Back in 2007, when this website was still in its toddler phase, I ran an entry about how Bear Bryant had decided to distinguish the twins Harry and Larry Jones — who both played for Bryant at Kentucky in the early 1950s — by assigning them the uniform numbers 1A and 1B, as seen here:
In that 2007 entry, I mentioned that LSU had done something similar in 1952 (but not just for two players), and I linked to this photo:
The Kentucky example is pretty famous in uniform circles (probably because of its tie to Bryant), but I had pretty much forgotten about the LSU situation until longtime Uni Watch reader/contributor/pal Jared Wheeler recently got in touch. He’d been doing some research in old LSU yearbooks and came across a bunch of great photos documenting the school’s alpha-numeric jersey system from 1952.
First, here’s an explanation of the system, as transcribed from the yearbook:
Coach Gaynell Tinsely and sports publicity director Jim Corbett inaugurated a new letter-number system at LSU, which may revolutionize the football jersey manufacturing industry. Under the new system, ends, guards, and tackles wear the letters E,G, and T [respectively], followed by a number from zero to nine. The right side of the line [is] identified by the even numbers and the left side by odd. Centers, quarterbacks, left halfbacks, right halfbacks, and fullbacks wear C, Q, L, R, and F, respectively, with numbers from one to nine.
The new system makes the task of identification much simpler and serves to give the players, especially lineman, a stamp of individuality. The system was approved by the NCAA rules committee chairman, the SEC commissioner, and the Tigers’ ten 1952 opponents. LSU was the first university to use such a system. UCLA and other schools have since adopted the system.
So that’s the basic protocol. Here are the yearbook pages that show the jerseys in action, along with a team portrait (for all of these, you can click to enlarge):
Pretty cool stuff, right? But there’s more. Since the LSU yearbook mentioned that UCLA had also used an alpha-numeric system, Jared went looking for evidence of that. He found one instance, from 1952:
And that’s not all. Jared also found that Penn had experimented with an alpha-numeric system way back in 1930, for one game against Lehigh:
I don’t know about you, but I’m totally geeked out about this. Major props to Jared for uncovering the documentation of these obscure chapters in uniform history.
Some Time in New York City, Side One, Track One: Thursday’s Ticker included an item about some San Jose Sharks fans are threatening to cancel their season tickets because of the team’s new “ice girls” uniforms. That prompted several comments — both here and on other sites I’ve seen — that basically said, “Hell, that’s nothing compared to other teams’ ice girls unis, so what’s the big deal?”
It’s true that the Sharks’ ice girl unis are pretty tame compared to those used by many other NHL teams, but that just raises the question of why those other teams take such a sexualized approach to their ice girls’ attire. In short, I don’t think the Sharks are the issue here. I think the issue is twofold:
1. First there’s the question of why so many NHL teams think it’s okay to turn a simple custodial function — sweeping the ice with shovels — into an opportunity to present women as sex objects. Would it be acceptable to have scantily clad, all-female staffs of ushers, or turnstile attendants, or hot dog vendors? Assuming the answer is no (and I hope we can agree on that assumption), why is acceptable for ice-shovelers?
2. Then there’s the larger issue of women are marginalized into eye-candy roles in the sports world. From ice girls and boxing’s ring card bimbettes (whose “job” is basically to walk around in a circle and look fuckable while a crowd of neanderthals hoots at them) to NFL cheerleaders (who are treated like crap) and network sideline reporters (a topic that’s currently in the news), the sports world still relegates women into badly stereotyped roles over and over again. It’s something we really should have moved past by now.
To be clear: I have no problem with sex, sexiness, sexy apparel, or sexuality per se. I’ve known some sex workers and pornographers over the years and respect the work they do. But I do have a problem with a mainstream industry that’s mostly run by men and has a pattern of repeatedly ghetto-izing women into sex-object roles. That’s the real issue here.
I wrote most of this entry on Friday. Then, on Saturday, the radio show This American Life ran a segment about how teams treat their cheerleaders. Now, you might be thinking (as I initially did), “Yeah, right, like This American Life really knows anything about cheerleading, or even about sports.” But it turns out that one of the show’s producers is a former Laker Girl, and she had some really interesting things to say about the good and bad aspects of the job, including the attire. One of the most interesting things she brings up is that on the one hand she had to dress like a sex kitten, complete with a push-up bra purchased from Frederick’s of Hollywood, but on the other hand she was told not to drink water from a bottle during any public appearances because that might look too “porny” or “slutty” (all of which reminds me of the old Steve Martin line: “I believe a woman should be put on a pedestal — just high enough to see up her dress”). On balance, though, she enjoyed the job. Check out the segment here:
I’m not necessarily arguing that we should get rid of cheerleaders or banish anything sexy from the sports world, but I’m definitely suggesting that we should think a little harder about the way this industry presents and packages women. A simple step in the right direction would be to replace ice girls with straightforward custodial staffers who are dressed in straightforward team-branded attire, regardless of their gender.
I know the site’s readership is overwhelmingly male, but I also know we have some, if not many, female readers. Women, I’d love to hear what you think about all this — please share your comments with us. Thanks.
