We all know the story about the helmet shown at right. The 49ers introduced it at a press conference prior to the 1991 season. But fan response was so overwhelmingly negative that the team backtracked the very next day, announcing that they’d stick with their old helmet design after all. And that was the end of that.
Or at least that’s what I thought — until reader Doug Kyed recently sent me this. He said he’d found it at his parents’ house while designing a Super Bowl cake.
For me, this constituted news on two different fronts: First, I’d never seen the Niners’ one-day helmet design used on any NFL-licensed product. And second, I had no idea what the hell a Duncan Hines “football cake kit” was. I asked Doug for more info, which he’s now provided.
“From what I can gather,” says Doug, “it appears that the kit was just so you could make a cake look more like a football by attaching the laces that pop-out laces and then adding a helmet or two to the cake.”
Sure enough, I went to eBay, searched on “Duncan Hines NFL,” and came up with this. That kit is from 1989, so it doesn’t have the Niners prototype helmet. Weird that they included white stripes, since those don’t appear on an NFL ball. I like the cardboard grandstand/scoreboard, though. (In the unlikely event that anyone out there wants to buy this, here’s the full eBay listing.)
Duncan Hines also made an MLB cake kit, and Doug found one of those at his parents’ house as well. Much like the NFL version, it included a grandstand, but Doug’s family apparently used that part already. I wasn’t able to find this one on eBay, or anywhere else (although I bet Uni Watch pastry chef Elena Elms is trying to track one down as we speak).
You can see more photos of both cake kits here — but no finished cakes, alas. “I guess my next step would be to look through old family photos to see if I have any pictures of these cakes,” says Doug. “It’s entirely possible, as I think we’ve taken a picture of every cake ever made in my family. Still, the most interesting part of all of this is that the prototype 49ers helmet is included.”
Agreed. Until now, I’d never been aware of the Niners proto being used in any licensed-merch context. (Yes, some mini-helmets have been produced, but they didn’t appear until years later, plus I’m not sure whether they were licensed or bootlegs.) It’s interesting to see that the helmet design was far enough down the branding pipeline that it showed up in something like a Duncan Hines cake kit. Anyone know if it showed up in any other contexts?
Duncan Hines, incidentally, was a really important guy. Long before he became a cake mix, he basically invented the genre of roadfood reviews with his seminal 1935 book Adventures in Good Eating, which later spawned a full line of travel guides. They were big hits — sixty or seventy years ago, there was no greater stamp of approval a roadside eatery or motel could have than a “Recommended by Duncan Hines” sign in the window. The supermarket brand (which at one time included Duncan Hines bread, Duncan Hines ice cream, and lots of other things before the product line was whittled down to cake and brownie mixes) came later, in the mid-1950s, and was based on the popularity and credibility that Hines had established with the travel guides. So if you’re a fan of Chowhound, or Jane & Michael Stern, or any of the other contemporary roadfood reviewers, have an extra hot dog for Duncan Hines, the founding father of road-trip guidebooks.
Tyson update: My thanks to the many of you who submitted questions for me to ask Mike Tyson when I interviewed him last week. The interview went well, and a transcript of is up now on ESPN. Enjoy.
Stirrup Club reminder: Robert Marshall has a new batch of stirrups for sale. Details here.
Do you like hand-sculpted, hand-painted bobbleheads? Do you like online paper-scissors-rock? Do you like the potential for free stuff? If you answered yes to these questions, this is your lucky day.
I have 15 precast bobbles in a variety of sports (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer). They can be custom-painted however you like, and I’m offering them up at a clearance price. Instead of the usual $150-$200, these will be available for $125-$150 — or maybe even a bit less, depending on how many people want in. The greater the response, the deeper the discount.
In addition to discounting the work for everyone across the board, I would also like to have an online paper-scissors-rock tournament (or some similar raffle-type system) so that one person can win a free bobble. If there are enough people who like this idea, there can be multiple winners; not enough people, I’ll just give an additional price break to everyone who gets in touch.
Are you a past customer? I’ll knock off even more for you. Ditto for anyone who signs up for a Uni Watch membership in the next week.
Right now I’m just trying to see how many people are interested. If that’s you, get in touch. I’ll follow up with everyone once I see how many people want to be on board.
Uni Watch News Ticker: You know the problem with Penn State’s uniforms? Duh, they’re way too flashy. So now they’re gonna get simplified. Personally, I think it’s a good move — the contrasting trim seemed superfluous. … Next year’s Super Bowl logo has been unveiled, and it looks just a wee bit familiar. … And so it has come to this: a Prairie View A&M player with a sticker on his brim (disturbing find by William Banowsky). … Matt Mitchell found a photo of Mark Teixeira from when he signed with the Rangers. “I don’t know about that #10,” says Matt. “Teixeira wore 23 as a Ranger, and Michael Young was already wearing 10 when Tex got there.” … Taking the elastic out of your pant cuffs looks even worse during spring training drills. … Rob Ullman has produced a new batch of pin-up commissions. I especially like the mirror shot. … Goalie Craig Anderson, recently traded from the Avalanche to the Senators, is still wearing his Avs-themed mask, but with a Sens decal on the chin (good spot by Evan Williams). … Also from Evan: Blue Jays reliever David Purcey wears really big shoes. … The Twins’ new Japanese import, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, has been using a double-flapped helmet. He’s a switch-hitter, and a quick check of his Japanese photo history shows him sometimes going double-flapped and sometimes not, so it’s probably too soon to say what this means. Maybe he just hasn’t found a single-flapped helmet that fits properly yet. … A Washington Huskies player forgot his jersey the other day (with thanks to Jameson Costello). … Also from Jameson: The Giants may wear gold-trimmed jerseys for their ring ceremony. … Here are some additional photos and info on the robo-shirt that a few dozen players will be wearing at the NFL Combine. … The Rochester Rhinos — that’s a soccer team — have announced their new jersey sponsor: an anti-tobacco organization (with thanks to Kenn Tomasch). … A team called the Sir Bills? Wayne Koehler explains: “Johnstown, New York, was named after the son of Sir William Johnson, hence the team name.” … Here’s a late-breaking detail from the NBA All-Star Game: Little panels with the ASG logo were woven into the nets (great catch by Ryan Mandel). … One of Newcastle United’s players is wearing a mask while recovering from a broken cheekbone. ” I thought it was interesting that he had to come to the U.S. to get it made,” says Ross Hazlett). … Patrick O’Neil notes that the BC Lions (that’s a CFL team) have some markedly inconsistent home jersey cuts. … Interesting Aussie rules football story, as presented by Gibby Davis: “In a preseason game, the designated road team (Melbourne) was supposed to wear their clash guernseys and Essendon was to wear their primary guernseys. Melbourne had just developed a new clash guernsey created for the 2011 season, but once the guernseys showed up, a portion of them were pink instead of the intended red. Rather than wear the miscolored gear, they wore their primary guernsey instead. This created a bit of an issue due to the similar appearance of the two teams. As a result of this, the AFL, is asking the fans whether or not they felt it was a problem. It’s an interesting uni story on many levels.” … Andrew Primeau noticed something odd: The Giants are all wearing gray undervisors, at least in their Photo Day shots. Odd. … Weird situation in last night’s Celtics/Nuggets game: Boston had traded Semih Erden earlier in the day and signed Chris Johnson to a 10-day contract to give them a warm body. But Johnson didn’t get his own jersey — he was apparently wearing Erden’s No. 86 jersey, with a cover-up nameplate sewn over Erden’s NOB (screen shot courtesy of Bob Delano). … Here’s the latest think piece about uniform advertising (what was Phil doing on a Yankees blog?).