By Phil Hecken
As most of you (especially weekend readers) are aware, the Gridiron Uniform Database (or GUD, for short), the brainchild of Tim Brulia, Bil Schaefer and later, Rob Holecko, has for the past three years been documenting, via historical research, the uniforms worn by professional football teams across America. It’s been an amazing project — truly a labor of love, but also one of great historical import. The site also (this past Thursday) celebrated its third anniversary. Today, I’m pleased to bring yet another important (and perhaps, to fans of the Chicago Bears, life-altering) discovery by the historians of the GUD.
So, without further ado, an introduction from Rob, and then the good stuff, from Bill:
As mentioned earlier, Thursday was the third anniversary of the launching of the Gridiron Uniform Database. You can read all about the material that we have gradually added to the site over the past 36 months here in our blog.
Today, however, Bill Schaefer is going to tell us about a new recent discovery. Bill, as our resident Chicago Bears fan, routinely bleeds navy and orange on many an autumn Sunday. He was there when both Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan were triumphantly carried off as Super Bowl winning coaches in 1986, he gritted his teeth with every Rex Grossman turnover in Super Bowl XLI, and he continues to watch every Jay Cutler pass with trepidation to this day. — Rob Holecko
Have The Bears Not Always Worn Blue and Orange?
by Bill Schaefer
Many of you, I’m sure, have seen at least parts of the collection of Merv Corning’s artwork similar to the George Halas image, and others, above. Mr. Corning was commissioned by the NFL to create the images for the book “The First 50 Years” in 1969. Similar drawings of Ernie Nevers in his Duluth Eskimos uniform and Bronko Nagurski in a psychedelic 1936 Bears uniform have been carved into our collective football souls.
But never, never, never, did I believe for a single second that, if by chance one of these famous drawings could be incorrect, it would happen to be the above drawing of “Papa Bear” George Stanley Halas. Recent evidence has turned up that this uniform, very likely, was not worn until the following year (1921), when the Bears Staleys moved to Chicago.
This marks the second time in the last few years that we at the GUD, along with the help of our loyal viewers and contributors, have discovered an erroneous, long-standing misconception of a very early League franchise. If you remember back to October, 2012, our own Tim Brulia penned an article posted on Uni Watch explaining how, despite the claims of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the ‘bumblebee’ uniform that was made into a throwback jersey that the Steelers have worn the past two seasons and attributed to the 1934 season, had, in fact, only been worn in 1933 (along with the equally detestable ‘City Seal’ jersey).
As THE Bears fan residing in GUD, it pains me to say that it is extremely, 100% likely that the Chicago Bears organization has NOT always worn navy and orange. “Sacrilege,” you say? I couldn’t agree more. Up is down. Black is white. Cats and dogs getting along. We’re talking the seventh sign of the apocalypse here!
How could this happen? All football fans with a shred of League historical knowledge know how George Halas, a University of Illinois alum, purchased the Decatur Staleys and remade them in the image of his alma mater donning the navy and orange that the Bears have worn for almost 100 years. What we have discovered, with the help of a contributor, identified as “LJP,” that no fewer than 6 different articles from the 1920 Decatur Review refer to the Staleys as wearing red (or crimson) jerseys.
Two possibilities exist. The first option is that the reporter for the Decatur Review was color blind and his editor didn’t notice any of these ‘errors.’ The second option, and dare I say the more likely of the two, is that the Staleys actually wore red. In hindsight, I guess we should have seen this coming. After all, since the story goes that he remade the team in the image of the University of Illinois, the Staleys HAD to have been in something else besides navy and orange to necessitate that subsequent change in the first place.
While we don’t have enough to substantiate the reason for this discrepancy in the history of the Bears’ organization, enough is known that we can assemble a viable postulate for the circumstances surrounding what likely happened over 90 years ago.
In 1920, George Halas moves to Decatur, Illinois, to take a position with the A.E. Staley Company, a starch manufacturer. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Staley Co. bore red in its logo and the team was supplied with red jerseys. The team takes a financial loss in 1920 despite superior play and Halas buys the team in order to move them to the big city, Chicago. There is a suspicion that a condition of the sale, likely an advertising ploy, is that Halas must retain the team nickname of “Staleys” for one year after moving to Chicago. This would explain the single year of operating as the “Chicago Staleys” in 1921. However, Chicago already boasts a professional football team, the Cardinals, who wear…you guessed it…red jerseys (technically maroon but definitely in the same ‘ballpark’). That year Halas refurbishes the team in the navy and orange image of his beloved alma mater, the University of Illinois, in order to appeal to local fans and eliminate any chance for confusion with the Cardinals. With the conditions of his purchase satisfied, in 1922, Halas renames his team the “Bears” because football players are larger than the baseball-playing denizens his team will be sharing Wrigley Field with, the Cubs, thus creating a timeless link between the two franchises.
