Tomorrow the Dodgers will play the second of their six weekday-afternoon throwback games. They’ll once again be wearing their 1944 blue er-satins, and the Cubs will be wearing ’44 throwbacks as well. The uniforms for this game, like the ones for the April 21 Dodgers/Braves game, were not made by Majestic but by Bobcat Athletic, a small, L.A.-based uniform outfitter run by Bob Halfacre, who used to work at another small uniform operation, AIS.
I’ve known and corresponded with Bob for years (among other things, I know he hates first initials on NOBs), but we had never spoken on the phone until last week, when I picked his brain about how he scored this throwback gig, which was a major coup for his company. I think you’ll find our chat very interesting:
Uni Watch: How did you end up doing the uniforms for the Dodgers/Braves game? Like, why you and not Majestic?
Bob Halfacre: Well, first of all, we’re the name and number guys for the Dodgers.
UW: Oh, you’re their stitcher?
BH: Yeah. So we had a relationship with them. And they had that contest to choose their throwback, and they never actually approved that with Majestic. I got a call from the team toward the end of last season, saying, “We’re going to do this contest next year. Are you interested in bidding on it, to do the uniforms?” I said sure, I’d love to bid on it.
UW: So if a team wants to do a throwback game, they don’t have to work with Majestic?
BH: Technically, no. From my understanding, part of the licensing deal is that each team gets a significant credit back from Majestic — you get a certain amount of free product. Now, some clubs take that money and distribute it throughout the organization; some of them let the clubhouse guy use it to buy items like replacement pants, extra jackets, and so on; some will put half of it into their marketing budget and grab a bunch of blank jerseys to be autographed and sold; and some will use it for a throwback promotion like this. Depends on the team’s philosophy. Now Majestic’s stuff is not inexpensive. So some clubs’ philosophy is, “We’re gonna take care of the licensee,” but for other clubs it’s, “We’re gonna find the best deal we can.”
UW: So the Dodgers chose to work with you, instead of Majestic?
BH: Well, about two weeks before the contest ended, I got call telling me, “Majestic can’t do these uniforms, do you want to do ’em?” And I said sure.
UW: And why couldn’t Majestic do them?
BH: They can’t react that fast, with the contest finishing so close to the start of the season. Had they known all along that it would be the blue Brooklyn jersey, they probably would’ve said sure.
UW: Because they had blue fabric in stock?
BH: Yeah, or could get it fairly easily and quickly. But when you’re a big company, you can’t react that fast. I mean, they’re unbelievable at reacting quickly for the things that they do do, like if a player is traded. But for a project like this, they don’t move quickly from A to B to C.
But even for me, I couldn’t have done the Braves’ uniforms without Liebe. They did the chain-stitched tomahawks, they cut the lettering. I couldn’t have done that here in that time frame — we don’t have the firepower. So Liebe did that for me, and they did a beautiful job.
UW: So toward the end of the contest they brought you on board. And then what happened?
BH: They said, “We’ll need prototypes, because we want to do photos when the contest result is announced.” And I said oookay. I was a little nervous about the one with “Brooklyn” down the placket, because those pinstripes were very close to each other — much closer than today, and thinner too. But I figured it was a great opportunity, so I said yes.
Now, I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I know most contests already have a winner before they even start. I remember there was a minor league team, and they told me, “We’re having a ‘Name the team’ contest, and the winner is gonna be this. First person who sends in that name is the winner.”
UW: Wait, so are you saying the Dodgers throwback voting was rigged?
BH: They were leaning toward the blue — that’s what they were really hoping would win. But they weren’t fixing it or anything like that. It was legitimate. But we knew the vote totals on a daily basis, so we could see where it was going and plan accordingly.
Toward the end, the pinstriped one was still in the running, and I knew there was no way I was gonna get a roll of pinstriped fabric printed that quickly. So we were literally gonna make the uniform panels, make sublimation paper, and try to sublimate it on straight. I thought, “I can wing it for three prototypes.” But of course it didn’t come to that.
UW: So when the results of the voting were announced and they showed three players wearing the blue throwbacks, those were your prototypes?
BH: Yes. The fit wasn’t perfect — we didn’t even know which players they were gonna use. I had the jerseys made up and then they called us the night before and told us which numbers to put on ’em. It was kind of a scramble — at one point it looked like they might be on the Today show, and there was all this stuff going on. But it was also really exciting.
