By Phil Hecken
Last night, the Houston Astros — playing as the “Houston Eagles” — and the Baltimore Orioles (playing as the Baltimore Elite Giants), engaged in the annual Civil Rights game. Believe it or not, this annual game has been played since 2007.
The first two games were held at AutoZone Park in Memphis, Tennessee. According to WikiPedia, “The intent of the game was to ‘embrace baseball’s history of African-American players,’ as well as to generate interest for future black players, after a demographics survey revealed that the percentage of black players in the league has dwindled over the past twelve years to just 8.4 percent.” If you remember those games (played as Spring Training games), the uniforms were kind of made up, with New York and St. Louis wearing simple block lettered jerseys.
After those two games in Memphis (St. Louis hosted Cleveland, and the New York Mets hosted the Chicago White Sox), the games beginning in 2009 became regular season games. In 2009 and 2010, the games were played in Cincinnati, and MLB began adding actual throwback uniforms. The 2009 game featured the powder blue White Sox vs vested Reds, while the 2010 tilt featured the Reds in 1947 and Cardinals in 1946 uniforms.
In 2011, the game moved to Turner Field in Atlanta (where it would also be played in 2012), and featured the Braves and Phillies first donning Negro League throwbacks, followed by those teams wearing 1974 throwbacks (with the Braves in the uniforms that Hank Aaron set the home run record, and the Phillies in powder blue and burgundy) for the actual Civil Rights game.
In 2012, the Dodgers and Braves hooked up, but didn’t wear any kind of special uniforms (the game was played much later in the year — August 18th — previous games were all in May or June), wearing their regular uniforms but with Civil Rights Game patches on their caps (more photos here).
2013 brought more uni-disappointment as the White Sox hosted the Rangers, and neither team wore any “special” uniforms, instead just putting a patch on jersey and cap.
Fast forward to 2014, and the game was moved to Houston. And MLB decided to return to the wonderful Negro League uniforms that have been gracing MLB diamonds for at least a decade now, in throwbacks hosted in various cities. But MLB had a slight problem — Houston didn’t have much of a Negro League history. In fact, according to Ultimate Astros, the Houston Eagles (to whom the Astros were throwing back) were “Texas’ lone member of the old Negro Leagues.” And even then, the Eagles only existed for two seasons (1949 and 1950), having moved from Newark. You can read about a a day in the life of the Houston Eagles here. The Baltimore Elite Giants, who the Orioles were representing, had a much longer and more illustrious history in the Negro Leagues.
The Eagles, as mentioned above, began in Newark, and played there from 1936 to 1948. A simple google search yields a plethora of gorgeous uniforms the team wore, but a similar search on Houston Eagles yields almost no photos. Those Houston Eagles wore the Newark Eagles uniforms for their entire two-year existence in Houston, and disbanded after that. Unfortunately (for Houston) but fortunately (for America) the reason for their demise was that Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby (and others) broke the color barrier in 1947, and Negro League teams simply couldn’t survive (especially with their best players now joining the Major Leagues). The Elite Giants (who began in 1920 in Tennessee, were renamed “Elite Giants” in 1933), moved to their permanent home in Baltimore in 1938, where they would play until their final season (also in 1950).
So with that as the backdrop, the Astros (Eagles) and Orioles (Elite Giants) wore uniforms approximating those of 1949-50. And they looked great (click on any images to enlarge)!
Unfortunately, the leggings/hosiery were all over the place — some guys went high cuffed…
…while others wore long leggings…
…and others were just styling:
As annoying as the lack of uniform uniforms is, I’ve given up on expecting the players to wear the uniforms with the cut of throwbacks (whether it’s a tight 1970s polyester game, or a 1940’s Negro Leagues throwback). Just getting to see the uniforms of yesteryear is a treat. And the uniforms worn last night were beautiful (and if you looked at the google images for those teams — they seemed to get the Eagles pretty well, although the Elite Giants didn’t seem to match up quite as well).
And both teams did go the (unneeded but nice) extra mile of applying new decals to their helmets so they matched the uniforms (unneeded because there were no batting helmets back in the period to which the teams were throwing back). Still, it looked good (although the Orioles’ helmets still had their orange bill, rather than the red bill of their caps):
All in all, a very enjoyable look back at some of the teams from yesteryear. Glad MLB decided to go back to throwback uniforms (and Negro League ones this time) for the Civil Rights game. Hope this tradition continues in 2015 and beyond.
Readers, what did you think?
This month saw Uni Watch celebrate two milestone anniversaries (15th for the Uni Watch column, and 8th for the blog), and today, I’m pleased to announce another anniversary — for the Gridiron Uniform Database. Many of you readers are likely familiar with the project, which seeks to document every uniform worn by football teams (in all leagues). It was the brainchild of Timmy Brulia and Bill Schaefer, and it’s having a birthday. If you’re not familiar with the GUD, you can read about its birth, right on Uni Watch, here, here, and here.
