At some point six to eight years ago — I no longer recall the exact date but I’m pretty sure it was in 2008 or ’09 — a handful of Uni Watch readers began telling me that they called the little button on top of a baseball cap a squatchee. They said they’d picked it up from former player/manager Bob Brenly, who was working as a color analyst for Cubs games at the time.
I’d never heard of a squatchee before. I knew it wasn’t an “official” term because I had once asked New Era if they had a special name for the cap button, and they said they just called it a button. But I liked the sound of “squatchee,” and multiple readers said the term originated with Brenly, so that was good enough for me. I started using it myself in my writings and even added it to the Uni Watch Glossary, where I attributed it to Brenly.
Readers seemed to like the term, and its use began to spread within the Uni Watch community. At one point our own Robert Marshall took “squatchee” to another level by creating a really clever design showing Sasquatch with a little red button on his head:
More recently, the DIY genius who calls himself Wafflebored created these squatchee lapel pins:
In short: “Squatchee” appeared to have secured a foothold in the uni-verse — maybe not with everyone, but with a decent number of people.
And that might have been that. But at the recent Uni Watch party here in Brooklyn, reader Brad Eckensberger showed me something that rocked my world. It was a copy of the 1984 humor book Sniglets:
For those who are too young or just don’t recall, Sniglets was a series of books by the comedian Rich Hall that emerged from his HBO series, Not Necessarily the News. The idea is that a sniglet is a word that doesn’t exist but should exist, and that “sniglet” itself is an example of such a word. This concept spawned several popular books back in the 1980s and early ’90s. I was never much of a sniglets fan myself, but I recall the books being something of a phenomenon at the time.
Anyway: Eckensberger brought the book to the Uni Watch party because he wanted to show me an entry on page 77. Check it out, at the bottom (click to enlarge):
Eckensberger tells me he remembered having seen that entry in the book when he was a kid. He recently went hunting for a used copy of the book to confirm his recollection and then brought it along to the Uni Watch party, where it blew my mind.
This raised several questions:
1. All these people who told me they heard Bob Brenly saying, “squatchee” — was he actually saying, “squatcho,” and something got lost in the translation?
2. Assuming Brenly did say either “squatchee” or “squatcho,” where did he learn the term? Did he get it from the sniglets book?
3. Over the years I’ve seen a few people refer to a “squatcho,” but I always figured those people were just getting Brenly’s term wrong. In some cases I even corrected them (which I now feel badly about). Did those people actually learn the term from the sniglets book?
With all these questions racing through my mind, I realized it was high time to do something I should have done years ago: I needed to talk to Bob Brenly.
Brenly is currently employed as a color analyst for Diamondbacks games, so I began by contacting the D-backs. Now, I’ve done some pretty geeky things over the course of my life, but let me tell you, if you ever want to feel like the biggest dweeb ever, call up an MLB team publicist and tell him you want to discuss sniglets, squatchees, and squatchos (or would that be squatchoes?) with one of his broadcasters.
Anyway: I spoke with Brenly (shown at right) a few days ago. Very nice guy, and he was extremely patient with all my questions. Here’s how our chat went:
Uni Watch: Do you in fact have a term that you use for the little button on top of a baseball cap, and if so, what is it?
Bob Brenly [chuckling]: I personally prefer “squatcho.” The first time I heard it was from Mike Krukow, a teammate of mine from the Giants.
UW: Do you recall when that might have been?
BB: Ah, jeez, I’d say around 1983-ish, maybe. [Brenly and Krukow both played for the Giants from 1983 through ’89. — PL] And he did call it a squatchee, but I think it kinda rolls of your tongue better as squatcho. So I kind of modified it a little bit. I think either term is appropriate for the button on top of the hat. This actually came about because back in those days, catchers were not required to wear a helmet underneath their masks…
UW: Right, you could just wear your soft cap.
BB: Yes. But that button on top of the cap was a brain tumor waiting to happen, if you happened to get hit by a backswing or foul tip. [Brenly was a catcher in his playing days. — PL] So I just started taking the button off.
UW: So you would personally modify the cap? You would remove the button?
BB: Yeah, yeah. They’re very easy to take off. For any youth out there who want to follow my lead, if you open a door, any door, there’s a little slot there in the doorway, and if you just stick the squatchee in there — or squatcho — and then if you pull, the button will come off. And then you have to reach inside the hat and take out the little metal piece that held the button in place. Once you got that out of the way, foul tips off the squatcho were no longer a problem. I mean, they still hit you on the head, but they didn’t drive that button down into your skull.
