Well well well, look what we have here — Jimmy Wynn in nickNOB mode. I recently obtained that photo from the Braves. It’s the only color image of their 1976 nickNOBs I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, they have only one other nickNOB photo in their archives, and it’s the Andy Messersmith “Channel 17” shot that we’ve already seen. Still, we’re getting closer, bit by bit.
Speaking of which, we also have two new nickNOB pics that have been turned up by reader Jerry Wolper, whose devotion to this particular project continues to impress:
Okay, so the image quality isn’t great, but I’ll take what I can get here. The first shot shows Rowland Office, who wore “Row,” and the bottom one is Darrell Evans, who wore “Howdy” (as in Howdy Doody). Both of these had been listed on our chart before but had been unconfirmed until now.
Jerry’s biggest contribution, however, is that he noticed a visit that we’d gotten from an important figure in the nickNOB saga. Here’s the deal: The last time I wrote about the nickNOBs was on June 27. The following afternoon, June 28, a comment was posted to that entry by Bob Hope, who was the Braves’ PR Director back in the 1970s. I usually track an entry’s comments throughout the day it’s posted, but I rarely go back to see if any additional comments have been posted over the subsequent few days, so I hadn’t seen Bob’s communiqué until last Friday, when Jerry pointed it out to me. Here’s what Bob posted to the site on June 28:
I was the director of public relations and promotions for the Braves and Ted Turner in 1976, when Ted bought the team. We had a philosophy that we needed to promote really hard, since we knew the team wouldn’t be very good, but we also didn’t have any money to spend on promotions. So we had to do things that generated publicity. We would say, “It is better to go down the street aa the village idiot and be noticed than to not be noticed at all.” We would do things that would stir what we called “harmless controversy” and get in the news but didn’t really hurt anyone. …
The idea of putting nicknames on the back was just to get attention, do something a little different. [Pitcher Andy] Messersmith had agreed to wear number 17 because the TV station was channel 17. That had nothing to do with the nickname idea, but then we realized that putting his nickname as CHANNEL would read CHANNEL 17. We knew baseball would step in and stop it, but we would get lots of publicity. The nickname BLUTO that replaced it was just to come up with something that seemed even dumber-sounding than CHANNEL 17 — not sure where it came from. As I recall, nicknames were my idea. CHANNEL was Ted’s, which seemed to make perfect sense to us at the time. Hope this helps.
Bob included a link to his PR agency, so I shot him a note and asked if he’d be willing to let me pick his brain about the nickNOBs. He responded almost immediately and couldn’t have been nicer. Here’s how our conversation went:
Uni Watch: First, I want to confirm a few things with you. I’ve read that the nicknames weren’t used at the beginning of the season but were added soon thereafter. Is that right?
Bob Hope: Yeah, we added them maybe a week or so after Andy Messersmith made his first start.
UW: And the nicknames were your idea?
BH: I’m gonna say yes, with the caveat that it was one of those things where we were all sitting around talking about it.
UW: How was each individual nickname chosen? Like, did you approach the players..?
BH: Yeah, I just asked them. Some of them cared, some didn’t.
UW: Did every single player participate?
BH: Oh, absolutely. Every player had a nickname, even if we had to make one up. And they were fine, they enjoyed it.
UW: One of my readers says he recalls the player Adrian Devine wearing “Bing” as his nickname, which was a reference to Bing Devine, who was then the Cardinals’ GM. I haven’t seen that one listed in print anywhere — it’s just something one of my readers remembers. Do you recall that one?
BH: Sure, that’s true. I remember that. The players all called him Bing anyway, because Bing Devine was a baseball name.
UW: I want to go over a few others that I think are probably legit but that I don’t have visual confirmation for. Vic Correll, “Bird Dog”?
BH: Sure, because of his hunting.
UW: Bruce Dal Canton, “Prof”?
BH: Yes, because if you’d known Bruce, he came across as very professorial, so they called him Professor.
UW: Roger Moret was “Gallo”?
BH: Right. I’ve never quite figured out where that came from.
UW: But you remember it?
BH: Oh yeah, absolutely.
UW: Did Phil Neikro wear “Knucksie”?
BH: Right, yes.
UW: And Marty Perez was “Taco”?
BH: Yes, because the players called him that.
UW: One thing that’s come up is some confusion regarding Jerry Royster. We know he wore “J.Bird,” but some sources also indicate that he wore “Rooster.” Did he switch?
BH: No. He never wore “Rooster.” Just “J.Bird.” [This matches up with what Royster himself recently told me, but it’s good to know that Bob’s memory matches up on this point. — PL]
UW: Whose idea was it to have Earl Williams wear “Heavy”?
BH: It must have been his, because I don’t think anyone else would have done that. He was sort of an interesting, reasonably gregarious guy. He didn’t care — I think he viewed himself not as a heavy guy in terms of his weight, but as a guy who would, you know, force things in order to get them to happen.
