember the Yankees actually wearing throwbacks? I remember watching ONCE a game in May 1996 when they were at Detroit and it was a game of the week on Fox where the Yankees were actually wearing the Negro League BLACK Yankees Road Unis… and Kenny Rogers was on the mound. Anyone else remember this? Can Provide pix of it? I Googled it and cant find nothing!” Clearly, he and I were remembering the same game. Only hours later, reader Dwayne provided the photographic proof. UW readers solve another uni-mystery!
So, if you dear readers are looking for something, let us know. If you have any leads on Ricko’s blue bronco or one of the other Uni Watch Cold Case Files, list them below.
The Pequod is now boarding.
Is Mick the inspiration for softball guy? Get in the car…get there early…daddy’s mashin’. Here’s Rick:
Arch rivals bring out something in us; occasionally the best, occasionally the worst. History notes it doesn’t get much bigger than those times every year when the opposition is the crossstreet Blotto Bar. This one goes back so far it’s been about who got Cable first, Pong first, Pac-Man first. But today it’s softball, and that means EVERYONE is watching (insert eyeroll here).
Here’s your Saturday Benchies.
Musings and Missives from Ben Traxel this week include more stuff he knows will irk me. It’s just his way. Note there’s no purple in his garb, but the “shoes are different but still kind of square toed, and a little beat up.” Diggin’ the Cubbies rups tho…
Anyway, here’s Ben:
• Favorite baseball card of the week. 1973 Bob Locker. NNOB and NNoOB. If you zoom in really close, the cubbie patch is on the sleeve. So why did they take the number off his back? Is it really him?
• U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! Not that I was ever down on American sports teams but 2010 has really been fun even without a title. First it was these guys, which of course led to reminiscing about these fellas, which in turn caused me to purchase this. And now, while I know nuttin about soccer, it sure was fun watching the beauty pageant sashes pull through round one even though these things put me in a trance (which I rather enjoyed). So what’s next? I’ve never watched it before but I’m kinda wondering when that World Baseball Classical thing is. Or is there something else coming up?
• My wife thinks someone in our house is obsessed.
• Can we finally get this guy in the HOF ?
• Water golf, 1933 DIY scoreboards, even a new home for the Mets. Man O Man this Modern Mechanix site has some great stuff.
• And sometimes we just don’t know.
• RIP Mr. Coryell. We all know you were the original “Air”.
Have a safe revolutionary celebration everyone.
As always, thank you Ben.
It’s getting down to brass tacks in the World Cup now. Surprisingly, after the US’ loss they’ve decided to keep playing. Our 5 & 1 rankers Jim Vilk and Mike Engle are back with their penultimate rankings:
Kicking off today is Mike:
5) Netherlands v Slovakia: …uh, I guess I’d wear that…so why didn’t I pick Brazil v Chile? Because I would have had to say, “Brazil looks like Brazil, but Chile looks bland.” THAT, dear readers, would have been repeating myself from last week. So let’s not do that.
4) Uruguay v South Korea: Uruguay has a really cool soles motif going on there, trust me. And yes, I’d let Zaira Nara-Forlán wear that with nothing else around me. South Korea looks inoffensive enough, but they should have used the red shirts this game.
3) Spain v Portugal: I still think Colorado Hockey Rockies look is a mistake by the Spanish, but I’d still love an excuse to wear that snazzy Portugal shirt.
2) Japan v Paraguay: The striped shirts and socks are still cool, but boy, I miss the royal Paraguay shorts, and I don’t like the monochrome royal on Japan. If the teams would have done a shorts swap, it would have been a lock for #1.
1) Argentina v Mexico: Yes, I’m fully aware this is an anti-clash-induced non-traditional look for Argentina, but gosh darn it, I like that!
And the game of shame:
USA v Ghana: Vilk and I are going to have to agree to disagree here. As vertigo- and nausea-inducing as I find those mustard and ketchup-striped shirts, the fatal flaw is in the white front numbers. Thanks to a boneheaded design flaw, all the front numbers were hard to read at best, and invisible at worst. FAIL!
