By Morris Levin
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games open tonight in London. The International Olympic Committee voted to displace baseball from the Games in a 2005 vote, and the 2008 Beijing games were the last for the sport at the Olympics.
In honor of the opening of the Games, and with respect to baseball’s absence from London, let us look at the uniforms worn by U.S. teams at previous Olympiads. (Anybody want to make a t-shirt for Pride Park Stadium, “I Still Call It The Baseball Ground”?)
Baseball was a demonstration tournament in 1984 and 1988, and a medal sport beginning in 1992 at Barcelona. While baseball was exhibited during the meandering five-month St. Louis Games in 1904, we trace the first Olympics baseball game to 1912 in Sweden.
The Swedish club Västerås SK (the football club still plays today in the third division) had started a baseball team in 1910, and the 1912 Stockholm organizers invited the Americans to play an exhibition at the games. The U.S. brought their own uniforms which featured the word “Olympic” across the front in san-serif font. They featured the cadet collars common of the period, and did not have numbers on the back.
Ahead of the 1936 Games, former Major League player Les Mann secured corporate sponsorship and an invitation from the German Olympic Committee to bring a team to Berlin. The U.S. wore uniforms featuring the letters U and S in Tuscan font, placket piping, a stars and stripes shield patch on the left sleeve, and back numbers in matching Tuscan. The U.S. was to have played a Japanese squad. When that team backed out, the U.S. played a split-squad game. One team wore white caps, and the other dark caps.
The U.S. was again invited in 1956 to play an exhibition as part of the Games. U.S. military personnel stationed in the Pacific composed the team. The picture above is of Dick Griesser wearing his uniform in 2000s photo shoot. It is a white wool flannel uniform with a zipper-front. The lettering and numbers were in red and blue felt, and the numbers appear to be ten-inches. This is an outstanding color film about the match, played against an Australian squad.
Japan had established professional baseball leagues by 1964, and the hosts invited the U.S. to play a one-game exhibition. This is Mike Epstein wearing the U.S. button front powder blue uniform with USA arched across the front. This is Jim Hibbs and we can see the shield worn on the cap, along with the patch on the left sleeve.
1968 Mexico City
Baseball was not recognized as a medal sport but the 1968 games were the first with multi-country representation. In February 1964, the University of Arizona had played exhibitions in Mexico City to promote the inclusion of the sport for the 1968 Summer Games. This post recounts at least four countries taking part in the demonstration tournament, and a game between the U.S. and Cuba dissolving into a brawl. I have yet to uncover images of the uniforms worn by the U.S. in Mexico.
Support for Olympic baseball increased through the 1970s as Los Angeles became the favorite to host in 1984. In March 1983, the IOC approved the inclusion of a multi-team non-medal tournament.
1984 Los Angeles
Many are familiar with this team from Topps’ inclusion of player cards in its 1985 set. The photos were taken prior to the games; the player to Larkin’s left is wearing a General Electric sponsorship patch, prohibited during the Games themselves. This is Mike Dunne in a button front jersey uniform worn by the team in Los Angeles. It features the players name on the back, and the numbers in the font used by the Expos from 1969 to 1991, (and the Athletics in 1972, Mr. Henderson). This is Mark McGwire during the games and this is a full color side-view. The left sleeve featured a Baseball USA patch.
In 1988, the U.S. wore gray button front jerseys with U.S.A. slanting upwards across the front, allowing room for a two-color number beneath. This is the home and this is without autographs.
Baseball became a bona fide medal competition in 1992. The U.S. introduced pinstripe home jerseys, and Jason Giambi wore the gray button front jersey with three color drop-shadow lettering. The U.S. had previously worn royal blue, and switched to midnight blue for 1992. This is Nomar wearing the BP with a DQ sleeve patch.
Today, USA baseball has a standard jersey worn in international competitions and by MLB’s professional WBC team. The U.S. wore this design for the first time in 1996. In 1993, the Reds and Marlins had returned vest to the Majors, and the U.S. team wore them in Atlanta. That is Troy Glaus with the perfect hose. The team wore NOB with nice serif lettering. The road unis were gray versions of the same. This is another view of the road.