UW: There was a Sports Illustrated article back in 1976 indicating that someone — we don’t know who it was — wore “Mo.” Do you recall who that might have been?
BH: I think if I looked at the roster, I could probably figure it out.
UW: I did that myself, and it looks like it could have been pitcher Carl Morton or first baseman Willie Montañez.
BH: Probably Carl Morton. It wouldn’t have been Willie Montañez.
UW: Why not?
BH: I can’t remember what his nickname was, but “Mo” wouldn’t have been it.
UW: Why were the nicknames abandoned?
BH: Ted Turner was ambivalent in his attitudes about things. We wanted to do things that would get us attention and get us on the news, but we knew that certain things, like the nicknames, would probably only last for a little while and then we’d go back to being traditional.
UW: Do you recall when you stopped wearing them?
BH: Not exactly, but we didn’t wear ’em more than about a month.
UW: Oh, I think it was longer than that. Definitely for most of May and well into June. And you say you started shortly after the start of the season, so that means most of April, too.
BH: Hmmm. My guess, then, is that we’d probably abandoned them by the All-Star Game.
UW: Yes, you’d definitely stopped wearing them by July.
BH: That sounds right.
UW: Now, I know you run your own company these days. And it occurs to me that if you’re still in this business, you must have been very young when you worked for the Braves.
BH: Absolutely. I became PR director for the Atlanta Braves when I was 24 years old. Luck plays a big role in this — I had worked my way through college there, so I’d been there a long time, and then my boss, Lee Walburn, left. That was in February of 1972, and we were supposed to host the All-Star Game that summer, and Lee and I were the ones who’d been working on it. Lee told them that he thought I could do the job, and he also said, “Remember, if you give the job to someone else and then Bob gets upset and leaves, you’re really screwed, because he’s the only one who knows what’s going on.” So they came to me and said, “Look, you’re very young for this job. So we’re gonna give it to you, but if it becomes too much, don’t be afraid to ask for help.” And I said fine. So at 24 I was running the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. And of course soon after that we realized Henry Aaron had a shot at breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record, and right after that came Ted Turner, so I was havin’ a jolly old time.
UW: Sounds like you were in the right place at the right time.
BH: Sure was.
So that was my chat with Bob. Based on the information he provided, along with the two latest photos Jerry Wolper has discovered, I’ve once again updated our master chart of Braves nickNOBs, which now looks like this:
[table id=17 /]
And that’s where we stand as of now. I’ll continue to update this project as events warrant.
(Special thanks to Jim Misudek in the Braves PR department for coming up with the Jimmy Wynn photo.)
Penn State query: Quite a few readers have asked me some version of the following question: Should Penn State change its football uniforms in the wake of the child rape scandal?
It’s an interesting question, and I can see arguments on both sides of the question. But I’m not so interested in offering my own take on this, at least not yet. I’m more interested in hearing what you think.
Ground rules: No fair saying, “Their uniforms suck, so of course they should change them,” and no fair saying, “They should just scrap the football program altogether” (because let’s face it, they’re gonna play football again at some point, whether it’s this fall or next fall or whenever). Just stick to this basic question: Should the Nittany Lions change their uniforms specifically as a response to the Sandusky/Paterno scandal? Why or why not? Let me know what you think. Thanks.
By Brinke Guthrie
Paul wrote a nice tribute to Electric Football inventor Norman Sas last week on ESPN, but I wanted to give Sas one more plug. Man, in the early 1970s, Tudor was a big deal for me. I used to order teams from them all the time. I’ll never forget the mailing address, either. I probably had about 20 teams; but for the Bengals and Cowboys, I had both home and away. I chucked the metal game board/field fairly quickly. What I would do is just line up the players on our living room table, imagining plays and moving them manually. Kept ’em all in a nice royal blue plastic fishing tackle box with dual trays, with all my NFL booklets and extra numbers in the lower compartment. Between this, the vaunted 1973 NFL Playbook, NFL Strategy, and This Week in the NFL with Summerall and Brookshier, I learned a lot about the NFL. With that in mind, here’s everything Tudor on eBay in one easy link.
As for the rest of this week’s eBay finds:
• Here’s a terrific set of 1974 WFL stickers.
• One of my favorite sports logos ever is featured on this Indianapolis Racers puck — plus it’s signed by someone named Gretzky.
• Daggone, if we didn’t already have too many glasses, I’d want to bid on these 1968 Bengals schedule glasses myself.
• One more from the Queen City: Check out this nice leather baseball shoulder bag with the inscription “700 WLW Reds On Radio” stitched on.
• From reader Mike Williams comes this very cool early-1900s baseball schedule. “Best part is the back-cover advert, which includes the phrase, ‘Nuf Ced,'” says Mike.
• Boston Bruins fans, dig deep for this vintage bobblehead.
