Quick, who was the last boxer to score a knockdown against Muhammad Ali? Punch yourself in the nose 13 times in a row if you knew it was Chuck Wepner, the Bayonne Bleeder, who sent the Greatest to the canvas — more because he was stepping on Ali’s foot than because of the body shot he was landing — during the ninth round of their 1975 title bout. (Referee Tony Perez didn’t see the inadvertent trip and ruled it a knockdown. You can see it if you skip ahead to the 4:45 mark of the video shown above.) Although Ali lost three fights over the ensuing six-plus years — to Leon Spinks, Larry Holmes, and Trevor Berbick — he was never again knocked down, so Wepner has the distinction of being the last man to have the satisfaction of watching from a neutral corner while Ali took the count.
I had just turned 11 years old when that fight took place, and I remember it clearly. It was the first heavyweight title fight I’d ever seen (all the previous ones during my sports-aware lifetime had been shown on closed-circuit pay TV, but the Wepner fight was on regular broadcast television — ABC, I think). And even then, I remember thinking Wepner’s color-blocked trunks looked kinda weird (sorta like Maryland’s Labor Day costumes, right?). An early uni-watching moment.
Wepner got $100,000 for that bout — a pittance compared to Ali’s $1.5 million, but still the biggest purse of his career, and it gave him his first opportunity to take time off from work and train full-time for a fight. He set up camp in the Catskills, where he trained for eight weeks, often wearing this tremendous T-shirt. Now our friends at No Mas have duplicated that shirt, and it’s a beauty. Unlike the Naming Wrongs tees, I have nothing to do with this shirt and have no stake in its success. Just showcasing it because I like it. (And yes, $34 is a lot for a T-shirt, but this is an officially licensed tee, which means Wepner gets a cut.)
As you’re no doubt aware, Wepner was the inspiration for Rocky Balboa, which explains the title of The Real Rocky, a new film that airs tonight on ESPN. I’ll be watching, and not just because I remember Wepner’s trunks from 1975. The film’s director, Jeff Feuerzeig, is an old acquaintance of mine from the indie-rock/zine world. His résumé includes the superb documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, along with lots of commercials you’ve probably seen. Looking forward to it. Even if you’re not a boxing fan, I think you’ll find it worth your time.
She ain’t no human being: Several readers noted a major breach of protocol in yesterday’s splash photo, namely that the Union Jack being carried by Kellen Winslow was upside-down. In case you’re unfamiliar with the right and wrong ways to display the UK flag, you can help avoid an international incident by consulting this handy primer.
Flag etiquette notwithstanding, does anyone else think it was a little weird for the American players to come storming out of the tunnel waving the Union Jack? I’m trying to think of a comparable example on American soil. Like, if the EPL held a soccer match in, say, L.A., would the players strut around with Old Glory? Maybe it’s just part of the NFL’s insufferable rah-rah culture.
A uni eulogy: Last week I mentioned that Harvey Lipkin — the man who put the “Harv” in the legendary sporting goods company Harv-Al — had recently passed away. It occurred to me that our own resident sporting goods maven, Terry Proctor, might have known Harvey, so I asked Terry if he had any thoughts to share. Here’s what he sent back:
I knew Harvey very well. Got to meet him at the Dayton, Ohio, sports show in 1977. We at Ruby’s were the exclusive Rochester-area dealer for Harv-Al from the mid-1970s on. We put their uniforms on several teams in the Rochester area, including the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, Eisenhower College, and Hobart College, plus countless high school and amateur teams.
The original Harv-Al plant in Winnipeg made the sweaters and socks for the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets from 1972-73 until 1978-79. Harv-Al also made the jerseys for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
Harvey Lipkin was also a partner with Gene Fial in Ranger Athletic in Texas. Ranger made in-stock uniforms and officials’ clothing. Gene and Harvey also had Dalco Athletic Lettering, which supplies tackle twill, vinyl, and other materials to the athletic industry. Dalco’s VinFlex number font was used by the L.A./St. Louis Rams on their ram-horn jerseys right up until the team changed to their current style.
Harvey’s word was his bond. If you needed a set of uniforms in a hurry or you needed to copy a style from a different manufacturer, all you had to do was to call him directly and Harvey would always help you out. He was one of the good guys in the business. His one-on-one, please-the-customer style is something that is sorely lacking in today’s money-driven world of athletic garments. He will be missed. RIP, Harvey.
Bird droppings: Last week I noted that the Cardinals’ chest insignia had been sinking lower on the jersey in recent years. That got Bill Henderson (author, of course, of the invaluable MLB Game-Worn Jerseys of the Double-Knit Era) thinking. “I own a dozen or so game-worn Cardinals jerseys from the past 35 years,” he says, “so I decided I owed you an answer for the sake of Uni Watch scientific research.”
So Bill pulled out his jerseys and measured each one from top of the left shoulder seam to the top of the left bird’s head. Here’s how the jerseys measured up, by season:
Faaaaascinating. So judging by Bill’s measurements, the birds’ perch has been sinking ever lower for nearly a quarter-century now. “Maybe the droopy Cardinal is supposed to match the droopy pajama pants that most players wear these days,” says Bill.
Yeah, maybe. But that’s like saying, “The pants look like shit, so let’s make the jersey look like shit too.” Hey, all you guys at Majestic who are reading this: Kindly restore the birds to their proper height, pronto!
Meanwhile, as long as we’re talking about the Cards, here are some tidbits from last night’s World Series game:
• There’s been another wedding band sighting, this time involving Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay.