Thanks, Mike. And now, here’s Jimmy:
5) Brazil/Chile: Brazil’s unis had a leg up on Chile’s, but I’d wear both.
4) Uruguay/Ghana: A little Friday Night Fever, with a game that was as great as it looked.
3) Netherlands/Brazil: Brazil didn’t go out with class, but at least they looked classy.
2) Spain/Portugal: My color palette special of the week.
1) Germany/England: Pity the English fans may never want to see the all-reds again — I liked them.
And the game of shame
Argentina/Mexico: Red armpits vs. mismatched home and away unis? I’d close my eyes, too.
Gracias & Merci, gentlemen. We’ll have one last World Cup 5&1 next weekend as
we completely ignore the sport for another four years we bid adios and adieu to the beautiful game’s ultimate tournament. But fear not, because we may just have an all-tournament 5&1 retrospective. Or, not.
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. Still finding the tweaks have slowed to a trickle, so if you have something you’d like to show, give me a shout.
Just one huge set of tweaks today, and it comes from Daniel Rerko, who actually sent along eighty-seven NFL separate tweaks. Last weekend, we looked at the first batch. Today features Round II. Says Daniel, “I am sending you a gallery of 87 uniform tweaks for NFL teams on Flickr. Some of them are terrible, but some of them turned out pretty well. I hope you enjoy!” We’ll just divide those up into several different subsets, which we’ll look at over the next few weeks, but some of them are actually quite interesting. Here then, is the second set:
Buffalo Bills Red, White & Blue: Just messin around… This is the real patriotic collection from Buffalo. This is just an experiment with their current uni template.
Buffalo Bills Complete Overhaul, red alternate: A Jim Kelly-era inspired bills uniform, with some tweaks to it to it. Also, I got currious and wanted to give the red alternate a try.
Detroit Lions dark blue instead of silver, white helmet: Adding in a dark blue aspect to the uniform, along with a white helmet. I’m not sure why, but I figured I would give it a try. Also, this eliminates the BFBS option in the uniform.
Cleveland Browns TV numbers on helmet, socks match sleeves, brown helm on orange alt: The TV numbers are on the helmet, and I deceided to give a brown helmet to the alternate. (Ew.)
Jacksonville Jaguars No teal, original jag logo: The new uniforms kinda suck, and they got rid of the gold. So, in a bit of role-reversal, I eliminated the teal and brought back the gold. Along with that, I always had a liking for the never-used logo from the earliest days of the Jaguar’s history.
New Orleans Saints Silver, Black helmet: Black helmet, and I decided to give silver a spot in the uniform. I’ve always thought the black helmet was interesting.
Denver Broncos Old uni, new logo, blue alt.: Basically just the old uniforms with the new bronco logo. I feel that it is a good mix of the old and the new.
Dallas Cowboys White Helmet, home jersey sleves: The white helmet with the color jersey sleeves on the white jersey. It has always bugged me how the Cowboys have had different home and away uniforms.
Arizona Cardinals really futuristic, AZ flag colors: …If Superman played football… I decided to bring in all of the colors from the state flag and just throw it in to the uniform somehow. This is probably the weirdest, most bumper-sticker-stricken uniform I have ever seen, and I would be embarased to see it on the field. But it was an interesting design.
San Francisco 49ers No gold, All Silver, Silver alt.: No reason for this. But hey, why not?
Washington Redskins Overkill on the arrow logo: Again, I hope this never shows up on a field. This looks like it belongs on an Arena Football field.. and even then, I wouldn’t want to disgrace Arena Football like this. The only part of this uniform that I like are the socks and the helmet.
Cincinnati Bengals A lot of Alts, Shoulder yoke, white pants, old helm: The only bright spot here is the old BENGALS helmet logo. This is just the ultimate Halloween collection.
Carolina Panthers Small stripe changes: Looks basically the same… I just expanded the short helmet stripes and split the shoulder stripes from a three-color stripe to a two-color stripe.
San Diego Chargers Bolt socks, no bolt outline, yellow alt., light blue: Powder blues, lightning bolts on the socks, and alternates that flip the gold and the blue on the uniform.