• Self-professed “longtime lurker” J.G. Barber wants to know about the obvious space on this 1955 minor league baseball jersey.
• Love this Roger Staubach photo for two reasons. I met Staubach at a department store promotion in Dallas (where he signed a photo that looked like this) and then met center Dave Manders at our YMCA football post-season awards dinner.
• And from Martin Matthews, here’s a cool LP of NFL marching songs.
PermaRec update: A cigar box full of old photos is the basis of the latest entry on the Permanent Record Blog. Even if you haven’t followed the PermaRec project, I think a lot of you will like this entry.
Membership reminder: The Uni Watch Membership Program will soon have a price increase, but there’s still time for you to get in at the current price. Details here.
Raffle reminder: I’m currently raffling off five copies of the newest edition of Bill Henderson’s doubleknit-era baseball jersey guide. To enter, sendi an e-mail with your name and shipping address to the giveaway address by 8pm Eastern this Thursday, July 19. One entry per reader. I’ll announce the five winners on Friday.
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Olympix: You can’t make this shit up. If you have trouble accessing that link, try this one. If this was a movie, nobody would believe it. Just blow up the whole thing now and start over (or better yet, blow it up and don’t start over). … Speaking of which: Some of you have asked why I’m so down on the Olympix, and the answer is simple: I’m fine with the sports themselves (well, except for synchronized balloon inflation and rhythmic yoga or whatever bogus “sport” is keeping bowling from being represented this year), but the actual enterprise of the Olympix is a total boondoggle, a scam, a crock, something akin to theft, and I’d like make as many people aware of that as possible, mainly to ensure that the games never ever ever ever ever take place in my city, because that would be a disaster and an embarrassment. I’d also prefer that the games never take place in my country again, although I realize that’s too much to hope for. Maybe we can cut down on the frequency, though. … New football helmet for UNLV. An upgrade, I’d say. Further details here. … The hemline length of North Korean subway worker uniforms and other women’s apparel is supposedly providing insights into the mindset of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. … Lots of eccentric minor league baseball logos, most of which you’ve probably seen before, here (from Gary Chanko). … Who’s that third from the left in the front row? It’s Jon Solomonson, circa 1973. … Speaking of Little League photos, here’s a young Peyton Manning — in stirrups! (From Brady Phelps.) … A suit plastered with dozens of logos? Sure, why not (from Robbie Biederman). … The Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which has plenty of experience in making costumes, has offered to make the U.S. Olympic uniforms in America (from Mike Burnett). … A Gulf station in Avoca, Pennsylvania, of all places, has been given a Packers makeover. “As a lifelong Steelers fan from Pennsylvania, I pained me to take that photo,” says Art Savokinas. … NOB typo in Baltimore the other days, as Miguel Gonzalez wore “Gonzales” on his back (from Jim Satriano). … New logo for the Big Sky Conference. ” Waaaaaaaaaay too busy for a conference logo,” says Bryan Stevens. … Some nice old MacGregor baseball uniform ads here and here. … Here are the USA’s BMX uniforms for the Olympics. ” I like that they went for something kind of out there, but … no, it didn’t work,” says Walter Ford. … New football helmet for Western Carolina. “We’re returning to the purple shell with a gold fleck tint for a shiny look,” says Daniel Hooker. “The difference is that it will have a deep purple facemask and purple chinstrap.” … The Lowell Spinners wore 1912 throwbacks last night. … New umpire mask design — new to me, at least — for Tim Welke (good spot by Nick LaRosa). … Remember how those corporate douchebags at Chik-fil-a had tried to bully an artist who’d made some “Eat More Kale” T-shirts by sending him a cease-and-desist letter? Adam Walter reports that that story is now the basis for a documentary that’s in progress. Here’s hoping it gets wide distribution. Fuck Chick-fil-a. … A poster about the evolution of the basketball uniform that I recently showed here in the Ticker is now the basis of some high-quality screen prints and T-shirts. … Some pretty groovy Duke basketball illustrations here (from Ben Gorbaty). … Juan Pierre is the only MLBer who wears his cap under his batting helmet, right? Wrong! That’s Endy Chavez from last night’s O’s/Twins game. “Chavez wears number 9, but the helmet had number 13 on the back, which belongs to Xavier Avery,” says Bryan Duklewski. “Chavez recently came off the DL and Avery was recently sent to AAA, so guess they just forgot to pack Endy’s helmet for the road trip.” … “I was at a Durham Bulls game and saw this guy wearing a Nolan Ryan Corpus Christi Hooks throwback,” says David Trett. … Oh, baby, check out the sensational sweaters on the 1932 Scottish national hockey team. “Would be great for a colorization project,” says Andy McNeel. … Stephen Scheffel was on the club level at Coors Field and saw this jersey history of Colorado baseball. … RIP, Kitty. You’re with the honky tonk angels now.