By Phil Hecken
Got an interesting e-mail yesterday from reader Chris Proctor. It plays into a number of themes on Uni Watch, including my recent (and soon to be re-started “What’s Your Sign(ature)?” series) — namely, what team looked their “best” when they won a championship? Much as I believe a team’s best uniform and the one for which they’re most likely to be remembered (their “signature” uni, if you will), are not necessarily the *same* uni, Chris brings up a great topic that I’m sure deserves more discussion — and clearly opinions will come into play here. I’ll let Chris take it from here:
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By Chris Proctor
This is something I’ve been thinking about since the Cavaliers won the title last summer, what are the best “Championship Looks”? By that I mean, which teams looked the best when they won their respective titles? It was such a huge moment for Cleveland but, unfortunately, the lasting image will always be them celebrating while wearing, what look like, t-shirts bought from Academy. The Cubs win was a historic moment, but the pictures will always be of them wearing their batting practice jerseys instead of “CHICAGO” proudly across their chest. Obviously teams usually look better when they win at home, but the Indians were wearing their batting practice jerseys too.
So, what do you think are some of the best looking championship moments? Here are some of my recent suggestions:
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2013 World Series — White Red Sox over the beautiful grey Cardinals against the backdrop of Fenway Park. Hard to top.
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Super Bowl XLV — The home Green Bay Packer uniforms are always great.
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2008 and 2010 NBA Finals — Lakers and Celtics both winning on their home court. Would have look great even if the road team had won. Best looking match up in NBA history.
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2013 Stanley Cup Finals — Blackhawks over Bruins. Two classic, basically unchanged, uniforms.
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And finally, my personal favorite. I’m a Cowboys fan so for me, this looks the best:
Classic Cowboys white vs. very solid Buffalo Bills blue against the backdrop of the Rose Bowl. Can you imagine if the Cowboys were to go to the Super Bowl and wear their blues? That would just look weird.
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Anyway, I always think about this kind of stuff and my wife simply says, “I don’t care.” Lovingly though, but still. Not many people care about this kind of stuff and I thought you might. Thanks for your time.
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Phil here. Good stuff, Chris — and certainly a good basis to start a discussion.
Those are certainly some solid choices, but they only cover the past 15 years or so (or say, from 2000 to present). While the Packers are a fantastic choice for football, might there have been an even better matchup than the Steelers (lotsa gold pants there)? You might be hard-pressed to find a better looking matchup in the 2000s (one could argue the Colts vs. Bears was a great one as well). Another solid choice with Sawx vs. Cardinals — was there a better one in the 2000s? The 2006 Series was Cards vs. Tigers, but that one ended with the Cards at home, Tigers in their roads — which would be even more classic if they were reversed? What about other decades or the other sports? Blackhawks is (again) a solid choice — but what about 2010 when the ‘hawks were in white and the Flyers were in orange? Just throwing that out there. In hoops, it’s hard to argue against the Celtics or Lakers, as long as they’re in their classic unis.
What do you guys think? What are your choices for best “Championship Looks” — as defined by the unis being worn when the team won the final game? Let’s hear your choices for the 2000s — did Chris nail it, or do you have other thoughts? How about other decades? What were the top ones of the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, 1960s? Which decade had the best overall looks?
Let’s have your thoughts down below!
In Search of…
…the “Perfect” Baseball Card
Earlier this year, I ran a post in which reader Ray Hund described his quest — and “rules” — for a “Perfect” baseball card. I had asked readers to submit their own submissions for what they considered to be their own version of the perfect card. I’ll run these periodically. If you have a submission for your own “Perfect” baseball card, shoot me an email with a short(ish) writeup and of course, an image (or images) of your own perfect card.
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We begin today with Jeff Spry (who actually had *two*):
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I love this idea and hope you print all of the entries – I loooove reading about old cards. Here are my two nominees:
1976 Johnny Bench
The Reds won the Series in 1975 and Bench was in full power as the game’s greatest catcher. This card always captured my attention – I love the look of the warrior, who surely has just tagged out some would-be run-scorer, no doubt in a collision where the other guy is in great pain, with nothing but a cloud of dust remaining. This captures the essence of Bench well. The uniform is obscured, though you can see part of the “C” logo and should be excused because of his position and the tools of ignorance. As much as I hated Bench destroying the Yankees later that summer, there is NO question – this is a GREAT CARD.
1978 Reggie Jackson
Reggie was coming of the most amazing display of power in World Series history, hitting three home runs off three Dodgers’ pitchers to win the 1978 championship. Here, Reggie is coming out of his shoes once more to launch another moon shot. The classic Yankee logo is obscured but you can see the pinstripes in all their glory. Perfect card for Reggie.
And we conclude today with Carl Anderson (with THREE plus some Honorable Mentions):
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Three Cards come quickly to mind. Though, I’m sure I can think of more.