UW: Okay, so you picked up the term from Krukow, and you modified it from squatchee to squatcho. And have you used it on the air in your broadcasting work?
BB: I think I’ve used both terms. You know, they’re interchangeable. Either one is correct, in my view. I don’t think you can go wrong identifying an obscure piece of equipment. My recollection is that Krukow was the first one to use it. I’m not sure where he got it, but knowing him, he probably made it up. He was very good at starting urban legends, starting myths and rumors and stories.
UW: Does the term “sniglet” mean anything to you? It was this series of old books about words that don’t exist but ought to exist. And it turns out that in one of these books, from 1984, there’s an entry for “squatcho,” which it identifies as the button on top of a baseball cap. I’m wondering if maybe Krukow got it from there. I guess he should be the next person I call.
BB [laughing]: Anything that has to do with obscure, ridiculous baseball terminology, Krukow’s a great resource.
UW: If you were discussing all of this with someone today, which term would you use — squatchee or squatcho?
BB: I still prefer squatcho. I think there’s a certain panache to adding the “o” rather than the “ee” at the end.
UW: But just to confirm, you think you have probably used both terms somewhat interchangeably on the air?
BB: Yeah, somewhat interchangeably. I’ve been asked about squatchee before by various broadcast partners, and I told them basically what I told you, that squatchee is the way I first heard it but squatcho is how I refer to it. I think some other catchers from back in the day, I think they all called it squatcho too.
UW: Interesting. For what it’s worth, here’s a little tidbit for the next time you’re working a game where David Price is pitching: Price always removes the button from his cap. Or maybe he has them made without the button, I’m not sure. He refers to it as “the ouch button.” So his cap doesn’t have a squatchee, or a squatcho, or whatever you want to call it.
BB: That’s good background — I’ll make a note of it!
What a fun interview! You should have seen me when I hung up the phone — I was all smiles.
Still, the chat with Brenly raised as many questions as it answered. My next step, clearly, was to contact Mike Krukow (shown at left), who currently works as a Giants broadcaster. So I went through the same embarrassing routine with the Giants’ PR people, who obligingly set me up with Krukow. We spoke yesterday. Here’s how it went:
Uni Watch: Bob Brenly says he picked up the word “squatchee” from you, when the two of you were teammates with the Giants in the 1980s. Did you come up with the term?
Mike Krukow: No. I was standing in a line at a bookstore in Pittsburgh, probably around 1984. I was waitin’ to pay, and they had a book there on the counter, and it was called Sniglets. So I’m kinda goin’ through the book, and one thing that immediately caught my eye was “expresshole,” which is what you call someone who brings 15 items in the “10 Items or Less” express checkout line. I thought that was pretty funny, so I flipped through the book some more and then I saw the entry for “squatcho.” And that was it!
UW: So you adopted the term at that point?
MK: Yes. Nobody had ever heard it before. And the reason it was relevant to us was… [at this point Krukow basically repeats the story about how Brenly would remove the button from his cap because he was a catcher — PL]. So that was it. It was a squatcho. I don’t know if any other clubhouse, or any other person on the planet, used that term except for us.
UW: When you say, “us,” do you mean just you and Brenly? Or did your other teammates use it as well?
MK: All the Giants, pretty much. In our clubhouse, it was a squatcho.
UW: Brenly remembers you saying squatchee, not squatcho, but you’re saying he’s wrong about that..?
MK: I may have, I don’t know. But it was squatcho in the book, so I think that’s what I used.
UW: Has it remained in your lexicon? Do you use it on the air?
MK: Absolutely — that’s what it’s called. As far as I’m concerned, that’s Bible!
UW: And you always use squatcho, not squatchee?
MK: Yes, squatcho.
UW: And when you’ve brought it up, have your play-by-play partners asked you about it?
MK: Well, no, because Duane Kuiper’s been with me since we were sitting together on the bench as players. So we called it squatcho back then.
UW: [At this point I tell Krukow the same thing about David Price and “the ouch button” that I had previously told Brenly. — PL]
MK: You know, here’s the thing: If you’re sitting in the dugout, your initial reaction when someone hits a long ball or makes a great play is to stand up. And if you’re tall, at some of the older ballparks, like Wrigley Field, you’ll hit your head on the top of that god-danged dugout. And if you’ve got that button there, see ya later. So for someone like David Price, who’s what, 6’6″? [Price is indeed 6’6″. — PL] Yeah, I can see why he’d be pulling his squatcho.
So there we have it. Krukow saw “squatcho” in the Sniglets book, it somehow evolved into “squatchee” in Brenly’s memory, and the two terms have established a certain legitimacy among some members of the uni-scenti.
