We all love jersey typos. But you don’t often see typos on retail replicas, in part because any store manager who spotted a misspelled jersey would most likely just send it back.
But what if he didn’t send it back? What if he saw it as an opportunity?
That’s the question raised by a jersey that’s currently up for bids on eBay. The guy selling it originally ordered it from Rawlings back in 1990, when he was running his own sports memorabilia shop. He ended up with a box full of misspelled jerseys and decided to have some fun with them instead of returning them. He sold most of them at the time and is now selling one of the two that he kept for himself.
And how do we know this story is true? Because his eBay listing includes old newspaper clippings from the media coverage he received back in 1990.
I was intrigued enough by this story to contact the seller, whose name is Charles Blatt. Very nice guy. Here’s a transcript of our chat:
Uni Watch: So you had a retail store back in 1990.
Charles Blatt: Yes. The Cubs had a new road jersey that year.
UW: The whole concept of selling licensed jerseys was still pretty new at that point, wasn’t it?
CB: Yes. Things were much different then. You’d get these replica jerseys without the numbers. You had to find a place that did tackle twill letters and numbers and have them do that for you. It was nothing like it is today.
UW: So the Cubs had this new road jersey and you wanted some for your shop.
CB: Yeah, but they were back-ordered for months. I had people coming in who wanted them, and I would take down their names and numbers on a list, but Rawlings was very far behind on filling their orders. I didn’t get my shipment until the end of June, and there were only 14 jerseys in the box.
UW: How many had you ordered?
CB: Probably about six dozen. Something like that. And only 14 came in.
UW: So that was the first thing you noticed — that they shorted you. And then…
CB: And then I see that they’re misspelled.
UW: All of them? Like, all 14?
UW: So did you immediately call Rawlings?
CB: Yes. And they said, “Oh, we’re so sorry, please send those back.”
UW: And I’m sure your initial thought was that you didn’t want to keep them.
CB: Right. But then I thought, well, first of all I’m a White Sox fan. And I thought, gee, the Cubs can’t do anything right. They can’t win a World Series, and they can’t even get their jerseys spelled right. It was the Cubs in a nutshell. I started thinking about that as a little marketing ploy, so then I made a few calls.
UW: Who did you call?
CB: Our store was on the same block as the local CBS and NBC TV stations. A lot of those people used to come in, so I knew them. I called them, and I also called some newspapers, and everyone liked the story. So first there was a picture in the paper there in Chicago, and then the picture got picked up by the AP and it went out over the wire. And because of that, I started getting calls from radio stations all over the Midwest. Everyone wanted me to talk to them about this. It took off much more than I expected.
UW: Nowadays we’d say it “went viral.”
CB: Yes, definitely. Even years later, people would come by the store and see the one misspelled jersey that we had gotten framed and put on the wall, and they’d point to it and say, “Oh right, I remember that story.” It was a good conversation piece. I still have that one – it’s matted now, not framed — and I have this one additional one, which is the one I’m now selling.
UW: And you sold the other 12 in your shop.
UW: Did any of those end up going to the people on your waiting list? You know, the people who’d wanted to buy a normal jersey?
CB: I don’t remember. What I do recall is that each time we sold another one, it seemed like the demand kept growing, and we kept raising the price.
UW: What did you sell them for at the beginning? Did you discount them at first, because they were, you know, defective?
CB: No, because I could’ve gotten a full refund from Rawlings if I’d wanted, so there was no need to discount them. But once I realized Rawlings was upset that I was keeping them, because they didn’t want people to know they’d made a mistake, that’s when I knew I was on to something.
UW: Were they, like, calling you and insisting that you return them?
CB: Exactly. And I was saying, “No, I think I’m gonna keep these.” And they were saying, “No no no, you have to return them.” And I was like, “No I don’t.”
UW: Did that affect your relationship with them?
CB: No, I think they got over it. It was fine.
UW: So did you initially price them at the regular retail price?
CB: Maybe a little bit higher. They usually sold for about $85, and I think I started them at $100. I think I sold the last one for $1400.
UW: How long did it take to sell through the 12 of them?
CB: A couple of weeks. Once the story got out there, people were calling and it kind of snowballed.
UW: And now, 20 years later, you’ve decided to sell the last one — aside from the one that’s matted — for $800.
CB: Yeah. I was in Vegas recently and I thought about bringing it to that place from Pawn Stars on the History Channel. I thought it was the kind of unique thing that could actually make it onto the show. But I didn’t get around to it. So I figured I’d try it on eBay.
UW: Have you ever seen anyone wearing one of the misspelled jerseys that you sold them?
CB: No. I have no idea where those jerseys are, or if they’ve been resold or anything like that.
UW: You know, 14 isn’t exactly a round number. Do you think there were some other misspelled jerseys that Rawlings shipped to other stores?
CB: Rawlings always denied that. They said, “Nope, those are the only 14 where we made a mistake.”
UW: That seems unlikely. I mean, even if there were only 14 misspelled jerseys, what are the odds of all 14 of them all going in the same box to the same account?