Design contest reminder: In case you missed it last week, I’m currently accepting entries for an ESPN contest to redesign the Cavaliers. The entry deadline is this Friday, July 25. Full details here.
Baseball News: Here’s one of the better Majestic commercials for their MLB uniforms that I’ve seen (from Scott Burns). … Who’s that in the top row, second from the right, on the 1908 Abilene High School baseball team? None other than Dwight D. Eisenhower. … The Yankees wore their Memorial Day G.I. Joe costumes yesterday — you know, the ones that were only for one special holiday seven weeks ago. … The D-backs’ broadcast team took the Star Wars thing a little too far yesterday (thanks, Phil). … Here’s one I missed from last month: The San Rafael Pacifics — that’s an independent team in the Bay Area — took the breast cancer thing a bit further back on June 27 by wearing pink dresses. Somewhere, Bill Veeck is smiling (from Jasper Casey). … Buried within this article about the Tigers: “Detroit is 12 games over .500 on the road but entered Sunday’s game with a .500 home record. ‘I don’t really have a concrete reason for it,’ [manager Brad] Ausmus said. ‘I guess we could wear our gray uniforms at home'” (good one, Phil). … Gee ya think today’s players wear their pants too baggy or what? (Phil again.) … The Reds Museum has an old 1930s cap with glasses attached to the brim (from Joanna Zwiep). … Hmmm, did the “378” marker on the Orioles’ outfield wall in 1979 have an upside-down “8”? Sure looks like it (great spot by Frank Mercogliano). … The Dodgers started wearing “Dodger blue” in 1938, when the color was described as “a particularly rich shade of blue” (from Todd Radom).
NFL News: Hmmmm, are the Browns in the NFC? Nope — just a manufacturer’s glitch (from Nicholas Walz). … Hmmmm, check out this shot of Lyle Lovette promoting Washougal Motocross Park with a logo obviously cribbed from the NFL logo (from Greg Brown).
Soccer News: The Spanish team CD Lugo’s new kits feature beer and octopus (from Jeremy Brahm). … The Portland Thorns’ captain was wearing her captaincy armband upside-down yesterday (from Frank Mercogliano).
Grab Bag: A player for the San Antonio Talons — that’s an arena league team — lost one of his front jersey numerals the other night (from Josh Claywell). … Jennifer Hayden attended the recent Blackhawks Convention and spotted these vintage press passes. … NHRA driver Cruz Pedregon wore an Oakland Raiders-themed helmet — for an event in Denver! Bold move (from David Firestone). … If you scroll through the photos on this page you’ll many of the Dutch riders in the Tour de France wearing black armbands in memory of the 173 Dutch passengers who perished in the recent Malaysia Airlines flight (from Michael Rich). … Also from Michael: In the middle of this page is a good map of bowling centers in America. “The map was far more interesting to me when viewed ‘per capita’ rather than by raw numbers,” he says, and I agree. … New jerseys for some German handball team I’ve never heard of. … Check this out: After sheep are shorn, they’re sometimes outfitted in Lycra suits to keep them warm. “There’s a gold mine out there for the person who makes them with LeBron’s name and number on them,” says Tris Wykes.
Nice-seeming fella: I was saddened to learn of James Garner’s death yesterday. From his TV roles (The Rockford Files, Maverick) to his movies (Support Your Local Sheriff, Victor/Victoria, etc.) to those commercials he did with Mariette Hartley, he always struck me as the ideal mix of tough guy and funny guy, with a very endearing self-deprecating wit. When I think of him, the word that comes to mind is “likable.”
I was a big Rockford Files fan as a kid in the 1970s, and one thing I always loved was the opening sequence in which Rockford’s phone would ring and his answering machine (at the time a very exotic-seeming gadget) would pick up: “This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you.” And then you’d hear the incoming message, which was usually someone leaving him bad news, or sounding annoyed, or otherwise giving insight into the trials and tribulations of one James Rockford. And then it would segue immediately from that message into the opening theme music. Last night I was happy to discover that someone has compiled an entire season’s worth of these answering machine messages into this video:
All of which leads to a little story. In 1988 I had what I thought was a clever idea: I would use one of the Rockford answering machine bits — the ringing phone, his greeting, and the incoming message — as the greeting on my answering machine. It would all be very meta, or something like that. In order to do it, I’d need to make an audio recording from a Rockford Files episode. At the time, reruns of the show were being broadcast at something like 2am in New York, so one night I set my VCR to record an episode.
When I woke up, I rewound the VHS tape to the beginning of the episode to hear the answering machine sequence. The incoming message was this one.
I couldn’t believe my luck — I’d gotten an answering machine message about answering machine messages. Meta-meta! I put the entire sequence, from the ringing phone through the middle of the theme song that followed the incoming message, onto an audio cassette and used it as my answering machine greeting for the next several years. (In retrospect, I probably should have just said, “This is Paul. Please leave a message.” But hey, I was young.)
Anyway: Just to bring this back to uniforms, our own Brinke Guthrie came up with a photo of Garner and Dean Martin wearing baseball uniforms at some sort of “Hollywood All-Stars” game:
Garner was looking classy, as always. RIP.