I’d say we have two remaining orders of business:
1. It would be good to check in with Rich Hall and get his take on all this. He spends most of his time these days in London, so I’ve asked his UK-based booking agency to put me in touch with him — no response yet. Frankly, I’m not optimistic on this front. Sniglets was a long time ago, and I imagine he’d rather discuss his current projects that re-hash something from 1984. But we’ll see.
2. Which term should we use? Personally, I much prefer squatchee over squatcho. Maybe it’s because I heard it first, or maybe I’m just more accustomed to words that end in an “ee” sound (rookie, yuppie, junkie, etc.). But squatcho is clearly the original term, so that should count for something. What do you think? Feel free to vote here:
Finally, on a personal note, I really should have contacted Brenly years ago, when this topic first came to my attention. It was lazy of me to accept the term’s origin story (and, for that matter, to spread that story) without confirming it first. Mea culpa.
(Mega-thanks to Brad Eckensberger, who got this whole ball rolling by bringing the sniglets book to the recent Uni Watch party.)
Click to enlarge
A good week for NBA throwbacks: More retro goodness on NBA courts last night, beginning at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks debuted their very tasty 1950s throwbacks (see above). Additional photos here.
Shortly after the Knicks game ended, the Warriors wore “The City” for the first time this year. They’ve worn this throwback design in past seasons, but this time around there’s a new wrinkle — the NBA’s first full-scale throwback floor design, complete with the throwback logo at center court:
— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) November 18, 2015
There are some game photos here. Unfortunately, this version of the “The City” differed from previous throwback iterations in one key respect:
— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 18, 2015
Meanwhile, with “The City” back on the court last night, uniform designer/historian Todd Radom reached into his archives for something very cool — the cover of the Warriors’ media guide from 1966-67, which is the season when “The City” made its debut (the lunch meats ad at the bottom is a nice bonus):
ITEM! New T-shirt project: Big thanks to everyone who ordered the ugly sweater T-shirt, which was one of our more successful designs. And while I’m at it, super-duper-thanks for all the support, feedback, and fun you folks have provided during the course of the T-Shirt Club’s 2015 run — it’s been a really enjoyable project (yes, even the “Pandering” debate), and I appreciate all the interest it’s generated. My continued thanks also to my Teespring partner and designer, Bryan Molloy, who’s been amazing to work with (and also amazingly patient) throughout the year.
We’re still figuring out how the T-Shirt Club will work next year. We’ll definitely do something, but it probably won’t be quite like this year. Stay tuned.
If you ordered all 12 of the 2015 designs and qualify for the year-end prize (which, in case you missed it last week, will be an embroidered patch featuring this design), please prove that you’ve collected ’em all by either (a) taking a photo of all 12 shirts or (b) taking screen shots of your 12 order-confirmation emails from Teespring and putting the 12 shots into a folder. Then email the photo or the folder to TshirtClubProof@gmail.com (note that this is a new address — please do not send your proof to the regular Uni Watch email address), and be sure to include your mailing address so I know where to mail the patches once they’re ready to go.
Now then: With the holidays approaching, today we’re launching three new designs that are not technically part of the T-Shirt Club (no sleeve patch, no month designation) but are very much in keeping with the spirit of the project. Take a look (click to enlarge):
Each of these three designs — “Vertically Arched,” “Radially Arched,” and the plain script with nothing on the back — is available in all three colors shown (white, black and grey). In addition, each design and color is available in three formats: short-sleeved tee, long-sleeved tee, and sweatshirt. Plus the plain script design is also available as a hoodie with pockets. (We couldn’t do that format for the other designs because the front number would have printed on the pockets, which wouldn’t look good.) So if you tally up the three designs times the three colors times the three formats plus the hoodie option, you get 30 possible combinations. I absolutely do not recommend that you try to collect ’em all. (For that matter, of course, you don’t have to collect any of them.)
These shirts are available here. They’ll be offered for three weeks — up until Dec. 9 — which means they’ll deliver in time for Christmas.
I think that’s it.
Gift Guide reminder: As I mentioned yesterday, I’m currently working on my annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide, which will appear on ESPN shortly after Thanksgiving. If you know of any cool uni- or logo-related gifts (aside from the obvious team merch like jerseys and caps), do tell. Thanks.
Key Ring Stories reminder: In case you missed it a few days ago, I’m accepting photos and stories for a new project about the things that people keep on their key rings. This should be a really fun project for everyone — full details here.