CB: Right. I always wondered about that.
UW: And did you ever get the properly spelled jerseys?
CB: Yes, eventually.
(Special thanks to reader Mark Prusinski, who first spotted Charles’s eBay listing and submitted it to Brinke, who in turn forwarded it to me.)
The official concussion of the NFL: Fascinating development in the concussion wars, as doctors are apparently not too keen on the NFL having one official helmet brand (i.e., Riddell) when other brands are every bit as good — or as bad — at preventing concussions. According to that article, which I strongly recommend reading, Roger Goodell is sending signals that all helmet brand logos will be welcome on the field after Riddell’s exclusive contract expires in 2013.
Of course, given that today’s NFL helmets are more often used as weapons than as protection, the best summary of this story is probably the one Gerard Cosloy provided in this headline.
Giveaway results: Santa will be paying an early visit to Allen Pointer, who’s the winner of the Gridiron Memories helmet giveaway. He’s chosen the 1966-67 Arkansas design, shown at right, as his prize. Congrats to him, and special thanks to Gridiron Memories honcho Curtis Worrell for his generosity.
Our next giveaway will be the annual reader-appreciation raffle, in which I unload
all the free crap I never wanted in the first place assorted goodies and swag that’s in need of a good home. Further details on that next week.
Culinary Corner: I don’t usually repeat recipes from previous Culinary Corner installments, but I’m going to make an exception for my favorite holiday preparation, homemade Irish cream. In other words, homemade Bailey’s. In other words, melted ice cream that gets you drunk. It’s super-easy to make, and it’ll make you the hero of whatever Xmas party you bring it to. Here’s how to do it:
Start with some decent Irish whiskey — Bushmills, Jameson, Tullamore Dew, something like that (but not super-high-end stuff, because the nuances will be lost in this preparation). Pour a pint of the whiskey into a large-ish container and mix it with a can of sweetened condensed milk; a pint of heavy whipping cream; a tablespoon of chocolate syrup; a teaspoon of vanilla extract; a teaspoon of instant espresso dissolved in two tablespoons of hot water; and a quarter-teaspoon of almond extract.
Mix well (if the container has a tight lid, you can just shake vigorously), refrigerate, serve over ice, and get ready to become the most popular person in the room.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Very sad news on the comics front, as “Brenda Starr” — often a very savvy, clever strip, believe it or not — is being discontinued. … Dig the sensational Minnesota centennial patch on this 1958 Gophers jersey. … Heartwarming holiday story out of Florida, where the Panthers managed to fuck up their team-branded yarmulke promotion (with thanks to John Koziol). … Small item buried deep within this article indicates that Bucks forward Carlos Delfino “will play with protective headgear” when he eventually returns from his concussion (with thanks to Nicholas Honeck). … Someone has whipped up a bowl schedule with vintage helmet designs (with thanks to Travis Gound). … Yesterday I posted this photo of a possible Boston College jersey for next year. But John Holschuh from Under Armour tells me, “That jersey is from our Fall 2011 team football catalog. It has nothing to do with BC’s uniform for Fall ’11.” … Hmmm, is it just a coincidence that the player on the cover of this 1927 Canadian football program appears to be wearing hockey pants? (Fascinating find by Matt Schudel.) … I think by now most NBA fans — or at least most uni-watchers — know that Rajon Rondo stopped wearing his headband this season because the league would no longer let him wear it upside-down. But here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth (with thanks to Ben Marciniak). … Larry Bodnovich has made a bunch of color screen grabs from old Army/Navy games. … No photo, but John Muir reports the following regarding last night’s Isles/Bruins game: “During the first period, Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek was injured by a shot to the left hand. When he took his glove off for the trainer to inspect the injury, Martinek’s wedding ring was in plain sight. First time I’ve heard of a hockey player wearing a wedding band during a game.” … When rules changes forced Otto Graham to give up uni No. 60 and adopt a more QB-appropriate number, the Browns just ripped the numerals off his old jersey and applied new ones. But according to this page, his old number could have been grandfathered in: “[T]here was a clause in the rule book at the time that stated ‘All nationally known players who have been in the National Football League and or the A.A. Conference for a period of three years may use their old numbers….’ The humble Graham waived that out and adhered to the new numbering policy.” Interesting (big thanks to Kevin Whisman). … Sam Lam‘s company Xmas party was at AT&T Park, where he shot a little video in the visitors’ clubhouse. … Here’s the full line of lacrosse gloves for the 2011 NLL season (with thanks to Jeff Brunelle). … The Portland Timbers unveiled their kits yesterday. Further details on the jersey designs here. … Latest sports-related trend on the intellectual property front: athletes trademarking personal catch-phrases. … Awesome find by Alex Higley, who came across a great shot of Rudy Tomjanovich’s NickNOB. … Here’s how Arizona’s jerseys will look with the Alamo Bowl patch (with thanks to Kyle Mackie). … RIP, Moody — there you go, there you go, there you go. You’ll be missed.