Photos by Tim Haney; if slideshow doesn’t work, click here
Thirty years ago, when I was in college, we had an on-campus nonprofit record store that was staffed entirely by students — the Slipped Disc Record Co-op. When I was a freshman and sophomore, the guy who ran Slipped Disc was this dude named Jeff Katz, who was two years older than I was. He kinda took me under his wing and groomed me to become one of the store’s managers, which I became for my junior and senior years.
Jeff and I lost touch after he graduated, but he tracked me down on Facebook five or six years ago, and our friendship picked up right where it left off. He’s had an interesting life, and at the moment he is the Mayor of Cooperstown, New York, which as you might imagine is a very interesting gig if you happen to be a baseball fan, which Jeff definitely is (he’s already written one baseball book and is currently working on another).
Jeff recently flexed his mayoral muscle to create a very cool initiative involving a largely forgotten ballplayer named Bud Fowler and Cooperstown’s local high school baseball team (plus I had a very small role in it myself). See those “Fowler” NOBs in the photos at the top of this entry? Here’s the scoop behind them:
Uni Watch: For those who don’t know, who was Bud Fowler?
Jeff Katz: Bud Fowler is generally recognized as the first black player in organized baseball. And he grew up in Cooperstown — his father was a barber here in town.
UW: How and when did you get the idea to have a Bud Fowler Day?
JK: About a year ago, Tom Shieber [curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame, which of course is in Cooperstown] was talking to me, and he said, “What would you think about renaming a village street for Bud Fowler?” It was an interesting idea, but it’s very difficult to rename a street in a village as traditional as Cooperstown. So then we started talking about a small park, called Pioneer Park, which is very close to where Fowler lived. But renaming a park turned out to be difficult too.
Then one of our village trustees started looking at some of the county survey maps and found that the entranceway to Doubleday Field, which we all assumed was just a driveway, was actually an unnamed street. So we decided to call it Fowler Way.
We originally wanted to do it in February, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his death, but we didn’t have enough time. So instead we did it in April, when SABR’s 19th Century Committee was meeting here in Cooperstown. And that gave us a few months to circulate the story. We got a nice article in the New York Times, we had some coverage from NPR. It’s all worked out really well.
UW: And then you got the local high school varsity baseball team involved, right?
JK: Right. As a Uni Watch reader, I’ve seen the tributes that various teams have done, like when the St. Louis Blues wore Stan Musial’s name and number for pregame warm-ups after he died, and what the Canadiens did for Gary Carter, I thought we could do something similar.
So I went and spoke to the team and the coach about it, and everyone was very excited, and the coach said they were honored to be part of it. Then I asked you how I could get some “Fowler” nameplates made, and you sent me to Joe Hilseberg. Some of the parents and I put together the money to pay for it, along with a fundraising group for Doubleday Field.
And my hope was that they’d wear the nameplates for, like, a day. And instead they wore them all season long, which was great.
UW: Did the team already have nameplates, which had to be switched out, or did they normally go without player names?
JK: They didn’t normally wear player names.
UW: Are there any black kids on the team?
JK: They’re almost all white kids, except for this one Guatemalan kid named Nico Knull. So you had this mostly white team, going from town to town, all as Fowlers. Which I’m told led to lots of people asking, “Are they all related?” Anyway, they made it to the Sectionals, and they did Fowler proud.
UW: One of the photos you sent me shows a few players without nameplates. What happened there?
JK: I’m not sure — I noticed that at the last game. I think maybe they had some JV guys who were called up.
UW: So it’s not like some of the kids refused to participate or anything like that..?
JK: No, no.
UW: Were the kids, like, into it?
JK: It was interesting. Nico was definitely the most informed. And there was one other kid, named Sawyer Haney — his parents own the Cooperstown Bat Company, so he knew a lot. In fact, they made this really nice Fowler bat. For the other kids, there was certainly more awareness at the end than at the beginning. And the coach really made it clear to them how important the story was.
UW: You realize Uni Watch readers are gonna crucify you for using a nameplate on a pinstriped jersey, instead of direct-sewn lettering, right?