So, let me turn the remainder of this section over to Tim and Rob Holecko (the
fifth Beatle third GUD member), as they discuss the GUD and announce some new news. So, here’s Rob & Tim with…
GUD’s Third Anniversary
by Tim Brulia with Rob Holecko
After launching the GUD in June 2011 with our collection of NFL uniforms back to 1933, we have grown these three years to add the 1920-32 era, the full weekly matchups all the way back to 1940, as well as spinoff websites featuring the uniforms of the short-lived WFL and USFL leagues. Over 500 viewer submitted corrections and updates have made the GUD that much more accurate as we strive to improve our sites every day. While it may never be totally done, we still have much, much more to bring you in the coming months and years, including this rather sizable addition that we announce today.
In the next two weeks we will be celebrating our third anniversary, and to celebrate the occassion, we are proud to now add to our websites the full graphical history of game officials uniforms. We believe this to be the first sports uniform database of any kind to graphically display a detailed history of game officials attire.
Our Bill Schaefer has once again amazed us by bringing the same attention to detail that he has shown in creating the football uniform graphics we have been displaying for these past three years and applied it to the uniforms of the men who make up the third team on the field, those who officiate the games.
To the GUD we have added the complete history of officials’ uniforms worn in the NFL, the AAFC and the AFL. You can see these uniforms here. We have also completed the WFL officials’ uniforms and the USFL officials’ uniforms, which are available on their respective websites.
You can read in more detail about this addition to our database at the Gridiron Uniform Database blog. In this article, Tim and Bill break down all of the changes to the officials’ uniforms era by era, throughout professional football’s 90+ year history since the beginning of the APFA in 1920.
We hope you enjoy perusing this latest addition to our website.
And of course as always, we would appreciate any alerts to any errors, omissions, or corrections you may have to the officials’ pages as well any to the existing players’ uniform pages, as we move into our fourth year and continue our quest to make the Gridiron Uniform Database the definitive website resource for football uniform information on the internet.
U.W.F.F.L. Spring League
UWFFL Spring 2014 – Week 12
“Who’s The Better Lumberjack?”
by Rob Holecko
We are back with another week of competition in our 2014 Spring Developmental League. Our thanks go out to all of you who took the time to vote last weekend. Today we present to you another full slate of games to vote on, including this week’s spotlight game, another matchup from the Northwest as the (5-1) British Columbia Lumberjacks take on the #1 and undefeated (5-0) Yellowknife Lumberjacks. It’s a summertime all-Lumberjack affair in Yellowknife, this sleepy town of approximately 20,000 people in the Northwest Territories, way the heck of a long way from rest of civilization. Temperatures should be around a beautiful 55 degrees for this game as the days get long and the teams battle for the first time in what may become a regular UWFFL rivalry and compete for the “Big Brown Axe”. This game will go a long way toward deciding first place in the competitive Group F, as these teams both seem to be headed for promotion to the Pacific Coast Conference.
Be sure to head over to uwfantasyfootballleague.com to vote on the rest of our games this week.
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Baseball News: Following up on the lower case/small font lettering that Paul detailed in his most recent ESPN Piece (also from yesterday’s UW lede), Mike Wilson sends along Justin De Fratus for the Phillies. … “I’m a huge Mike Schmidt fan and I’m ashamed to admit that I never knew he briefly wore #22,” writes Jonathan Daniel. “13 games in 1972,” he adds. … Also from Jonathan, how great is this photo of Nolan Ryan? … “There is a Twin Cities-based online publication called MinnPost that has a feature called Minnesota Blog Cabin, which ‘…features the best work by bloggers from around Minnesota’,” says Wolfie Browender. Yesterday featured “a great post by Clark Griffith (son of former Minnesota Twins’ owner Calvin Griffith) who explains how licensing of MLB trademarks came to be in the mid-1970s and how that opened up the market for team merchandise.” … John Furstenthal writes, “When I played baseball at Cal in mid 90’s we were required to wear one of these when lifting weights.” … Good spot from John Przebieglec, who says, “This is the Goose Gossage HoF toy on their website, see a problem?” … Yesterday, Nebraska broke out their ‘rainbow guts’-inspired unis for the College World Series regionals (thanks to David Wilson). … Speaking of ‘tequila sunrise’ inspired unis, here’s what ASU wore yesterday (h/t Alex Simon). … Haggar clothing may not have much (any) cachet these days, but did you know it was once the brand worn by the Mick himself? Nice find by Bruce Menard! … “As an A’s fan since 1968 growing up next door to the Coliseum, I enjoyed Wally Campbell’s ‘White Shoe Diaries’ history of the A’s and white cleats,” says Rich Paloma. “He neglected to mention the only season the A’s didn’t always wear white cleats was 1982 when they had hunter green on the road.” … More Star Wars night jerseys, this time for the Buffalo Bison (h/t Matt Vaughn). … And finally, a “clever” Star Wars jersey (h/t Dustin E.). … The Memphis Red Birds did their own Civil Rights Throwbacks yesterady (h/t Jermaine Curtis). … On June 8, as part of the Cubs on-going 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Celebration, the Marlins will wear 1949 Sun Sox throwback uniforms. … Oooohhh, a double rainbow over Fenway. … The Houston Cougars stirrup game is “strong” (via Marty Garner). … Got a nice note from Jeremy Derr regarding last weekend’s article on the Texas/Detroit throwbacks: “I caught your mentions of negro leagues we regard to the Texas/Detroit throwbacks. Huston Tillotson University in Austin is custodian of a relic, Downs Field in East Austin, a former negro league park. The schools team still plays there, as does the local MABL/MSBL men’s league. I played on this field for years! It’s really amazing to know that I was playing on a field that greats like Satchel Paige are supposed to have played on, too! There was recently an event to raise awareness for the field. I’m told (but am not certain) that HT has a lot of historical documents related to the field and its usage through the years.” Thanks Jeremy! … Well, at least they’re not Tequila Sunrise: Here’s a look at the Louisville post-season unis (from Matt Miele). … The Mariners were giving away fedoras last night (via Robert Silverman). … This is VERY COOL — In 1990, Matt Malinoski wrote to the Expos asking them to explain their logo. They actually have an official reply which they sent back to Matt! You can click to enlarge or read here. … The Oakland A’s are honoring the 1974 WS Team this weekend, and here are the jerseys players will wear for ceremony (big thanks to Rich Paloma). Unfortunately, the game won’t have throwbacks — but it didn’t stop Rich from getting a pic with Sal Bando and Bill North!