San Diego Chargers Bolt socks, no bolt outline, yellow alt.: Dark blues, lightning bolts on the socks, and alternates that flip the gold and the blue on the uniform.
Philadelphia Eagles Based on 90’s uni, black alt, unified stripes: Kelly greens’ with some black thrown into the mix.
Atlanta Falcons Red helmet, minor tweaks, awesome socks: Red helmets help out in my opinion, but this concept still needs a lot. I liked the socks from their current alternate.
Kansas City Chiefs burnt orange, oilers blue (original requested colors): I read an article that was talking about how the Chiefs wanted columbia blue and burnt orange as their colors, but the Oilers got columbia blue, so the Chiefs settled on their old colors from the Dallas Texans. So I decided to see what it would look like.
OK. Thanks for batch number 2, Dan. That’s enough for today. Back with more tweaks, concepts and revisions next time.
Back at the beginning of the 2010 season, I announced the 2010 Uni Tracking that a number of us do. Last year, I devoted about four full weekend columns to it, and that was probably a bit much for most of us to take in one dose, so this year, I’ll occasionally post the updated tracking of certain teams as the trackers send them in. So, if you’ve been doing your due diligence with your team, send me your mid-season tracking reports, and I’ll post them as a “sub article” on the weekends. OK? OK!
Two tracks today. First up is Brad Bierman, who is tracking the San Diego Padres. This is a couple of weeks old (had to figure out how to convert it to a google doc). But here we go:
Hi, Phil, I enjoy your varied weekend contributions.
I am a rare Padres fan living in the Philadelphia suburbs (I was a broadcast intern with the team in college, the reason I am a Padres fan), and with Extra Innings on DirecTV (enjoying Dick Enberg this season call the games on Channel 4 San Diego) I have watched all or part of every game but three so far, and saw one game in person in Philadelphia, obviously very happy about the results so far. I keep a simple word document tracking the uniforms and results but have not gotten into the detail of the records wearing each combination only overall record, perhaps next time around.
Through June 18, the Padres have worn six caps; home, away, green alternate on Sunday home games with the camouflage jerseys (a cap I own and like immensely), 1984 uniform, 1978 uniform, and Stars and Stripes. They have worn the road cap at home for eight games. The Padres wore five different jerseys in the first nine games of the season. On the road, the sand jersey has been worn 12 times, the blue alternate jersey for 18 games. At home the white jersey has been worn for 21 games, the blue alternate for nine games. The camouflage jerseys have been worn six times on Sundays, and the aforementioned 1984 and 1978 jerseys for one home game apiece.
Next up is San Francisco Giants tracker Patrick Karraker, with his (almost) mid-season report:
Here is my Giants uniform tracking as we approach the All-Star break. This is the first year uni tracking has really been necessary for the Gigantes, since they have added the orange alternate jersey and a Sunday alternate cap. Generally, though, the uniforms have been used on a pretty strict schedule- Monday to Thursday, away Fridays, Saturdays see the Giants going with their normal white home or gray away jersey and their primary cap. For home Friday games, they wear the orange alt with their normal black cap- slightly surprising because I think most people expected them to pair the jerseys with the alternate caps. On Sundays, they wear the white or gray jerseys with the alternate cap. The one exception to this schedule was last Monday, when for the “Halloween in June” promotion, the Giants wore their orange jerseys against the Orioles’ black. Obviously they were required to do the Jackie Robinson and Welcome Back Veterans promotions as well.
Their most successful uniform has been the orange jersey with black cap- they’re 6-0 with this combo as I write this. I’ll be interested to see if they start wearing this uniform more if they continue to be so dominant in it. They are 18-9 in the white, and 15-20 in gray. They have been slightly more successful in their main cap than in the alternate caps.
I attached my uniform tracking as a PDF.
Awesome. Thanks Brad and Patrick. We’ll get to more trackers next time.
And that’s going to (finally) do it for today — sorry for the extra long post, but tomorrow being the Fourth, I’m off and we’ll be closed for comments. So I had to cram two days worth of stuff into just one day.
Everyone have a great Saturday & don’t overdo it tomorrow.
When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. — Declaration of Independence; 4 July, 1776