By Phil Hecken
One of the more persistent “Uni Watch Mysteries” over the past three or so years has been the ongoing debate on the color of the helmet decal the Denver Broncos wore during several pre-season games during the 1962 season (as well as several regular season games). Was it brown? Was it blue? It’s truly one of our great “
white brown/blue whales.”
Up until now, we’ve always debated whether the Bronco decal was either brown or blue — there is little argument it was anything but one of those two colors. Without that elusive color photo evidence, however, we can debate, postulate, speculate and pontificate as to what color we think it was, but we can never be sure. The man who first hypothesized that the decal was blue, of course, is my buddy and UW Historian Rick “Ricko” Pearson who has steadfastly held to the belief that the pony decal was indeed blue. Over the years, he has offered many logical, straightforward and persuasive arguments as to why the Broncos would have used a blue, and not a brown (as many believe) decal.
But what if the Bronco decal was actually both blue AND brown?
Before Ricko’s head further explodes, I want to bring him on board to discuss a brand new theory on the Bronco decal color. One which, heretofore, has never been postulated, and which, after you read this explanation, actually makes a lot of sense. Here’s Rick:
A Horse of Two Different Colors?
By Rick Pearson
Here’s a new theory on the Broncos’ Dark Horse helmet puzzle…
First off, I am NOT saying this suggestion IS what happened. But it WOULD explain everything.
It started when I found this mini-helmet on ebay. And, of course, there’s this commonly seen flat art rendering. The horse is neither blue nor brown on either of them, but a sort of purplish brown. And I thought, “Okay, what if they WERE recreated based on a rare color photo of the 1962 early season helmets that we haven’t unearthed yet?”
First, though, what do we know?
1. The Broncos were almost pathologically dedicated to exorcising the minor league, secondhand image of the gold and brown. Brought in to run the show, Jack Faulkner made huge deal out of “Everything new in ‘62” (that was their advertising slogan), and he started with a new color scheme of orange, blue and white.
2. Uniform design style in 1962 was NOT about zoological or mechanical correctness. The Lions’ helmet lion wasn’t tan. The Oilers’ derrick wasn’t gray or black. The Colts’ horseshoe wasn’t iron-colored, either.
3. Sometime in mid-season ‘62, the Broncos helmet decal horse, which didn’t show up all that well on black and white TV and in black and white photos, was changed to white and remained that way until the team changed to blue helmets in 1967.
4. There is a camp that contends that, contrary to general 1962 thinking (and specifically contrary to thinking in Denver at the time) that the horse decal was brown, despite the fact the rest of the uniform was designed with two royal stripes on the pants, and with royal numbers and striping on the road white jerseys. One rationale offered is that it was to “make it easier from the fans to go through the transition.” That seems downright silly. The team was only two years old, hadn’t been a success either on the field or at the gate, and the color scheme was hated and the brunt of countless jokes…in addition to those generated by the vertically striped socks (unis bought second hand from a defunct post-season game called the “Copper Bowl”). This group includes a couple former players interviewed at least thirty years after the fact (Frank Tripucka and Gene Mingo, I believe). They were, however, interviewed in a less-than-objective fashion. Questions were posed in a manner akin to, “So, why did they change the brown horse on the helmet to white?” And I suppose a program cover like this could lead someone with limited knowledge to conclude the Broncos wore orange and brown one year.
5. A press conference photo of the helmet’s unveiling lists the new colors as orange, blue and white, then mentions that the helmet is orange. There’s no mention of an exception being made for a brown helmet decal, or of the brown being carried over for some psychological reason.
6. In 1971 (considerably closer to the actual events than the 1990s) my then-partner, who had been sports editor at The Denver Post in 1962, told me the first version, “looked like a big ink blot.” That would seem likely to suggest they were, indeed blue. Brown might not exactly engender a comparison to an ink blot. Especially by a writer who may even have been at that “helmet unveiling” press conference. I don’t know if he was, I never asked.
That’s where we sit. So now let’s get back to the “purplish brown” horse on that mini-helmet, whose colors may possibly be based on a photograph.
Okay, in the context of 1962 technology, here’s the theory…
What if the whole fiasco is because of chintzy decals? Looking at the color on that mini-helmet it isn’t at all difficult to imagine that a decal material could have been too thin…or that it too-quickly yellowed…and either or both would combine with orange “show through” from the helmet itself to alter the color of the horse. Having built enough model airplanes, etc., in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, I know some of those decals were pretty lousy. Sunshine especially yellowed them.