UW: Realistically, if Majestic had made these uniforms instead of you, would there have been any significant difference? Or any subtle difference?
BH: I’d be curious to see. If you read the Dodgers’ original press release, it said they wanted to use “modern fabrics and a modern fit.” So that meant they were gonna have the pants the way most players wear them today, down to the ankle. And I said, “Are you sure you want to do that?” I think [Dodgers GM] Ned Coletti is the one who said it wasn’t that he didn’t want them to look vintage, but he just wanted the players to be comfortable.
UW: But you eventually convinced them.
BH: Yeah. Now, their jerseys were a contemporary fit, while the Braves’ jerseys were a vintage fit — their sleeves were a little bit longer, and there were little variances in the pattern.
UW: Is that because their jersey was a zipper-front?
BH: The Braves went all in from the start. From the very beginning, they said make it vintage, make the pants short. So we went with really short inseams on their pants — like, some of them were as short as 18″, which is really short. And they said to go ahead and get stirrups for them. And that was great, because most players today don’t want to wear stirrups on their own. A lot of them have never even seen them, and they don’t know how to wear ’em. So some of the players pulled them a bit higher than we’d hoped, but overall I thought it looked good.
UW: Me too. Did you get the stirrups from Twin City?
UW: Now, when the visiting team wears throwbacks, the home team is responsible for making that decision, right?
BH: Home team decides. It’s strictly about who’s gonna pay for it. And in this case, the Dodgers paid for the Braves’ uniforms, and those uniforms got left behind with the Dodgers when the Braves left town. The Dodgers will be auctioning them off. It all belongs to them.
UW: Was it weird doing a non-satin execution of a design that was originally rendered in satin?
BH: Well, we couldn’t do satin — actually, we could have done satin, but we were worried that if someone slid into second base, they’d blow it out. We did look into it. Basically, the only satin out there right now, which I could have gotten, is a cap-and-gown fabric. It’s used for sashes, stuff like that. They had a light blue, and it wasn’t the exact right shade, but we probably could’ve pulled it off. But we were worried about wear and tear, and we were worried about heat.
UW: And once you decided not to go with satin, was it weird that all your reference photos and historical imagery — everything you were basing your design on — showed the satin uniforms?
BH: It might’ve been weird if I had seen more of it. But it was 65 years ago, and there are only so many photos of it, so it’s not something that was embedded in my head. And all the photos of it were taken at night, and they’re all grainy anyway.
UW: So did you just use a polyester double-knit?
BH: No, we made ’em out of nylon.
UW: What about the Braves — were theirs made of nylon too?
BH: No, theirs were polyester. A warp-knit poly, light gray. We tried to keep it as light as we could, because the pictures we were looking at, and even Okkonen, seemed to show their road uniform being pretty darn light.
The thing about the Dodgers’ nylon uniforms, nylon is way more comfortable, but ultraviolet light’s gonna change the colors, and they don’t launder very well. But in this case, they only have to last for two games.
UW: So you’re doing the second throwback game as well, which is on May 4?
BH: Right, that was the idea from the start — that Majestic would take over for the third game and take it from there.
UW: Because that’s how much time they needed to get on board?
BH: Right. They basically needed two months. So I get the first two games, and they’ll use the same uniforms for the second game that they did for the first one. I’m gonna grab some of the pants and shorten ’em, though. Like Clayton Kershaw, I felt so bad for him.
UW: Yeah, that wasn’t a good look.
BH: Well, it was kinda Bob Feller-y, don’t you think..?
BH: Listen, Clayton Kershaw is so much smaller than his bio! They’ve got him down as like six-foot-two and 200 pounds [actually, even bigger than that — PL], and he’s not even close. He’s a little guy. And I felt bad, because he’s the one guy who when he put the thing on, he was a little, uh, apprehensive, a little concerned. And I thought, well, what’s the chances that he’ll pitch that day, one in five? And sure enough. But then he went out and nailed it, and I was really happy about that. I wouldn’t want the uniform to affect anyone’s performance.
UW: For this next throwback game, the visiting team is the Cubs. Which year are they wearing?
BH: They’re going with ’44, so that’s the block “Chicago” with the red underline. And we’re having socks made — I’m a little nervous about that, because they did not wear stirrups.
UW: Really? Are you sure about that?
BH: Yeah. They had socks with a little bit of white down by the ankle. If you look at the photos, that’s what they wore.