• Check out the old-school Rangers logo on the looseleaf binder behind Tony LaRussa.
• See how Mike Napoli’s surname on his chest protector collar is off-center? That’s because it originally had “#44,” which has now been blacked out. Why? Because Napoli doesn’t wear 44 — he wears 25. But he wore 44 when he was with the Angels last year. So this is his old chest protector from 2010. And in case you’re wondering, the Angels and Rangers do indeed use the exact same shade of red — Pantone 200.
(My thanks to Rob Holecko and Nolan Brett for the observations and screen shots.)
By Brinke Guthrie
We’ve been on a roll the last few weeks here at Collector’s Corner, highlighting eBay items with the Browns’ elusive CB logo. Now, courtesy of reader Karl Newkirk, we’ve got another example. And it features meat! Go, Paul, go.
Meanwhile, with the baseball season heading down the home stretch, here are some items featuring the two World Series teams:
• Here’s a great 1970s Texas Rangers T-shirt sponsored by Kip’s Big Boy (Hot Fudge Cake, sigh) with the original hat logo and iron-on letters. Not quite as cool as the shirt I’m wearing in that 1972 photo shown above, but close.
• Check out the uni detail on this 1920s St. Louis baseball Cardinals art print.
• There are no words to describe how garish this is. Not even gonna try. Hit King, baby.
• Get outta here with this outrageously cool 1960s Knicks bobblehead.
• Are you a Packer Backer? If so, you’ll love this 1960s thermal cup with a different helmet look — not the usual profile.
• Interesting playing card motif on this 1950 49ers game program.
• Oooh, nice collection of 1970s MLB batting helmets. Look at those pointy front panels!
Uni Watch News Ticker: Pitt has an equipment manager job opening. If that link takes you to a generic landing page instead of the job listing page, click on “Professional,” then click “Next Page,” and then search on “Equipment” (big thanks to Brad Susany). … New gray alts for Kentucky hoops. … Chris LaHaye was at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and noticed that all of the staffers had NOBs. … What was Jim Kelly doing wearing No. 10? “Photo is from 1994, according to the caption,” says Mark Mariglia. … Must not take much fabric to make a jersey for Rice’s 4’9″ running back (from Jeremy Kendrick). … The New York Times, like many newspapers, uses little helmet icons for its NFL game previews each Sunday. This past weekend, however, they hired illustrator Bob Eckstein to tweak each team’s helmet design. Unfortunately, his illos didn’t make it to the web, but I cut out the printed versions from my copy of Sunday’s paper and gathered them here. Some, obviously, are better than others. … Someone has been doing a really good art project involving phony historical markers along I-75. … Mike Hersh spotted some good stuff in the latest Heritage Auctions offering, including a rare view of the Reds’ 1936 jersey, an awesome USC letterman’s sweater, an old executioner-style leatherhead helmet/mask combo, and a simple but lovely 1949 Nebraska sideline sweater. … See anything unusual in this 1923 Army/Marines football shot? Click on the photo to see the larger version, and then look at the guy who’s falling down on his knees. MBNOB! That’s military branch name on back, natch (from Brad Tucker). … In a vaguely related item, the U.S. Marine Corps have been ordered to stop rolling up their sleeves (thanks, Brinke). … New court design for UGA (from Shaun Tunick). … Jody Shelley of the Flyers made his first appearance of the season last night and didn’t have a front-helmet uni number (screen shot by Scott Lederer). … Myles Brenner received the following e-mail from the U. of Washington yesterday: “The Huskies will be in their all-black uniforms for the game and we need every Dawg Fan sporting the black for Saturday’s game as well.” Woooonderful. … Remember how Xavier hoops was gonna wear Cincinnati Royals-inspired uniforms for a preseason scrimmage? That game took place over the weekend, and you can see lots of photos here (big thanks to Nick Pfeifer). … Mike Hersh just scored this catalog on eBay, and I for one am officially envious. … Here’s something we all missed a few weeks back: Ravens center Matt Birk was fined $5000 for refusing to wear an on-field microphone (good one from the Hungry Hungry Hipster). … I’ve been a proud member of the Center for Land Use Interpretation for the past 15 years or so. They do all sorts of clever projects, the latest of which is about the centers of the USA. It’s an excellent topic — one that I’ve written about myself. … The Wheeling Nailers opened their season by wearing 20th-anniversary jerseys. Instead of wearing their anniversary logo as a patch, they used it as their chest crest (from Yancy Yeater). … Jimmy Lonetti recently saw the SanFran-based band Girls and picked up this excellent patch at their merch table. “Now I just have to find an old blank Giants jersey to put it on,” he says. … Sometimes you see a story that’s so completely fucked up, so totally “Irony is its own reward,” you realize it was bound to happen. I love the guy’s brilliant rationale: “If I didn’t do it, someone else would.” A perfectly logical argument, as long as you’re more interested in expedience than in doing the right thing — just ask any war criminal, felon, corrupt public official, etc. … Unless you’ve been under a very large rock for the past two decades, you probably know that Pearl Jam’s original name was Mookie Blaylock. No surprise, then, that the new PJ documentary shows Jeff Ament wearing a Blaylock jersey (screen shot by Vincent Vincenzo). … I only took the briefest of glances at last night’s Ravens/Jags game, but my impression was that it was pink-free. True? … New hoops uniforms for Louisville. “Hope they wear those socks all year long,” says David Merrill, and of course I agree. … I really like these groovy little hockey figurines.