By Phil Hecken
As part of my commitment to bring you the best content while Paul is away, and because of my schedule, I am precluded from being able to devote the requisite amount of time to coming up with my own original content every day — but I have been fortunate to have devoted readers assist me with the main articles. Today is no exception.
When our featured artist today, Mike Styczen (seen here), reached out to me, I knew he wouldn’t disappoint with a great story and research. I’ve worked with Mike a few times before, and he’s not just a great source, he’s a good buddy. So, today we’re going to turn the way-back machine to our own youth — the ’70s and ’80s, as Mike takes a look at the “panel cap” phenomenon.
The contrasting front panel cap phenomenon
By Mike Styczen
If we’re talking uniforms, then the 1970’s usually means powder blues and sansabelts.
Uni-Watch looked at the powder blue phenomenon at great length a little over two years ago, and I’m sure someone will look at the great sansabelt disaster of the 1970s someday. I’m here today to talk about a less-considered aspect of that period — hats with a contrasting front panel.
Let me start off by saying — I don’t know what the hell those hats are called, and no amount of googling could help me. They’re not trucker caps — trucker caps have a mesh back. A bunch of promotional catalogs I found calls them “hats with contrasting front panels”. Not very catchy. If anyone knows what they’re actually called, put it in the comments.
Anyway, at that time there were 26 teams, and at one time or another 8 of them wore the contrasting caps.
Atlanta: Started wearing a blue cap with a white front panel at the same time as they switched to their feather uniforms in 1972. They wore the caps home and road through two uniform revisions, for nine seasons until 1980, after which all-blue caps with a script upper-case A (similar to today’s caps) were introduced.
Montreal: Came into the league in 1969 wearing the incomparable pinwheel caps, and wore them home and road for 23 seasons, until 1991, when they debuted a new all-blue cap as part of a uniform redesign in 1992. I know these weren’t really a contrasting panel cap in the same sense as all of the others, but as the only pinwheel cap in MLB history, I had to throw it in here.
San Diego: This is a weird one. They came into the league at the same time as Montreal, in 1969, and debuted their first “panel” cap in 1972. Here’s where it gets weird — the San Diego panel cap never had the front two panels in a contrasting colour, the way everyone else did. They always had something a little bit different – one version, modeled by Don Zimmer had the contrasting section extending back over the ears, and another version had the contrasting section much narrower than the front two panels. When the Padres added orange trim in 1980, they kept the yellow contrasting panel and added the orange trim to the edges. They wore contrasting panel caps for 13 seasons in all, home and road, until they went to an all-brown cap in 1985.
Baltimore: Debuted two different contrasting panel caps in 1975: a black cap with a white front panel, and a black cap with an orange panel. They both had the same cartoon bird logo. There aren’t many photos of players wearing the hat with the orange panel; according to Okkonen it was worn only in 1975 and 1976. The white panel cap was worn home and road for fourteen seasons, until 1988, when it was replaced as part of a general uniform redesign.
Boston: Yes, Boston. Being the thorough guy that I am, I went through Dressed to the Nines for every team just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. And sure enough, Okkonen shows a blue cap with a red front panel, worn with red stirrups instead of the usual striped stirrups, for 1974. So I scoured the internets, and found exactly ONE photo: Luis Tiant. Did they wear this for a special event, was it a failed experiment that Okkonen added to the book? I’m at a loss on this one.
Milwaukee: Wore a blue cap with a yellow panel for twelve years on the road, from 1974 to 1985. For the first three years, the logo was the blue “M”, and for the last nine years, it was the ball-and-glove logo. Interestingly, during those first three years the Brewers also wore yellow sanitaries on the road, which nicely matched the yellow on the cap.
Toronto: Wore the blue cap with a white panel home and road for 12 years, from entering the league in 1977 until 1988. In 1989 they redesigned the uniform to get rid of the powder blue and introduced a new all-blue road hat, but they kept the blue-and-white hat at home for four and a half more seasons, until they started wearing the all-blue hat at home in the middle of the 1993 season.
One issue I’ve carefully avoided dealing with so far is helmets. Sometimes, as in Toronto, the helmet matched the hats. Sometimes, as in Chicago, it didn’t. The Montreal Expos started with an all-blue helmet and didn’t debut a pinwheel helmet to match the hats until a couple of years later. Milwaukee had a blue helmet with a white front panel, which didn’t match any hat. Milwaukee also wore both a plain-blue helmet and a blue helmet with a yellow front panel on the road. Minnesota (which never wore a hat with a contrasting panel) had a blue helmet with a white front panel. In the absence of a good database like DTT9, I don’t have the time or the energy to catalog the helmets with contrasting panels in addition to the hats with contrasting panels, other than to mention the few anomalies I ran across pulling this piece together.
My opinion: After looking at dozens and dozens of pictures, these hats are a little like the powder blues — they’re fun to pull out now and then for throwback days, they’re fun for fans to wear in the stands, but would I want to see my team (or any team) wearing them full-time again? No.