There is even a distinct possibility, though unsubstantiated at this point, that the Staleys continued to wear red jerseys early on in the 1921 season before eventually changing colors at some time in midseason but that remains unconfirmed at this point.
We have six references from the Decatur Review that describe the Staleys as having worn red. (Note: These are reproduced in the GUD Blog Article.)
Because of this preponderance of evidence, we are changing the image for the 1920 Decatur Staleys to a crimson/red version of their jerseys, assuming that the general design was correct and the colors, only, were incorrect. We are, however, holding off on changing the 1921 image to include additional red combinations until such a time as evidence is produced proving that they were, indeed, worn after 1920.
Hopefully, my fellow Bears fans can come to grips with this as I have.
Thanks Bill (and Rob & Tim). Great stuff, as always! Congratulations on your third anniversary, and here’s to many, many more!
Last night, the Phillies and Cubs threw back to 1964. I’m not 100% certain why this year was chosen (since the Phils chose it), because those Phillies suffered one of the most famous collapses in history. They were so close to winning the NL, in fact, that they even had World Series tickets printed and sold:
Now, on Fathers’ Day in 1964, at Shea Stadium, Jim Bunning had a pretty good outing. In fact, he tossed a perfect game, which was (and still is) one of the rarest feats in baseball. And the Phillies will wear last night’s throwbacks again on Sunday, which is Father’s Day — and almost the 50th anniversary of that feat. But he tossed it on the road, so the 1964 throwbacks worn last night would be different from those Bunning tossed his no-no in.
The Cubs were outfitted in 1964 throwbacks as well. Lets see how they did.
On the left, above, is the 1964 uniform, and on the right is the throwback. Looks like they got that part pretty correct.
How about the Cubs?
From the front, the Cubs throwbacks seemed pretty spot-on as well.
Here’s some more shots of both teams.
Ok, aside from most of the players wearing the uniforms in 2014 style, extra baggy and with shoe-length pants, it looked pretty good. How’d they look together?
I wouldn’t go quite so far as this assessment, however:
— PhilliesSGA (@PhilliesSGA) June 14, 2014
But wait, what’s with the numbers on the backs of the Phillies uniforms? In 1964 (and the years surrounding it), the Phillies sported HUGE numbers:
Last night? Not so much:
UPDATE: Just received this note from Al Yellon (Managing Editor from Bleed Cubbie Blue, who wrote about the game:
The Phillies & Cubs wore throwbacks Friday night.
The Cubs uniforms were AWESOME, and perfect replicas.
The Phillies got their own numbering style wrong! I wrote about it here.
Also, according to Dan Fuller (who provided this screenshot below), the Phils engaged in a simple decal swap on the helmets — the blue button (it was a white button in 1964) decal was still there:
Pretty sloppy, if you ask me. The button decal is a minor, but still important detail, but the HUGE numbers were one of the hallmarks of the uniform worn back then. It almost seemed as if they took the current uniform template (which is very similar anyway) and simply took the names off the back, but added standard block numbers (they wear a rounded font now).
I didn’t really spot anything wrong with the Cubs roadies — they seemed to be OK. In 1964, the Cubs had rounded numbers — I didn’t see the game and didn’t see any full back shots, but it seemed the numbers were rounded, a la 1964:
As I mentioned above, the Phillies will wear these uniforms again on Sunday, as they celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Bunning’s no hitter, but the Cubs will wear their regular uniforms.
If any Phillies or Cubs fans saw this game and have any observations I may have missed, please let us know in the comments.
Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.
Back today with a pair from our colorizer-extraordinaire George Chilvers, who as always, has turned in phenomenal work. Click on any image to enlarge.
A bit late for this week probably:
“OK guys – the votes have been counted for what colors we should wear….”
Brown v Cornell at Polo Grounds 1914
And it wouldn’t be World Cup time without a soccer colorization, right?
There was some discussion this morning on a Facebook Football Nostalgia page I subscribe to, providing a picture of an Everton player of the late 1950s in a kit that screamed out to be colourised.
As it’s raining here I got out my packet of crayons and got to work. This is Tommy E Jones (he had to add the E as there was another Tommy Jones in the team at the same time).
Thanks George. Great colorizations, as always. OK, colorizers — love for you guys to have your latest work featured on here. Keep ’em coming!
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.
And so, lets begin:
First up today is Josh Escobar, who has a great idea for an NFL throwback game:
It’s Josh Escobar. Got another uniform concept for you. I miss the thanksgiving classic when throwbacks were worn and I love when the NHL does it’s winter classic. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the NFL do the same but with league rivalries. I know it’ll never happen but I can dream. Here I got one of the oldest rivalries, the Acme Packers with faux leather helmet with brown face mask & the stripe-heavy Bears throwback.