JK: Oh, geez. I can understand that, but hopefully they can see, you know, the beauty of the story.
ESPN contest reminder: Today’s the last day to get your entries in for the Hornets-redesign contest. Details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Slate has published a pretty awesome interactive guide to NBA tattoos (from Yusuke Toyoda). … Also from Yusuke: a slideshow of 2013-14 soccer kits. … James Madison is soliciting fan input to help choose a new basketball court design (from Todd Lowman). … New away kit for Chelsea. “The tag line, ‘It’s not white, it’s blue,’ is proof positive that marketers from lifestyle companies like Adidas truly think they can get customers to believe the sky is green if they say so with enough flashy ads and press releases about the shirts being 10 percent lighter than last season,” says Patrick Runge. … Terence Kearns stopped by Uni Watch HQ the other day to pick up a T-shirt and proudly showed me his super-cool Mets road jersey lettering tattoo. Naturally, I was disappointed in the black drop-shadow, but it’s still a great tat. … New football helmets for Wake Forest (thanks, Phil). … Hit this
sign mechanical bull, win a free steak dinner (from Mike McBride). … Yesterday I linked to a page of old minor league and college hockey program covers. Turns out that was just the 1977 page. To see literally thousands of additional cover designs dating back to the 1920s, look here (from HHH). … ’Skins receiver Pierre Garçon will be wearing custom-designed shoes this season to help manage a past foot injury (thanks, Brinke). … Also from Brinke: More chatter about the Raptors possibly changing their name. Dan Snyder was unavailable for comment. … What if New York’s new soccer team had a logo based on the old diamond jubilee subway token? (From Matt Harris.) … Here’s what 10 Nike-outfitted golfers will be wearing at the U.S. Open (from Walter Ford). … Rugby players are now having their movements tracked by GPS thingies in their jerseys (Brinke again). … New field being installed at Husky Stadium in Washington. “Apparently they’re actually using purple blades of turf for the ends zones,” says Kyle Hanks. “This is an interesting way of dealing with an issue they’ve had for a few years, namely, end zone paint adhesion to FieldTurf. In 2009 they tried gold end zones and had to repaint them every week because the paint would wear visibly during games. Since then they’ve used purple or black end zones and haven’t had as big of a problem.” … The Blue Jays have issued an official explanation for why they didn’t wear G.I. Joe caps on Memorial Day. Unfortunately, the explanation isn’t “We were too smart to participate in that idiocy,” but whatever (from Mike O’Connor). … Nice striped stirrups for Mercer County High in Kentucky (from Josh Claywell). … Charles Pritt had an email back-and-forth with a Nike customer rep, the upshot of which is that the Bills jerseys sold at retail will still have the neck roll but the on-field version will not. … Some very interesting info about U.S. soccer captaincy armbands at the bottom of this page (from Britt Jackson). … Lance Smith, knowing my love of all things meat- and butchery-related, sent me this great 1947 photo of a Reading, Pennsylvania butcher shop. Thanks, man! … The Heat had new warm-ups for last night’s Finals opener (from Cork Gaines). … David Goodfriend notes that O’s skipper Buck Showalter has been wearing stirrups. Has he been doing this all along with the Orioles and I just never noticed..? … Jonathan Quick has some lettering stamped into the vertical bar of his goalie mask, although I can’t make out what it says (from Kyle Martinek). … Here’s a shot of Deacon Jones wearing the Chargers’ odd “surname, initial” NOB style from the early ’70s (screen shot by Greg Scholand). … “Unknown to probably most of the outside world, a promoter in Australia has attracted enough C-list NHL players to stage a USA vs. Canada three-game series in Sydney and Melbourne,” says Evan Stewart. “I looked up the uniforms for this, and also for the previous tour they did in New Zealan in 2011. Pics found here.” … Counterfeit Penguins merch is boffo business during the playoffs (from Mike McLaughlin). … New kits for Plymouth Argyle (from Bob Williams). … The Tennis Channel has changed its logo color to match the clay of Roland Garros — except on the microphones, as you can see (Cork Gaines again). …