Photos above by Heather McCabe
I recently scored this vintage Michigan Bell softball uniform on eBay for a mere $12 (with free shipping!). As you can see, it fits quite well. Let’s take a closer look, starting with the jersey (for all of these photos, you can click to enlarge):
The fabric is Durene, but it feels like it has a higher cotton content than most Durene jerseys I own. Given the jersey’s age — I’m pretty sure it’s from the 1960s or early ’70s — it has stayed unusually white. Naturally, I love the UCLA panels.
This jersey was worn by a member of Michigan Bell’s Plant Engineering Department softball team. I like the screened chest logo, although I’d like it more if the vertical stroke of the “E” were thinner — feels too heavy, like it provides too much of a visual thud:
The label design is disappointingly plain, but the collar format is interesting — it’s one of those crossover collars:
I’ve always been ambivalent about this collar style. The crossover provides visual interest and textural depth, both of which are nice, but it’s also annoying asymmetrical. And which is the proper way to do the crossover — left over right or right over left? When the Knicks wore that collar style, they went left over right. The Cowboys used a variation on the crossover collar, which was also left over right (you can read more about that here). And this Michigan Bell jersey is left over right. So I guess that’s the default format — but why? Why not right over left?
The back of the jersey is pretty straightforward, with a really nice Michigan Bell logo (although it’d be even nicer if it were chain-stitched instead of screen-printed):
Now let’s take a look at the pants, which are cotton twill. They have two white stripes down each leg and really nice white belt loops:
The most interesting thing about the pants are that the cuffs have been fitted with little buckles:
I’ve seen this buckle-cuff style before in old uniform catalogs. It’s always shown for softball uniforms — never for baseball. But this is the first time I’ve seen the buckles in the flesh, so to speak. I was curious to know more, so I consulted sporting goods historian Terry Proctor, who responded with the following:
That style was popular for softball into the early 1970s, when it was killed by the double-knit revolution. The pants you have are made of a cotton twill, right? That cloth and satin were the norm for softball pants, especially for fast-pitch softball. About the only reason I know of for the buckle at the bottom was that softball players generally preferred long pants. A buckle or snaps (which were more popular in the 1950s) allowed players some adjustment to compensate for different heights. Softball players usually just wore white mid-calf athletic socks instead of sannies and stirrups.
When slow pitch softball became more popular around the same time double-knit uniforms came along, it immediately turned the players into Oakland A’s wannabes. Leotard-tight pants with ribbon ’rups became de rigueur for all slow pitch players. The buckle pants and were for the “old-timers” in fast-pitch. So the old uniform you’ve just acquired was thrown onto the trash heap of history along with flannel baseball uniforms.
Fascinating stuff, although I still don’t understand why they needed to use buckles. Why not elastic, or just a standard hem? As always, my thanks to Terry for his insights.
All photos in this section by Heather McCabe; click to enlarge
A week after I acquired the Michigan Bell uni, a new vintage clothing shop opened up around the corner from my house. It had only one uni-related item, but it was a doozy: a gorgeous Durene jersey from a Rhode Island firefighters’ softball team. Got it for $25. Fits great, really nice sewn-on lettering, and I love the ridiculously steep radial arching (which reminds me of Steve Lombardozzi’s NOB). The back is blank, and there’s no tagging, so there are no other details to share, but I’m really happy with it.
A final thought: One nice thing about both of these jerseys is that they’re from the era when UCLA stripes wrapped all the way around, as you can see in these shots:
Hope on the Padres horizon: Got a note yesterday from reader Drew Celestino, who had an encouraging story to tell about trip he’d recently taken:
I was recently returning from a trip to San Diego, and who should sit next to me on the plane but a high-ranking executive from the San Diego Padres marketing and retail department (or so his business card says). I’m not much into baseball but am into sports, so we struck up a conversation.
I brought up Uni Watch. He said he was well aware of it, and that he felt that the Padres had the worst uniforms in baseball. I was surprised by this admission. I asked if there was something in the works to change that. He said indeed there was.
I asked what he felt was wrong, what he thought they could do about it, and what about the camo nonsense. He said they feel like they’ve overdone the camo thing, even though it’s extremely popular with their fans and sells well. And he said all the fans want the brown back. That led me to ask if we should expect the return of the friar and the brown, etc. He got a tad short on details at this point but said basically to expect something that combines all of their uniform history.
Click to enlarge
By Brinke Guthrie
We all know and love the great Sunoco NFL stamp album from 1972. But did you know there’s a Canadian/CFL version? Uni Watch reader Will Scheibler sent that in. Two things struck me right way upon viewing this. First, is it me, or does the Saskatchewan Roughriders helmet logo look like…Safeway from the period? And their unis look to be a direct lift from the Iggles.
[Incidentally, I appreciate the submissions sent my way, as Will did with this one. If you've ever sent me something and wondered why I didn't post it, it's usually because the auction will have expired by Collector's Corner's Tuesday pub date. So if you find something, try to make sure it will still be online and available to bid on, by the time the following Tuesday rolls around.]
Now for the rest of this week’s selections:
• Love the 1970s retro vibe of this L.A. Rams T-shirt.
• Here’s a Buffalo Sabres foam sword giveaway from back in the day, sponsored by Frito-Lay. (Fun fact: I once lived down the street from the Lay family in Dallas!)
• Did you know the California Golden Seals had a mascot character named Sparky? Here he is on a swell 1970s T-shirt.
• You too can be a Junior Seahawk with this tote bag from Sears Roebuck.
• Great book here, and I should know because I had this one: The Golden Age of Pro Football, by famous sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz.