The U.S. wore full jerseys in 2000, retaining the basic design from 1996. This is Ben Sheets wearing the home whites. The team introduced a new cap with US imposed on a star, but retained the 1996 cap logo on the batting helmets. The team had a matching gray uniform, and added an alternate navy jersey, worn with the white pants. NOB were arched serif lettering.
The U.S. did not appear in the 2004 Athens Games, after losing to Mexico in the qualifying Americas Tournament.
The U.S. wore its now standard home whites for the last Olympic baseball tournament. The team added an American flag to the right sleeve, sewed the NOB in san-serif letters along an even horizontal plane, and matched the batting helmet logo to the field cap. The team wore matching grays, and added New Era’s corporate logo to the side of the cap. As they did in 2000, the U.S. wore a navy alternate, but rendered it like MLB batting practice jerseys with contrasting red and white side-inserts, and as seen here.
I am not going to miss baseball at this year’s London Games. The Olympics’ attraction is sport’s elite athletes. Baseball’s best are playing today, but in cities across the U.S., in Toronto, in Cuba, and Japan. Iranian-Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish will be facing Cuban Dayán Viciedo, Dominican Alejandro De Aza, and Bridgehamptonian A.J. Pierzynski tonight in North Texas. It is for the absence of top professionals that baseball is unlikely to return to the Games. And while the WBC is a nice idea, I want to see MLB’s World Series champion take on the winner of the Asia Series for a true international baseball world championship.
Morris Levin is an independent small business consultant in Philadelphia, a member of Athletic Base Ball of Philadelphia, a member of SABR’s Philadelphia-Connie Mack Chapter, a supporter of the Philadelphia Stars West Parkside commemoration project, and editor of William F. Henderson’s “Game Worn MLB Jersey Guide”.
Phil here — Thanks, Morris! If you were a reader of Uni Watch last summer, while Paul was on vacation, you’ll recall Morris provided a guest article for each of those Fridays, and he’s back again for another run this year.
Full disclosure — I had one of those days at the office yesterday I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Actually, I was out of the office (and since I was in meetings, didn’t even get to check E-mail, which always blows up when the uniwatching account is forwarded to me) until late last evening. As such, I BARELY got to look at the new Northwestern Uniforms. From what I did see, I am not a fan. But I simply didn’t have the time to dedicate the amount of time and space to a review as you folks richly deserve. Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending upon your perspective), while in the middle of meetings, I got a text from Tim E. O’Brien which read, “Can I do a writeup for next week on NU’s new unis. I need to vent.”
Knowing I wasn’t going to have time to do so myself, I simply said — “how about tomorrow?” in reply. And thus, what you are about to read, was hatched.
Those wild ‘Cats…
By Tim E. O’Brien
Some of you may recall that last fall, Northwestern decided to switch uniform providers, school wide, from Adidas to Under Armour. The switch seemed beneficial to both the school, who felt Adidas had been ignoring them, and the apparel company, who would finally have a school to outfit in the most prestigious conference in college sports (Yeah, I said it. Deal with it.).
Well, on Thursday Pat Fitzgerald and crew announced the new NU/UA uniforms – for football at least.
The Reaction: Mixed.
My Reaction: Mixed.
Some background on me that will explain my strong opinions.
While I’m a Hoosier by education, I grew up the son of a Wildcat and my family had season tickets to NU football from as early as I remember until I was a freshman at Indiana (and we started back up again last year). Members of my family have traveled all over the US to see the Wildcats play and I, personally, have seen them play in Arizona twice, Hawai’i once and Florida once (Northwestern games were family vacations). All in all, I estimate I’ve been to around 100 NU games.
Now, from promotional videos released by NU Athletics and UA, I made a few guesses at what I thought these unis would look like (home, road, alt, second alt). I even guessed they’d sublimate bricks on the numbers but while I had some parts right, there’s a whole lot more I got wrong or didn’t see coming.
They didn’t touch the Helmet! Huge victory. It may be a bit shinier, but it’s purple with a black facemask and a white ‘N’ – as God intended.