So, what if EVERYONE’s right? That it all depends on when they saw the helmet? At that initial press conference it could have been nice and blue. But, once it got a little sun on it, it began to change color. A bit of yellow combined with blue, of course, will head toward green. Add orange showing through from the helmet and you get a kind of brown-purple. No matter which the specific malfunction, either still can get us to purplish brown.
The players? Most of them would likely have seen it only AFTER some sun exposure had started to affect it, not sitting on a desk in someone’s office. And if it DID malfunction, it wouldn’t have been hugely noticed, or of great concern. After all, the games were telecast in black and white. Newspaper photos all were black and white. And as we can pretty well attest, apparently no one shot much color, especially because most of the Broncos early games that season were night games. Color prints would have been a waste of film and processing. An unexpected color change wouldn’t have been much of a disaster under those circumstances. However, when the day games came around and perhaps it finally changed TOO much, they simply said, “Screw it. We’ll go with white decals.”
(This would be something like the early ‘50s Lions appearing to have worn gold helmets at one time, when it actually was a changing in the color of the silver because of the material/process itself — scroll down to “Fool’s Gold”, just after the main article).
Again, in the 1962 time frame, this “bad decal” story simply is not something that would not have garnered much attention. And the Broncos might have downplayed it. Who needed another “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” story about the Broncos’ uniforms? Certainly not them.
So that’s it. I’m not really advocating this theory. But to me, and given what I know about the times, it is something that is entirely plausible.
In chess, there’s the old adage about “seeing the whole board.” This “low quality decal” hypothesis is the only one I can think of that sees the whole board, not to mention explaining the confusion. Maybe the Dark Horse was BOTH blue and “brown”.
Thanks Ricko. As always, a well thought-out explanation and yet another new wrinkle to our old debate. Maybe the damn thing was really purple.
What say you readers?
by Rick Pearson
Does Mission Control have re-entry yet?…
And of course, your beautiful, full-size color version.
2011 Uni Tracking
Back with more tracking from the readers today.
Today features Mike Vamosi, who is a Royals tracker.
Here is my 2011 Kansas City Royals UniWatch tracking that I’ve done through excel once more.
The Royals like the past couple years have gone white in night games (exception opening day), powder blue tops in day games, gray on the road with royal blue tops in day road contests. I’ve also have put the teams record depending on the day/night, opponent and such. Thanks so much more detailed next time.
Thanks Mike. All you folks who are tracking your teams, if you’d like to submit reports for the first 2/5ths of the season, send ‘em my way.
We have another new set of tweaks today.
If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great at keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!
And so, lets begin:
We start with Marcus Harrington, who has a Wizards set…since I go through these in the order they’re received, you can see by some of the comments that they’re backed up a bit:
My favorite team, the Wizards get re-branded tomorrow. So I wanted to send in my concepts before then. I based it a lot on the D.C. flag.
Next up is Ryan Mallady, who has a “Stars” (Wiz) tweak as well:
I love the new colors for the Washington Wizards, but still detest the name.
After going through various patriotic/government nicknames (Founders, Senators, Eagles, Colonials), I settled on the Stars: It’s short, simple, city-appropriate, and easily incorporated into their new logo along with the W (which I stole from their new shorts design).
And here’s their home uni with the new name.
Yes, there’s still the Dallas Stars, but they’ve unfortunately kept the old Minnesota colors (along with BFBS), without taking advantage of the actual red, white, and blue of Texas’s lone star flag, so, tough luck. Washington D.C. gets it.
-Ryan in Seattle
And, believe it or not, our last submitter today, Patrick Woody, also has a Wiz tweak. I did not plan the tweaks this way, that’s the exact order in which they came:
- made “wizarcls” look more like “wizards”
- added much-needed waistband striping
- got rid of the unnecessary silver number outline
- simplified the goofy number font
I realize the number font doesn’t match the wordmark now, but I don’t care. Those numbers were brutal.
Thanks to all the (Washington hoops) tweakers. Back with more tomorrow. No more Wiz, I
That’s about it for today. As many of you may know, San Diego will be dressed as the 1936 PCL Padres, and the Nats will be dressed as the ’36 Senators when they play today. I’ll refrain from commenting on the throwback game unless it looks good, since apparently I’m not allowed to criticize a shoddy looking game. The Pads have worn these unis before (unfortunately I’m away from the home base as I write this, so I don’t have access to my Henderson Guide which shows their past look — but I recall it looks good.) I’m not sure if the Nats have ever thrown back to this particular year, but whenever they’ve done throwbacks in the past, they have done a pretty good job of it. I’m expecting a sharp looking game.
Everyone have a good Saturday.
Detractors of free range verbiage may feel free to osculate our collective posteriors, ingest feces and expire. Or if you possess the kinetic physical agility – go fuck yourself. — Juke Early