• Dave Boss Alert! This time around it’s a vintage 1970s Baltimore Colts poster. Is that Raymond Berry?
Seen something on eBay or Etsy that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
How do you read Uni Watch?: I don’t own an iPad and, for a variety of reasons, usually don’t read internet content — including Uni Watch — on my phone. But I know more and more people are consuming web content via tablets and phones. How do you folks typically consume Uni Watch? Please tell me:
’Skins Watch: Sports on Earth blogger Mike Tanier thinks the ’Skins should be renamed after the Sioux chief Red Cloud (from Jerry Wolper). … With all the attention being paid to the ’Skins, Chief Wahoo is also coming under fire, as you can see here, here, and here (all those from Mike Andrews). … A commentator for Fox News Latino says those who protest the ’Skins name “can stuff it” (thanks, Phil). … The National Congress of American Indians — which, last I checked, was not comprised of white people — is calling for an Oklahoma school district to stop calling its teams the Redskins, and also to stop having its players enter the field through a teepee (from Dan Bewley). … Reprinted from last night’s comments: Latest commentator to come out against the ’Skins name is political columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Baseball News: Did you know Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer’s eyes are two different colors? It’s all explained here. His eyes even have their own Twitter feed (from Todd Boyle). … Here are some good infographics based on Game Two of the Bosox/Tigers series. … This is pretty cool: color footage of the 1939 World Series (from Mike Ortman). … As you know, the Tigers have two different “D” logos — one for their jersey and one for the cap. The Detroit Free Press used the wrong one for a cap illustration on their front page yesterday (from Tyler Kepner). … This is amazing: Someone found a pair of Marlins infielder Greg Dobbs’s pants at Goodwill (from Thom Armitage). … Here’s another case of an ump taking a player’s cap during a postseason celebration! When the Mets were celebrating their victory in the 1986 NLCS, one of the umpires — it’s hard to be sure if it’s the second or third base ump — strolled by and helped himself to a cap on the ground (if the video doesn’t auto-forward to the correct spot, skip to the 0:48 mark). Definitely not Augie Donatelli, who stole the Cardinals cap after the ’67 World Series, because he retired in 1973. So maybe this was — or still is? — a thing among umpires (big thanks to Steve Steinsaltz). … Whatever else you may think of Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson, you have to like that the rubber band on his beard is team-colored. … Hanley Ramirez was wearing a rosary as a necklace last night. “I distinctly remember being threatened with the ruler for the idea of wearing a rosary as jewelry when I was in grade school,” says Patrick Walsh.
NFL News: Chargers RB Ryan Mathews suffered a doozy of a torn jersey last night, with fellow RB Danny Woodhead having a less dramatic tear (screen shots by Matt Barnett). … In that same game, Colts coach Chuck Pagano was wearing a windbreaker with the team’s old bucking colt logo. … Troy Polamalu, who has an endorsement deal with Nike, wears these New Balance cleats. At first he covered up the “NB” logo, and now he’s added swooshes (from Mike Korczynski). … The Bengals wore captaincy patches on Sunday. Mako Mameli says that’s the first time they’ve done that this season, because they’ve been changing captains each week. … Mike Carey, who reffed the Chiefs/Raiders game on Sunday, had a makeshift uni number made from black tape (from Paul Deaver). … Yesterday I mentioned that the Saints had used pink visor clips on Sunday, but I didn’t have a photo. Now, thanks to Ernie Ballard III, I do.
College Football News: Western Kentucky will wear solid black tonight. … “Kentucky State, a D-II school in Frankfort, still has an old-school mesh jersey,” says Josh Claywell. “You really don’t see jerseys like this anymore.” He’s not wrong, but I’d say the mesh is probably the least interesting aspect of that photo! … Wyoming is going solid gold with a state flag-themed helmet decal this weekend
Hockey News: Here’s a piece about Kings goalie Ben Srcivens’s mask (from Chris Bisbee). … New alternate uniform for the Hartford Wolf Pack. “A little bit too much red for a Rangers affiliate,” says Jordan Lazinsk.
Soccer News: Here’s a closer look at Mexico’s new World Cup kit, which they wore on Friday. … No photo, but Jeremy Brahm was watching Oregon State’s soccer game last night and says their uniforms must have been lost or stolen, because they were wearing T-shirts with no numbers.
Grab Bag: Pinktober has spread to corporate coffee cup holder thingies. “Can’t wait until they just dye my coffee pink, too,” says Adam Hainsfurther. … Yesterday I mentioned that it’s almost unheard of for a sports official to have a visible tattoo. But Caleb Borchers says Steve Walsh, a prominent rugby ref, has “He who controls himself controls the game” inked onto his arm. “Many rugby fans notice it because he didn’t have it, got fired for alcoholism, and then had it upon his rehabilitation and return to the international scene,” says Caleb. “It’s also in the about most conspicuous place a rugby ref can have a tattoo.” … Did you know that Indiana license plates in the early 1980s had a tequila sunrise-esque design? I didn’t (until the Hungry Hungry Hipster told me, that is). … Here’s something I’ve never seen before: Racing Metro 92, a rugby team from Paris, wears its NOBs as a tramp stamp. Here’s another view (from James Vetter). … We’ve seen high school football teams with GI Joe helmets and/or jerseys, but it’s unusual to see a team wearing GI Joe pants. Also of note: Unless I’m missing it, there appears to be no maker’s mark on that uni — refreshing (from David Firestone).
Grrrrrrrrrr: I’m having major internet problems at home today (I’m typing this at a coffee shop near my house), so I may not be responding much to emails or comments. Thanks in advance for your patience.