By Phil Hecken
With all the recent activity surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates and their “Bumblebee” period (1977 through 1984), from the recent mention of Jerry Reuss’ blog, to Paul’s upcoming interview with Mr. Reuss, to the major research project by Jerry Wolper (who is seeking to document every combination those Pirates wore during those years — much more on that below), to white whale sighting, I think I’m becoming infatuated by those black and gold uniforms. Now, I’d like to think I’m a pretty skilled Uni Watcher, but in researching the bumblebees, I have only recently realized that the Bucs have worn various combinations of those wild and crazy uniforms MANY times as throwbacks (or, as some like to call them “Turn Back The Clock” [TBTC] games). I never realized how many times they’ve done this.
My first recollection of this was the infamous “Sausagegate” incident, which occured on July 9, 2003, during the sausage race in Milwaukee. Randall Simon, the perpetrator, thought it might be fun to strike one of the participants with a bat as she ran by the Pirates dugout. The object of his “affection” was Mandy Block, and while she was not seriously injured, her sausage racing career ended shortly after the race and her anonymity (if not pride) shattered, she became known as “sausage girl” after the incident. I’m not sure if that was her monicker before it. Simon, for his part, was handcuffed by Milwaukee County sheriff’s deputies after the game, taken to a police station and fined $432 for disorderly conduct. Major League Baseball suspended him for three days. A funny incident to be sure, but I always remembered the Pirates had “thrownback” to their all gold uniforms for that game.
I had kind of filed that game away as a “one and done” for the bumblebee throwbacks, until about a month ago, when the Pirates and A’s hooked up for one of their TBTC to the 70s nights, with the A’s sporting a very rarely worn all gold get up, and the Bucco’s sported their all black uniforms, complete with period appropriate stirrups. I thought they pulled that throwback off pretty well, despite the fact that the “Stargell Stars” were gold, not black, and they were worn on the brim not the crown.
But, I thought, I’m positive they wore their bumblebee throwbacks other times. And, boy have they ever.
Turns out that last year, on August 21, 2009 and August 22, 2009, the Pirates held two TBTC nights against the Cincinnati Reds, who obligingly played along by wearing their own “polyester pullovers” with sansabelt pants as part of the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the 1979 World Series Championship. Now, I was never particularly fond of the pinstripes to begin with, but when paired with black pajama bottoms, (at least the Reds’ Brandon Phillips wore high socks), they looked particularly wretched. However, I did kinda dig the gold over black look — although it’s still a softball look. What I hated, though, was the fact that, to a man (or at least all I’ve seen in photos), they all wore those baggy pajama pants. Say what you will about the look in today’s uniforms (you know my feelings), but please don’t ruin this look (hey, if that was good enough for Pops, then it’s good enough for Lastings Milledge). Still, it looked like a couple of fun nights, and I’m sure a good many yinzer remember this more fondly than their current sets.
Now, why didn’t I remember those throwbacks, despite them occurring only last year? Well, UW was on hiatus last August 21 (Happy Birthday Ricko) and 22, so I guess I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have. Turns out, there were several games played during the break where throwbacks were worn — and I’ll examine them at a later date.
In searching for those bumblebee throwbacks, I decided I’d check Bill Henderson’s guide, since I knew the Pirates have frequently thrown back to other eras (1909 for example) as well as the early part of the century, and also to negro league teams. Aside from those two games last year, the Pirates have broken out some form of bumblebee TBTC unis on at least four other occasions!
* On May 29, 1999, (presumably for the 20th Anniversary of the 1979 World Series Championship), the Bucs broke out the gold jersey. Now, I have been unable to locate any photos of this game, so I do not know which pants, caps or stirrups they wore with them. If anyone has photos from this game, please post them or send them my way.
* TWICE in 2003, the Pirates broke out the bumblebees. The first was on April 4, 2003, and they were worn in Philadelphia, for the final home opener at the Vet. Unfortunately, they decided to wear their uniforms basically sans stirrups, although the long pants hadn’t quite reached pajama size in 2003. But the all-gold uniform pretty closely resembled the 77-84 original, although every player wore the black pillbox with 2 “Stargell Stars”. I apologize for the Getty Image photos (I know Paul doesn’t like to use them), but aside from that first small picture of Randall Simon, I could not locate any other photos from this game. Li’l help?