1. Paul Molitor, Topps 1979.
Simply put, Paul Molitor’s ’79 card is the most beautiful baseball card I own. It’s the sunlight, the gorgeous Brewers batting helmet, and Molitor’s downward glance and almost demure smile. He’s a kid at the beginning of what will be a Hall of Fame career. He kind of reminds me Montgomery Clift in “Red River.” The Brewers were second in the AL in 1979. Molitor hit for .322 and scored 88 runs.
2. Gorman Thomas, Topps 1980.
“MY NAME IS GORMAN THOMAS AND I HIT HOMERUNS.” My favorite baseball card design and perhaps my favorite baseball uniform. Gorman hit 38 HR in 1980 and lead the AL in strikeouts. As you can see, he also had nice hair and a great mustache. The 1980 Brewers went 86-76.
3. Bret Saberhagen, Topps 1988.
Topps’s minimalist design and the simplicity of this photograph are perfectly matched. And the powder blue Royals uniform goes great with the green and white border. Shame about the elastic pant cuffs, though. 1988 was a down year for Bret. He went 14-16 with an ERA of 3.80
Joel Youngblood, Topps 1978. Looks like a lumberjack or a steel driver. The shorter sleeves remind me of an earlier era.
Alan Trammell, Topps 1983.
–Carl Robert Anderson
I received a bunch of submissions from you guys already, and I’ll continue to run them — if you’d like to send me your “perfect” card, my e-mail address is above.
In Case You Missed It…Paul’s Latest ESPN Piece
With the Oakland Raiders moving to Las Vegas, Paul asked readers for their concepts on how they might look “after getting a facelift” for their relocation to the desert. Tinkering with the Raiders’ look is a dicey proposition because most fans like the team’s uniforms just the way they are. How can you mess with the iconic silver and black? Still, there were some interesting entries!
If you didn’t read Paul’s latest piece, here ya go. Totally worth the read if you’re at all into redesign contests (or even if you’re not).
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: Here’s the Prince-themed T-shirt Minnesota Twins players will wear during batting practice on “Prince Night” June 16 (from Tyler Mason). … I’ll be honest, I had to google “Guy Harvey” when I saw the Daytona Tortugas were wearing special Guy Harvey jerseys for last night’s game. Turns out he is a Jamaican marine wildlife artist and conservationist. Here’s how they looked on the field (from Daytona Tortugas). … Beautiful colorization from Bruce Menard of Babe Ruth smacking home run number 710. … If you like patches and the like, The Emblem Source has just gotten space in the Mariners shop, so you can get many items at several MLB ballparks now (Currently there are fixtures at Yankee Stadium, Safeco Field, and Wrigley Field.). … The great Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams, was and will always be known as a member of the Red Sox, but he also managed the Texas Rangers (from Bruce Menard), and prior to that the Washington Senators. It’s still odd to see him in anything but Red Sox garb. Almost like seeing Joe DiMaggio as a member of the Athletics. … Andrew Mccutchen was “rocking (a) Griffey logo on arm band!” exclaims Jorge Cruz. He then adds, “Wouldn’t be cool if this became the official Nike baseball logo?” … The Oakland A’s were sporting Golden State Warrior-themed BP jerseys yesterday (from Kris Vossmer). Here’s another look (from kyle rancourt). … Columbia University wore some pretty gorgeous hose yesterday (from Forward Progress T’s). … The Jacksonville Sharks will wear special jerseys for their Military Appreciation Night game on May 6, which will feature World War II B-17 bombers on the front & back. … Check out this beautiful jersey the Phillies wore for ONE season — 1938. Their last season at Baker Bowl and first season at Shibe Park — a mid-season switch (from Alex Cheremeteff). Here’s how that jersey looked on the players in their last game at Baker Bow. (also from Alex_. … It’s tough to see in this pic (but I watched the game live and can confrim) — but Addison Reed was wearing the wrong cap last night (it *should* have the white outline, as the mets were wearing their alt-blue smocks). From Alejandro DeJesus). Here’s another view (from James Beattie). Best view is here from Niko Goutakolis). It just proves the stupidity of having an alt-cap that’s essentially the exact same as the primary cap. I’m sure this won’t be the last time this happens. … The Gwinnett Braves had a sort of crossover theme night with Atlanta United FC. If you’re interested in bidding (they’re auctioning them), go here (from Cody Fortune). … The San Diego Padres script & logo were rainbow colored on their scoreboard in support of Out at the Park night (from Brandon Wright). … The Pittsburgh Pirates honored the Steelers’ Dan Rooney last night with a hypocycloid logo on the pitcher’s mound and his name and birth/death years behind the plate (from juice).