Next up is Danny Garrison who thought the UWMNT away unis could use a tweak:
Don’t know what earthly use you have for this, but flipping the red and blue makes the kit so much better.
And we close today with Alan Filipczak who has a concept for the Ohio Pilots, NHL team:
I’ve attached a concept for rebranding the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets into the Ohio Pilots. If you’d like to use it for Uni-Watch, feel free to either link to the PDF or copy/paste text and images from the attached Word doc directly to the blog. I could also email along jpg images, but there will be a loss of resolution.
And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.
U.W.F.F.L. Spring League
UWFFL Spring 2014 – Week 14
by Rob Holecko
The UWFFL Spring Developmental league was feeling a little under the weather last week and took a sick day. (It had a nasty post-nasal drip, just didn’t want to get out of the bed. I’m sure you all know that feeling.)
At any rate, Week 13’s games will be made up at a later date, but today we are back with another full slate of competition as we move on to our Week 14 schedule.
Two big games headline our action this week. The only two undefeated teams remaining in the same division face off as the 6-0 Wichita Arrows meet the 6-0 Indiana Lynx. The winner of this game will clinch first place in Group D and be headed to Division II, as they will hold a one-game lead with the tiebreaker, with only one game remaining. NFL-inspired throwbacks are on tap in Greenville, SC as the 4-2 Jacksonville Rhinos take on the 6-0 Greenville Pointers.
Greenville can clinch the Group B Championship with a win and also assure themselves of a Division II berth, while Jacksonville is also fighting for placement in a tough Group B. Greenville is wearing throwbacks inspired by the NFL 1933 Brooklyn Dodgers, it has an olde-English style “G” on the upper left, and uniform number on the upper right. One departure from the Dodgers, it has five torso “grip-strips” instead of the four the Dodgers feature. The Rhinos, meanwhile, are wearing uniforms that pay tribute to the 1995 Jacksonville Jaguars expansion team.
Be sure to head over to uwfantasyfootballleague.com to vote on the other twelve games, and we’ll see you next week.
Added: This just in – it seems there were last minute
discrepancies with some voting tabulations from some of Week 12’s
games. We had an irregular amount of votes come in from some Canadian
Providences after voting ended in a few of those games. While we have
no evidence that any of the Week 12 results were intentionally
tampered with and any outcomes changed, we are surprised to see now
that both Indiana and Wichita, as it turns out, actually lost their
Week 12 games. So neither of those two teams are undefeated at 6-0 as
indicated above, but are both at 5-1 and now in a 3-way tie for first
place in Group D with Toledo.
Good luck to both teams this week!
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Baseball News: Can you say color palette special? That’s what the Astros and Rays will wear in a faux/throwback game on June 21st in St. Pete (the Rays are now marking their third year for whipping out those “if the Rays existed in 1978” unis). … Just beat it! The Gary Southshore Railcats will be wearing jerseys that pay tribute to Michael Jackson on June 21st (thanks, Paul). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: “Point of observation on the DC Baseball History FB page this morning: the similarities between this photo of Don Newcombe and the expansion AL Senators logo. Discuss.” … According to this press release, the reason the Pirates and Cubs wore camo on Tuesday was to raise $50K for three charities (thanks to David Gadd). … Speaking of camo unis, here’s some info on the Reds camo, which was worn Wednesday night. … Paul’s discussion on the Reds evolving wishbone-C logo prompted Kyle Shaner to send a photo of his collection. “The logos on my Reds caps from throughout the years seem to be more open than the current on the field version,” he notes. … This is a pretty bizarre giveaway. The Cards are giving out Jon Hamm bobbleheads on August 18th. Says submitter Scott Davis, “I’ve never heard of a team giving out a bobblehead of a fan before.” … Interesting research from Chris Creamer: The Montreal Expos never wore Canadian flag on uniform, but they did wear the US flag 28 times. … Also from Chris, some teams won’t look terrible in the S&S caps, but some will. Too bad the Yankees couldn’t tell MLB to eff-off with this stupid promotion, but I guess they need to sell caps too. … Check out UC-Irvine’s new jerseys for its College World Series appearance (h/t @gacanefanblog). … Last night the Braves wore their flag desecration jerseys regular home cap (was this a first? They had worn them before with the ‘tomahawk’ cap). … Barry Bonds was famous for (among other things), wearing really long pants as a MLBer. But, he rocked ribbon stirrups during his ASU days (h/T Sully).
NFL News: Yesterday was, of course, Friday the 13th, so the New York Giants wanted to show off 13 scary facemasks (thanks, Paul). Not sure what Friday the 13th has to do with scary things (isn’t that Hallowe’en?), but whatever. … A new Dockers advertising campaign stars Sarah Harbaugh lamenting the fashion crisis facing her husband, San Francisco 49ers football coach Jim Harbaugh (from Tommy Turner). … Tris Wykes was watching an NFL Films piece on the 1970s called The Me Generation. “They just said RB Mike Adamle, who wore No. 1 for the Jets and Chiefs, was the last NFL RB to be allowed to wear a number under 20.”