Tim’s Grade: A++
So the Northwestern stripe goes across the entire chest and back (but not the sides…) and meets up on the compression sleeves. Assuming compression sleeves will be worn by about 20 percent of players, this isn’t a terrible way of getting the stripe on the jersey (and there is precedent for hoops in football and even at Northwestern)
Still, hoops work better in soccer and I don’t understand why you wouldn’t let the stripe loop around the entire jersey.
‘Northwestern’ is featured on the chest for the first time ever. The sewn on numbers have a limestone brick pattern sublimated on them, which is a nice (if unnecessary) touch, and the jerseys feature TV numbers.
Tim’s Grade: C (but this could go up or down when I actually see these on the field.)
So the pants are stripeless yet again, I like that. They come in black (Meh…), white and purple. The purple pants should always be worn with the white jersey and the purple jersey looks best with the white pants, though the black isn’t a terrible look (never go full purple).
Ugh! Tramp Stamp. SMH.
Another thing missing from the pants (and actually, the whole uniform) is the N-Cat logo. I like the N-Cat logo, but the plain N just works better, especially in the B1G where almost all the schools’ main sports mark is just a letter or series of letters.
Tim’s Grade: B (Would be an A without the tramp-stamp.)
Overall, I think this is an OK start. I want to see these on the field and I think that there’s room for improvement, but I actually think these might grow on me. Who knows, if they win a bowl game in these, I may love them.
Thanks Tim for taking a shot at this. Didn’t Maryland actually wear the flag-tastrophe twice tho? Pretty sure they did. Readers? What do YOU think of the new duds?
Uni Watch reader Jared Wieseler recently came across a bunch of report cards, diplomas, and other old school records pertaining to his grandmother, who grew up in Nebraska in the 1930s. He generously offered to scan them for me, and they’re now the basis of the latest entry on the Permanent Record Blog. As always, you can also sign up for the PermaRec mailing list — just ask.
This section will feature “lesser” Olympics stories — both the good and the bad — of the Olympic games, past, present and future (ok, maybe not future–we’ll see).
Not too much on tap today, mostly ‘cuz I was working for most of yesterday…
* “Came across this site mocking the London Olympics with sarcasm using the logos.” says Yancey Yeater
* Steve from the Sports Design Blog has come up with a review of Olympic uniforms. Give that a look-see!
* “Socks Paul Would Love” read the subject line in an E-mail from Joe Makowiec: “In the Republic of South Africa / Sweden women’s football (soccer) match, both teams were wearing really nice striped socks. Full set from that game.”
* Mike Colvin, he of Big Slices of Wrong, checks in with this: “Not fishing for more but the Olympic Posters you posted the other day reminded me that I have an entire collection from a radio promotion I did in the 90′s, These are the ones I could find and are easily the best: 1896-1908. I’ll try to find the rest before the games are over.”
* “Our bags have a Nike logo but the zippers are Adidas” (give credit to Brinke’s wife Cindi).
* Most Presidential candidates shouldn’t insult the host country about their preparedness to host the Olympics. But most Presidential candidates can’t claim to
to have invented the Interwebs to have run their own country’s Olympics either. Still it makes for an awkward moment.
* Speaking of controversy, a lot of people are giving the City of London a lot of grief for this year’s Games. This really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since they have had their share of practice.
* Finally — no one is arguing that security shouldn’t be tight for the Olympics — draconian even. But I think that rooftop missiles might be a bit much. Let’s hope those are dummy missiles.
#NoUniAds Campaign…Day 8
This will be a regular feature on Uni Watch until the NBA rescinds its incredibly offensive and stupid proposal to place corporate advertising on uniforms.
And now, a personal note from Paul:
It’s important that we keep making our voices heard: Call the NBA’s publicly listed phone number (212-407-8000), ask for Adam Silver’s and/or David Stern’s office), e-mail deputy commissioner Adam Silver at his his publicly listed address (firstname.lastname@example.org), and tweet to @NBA with the hashtag #NoUniAds. Do it now.
More of your letters to the NBA:
As advertising continues to advance in our society and it seems everything is for sale, I was deeply disappointed to hear of the NBA’s decision to potentially allow advertising on game jerseys. This is totally unacceptable not only to me but to many fans who see the sports uniform as sacred in the realm of sports.
