My annual college football season-preview column is now available on ESPN. Ordinarily that would mean a short main entry here, but today we have big news that can’t wait.
It’s been several months since we’ve had an update on the mystery of the Broncos’ early-1962 helmet decal. But now the case appears to have been cracked at last. And who was the sleuth who ferreted out the elusive info — a Uni Watch reader? A helmet historian? A longtime Broncos fan?
Nope. It was Broncos corporate communications VP Jim Saccomano, engaging in an all-too-rare bit of in-house team research. (I don’t mean rare for him; I mean rare for most teams in general.) Although Saccomano didn’t find a smoking gun — a color photo or a news account from 1962 — he did consult with three very credible primary sources: former Denver Post sports editor Chuck Garrity, former Denver PR guru Al King, former Broncos assistant equipment manager Ronnie Bill. Saccomano asked all of them whether the horse was brown or blue, and their answer was unanimous: as blue as an azure sky of deepest summer.
It’s a lengthy piece that Saccomano’s written, and I suggest that you take a few minutes to read all of it. But the gist is that the Broncos wanted to purge every last vestige of their two pitiful brown-and-gold seasons, so there was no way even a trace of those two colors was going to be found on the 1962 uni. Which is exactly — exactly — what Ricko Pearson has been maintaining here all along. Ricko deserves a lot of credit for keeping this case open by basically playing the role of the gadfly, by refusing to accept the party line that the horse had been brown. Even when all the standard reference sources said otherwise, he refused to give up on his white whale. Take a bow, Rick — you’ve earned it.
But the biggest kudos go to Saccomano, who spent weeks poring over microfilm and game video, and who used his knowledge and connections in the service of uniform history and documentation. After his piece was posted yesterday, I sent him a note of thanks and congratulations, to which he responded:
At first I did not think it was so [i.e., that the horse was blue]. Thought I knew everything. But with the extra time due to lockout, I was able to do some research. No question this is the answer. The concept of the brown horse frankly made no sense anyway … but still, I needed proof. The stories I read, six months’ worth, and the people I spoke with, irrefutable. I cannot believe I did not think of asking Chuck and Al before, both friends of more than 30 years.
I suppose some folks still may not be convinced. Last night Trevor Williams — by far the best researcher in the Uni Watch readership, at least based on the assistance he’s given me on a number of projects — sent me this note: “Too bad Saccomano didn’t get any hard evidence. For all his ‘research,’ he just has more hearsay. Now we have one group that includes that Jack Faulkner, Gene Mingo, Frank Tripuka, and Jerry Strum that says it was brown and now Saccomano’s group that says it was blue.”
I think that’s too strong. I agree a smoking gun would have been better (and I hope one eventually shows up), but I find the cumulative power of three independent primary sources, each of whom cites the same reason for his response, to be very persuasive. Also, as Saccomano mentioned in his note to me, his own bias when beginning his research was against the blue horse, yet that’s the conclusion he reached nonetheless — again, convincing. As for the Falkner/Mingo/Tripuka camp, two of those guys were players, and we know players’ memories are very poor when it comes to this stuff (see my recent ESPN column about the Columbus Yankees’ Confederate flag patch, for example). Moreover, as Ricko noted in this piece, those guys were asked about the horse color in a very leading way. Again, a smoking gun would be better, but I think Saccomano’s findings amount to much more than mere hearsay, and I find them highly convincing.
Meanwhile, there’s another nugget lurking at the end of Saccomano’s essay: Hall of Fame wide receiver Lionel Taylor had an odd superstition regarding his helmet decals. Here’s the relevant passage:
Taylor did not like to have a horse’s tail on his helmet, whether blue or white.
“I don’t know why I had such a phobia about that tail, but I just did,” Taylor said recently. And so every week Ronnie Bill [the equipment man] would affix new logos to Taylor’s helmet, and every Sunday morning Lionel Taylor carefully peeled back the logos just enough to cut off the tails.
Upon reading this, Robert Jones and Ricko immediately came up with several photos of a tail-less Taylor. And for good measure, Ricko also found a few photos showing that Taylor sometimes did wear the tail . Just goes to show that things are rarely as black and white — or blue and blue — as we’d like to think.
As you may have noticed, we have a new toolbar at the bottom of the browser page, which is part of our partnership with the Big Lead. It just went live on Monday, and I’m still deciding what I think about it. But if you dislike it — and I can think of several reasons why you might — there’s a toggle switch in the lower-right corner that lets you hide the toolbar. Feel free to use it.
Let’s try this again: My new meat/butchery blog, The Butcher’s Case, produced in partnership with the acclaimed butcher shop Fleisher’s, debuted last Wednesday and then was promptly shut down by Blogger’s ’bots, which mistakenly thought the site was a spam operation. I immediately applied to have the site reinstated, and they were supposed to get us up and running again within two days (i.e., by Friday), but it hasn’t happened yet. Grrrrr.
Yesterday I got tired of waiting and said, “Fuck it — let’s just start over.” So now I’ve re-created the site with the same design, the same name, and a new URL. We went live this morning, and I’m hoping we’ll be trouble-free this time around. New posts coming tomorrow and Friday, woot-woot. My thanks to everyone who’s expressed interest and enthusiasm
Uni Watch News Ticker: Here are some more sports logos made from soda displays, plus one more (from Jon Solomonson and Britton Thomas, respectively). … Nice video clip about a PNC Park vendor who wears always wears a baseball uni (thanks, RyCo). … Remember the baseball-themed My Morning Jacket poster? Erik Shmukler reports that everyone attending the band’s recent show was given this baseball card. Very cool. … Belated congrats to Teebz, who was recently featured on Yahoo’s “Puck Daddy” blog. … This is great: a really detailed — like really detailed — examination of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper uniforms (big thanks to Don Montgomery). … Oooh, check out the new red line for the Canadiens (big thanks to Mike Engle and Jonathan Deery). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comment: The Dolphins have apparently changed their shoe color from (mostly) black to (mostly) white. Anyone else notice any other NFL shoe color switcheroos this preseason? … I got a ton of e-mails yesterday bemoaning these NHL jerseys. Honestly, I don’t understand the fuss — it’s just another stupid retail/fashion concept, so who cares? When I said as much to one outraged correspondent, he responded, “You don’t understand, the jersey is sacrosanct to hockey fans!” If that’s the case, then hockey fans won’t buy these jerseys and they’ll go away, problem solved. Or maybe they’ll buy tons of them, who knows. Either way, a Habs/Blackhawks game is still gonna look fine, so who really gives a shit about nonsense product like this? … Here’s something I didn’t know until it came up yesterday on the SABR listserv: The phrase “before you can say Jack Robinson” has nothing to do with Jackie Robinson the ballplayer. Its origins can be traced back to the 1700s. If you don’t believe that, check out this 1914 newspaper item. Fascinating! … New basketball shorts for Marquette (from Joey Serge). … Behold, the human hat rack. That’s Tigers farmhand Zach Maxwell (photo by Tom Hagerty, as contributed by Wayne Koehler). … Here’s a video of the Preds’ new boards being installed. “The thing that caught my eye was the strip at the top of the boards being yellow instead of red (as it has been at the arena since the team’s inception) or blue,” says Paul Richard Cook. “I didn’t think there were many teams that used a non-standard color, but a quick survey of NHL photo galleries turned up Dallas (green), Los Angeles (off-white?), San Jose (yellow), and Boston (black). I’m not sure how long teams have been doing this — maybe I’ve been oblivious all these years? But now I’m curious – are there any other slight modifications that teams have made to ‘personalize’ what would otherwise be standard hardware?”