UW: Are you sure that wasn’t a white-bottomed stirrup with a really small opening?
BH: It could have been, but I don’t think so. I pulled like 100 photos and checked.
UW: What about that stirrup where there’s the woolen upper but then there’s that stretchy, elasticized bottom?
BH: I thought of that too, but that was more of a ’20s and ’30s thing, not ’40s. But anyway, we decided to go with the socks, because it’s easier to get the boys to wear ’em.
UW: And will these socks be white on the bottom?
BH: Yeah. Hopefully not too far up, just an inch or two. I’m trusting Twin City on that. If they get wrong, I’m thinkin’ I’ll cut the toes out and re-sew the socks, just to get the stripes where they belong. Hopefully the players won’t pull ’em up too high.
UW: What about the stripes on the undersleeves — are you doing that?
BH: I thought of you on that. I couldn’t get the stripes knit into the sleeves, so we thought about sublimating them, but we couldn’t find a good fabric for that. So we bought stock long-sleeve shirts and we’re gonna sew three rows of red braid trim on each sleeve.
UW [flabbergasted]: Are you serious?! Dude, that is hardcore! [A few days after this interview, Bob sent me photos of the stripes being sewn on. — PL]
BH: Hopefully, someone’ll wear it.
UW: Yeah, you’d better hope it’s not a warm day, right?
BH: It’s a performance shirt, so there’s no problem there. Otis, the Cubs’ equipment manager, said, “Go ahead, maybe I can get a few players to wear it.” Or at least the manager and coaches. So that’ll be ready to go. And we already have the hats — they’re unstructured, unblocked…
UW: Did New Era do those?
BH: No — they’ll do the hats starting for the third game. But for these two games, I used a local company here in Los Angeles.
UW: We were noticing that the caps in the first game had a very low-profile crown.
BH: Yes, very low profile, very unstructured.
BH: That’s actually navy, not black. I wanted to do green for both teams, ’cause that’s what I remember from when I was a kid, but they just didn’t have any green available. For this next game, both teams will be gray.
UW: Is this the first time you’ve done an MLB throwback game?
UW: And will you be doing any others this year, for other teams?
BH: That’s all I have for now. But I’m hoping these two games kinda work as a springboard for us.
UW: Now, you also work the L.A. Kings, right? What do you do for them?
BH: I’m one of the equipment guys. Been doing that for the past twenty-something years. I’m there on the bench at every game.
UW: Isn’t that a full-time job?
BH: Well, I’m not the top equipment manager. I’m more like the fourth guy on the equipment food chain there. Glorified stick boy, you might say.
I’m pretty sure Bob’s just being modest there. This was only about half of the interview I conducted with him, by the way — it turns out Bob had a pivotal role in a key uniform development that we’ve debated for years here on Uni Watch (no, not the Broncos’ 1962 helmet). I’ll have that portion of our interview, probably on ESPN, later this month.
Dark Horse Chronicles, continued: Reader Trevor Williams is one of our best researchers (in fact, he recently made major inroads on a longtime cold case, which I’ll be telling you about in the next week or so). He’s been intrigued by the mystery surrounding the Broncos’ early-1962 “Was it brown or blue?” helmet logo, so he started digging. Here’s what he found — or, rather, didn’t find:
From what I can tell, the new uniforms were unveiled in March 1962 and the switch from the dark helmet decal to the white decal was made in early to mid-October 1962. In AP Images, the dark logo is still being used on September 30, 1962. In an SI article from October 22, 1962, they are wearing white logos.
Here’s a UPI wire story about the March 1962 unveiling. No mention of the helmet decal.
The new uniform colors are mentioned in this 1962 SI article, but again, nothing about the helmet logo.
This blog has an interview with Jerry Sturm, who was on the ’62 Broncos. It includes this passage: “We talked about the 1962 helmet. His had the white horse. I mentioned that the history records said the first few games of ’62, they had a brown horse on the orange helmet, then changed it to white. He didn’t remember that.”
What really hurts this search is the lack of 1962 Denver Post or Rocky Mountain News content on the Internet. Outside of contacting the Broncos themselves, which I recommend, someone should go to the Denver Library and see if there’s an item about the helmet logo switch. The entire Denver Post archive from present to 1895 is available on microfilm at the library’s main branch, in the Western History section.
I’ll be contacting the Broncos about this soon (between the draft and the lockout, this hasn’t been a good time to contact NFL teams with uni-related queries). Meanwhile, any Denver readers wanna follow Trevor’s suggestion and start poring over microfilm from October of ’62?