Great stuff, Mike. I have to say, I have never been a fan of the
trucker panel cap either, but there were always one or two teams who seemed to pull it off. Looking back, though, it’s a nice relic from a long-ago time.
Friendly reminder: Paul is on his summer break from the site from now until Aug. 8 (although he’ll still be doing ESPN work, which we’ll link to as it comes up). That means there are a few changes regarding where you should be sending e-mails:
• Phil is writing the lead entries while Paul’s away. You can contact him at his usual address.
• The Ticker is now being compiled by webmaster John Ekdahl. You can still send submissions to the uniwatching at gmail address, but they will go to John, not to Paul.
• If you absolutely need to contact Paul during his summer break, the best way is to send a note to his plukas64 at gmail address. But he may take a little while to get back to you.
• Finally, if you hear about any new college football uniforms during Paul’s break, please send that info to this address. Thanks.
By Brinke Guthrie
* NFL IHOP alert! A 70’s metallic gold helmet with the NFL shield.
* Check out this 1940’s decal of Joe D.
* Order your Cleveland Indians tickets on this form — reserved seats just $1.50! (Oops, that was 61 years ago.)
* This is The Major League Baseball Watch from the 70’s (with a Phillies face.) Says so on the box!
* Bold looking ’74 NY Giants media guide with that logo on the cover.
* Here’s a 50’s Brooklyn Dodgers pennant featuring “Emmet Kelly the Clown.”
* I’m not a stirrups nut like some folks, but if you are, you’ll like these 1920’s Spalding socks.
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Benchies from the Beginning
By Rick Pearson
For nearly three years, “Benchies” has been appearing most weekends at Uni Watch. While Bench Coach Phil fills in for Paul Monday through Friday during August, we present a retrospective. New strips will continue to appear on weekends. For further background, here’s the “Benchies” backstory and bios on the regular Boys of “Benchies.” Enjoy.
And here is the full-size version.
Jet Uni Update…
No, the Jets haven’t released their new uniforms, but reader Mark Coale has some new information in that regard:
The president of the Jets was on Toronto radio today and confirmed:
• The sweaters will have the roundel logo on the chest, not the other, as some had thought.
• The other logo will be the shoulder patch.
• The home jerseys will be some shade of blue.
• He would not confirm red pants.
• One of the problems with picking a third jersey for next year is that he said there were three eras of Original Jets sweaters: Bobby Hull era, Dale Howerchuk era and Teemu Selanne era. If there had been one classic sweater for the old jets, there would likely no argument about how to design a third jersey. Now, there is.
• No decision on whether Evander Kane can wear the #9, since the Old Jets retired it for Hull. He seemed to lean on the side of less retired numbers the better. Plus, the history of the old Jets is in Phoenix, not there in Winnipeg.
Odessa Steps Magazine
Uni Watch News Ticker (compiled by John Ekdahl): The two Norwegian cyclists in the Tour de France, Thor Hushovd and Boasson Hagen, wore black armbands for the final two stages of the tour (Mike Rich). … It’s difficult to make out on the picture, but Morgan Grivas sends this along. “The logo on the top the Springbok players underwear is for ABSA, their sponsor, a bank not an underwear producer!” … Isn’t it refreshing to have a young star in the NBA like Kevin Durant buck the tattoo trend? Oh, never mind (Eric Distenfeld). … Uni Watch gets a mention in this article reporting on Maryland’s August uniform unveiling (Joseph Young). … Rhode Island had unveiled their new football helmet (Tim P. O’Brien). … Rugby news from Caleb Borchers: Fiji’s rugby team wore a special jersey with a red collar to honor of the Christchurch earthquake victims. The All Blacks have repealed a policy that required black “boots”. South Africa wore their new jerseys for the first time in Australia. … Here’s a clever redesign of the Winnipeg Jets new primary logo (Ivan Bettger). … “Saluki Athletics and the Southern Illinois University Alumni Association are teaming up with the Southern Illinois Miners for SIU Day at the Miners game on Friday, Aug. 12.” (Joel Willy) … From Darren Rovell’s Twitter page: “Detroit Tigers having 80s night on 8/3. Offering special package that includes ticket & pair of Zubaz pants for $23!” (Brinke Guthrie) … Check out this gigantic database of flight attendant uniforms (Tom Hamann). … A Michigan State basketball player unwittingly revealed this year’s uniforms (Eric Greenwald). … Paul is excited about his recent eBay victory. … Chicago Blackhawks player Jonathan Toews was spotted at a Cubs game wearing an old school Bears hat on his head and a blonde on his arm. Sorry, I couldn’t squeeze the Bulls into this item (Brady Phelps). … According to this article the new Jets uniforms won’t be released until September; but the fakes are already making the rounds.
“I entered a contest for puns and, thinking that the more I entered the better my chance of winning would be, I made ten entries. I thought I’d at least one would get a prize, but no pun in ten did.” — George Chilvers