The second throwback that year was that infamous “sausagegate game”, which was played on July 9th. Other than horribly grainy stills from video clips of that incident, I’ve been unable to locate any game photos. Again, anyone have any?
Unfortunately, Mr. Henderson didn’t have much information on either of those two games. I recognize the pitcher in the picture (unfortunately) as Kris Benson, but I’m wondering which game that photo is taken from.
* In 2004, the Pirates did the bumblebee TBTC thing again, and in that game they wore the pinstripe tops. A fairly extensive (though not exhaustive) search yielded no date nor photos from that game, so I do not know whether they wore gold, black or pinstriped pants. I’m sure UW nation can find some photos from that game.
Well, there you have it — the Bucs obviously have quite an affinity for their bumblebee’s — and now I’m becoming obsessed with finding photo documentation for those games. I’m not even sure those are all the TBTC games they’ve played wearing the throwbacks.
So, dear Uni Watch readers, help a brother UWer out. If any of you can find (or at least track down dates) of any times the Pirates have worn their bumblebee’s, please post dates, photos or any other information you have below (or shoot me an E-mail).
In addition, I’m looking for any pictures, wire service shots, yearbook photos, baseball cards, etc. of the 1977-1984 Pirates, as, in addition to Ricko’s “Bumblebee Montage” and Jerry’s Buc tracker, I’m trying to compile photos of every possible combination worn during those years. All of the “common” ones we’ve documented, but if you stumble across any strange or uncommon ones (like Jerry Reuss personal photo in the rarely worn G-P-P-G [Gold-Pins-Pins-Gold] combination), please post or send them my way.
Thanks…I’m counting on you!
Buc Tracker Update
Our amazing resident “Buc Tracker” Jerry Wolper has been making some tremendous strides in his project to track each uniform combination worn by the 1977-1984 Pittsburgh Pirates. His update is below:
I’ve completed the first phase of the project.
What I’ve done:
Google has made the archives of several newspapers available on-line. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette are among them, so I’ve been through every available issue from the 1997-1984 baseball seasons. (There are, unfortunately, some gaps.) I’ve also been through the Beaver County Times (suburban Pittsburgh) archive. The Montreal Gazette is the only other paper from a then-National League city that Google has archived, so I looked at their coverage of Pirate-Expo games; the Ottawa Citizen was useful as well. I came across the occasional wire photo in a more random newspaper, like the Ocala Star-Banner or the Bowling Green (KY) Daily News. (Bowling Green High’s teams are the Purples.)
I also went through the online AP, Getty, and Corbis archives, where I found several photos with dates and many more, alas, without.
I found something for 78% of the games played, ranging from a jersey color in 77%, to a cap color in 46%; since helmets were always gold, it’s rare that a photo of the Bucs on offense, or of a catcher on a play at the plate shows a cap. (If you’re wondering, I’ve found pants for 75% of games, and stirrups for 58%.)
What I’ve Learned:
There were three eras of the multicolored uniforms:
No names on backs. The Pirates would mix and match any combination of gold, black, and (striped) white, both at home and on the road. With one exception that I’ve seen, the cap never matched a black or gold jersey, and I haven’t seen stirrups match black or gold pants. Either color of cap or stirrup was worn next to a white jersey or pants.
Names appear on backs. The striped white jersey and pants are only worn with each other, and only at home. Except for one game, I’ve only seen black caps and stirrups with the white. Black and gold are still mixed and matched, both at home and on the road.
Names remain on backs. The stripes are dropped from the white uniforms, which are now worn at all home games with black caps and stirrups. Black and gold are still mixed and matched on the road.
In September of 1980, the Pirates did mix and match black, gold, and white at home. According to the September 4, 1980 Pittsburgh Press, “For the first time all year, the Pirates did not wear their all-white uniforms with black hats at home. ‘The players wanted to do it, so I figured “Why not?” ‘ explained equipment manager John Hallahan.” After 1980, I’ve only seen white at home.
I feel like I’ve gotten most of the “easy” data. if someone knows of any good online photographic archives I’ve missed, please let me know.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days in San Francisco, and being the exciting guy I am, I spent a little time at the library looking at newspaper microfilms for a few series. I did find photos for a few games that I didn’t previously have, so it’s now time to ask the Uni Watch community for help. If you live in a National League city of that era, and are willing to spend some time in the library, please let me know. If you have access to a newspaper’s on-line archive that I’m not willing to pay for, that would be great, too. If you’d like to help but aren’t in an NL city,your local paper (big or small) most likely ran wire photos of major league games regularly. Unfortunately, picking through one or two of the random papers I mentioned at the beginning shows that it can be pretty sparse, but there are occasional hits. Going through those archives is also an opportunity to catch up on sports history, whether or not you remember it, which I found enjoyable. (It’s much easier to evaluate drafts thirty years later.)
