You all know how much I love old baseball cardigans, letterman sweaters, and the like. You also know how much I love green and gold. So you can imagine how much I’m in love with this wonderful 1940s Lane Tech varsity sweater, which I recently scored on eBay. I received it in the mail last weekend, which was perfect timing, because I was slated to have lunch yesterday with former Mitchell & Ness honcho Peter Capolino (a man who knows a thing or two about sweaters), and I figured he’d totally plotz if I showed up wearing this beauty.
Turns out I was right, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s take a look at how the sweater looks from the back:
As you can just barely see in that last shot, the left sleeve has a familiar-looking patch, which you can see better here:
That, of course, is the same patch that baseball teams wore in 1942. As geeked out as Peter C. was about the rest of the sweater — and believe me, he was plenty geeked out — he was particularly excited about the patch. “It’s an original,” he said. “Canvas, with satin thread!” He said he’d never seen this patch appearing on anything other than a baseball jersey (same here). He also said he knew of at least one collector who’d pay upwards of $200 just for the patch (sorry, but it isn’t for sale).
There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about this patch design, incidentally. Here are a few salient points:
• Although people frequently refer to this as the “Health” patch, its proper name is the Hale America patch. Hale America was a nationwide fitness program instituted after the United States entered World War II, and the “Health” shield was its logo. Yes, it’s odd that the name of the program wasn’t part of the logo, but that’s just the way it was. There’s surprisingly little info about Hale America on the web — no Wikipedia entry, for example — but there’s some background on the program in this article. (As an aside, there was a Hale America Open golf tournament in 1942, the status of which remains somewhat controversial.)
• The Hale America patch was also worn by minor league teams in 1942.
• Many MLB teams continued wearing a shield patch for the duration of WWII, but it was not the Hale America patch. Instead, it was this stars and stripes patch. The Hale America patch was only worn in ’42.
Getting back to the sweater, the other sleeve has a really nice Lane Tech patch:
The sweater is in remarkably good shape — almost like new, in fact. A real prize. But the kicker is that it makes a nice ensemble with my vintage Lane Tech varsity jacket (which has a similar design on the back):
Lane Tech, incidentally, is a high school in Chicago. I’ve never visited the school, but I’m starting to feel like an honorary alum.
March Madness reminder: Our annual NCAA bracket pool is currently open for business. Details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Geez, ya think Clemson was wearing enough logos last night? … Meanwhile, UAB had SNOB. … Another team with way too many jersey patches: Inter Milan (as noted by Kenny Loo). … St. Paddy’s Day isn’t until tomorrow, but the Bulls couldn’t wait. … FNOB alert — and vertically arched to boot! That’s Joe Ross of Notre Dame, as spotted in ESPN’s Fab Five special by Chris Flinn. … Speaking of the Fab Five documentary, it has sparked a bit of a controversy regarding the origin of the baggy shorts trend. … The President received a Blackhawks jersey and championship ring last Friday, while the First Lady got a Team USA jersey (with thanks to James Huening). … New Sunday alternate uni for South Carolina baseball (with thanks to Beau Franklin). … Good Deed Dept.: Mark Penxa, who does the great “Stealing Signs” watercolors, is raising relief funds for Japanese earthquake victims by auctioning off one of his sketchbooks. … Logo creep is always unnecessary, but sometimes it’s even more unnecessary than usual (with thanks to Michael Dean). … Eric Bunnell found a bunch of NFL Huddles up in his attic. … Here’s the entire NCAA bracket broken down by shoe and uni outfitters (with thanks to David Merrill). … Interesting note in this auction listing for a Joe Montana jersey, as follows: “When Montana was traded from the San Francisco 49ers in 1993, the Chiefs mailed three jerseys to Montana. One was number 3, his number from Notre Dame, another was number 19, which he wore in little league [I assume they mean Pop Warner — PL] and also briefly in training camp of the 1979 season with the 49ers, and the third was number 16, which Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson offered to let Montana wear since the organization had retired it. Montana declined Dawson’s offer and wore 19 instead as he played for the Chiefs the last two years of his career.” I’d never heard this before. “I wonder what happened to the number 3 and 16 jerseys,” says JD Denison. … New uni set for the Tucson Padres (with thanks to Alan Borock). … Here are the sneakers WVU will be wearing for the NCAA tourney. “Could be worse,” says Joshua Exline. … Here’s a rarity: color footage of the 1941 Orange Bowl (with thanks to Warren Ables).