In no uncertain terms, if you move forward with this proposal, I will no longer purchase NBA uniforms.
You know the right thing to do, and it’s to preserve this last sphere of pure space in sports.
I can not support a team or watch a product that has corporate logos on their uniforms. If you need corporate logos on your product, I want free season tickets to my local franchise. I watch commercials on NBC and CBS because their service is FREE. If you are going to force a 2 hour McDonald and Coke commercial down my throat, I better be watching that for free too. FANS DO NOT WANT THIS. Hope you enjoyed your high jersey sales. They are about to drop to record lows when you put corporate logos on retail items. Maybe you should talk to the NFL. They have logos on practice jerseys, and guess what – THATS FREE TO THE FANS! Put them on game jerseys, I better get in for free too.
I do find the notion that the NBA modeling its business practices after NASCAR, golf, WNBA and (hysterically) pro soccer … as quite laughable. Each of these sports has either, A) struggled to find a consistent fanbase (pro soccer / WNBA), or, B) suffered a severe hit to its popularity in the recent recession (NASCAR / golf). Instead of forcing economic change within these organizations to match economic reality (i.e., participants get their pay cut like so many others in society), they look to new revenue streams. It may be inevitable. But we can vote with our own brand of consumerism … I will certainly boycott the league should it come to uni ads. I pretty much despise the NBA and David Stern’s rule over the past decade.
* Some guy who has a blog called “Kanye To The” has taken up our cause.
* If you’ve never seen the results for #NoUniAds on the Twitter, take a look.
* Finally, Caleb Borchers thinks the All Blacks and the NBA might have something in common…sort of:
The All Blacks are reversing field on the preposed addition of AIG sponsorship to their jerseys. Apparently Adidas was not to thrilled to see their significant contribution to New Zealand rugby watered down by another corporate mark on the famous black jersey. Even sent an exact from Germany to New Zealand to discuss the issue.
Can’t help but feel like this might have implications for the NBA story. Let’s imagine that you’re the Adidas exec working with Stern. For years you were told that no matter how much you were paying to be the league’s apparel company ($40 million a year) you cannot put the Adidas logo on the actual jerseys. That space is sacred. Now, all of the sudden, you hear that Joe’s Furniture Mart is going to be getting a 2X2 inch patch in the EXACT location the Adidas mark appears on replica jerseys. Wouldn’t you be on the phone pretty quick with Stern?
Might we be coming into an era where the Adidases and (gulp) Nikes of the world might actually be a force against uni ads?
Thanks to Tim E. O’Brien and Chris Giorgio for the image in the upper right of this section!
“Benchies” first appeared at U-W in 2008, and has been a Saturday & Sunday feature here for the past two years.
The turning point was when the other teams showed up…
Click to enlarge
Reminder: Paul is on summer break until Aug. 23. Phil Hecken is handling the weekday content and John Ekdahl is running the show on weekends; contact info for them is available here.