Collector’s Corner, by Brinke Guthrie
Why does the best sports stuff come from the ’70s? I think the reason is that there wasn’t much merchandising in the ’60s, and by the ’80s there was too much junk. So the ’70′s are our eBay sweet spot for this week.
*Here’s a twofer — a great auction with an MLB bank and a Caps’n Bats Mini Sport Kit.
* Here’s a beautiful 1973 Chargers photo. This was the last year for the white helmets. [More importantly, it was the last year before the Chargers became the first NFL club to wear team-colored facemasks. — PL]
• Every home should have one of these helmet lamps.
• Here’s a rarity: Atlanta Flames tube socks!
• Never seen this NHL Rockies decal design before.
• I’ve shown this before but it’s worth repeating: Grab this 1973 NFL Playbook while you can. Primo. [Couldn't agree more. My copy is one of my most prized possessions. — PL]
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Raffle reminder: I’m currently raffling off a free ticket to that Pop-Up Magazing thing I’m participating in. Details here.
Stirrups Club reminder: Robert Marshall has a new slate of stirrups up for sale. Details here.
Project Neon reminder: If you like neon signage and/or cool creative projects, you’ll want to know about Kirsten’s neon sign iPhone app and here Kickstarter campaign. Details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The big news from Sunday night prompted the Padres to play soldier dress-up last night. Meanwhile, the Nats wore stars and stripes, but I’m told that was a planned Military Appreciation Night that was already on the schedule and was not a specific response to current events. … Meanwhile, here’s a great uni-related subplot to Sunday night’s presidential address: The guy working the prez’s Teleprompter was wearing a Caps jersey (big thanks to Casey Gross). … New championship-anniversary logo for the football Giants. I’m guessing (and hoping) that this won’t be a patch — just a promotional mark. … Francisco Cervelli is no longer wearing the S100 helmet (plus that’s a pretty remarkable photo of the ball hitting the bat, no?). … Frank Bitzer notes that the “W” on Ryan Howard’s NOB appears to be bigger than the other letters. … Mike Hersh found a couple of great items from an old 1999 Leland’s auction catalog: a beautiful Dodgers satin uni and — the real prize — an absolutely spectacular prison football jersey with INOB (that’s inmate number on back). … Tiffany Walker found this cool Lady Met doll (with somewhat disturbing hips) in her grandma’s attic. … Here’s footage of a latter-day home run derby between Hank Aaron and Sadharu Oh. “It’s weird to see Aaron wearing the Braves’ 1981-1986 togs (which, naturally, he never wore as a member of the club),” says Austin Gillis. … New kit for AC Milan. “Too busy,” says Kenny Loo. … MLS note from Markus Kamp, who writes: “At Saturday’s Sounders/Toronto FC match, Sounders fans held up #11 cards, the correct MLS font, for Steve Zakuani (recovering from a broken fibula and tibia from a brutal tackle in last weekend’s match at Colorado) at the 11th minute. This sort of thing is one cool DIY aspect to soccer culture that I think deserves more attention in the larger sports world.” … Very interesting piece on firefighters’ helmets (thanks, Kirsten). … Beginning this fall, high school field hockey players will have to wear protective eyewear, but they way the rule is structured is stirring up controversy (with thanks to Scott R. Jamison). … New player exclusive Jordan Phase 23 Hoops designs for Ray Allen and Joe Johnson. … See this Joint Special Ops Command coin? Kristopher Hunt notes that it bears a striking resemblance to the Ravens’ alt logo. … More soccer news, this time from Timothy O’Malley: “Manchester City will be changing their numbers for the upcoming FA Cup final, disregarding the standard EPL font they have used for the entire competition and instead going with this font, which is identical to the lettering they wore in this years Europa League.” … Reprinted from last night’s comments: Yesterday Comrade Robert Marshall noticed that the late-’70s Tigers were wearing stirrups with at least five stripes. But now Ryan Fregosi has determined that the stripe count was actually six! … Edgar Latorre has launched a new site about game-used jerseys. … Italian reader Marco Scurati was at Adidas Italia’s HQ yesterday for the AC Milan 2011/12 home jersey launch. “The strip is not a throwback (Adidas doesn’t like a retro style in football) but is inspired by Milan’s 1901 jersey, the year of the first ‘scudetto’ (the Italian title),” he says.