If you’d like to volunteer, or just have a question, I can be reached at BucTracker@gmail.com.
Amazing job so far Jerry. Can’t wait until you’ve finally completed this uni-tastic research project.
ATTENTION Stirrup Club Members
Comrade Marshall informs me that today is the LAST day for placing NEW orders for rups. See the second section of this post for details.
Saturday eveing, the NFL inducted its Class of 2010. Emmitt Smith, Dick LeBeau, Russ Grimm, John Randle, Rickey Jackson, Jerry Rice and Floyd Little were the seven inductees. Quite a class, especially when you consider that (arguably) the greatest running back and wide receiver in NFL history both went in this year. Not much uni-notables came out of the Hall of Fame game, played last evening (a bit in the ticker), so if you missed it, here are some photos from the event.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Leading off today is Chandler Swenson, who is excited about this: Real Salt Lake’s first alternate jersey. … Uni Watch Prexy Paul Lukas notes the new Giants punter has Under Armour on one foot and Nike on the other. … Tom Adjemian has the first pic of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Moneyball. … Jon Alvani checks in with a small gallery of the Utes in the first day of camp. … Still more on out-of-state license plates. Andrew Hoenig reports Maryland has a number of out of state college plates. You can see the list here. … Kenny Abbey notes the new Arizona court (w/ thanks to Josh Gershon). … Couple things from Marc Swanson: Found this cool image of Ron Mix while poking around the ‘net on a site for Lerner Sports Marketing. Great views of the Chargers 1960s era unis as well as the Rams’ navy and whites. Marc adds, “Odd to see a simple stripe on the Chargers’ pants and not the lightning bolt. What’s Ron got ‘round his neck? Cervical collar? Early version of neckroll? Bandage to hide injury sustained while attempting the “Iron Lotus?” And am I seeing things or does the blocker (#63? #65? Can’t tell) on the right side have spike-less heels on his shoes? I’m not a shoe guy, so that’s a new one on me.” … Back on Friday, Jeffrey Downe noticed Chris Chellios was wearing a Bob Probert jersey backwards while singing “take me out to the ball game” during the Cubs game. Honoring his buddy who recently passed away. … Missouri State will be
replacing upgrading their helmet from last season to this model, notes Zach Brady. “Beautiful!!!” … Li’l help? Ben Ireton (aka “Tyler”) asks, “Once upon a time I (think) had read somewhere that the Badgers wore an all black uniform for one game only way back when. I’m not sure when this was, but was hoping someone out there would confirm that I’m not losing my mind. Not to say they should do it again (BFBS is out of hand), but it wouldn’t be unwelcome considering they haven’t had a style change -aside from an awful jersey they wore in a blowout against Colorado in 1995- since 1990.” Anyone? … Pacific Rim correspondent Jeremy Brahm checks in with this: The FIVB Grand Prix for Women’s National Teams began Friday. Some notes — Poland has incredibly short sleeves, Jeremy would even call them “sleeve flaps.” China is wearing them too, so it must be an Adidas thing. … A reader who goes by “donaldawbt24″ sent in this photo of Tim Tebow’s cleats. … Great spot by Bill Radocy, who noticed the Saskatchewan kicker Luca Congi, who wears #10, has the number #01 on his right sleeve, but his left sleeve had #10. … More on the “out of state” license plates comes from Kyle Campbell who notes the Pennsylvania college and university specialty plates have such out of state schools as Marshall, Michigan, Notre Dame, Purdue, Syracuse, Delaware, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. “Sadly,” he notes, “no Michigan State.” … Jake Keys states that Marshall football has gone back to its traditional white helmet with green & black helmet stripes. Here in August practice though, true freshman have a red stripe instead of the black. … Thom Dennis writes, “the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals have a new road jersey for 2010-11. It’s black but not BFBS.” … Li’l help? Reader Matt Craig has been DYING to find the cap mentioned in this article. Anyone? … Ek posted on this yesterday, but Cory Lewis sent in a bunch of pics of a lot of players have been wearing jerseys with a pink/white/white MLB logo. Says Cory, “It’s been for a lot of different games, with only some players having that logo as opposed to the navy/white/grey logo the Yankees usually wear. Among the players