The Uni Watch e-mail address is being auto-forwarded to Phil, so any Ticker submissions or story ideas sent to that address will go directly to him. If you have a question or comment for Paul, go ahead and send it in, and Phil will make sure Paul receives it. We’re particularly interested in keeping up-to-date with college football uniform unveilings, so definitely keep submitting those. Thanks.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Some upcoming Astros giveaways, per Paul Pass: – July 28 Burke bobblehead from 2004 NLDS walk-off home run; August 18 – Bagwell bobblehead from 400th home run in 2003; September 21 – Astros canvas art. … Robert Montenegro notes the new American Football League in India started Wednesday — “Sharp Unis,” he notes. … Marcus Hall was the Orioles game the other day and took this shot of the Earl Weaver Statue – “beautifully done with stirrups.” … Interesting stat from Jamal Wilburg, who noticed that the Rays stats on the road are very different when they wear Grey jerseys (9-17) compared to when they wear blue (17-7). This is still no reason to wear softball tops, however. … There’s a new book out about unusual minor league baseball team names. Here’s a fun interview with the author. … While searching for an 80s Marino Pro Bowl jersey, Danilo Roman ran into this site which had a custom “McFarlane” figure of Marino with the ’84 Pro Bowl uniform. … John Muir muses, “Normally, a press conference to introduce a new player only requires one jersey. The Rangers decided to put all three (H/R/A) in Rick Nash’s new stall. I knew the Rags were douchebags but they really went the extra step in showing off the newest items that will soon be in the team store.” … Stan Bush points out at media day in Las Vegas, team USA (hoops) wore a more subtle version of their uniforms. He’s not sure why these haven’t been used (full shoot). … Nicole Tronolone notes adidas is unveiling the new adizero Primeknit at the 2012 London Olympics (and now Jason Bernard needs to change his underpants). … Here’s a link for Premier League – full new kits guide (give thanks to Trevor Banks). … Anthony Nuccio came across this Italy jersey on eBay. “Holy ugly” he says. … It’s not uncommon for teams to use MLB logos, says Sean Robbins, but this Curly Nats “W” is on the backstops and all outfield fences at the Western Little League complex in Stockton, CA. … Want to be a design engineer for Riddell? They’re hiring. … Even the losers can walk away with millions, especially in soccer. Nice infographic breaks sports payouts down (John Muir again). … New football uniforms for Mississippi State. … The Mets will apparently wear a flag patch on their caps, not a camo cap, on Sept. 11. It’s not clear whether other MLB teams will be doing likewise (props to Paul for those last two). … In response to my Philly ballgirls ticker question yesterday, A.J. Frey replies, “Of course the ball girls wear the cream alts.” … Cody Walker found this video of Shug Jordan’s final recap show in 1975 of the Iron bowl, which he describes as “fascinating not so much from the uniforms on the field, as both AU and UA are mostly unchanged in the history of the rivalry, but from what everyone else is wearing. From Shugs’ iconic hat to the red Big AL elephant mascot…All in color and the video even has all the commercials intact.” … Ronnie Poore notes “If Penn State wanted to change to a reversed colors helmet, they’d resemble Georgia Southern.” … Walter Ford “Saw this new kit for Hungarian football club Ferencvaros that you might be interested in.” … I’m not so sure this is the prediction of the century, but interesting nonetheless: Keenan Bailey, after researching what the coaches will be wearing and the sideline apparel for the game, says, “There’s no way in the world Notre Dame will be wearing their usual away uniforms in Ireland. Not to mention the cleats / undershirts assigned to the game…I predict will look like the Michigan game unis.” … Do we need to start a “McCutchen sock-tracker”? Brian Skokowski reports, “No zebra socks tonight…Andrew McCutchen is rocking some Pirate socks. Too bad he didn’t pull his pants up so we could see what they were all about!” … Paul Lee has a beef: “One thing that always bothers the heck out of me every time I see a team photo of the Dream Team (the “I” and only) players in front of the US flag is that the flag was improperly displayed. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and, whenever possible, I always try to notify a neighbor when they display a flag incorrectly. Does it bother other UniWatchers, as well, or do they not even know that there’s a preferred way to display the US flag?” … The Vikings posted this video on their facebook page. Their mascot, Victor, has a reebok jersey and rookie safety is wearing a nike one (thanks to David Caruso.) … Nebraska black helmet? “These are somehow worse than the Stanford procombats. Not a bad uni, but terrible for Nebraska. Ick.” (from Tim E. O’Brien) … And finally, this from Yancey Yeater” “MLB linked this video to a couple who came to a Blue Jays game for their 50th anniversary. They have customized jerseys that say ‘Together Since 1961′ but sadly they are last years ‘Black Jays.’”
And that’s it for this week. And hey, the Olympics start today (well, except for the part about them starting on Wednesday) — but we get the Opening Ceremonies tonight (yay!). Thanks to Morris Levin for the first of several great Friday entries. And because it’s Friday, that means you’ll get some shorter posts over the weekend, when Johnny Ek will take you through till Monday. I’ll catch you then — everyone have a great weekend, and thanks for a great first week subbing for Paul.
“I haven’t heard one good argument for a reason to keep ads off of uniforms. I’ve heard it looks crappy, it doesn’t belong there, and made up stuff that jersey sales will go down, but not the real ‘here’s why we can’t have ads’ argument.”