College Football News: Is Georgia Tech moving to wear throwbacks as their regular jerseys? Reader Britton Thomas thinks maybe so: “The Georgia Tech Football poster for 2014 has been released. It looks like they’re moving back to the throwbacks Russell attempted to create last year. And it seems that they have worked out the striping inconsistencies from last year’s disaster.” … Trying to anticipate what uniform combo the Oregon Ducks will wear each game is almost a cottage industry, nowadays, but now you can meet the man who already knows everything they’ll wear (spoiler alert: he’s not telling). … Here’s Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick discussing, among other things, the transition from adidas to Under Armour (thanks to Matthew Walthert).
NBA News: “New (Milwaukee Bucks) co-owner Marc Lasry told a Milwaukee radio station on Friday that he and co-owner Wes Edens are looking at changing the Bucks’ team color scheme,” notes Jeff Ash. “It does need a little bit of help,” Lasry said of the Bucks’ red and green. Unfortunately, “No other details, though,” notes Jeff. … Now that the sale of the LA Clippers to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is complete, will he bring back Clippy? (thanks, Brinke). … In Game 6 of the NBA playoffs last night, Roy Hibbert’s right arm sleeve was inside out in the first half and while he fixed it in the second half, he still didn’t tuck in the tag (nice grab by Jason Christie).
Hockey News: New Hockey team for Seattle? Seth Moorman writes, “Did you see the TSN article about some fan mock ups of a Seattle NHL team uniform. Looks like they want to stick with the same color scheme as the other pro franchises in town.” Hmmmm. Pittsburgh can (kinda) pull that “all pro teams in the same color-scheme” thing off — but could Seattle? Some interesting concepts. … Is this an LA Kings Prototype Jersey? “I came across this item from a closed auction regarding a possible prototype of a LA Kings jersey from 1967 that an ex-hockey trainer had acquired,” writes David Hembree. “I love the crown above the sleeve numbers.” … Holy shit — check out this 1972-73 Blackhawks logo (via Todd Radom).
Soccer News: Reprinted from yesterday’s comments (and also sent in by a number of readers) is this AWESOME interactive World Cup kit guide, in which you can ‘explore the history of the World Cup with our graphic guide to every kit for the 32 competing teams since the competition began in 1930.’ … If you happen to find yourself in London (England), you might want to stop by this Genealogy of Innovation — NIKE Football from 1971-2014 exhibit (thanks, Brinke). … Here’s a glimpse at the new Aston Villa kit, from their comic book themed teaser. The full kits will be revealed on Monday (h/t Joshua Dryer).
Grab Bag: Are you a fan of Costacos Bros. posters? Well, Brady Phelps found a guy who probably has the largest collection of Costacos Bros. posters on the planet. Not familiar with Costacos Bros. posters? Read more here. … This is a pretty cool DIY project — creating a miniature felt likeness of Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon (nice find by Paul Richard Cook). … Those of you who tweet have probably noticed your “me” page changed (whether you wanted it to or not), and now Twitter has changed its font from Helvetica Neue to Gotham (thanks, Brinke). … I’m sure Paul’s examination of MLB belts didn’t trigger this, but are belts the next frontier in men’s accessories? (thanks to TommyTheCPA).
And that will do it for this last Saturday (and day) of the month of May. Everyone have a great day and I’ll catch you guys tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“‘Rational’ and ‘douchey’ are not mutually incompatible. No one’s saying it’s (hooking human beings up to vision-tracking glasses) not a clever marketing tactic. However, it widely comes across as invasive & intrusive to men of ordinary habits and sentiments. They’re just doing their jobs. But not every job is worthy of doing, or–even if arguably worth doing–says good things about the men who’d do it.”