Baseball News: The Blue Jays will wear a 40th-season patch next year. … The latest necktie project from DIY genius Wafflebored is this 1915 Yankees beauty. … Shades of U.L. Washington: Check out this Cuban pitcher who pitches while chewing on a toothpick (from Dennis Abrams). … Whoa, check out this shot of a baby-faced Teddy Ballgame from his minor league days (from Jonathan Daniels). … Ladies and gents, your Hartford Yard Goats inaugural uniform set. The team also has what appears to be history’s scariest mascot. Further info here. “If you ask me, I think their New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company font looks awesome as a chest insignia, as does the Whalers color scheme,” says Jason Siedzik. I’m inclined to agree on both counts. … “On Tuesay night’s Tosh.0, there was a sketch in which Daniel Tosh dressed in a baseball uniform and then hit his co-workers with a plastic bat,” writes Ferdinand Cesarano. “He went high-cuffed with stirrups.”
NFL News: This is interesting: Patriots coach Bill Belichick grew up in a military family and has a long history of supporting the military, but he doesn’t wear any of the NFL’s camouflage apparel (from @just___rants).
College Football News: Lots of chatter about possible new red helmets for Cincinnati (thanks, Phil). … Arizona State has its rivalry game against Arizona this weekend. So what is ASU wearing? BFBS, of course. … Boston College will be wearing throwbacks for the Shamrock Series game at Fenway against Notre Dame. … Someone had the fun idea of taking LSU’s live tiger mascot — like, the real tiger, not a guy in a tiger suit — and feeding him raw meat in the shape of other schools’ mascot logos (from @halfmut). … “On the TV show Fresh Off the Boat, one of the neighbors came over for Thanksgiving dinner dressed up in an old-school football uniform,” reports Chris Flinn. “Should’ve been an older football, too.” … Notre Dame’s helmets and jerseys are being prepared for the Shamrock Series game.
Hockey News: NOB typo alert! Stars G Antti Niemi skated out onto the ice last night with his surname misspelled. Someone must have noticed because it was soon fixed. … The Capitals will have a new third jersey “presented by Boeing,” whatever that means, next month (from David Raglin). … Someone redesigned the full slate of NHL jerseys and included ads (thanks, Phil). … One designer is responsible for a lot of the worst “patriotic” minor league hockey jerseys. … Anthony Zych’s latest Blue Jackets gameday poster designs: For a game against the Coyotes, he came up with a Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote motif, and for a game against the Blues he went with a blues band theme. (Leo Welsh is the guy who sings the national anthem at Blue Jackets games.) I interviewed Zych the other day — just need to transcribe the tape so you folks can see what he had to say. … This season’s NHL All-Star Game will have a new format featuring four teams instead of two. Does that mean there will be four uni designs instead of two? Trying to find out.
NBA News: Ever wonder what NBA uniforms would look like if they were designed by Kanye West? Me neither, but some graphic designer decided that would make a fun project (blame Phil).
College Hoops News: Michigan State wore 1979 throwbacks last night, but one player lost the “S” on his chest insignia (from Phil and @AZJoshM, respectively). … New court for Morehead State (from Noah Hughes). … Maryland will have throwbacks for the upcoming game against Georgetown. And in a related item, here’s an entire article on the program from the 1973 Georgetown/Maryland game (from Tommy Turner). … N7 uniforms tonight for San Diego State (from @bigdeegz). … New warm-ups for Georgetown.
Grab Bag: I’ve recently taken aim at some irksome (to me) uni-related terminology, including “rebranding” and “gear.” For what it’s worth, I’m not the only one who gets persnickety about language. In the wake of the Paris attacks, I’ve read two excellent essays pushing back against certain buzzterms — one about “mastermind” and another about “boots on the ground.” Both are highly recommended. … Faaascianting trademark-infringement case underway involving those tree-shaped car fresheners. … There’s a new photo book devoted to hip-hop T-shirts. … A Spanish TV news reporter mistakenly used the Star Wars Rebel Alliance logo and thought it was the Al-Qaeda logo. … New logo for the 2018 World Equestrian Games. … NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon’s final Sprint Cup race is this weekend, so Hendrick Motorsports cars will have their numbers rendered in “Jeff Gordon yellow” as a tribute (from @JayJayDean). … An Australian Navy squadron has a patch based on the South Park depiction of Russell Crowe (from Duncan Wilson). … New logo for Washington DC’s airports (from William Yurasko). … Old curling brooms had some very cool logos. … Several rugby teams are getting ridiculous superhero jerseys (from @Stumpy7780). … Michael Gross, who designed the Ghostbusters logo and also created National Lampoon’s famous “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog” cover design, has died (thanks, Brinke).