wearing the pink logo are Curtis Granderson, Jorge Posada, Marcus Thames, Colin Curtis, and the batboy, while Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Joba Chamberlain have the normal logo.” … Alex Higley noticed that both Chris Ianetta and Miguel Olivo seem to be wearing an entirely black catcher’s helmet. In the past, Alex notes, they wore the ugly purple fade to black helmet, only on a standard non-vented catchers helmet. … Buc Tracker Jerry Wolper writes, “For the umpire improvisation file, from the May 17.1977 Daily News of Bowling Green, KY.” … Interesting notes on the CFL throwback game this past weekend, from Reid Mitchell: The BC Lions of the CFL were wearing 1976 retro unis Saturday vs. Calgary in their retro stadium Empire Field. Reid noticed a story on the Lions website with an interesting photo. It has some 70’s Lions on the Empire Stadium sidelines with two players having black numbers on their sleeves with two other ones having white numbers. Looking back at the Lions uni history, it looks like this is a mix of the ‘73 and ‘74 sweater with the ‘75 edition. … George Chilvers noticed some of the colorizations done on UW and wanted to share his own (for “football” no less). Says George, “thought I was the only sad person in the world who did this :).” … More from Jeremy: Here is the graphic on the Asahi Shinbun (Newspaper) website for the Koshien National High School Tournament in Japan; This is the normal logo. … “Memorial alert” possibility brought to us by “RJT Jr.”, who notes Dave Dixon, the man that helped build the Louisiana Superdome which helped bring the Saints to New Orleans died Sunday. He’s wondering if the Saints will honor Mr. Dixon in any way this season. … Jonathon Russell saw August 6th ticker, in which an article was linked that said Toledo was the only school in the midwest to wear Under Armor uniforms. The Salukis of Southern Illinois stared wearing Under Armor at the start of the 2009 season. “Not your mistake, but just want to represent the Salukis.” … Looks like Univeristy of Louisville is going old school with this new helmet (thanks to Christopher Courtney). … Ex-Pat Drew Douglas checks in from Down Under: “the new MLB-funded Australian Baseball League announced team names and logos this week. Supposedly starting in November 2010 with Double A quality baseball, I’m pretty skeptical since the league is cutting it very close with these announcements — and two of the teams don’t even have a ballpark yet. Here’s the MLB News Release and Logo sheet, and the ABL Page.” Here the team pages for Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney. … West Coast correspondent Brinke Guthrie offers up Tim Tebow’s EyeBlack: The Bible Verses Scrubbed Clean? … Speaking of Tebow, looks like he’s gone from Messiah to monk. … Yes, such are the joys of the annual rookie hazing haircuts. … Great photo of the Colts “silver” phase (from the 1982 Hall of Fame Game). … Here’s a look at the Cowboys anniversary patch, from last night’s HOF game. … They are going by Batman & Robin — how long till there’s big trouble in the bat cave? … Speaking of those two, looks like Ocho Cinco has no leg pads at all (in fact, those look just like bicycle shorts). … Likewise for Ocho Uno. Andrew Case notes that it’s gotta be the shoes. … And finally, Drew Nolan sent in a bunch of HOF Game notes, plus pictures, just before “press time”. Some of these match up with my observations above, but here’s a reprint of Drew’s thoughts, with his pictures: * Looks the cowboys will be wearing a 50th anniversary patch (presumably for the entire year); * Whatever kind of new super stretchy jerseys Reebok put out near the end of last season are back. #93 Michael Johnson and #32 Cedric Benson can be seen wearing them along with several other Cincinnati players. Translation: more crappy NOB’s and shoulder stripes send ing the Bengals from bad to worse; * T.O. and Chad Ochocinco are sporting some odd tights and flashy shoes. Nothing new for Chad though if you remember; * And speaking of Owens, I couldn’t help but notice the Reebok patch on his jersey seemed pretty far down the sleeve as with most of the Bengals players. Further examination shows they’ve always been that way. (See Carson Palmer); *One last note: I noticed that in almost every picture of Rickey Jackson, he had on a very unorthodox facemask/visor. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one that goes 6 bars cross and 5 down.
There’s three things in life that’s certain: Death, taxes, and 85 will always be open. — Chad Ocho Cinco