College Football News: Some colleges will now sell generic jerseys, but THE Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t changing their policy. … Mercyhurst and Slippery Rock will be playing a game in Michigan’s stadium (“The Big House”) this fall, so of course, there’s a logo for that (h/t to @BSage12).
Basketball News: The new Big XII logo is showing up in lots of places now. Here’s how it looks on the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball floor (thanks to @GraffCotter18).
Hockey News: “I’ve been sitting on this since Monday, but it hasn’t come up yet, so I needed to send it along,” writes Dan Herr. “This was seen during his pregame interview prior to Game 3. It looks like there’s a mirror image of the Finals patch next to the actual patch, underneath his sweater. So very odd. Can’t think of any reason why it would be there.” … Jeff Brandon “was wondering if there are any instances of logos looking backwards, such as the Philadelphia Flyers logo looking backwards in this picture. #44’s helmet decal of the P with the wings makes it look like it is flying towards his back, when #28’s P has it going towards his front. Also, with their center rink, they have it like this so when people see it they see it from left to right as if going forward.” Jeff adds, “This could fit for any team with wings, or even the Calgary Flames with their similar logo. Any help would be appreciated.” … “TSN is highlighting some hockey sweater redesigns,” says Seth Moorman. “Some interesting ideas there.”
Soccer News: Here’s a very cool interactive from the New York Times on the evolution of the World Cup soccer ball (thanks, Paul). … Check out these minimalist World Cup team crests (h/t Phillip Foose). … “Awesome” doesn’t even begin to describe these dogs dressed in their national team jerseys. … Oops! Google Doodle uses Ghana’s flag, instead of Cameroon’s (nice find by Ed Westfield, Jr.). … Interesting uni dust-up at the World Cup yesterday, where the Netherlands wore blue (normally they’re in orange) because of a “clash” (but their opponent, Spain, were in white). Normally Spain would wear red which would have clashed with Holland’s orange. So, both countries were in their change kits. The refs, however, wore red/black (which likely would have clashed with either team’s primary kit). I’m still new at this soccer thing, so can anyone explain why at least one nation couldn’t wear their primary? Reader Colin sent in this article which explains why Spain couldn’t wear red but it doesn’t explain why Holland had to wear blue (with Spain not in red). The short answer, of course, is that TV/FIFA call all the shots. TJ Zaremba also sent this explanation, which clears things up a little bit, although it doesn’t make much logical sense. … The Netherlands’ Robin van Persie’s name on the back of his jersey is “V.Persie.” (thanks to Scott M.X. Turner). … And in another ruling, yesterday Australia had to wear gold shorts for their match against Chile (thanks to Trevor Williams and Dan Egner. … One awesome thing about the World Cup, especially since most teams exchange jerseys, is to put the specific match or the flags of the nations competing on the jerseys. While many teams do this, apparently all Nike teams (or most, anyway) do it.
Grab Bag: The George Bush Presidential Library Foundation is holding a sock design contest for former president Bush’s 90th birthday (nice find by Kyle Tarbet). Kyle adds, “He is know for wearing colorful sock designs.” … Since Comcast owns New York City’s famous 30 Rockefeller Plaza, it wants to place its logo atop 30 Rock (thanks, Brinke). … “Just wanted to drop you a line about a St. Louis local story,” writes Bill Garbe. “The long and short of it is Parkway School district is partnering with a local marketing company to license the schools’ logos for apparel and other doodads. One problem: All three parkway schools use logos that are direct ripoffs of NFL/collegiate logos.” … Coleman Mullins found this Iowa State University tie clip at an antique shop. “Not sure it’s all that old but it’s neat either way,” he says. … Ryan Patrick sends in this NCAA Championships link, and he notes, “by scrolling down you can see which sports apparently have custom logos and which don’t.”
Whew! That’s quite the post for today. Thanks to Bill, Tim and Rob, George, the concepters, and Rob again. Helluva Stanley Cup Final (if you missed it, the Kings defeated the Rangers in another Double-OT, winning the series four games to one). Now that one silver/black/white team has won a title, perhaps the other can also wrap it up at home tomorrow night. Go Spurs Go!
Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and I’ll have a very special (now annual) Father’s Day at Uni Watch piece. You won’t want to miss it.
Have a great Saturday and I’ll catch you guys tomorrow.
RIP, Chuck Noll.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken
“I consider the relentless celebration of the military over and over and over and over and over and over again, to the near-exclusion of all other sectors of society, and the conflation of patriotism with militarism, to be very bad indeed.”