NFL/College/High School/Football News: Roary (yes, that’s the name of the Lions’ mascot) was spotted yesterday wearing the teams new uniform. I still hate the “LIONS” on the northwestern sleeve stripe, but otherwise, I’m definitely not hating the new unis (from Douglas). Yes, I know this was in yesterday’s ticker. … WHOA!!! Check out this gorgeous, color film of a true, sandlot football game from Pennsylvania in 1940 (from 216 Sports History). … Also from 216, check out this magazine ad for the phantom “CB” helmet design that the Browns nearly wore in the 1960s. … Upper Iowa University (the Peacocks) have a new helmet logo (from sam). Actually, they have a whole new “brand identity” and logos. … We can never have enough articles about Packers’ seamstress Florence Van Sistine, can we? That’d be a “no” (from Michael Bialas). … Here are some photos of the Iowa Barnstormers First Responders night uniforms. Jerseys will also have badge numbers of 6 local fallen officers (from Connor Ferguson). … In College “uni” news, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved delaying a rule until the 2018 season that requires players to wear kneepads and pants that cover the knees. It is “recommended strongly” that the pants cover the knee for the 2017 season (from Harrison Huntley)… That Michigan Wolverine football field trip to Italy is just packed full–not only is Harbaugh having his son baptized and daughter 1st communion at Vatican, the Pope is even getting a helmet (from PJ Kuzdal). … Tweeter Victory Cheeseballs thinks the model for the 49ers QB in this 1996 Monopoly game is the Patriots’ Drew Bledsoe.
Hockey News: Tweeter Thomas Smith writes, “Possible rematch of 06 Western Conf Finals between @AnaheimDucks & @EdmontonOilers. Ducks jerseys were 10x better than current.” I gotta be honest — I don’t remember that Ducks alternate at all. And yet, there it is. … Remember that awful Capitals/Maple Leafs frankenjersey I had in last weekend’s ticker? Well, he’s a Constitutional lawyer and Dan Steinberg of the WaPo got the story behind it (from Ted Arnold). He’s probably going to do it again. … Unlike the Washington Wizards (as you’ll see in the NBA section below), the Edmonton Oilers have actual playoff jerseys that fans can purchase in stock.
NBA/College/Basketball News: When the Wizards announced in late March that they would wear their white stars-and-stripes uniforms at all home playoff games this spring, the response seemed pretty close to unanimous approval. There’s just one problem: Fans loved them so much that the team sold out its entire supply of retail inventory before the postseason started (from David Goodfriend). … So you think wearing your favorite team’s shorts helps them win, or are one of those It’s only weird folks, you’re not alone. The youngest Kardashian sister ‘has all these little rituals that she has to do before every big game, including sleeping in one of Tristan Thompson’s jerseys from last year,’ reveals a source. She’s convinced it’s magic.
Soccer News: This article contains a very nice gallery of those recycled “Parley” ocean plastic jerseys that New York City FC will wear this Sunday (they’re one of several clubs wearing the kits, the others being Orlando City, the LA Galaxy, and the Seattle Sounders to “celebrate Earth Day and in conjunction with MLS’s Greener Goals initiative.”) … Here’s a “first look” at photos of the 2017-18 Barça home kit. Says Conrad Burry, “It’s not the authentic kit, but real one won’t be too different.”
Grab Bag: Those new Mickey D’s unis? They “Promise to Usher in the Logan’s Run Dystopia We’ve All Been Waiting For”.
And that’s it for today. Thanks to Chris Proctor for what turned out to be a pretty interesting Think Piece (in a manner of speaking). But certainly a subject that’s not only ripe for debate, but also one where the beauty of the unis is oftentimes in the eye of the beholders.
I will have (barring any breaking uni news) a pretty fabulous lede tomorrow and ALSO the name of the Winner of the USA Baseball Jersey Raffle. So make sure you check back in then. But until then…
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
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“If you find it exhausting/depressing to read much of what’s in the Ticker, imagine what it’s like to *compile* it. ;)”
— Paul Lukas
Click to enlarge
This fall will mark the start of the Bengals’ 50th season, and yesterday the team announced a series of moves to mark that milestone, including a new jersey patch.
The interesting thing, as you can see above, is that the patch isn’t embroidered. I’m not sure if it’s Chromaflex or some other newfangled process (I’m trying to find out). For now, let’s just call it plastic.
These plastic patches have been knocking around the uni-verse for a few years now. The leagues clearly like them, not only because they seem high-tech but also because they’re harder to counterfeit. They’ve mostly been used for postseason logos (the Super Bowl, the World Series, the MLB playoffs, etc.) or for other special occasions (like the team logos on this year’s MLB Independence Day caps). But I think this may be the first time a Big Four team has gone the plastic route for a basic commemorative patch. And that raises a question: Are embroidered patches on the way out? And if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’m a big fan of traditional embroidery. But I can also see that plastic patches offer some advantages, primarily because they can reproduce small details more faithfully. Having had a bit of experience with patches myself, I know first-hand that embroidery can be tricky. And even if you’ve never designed or produced a patch, we’ve all had that experience of seeing a flat-color jpg of a great-looking patch design and then being a bit underwhelmed by the embroidered version. Take, for example, the patch that the Braves are wearing this season to mark the opening of their new ballpark (for both images, you can click to enlarge):
Leaving aside the fact that the embroidered version doesn’t include the ballpark’s name (that’s due to MLB’s longstanding prohibition on corporate advertising on uniforms), it’s pretty obvious that certain aspects of the digital design didn’t translate particularly well to the embroidered version — most notably the Braves’ own script! I’m pretty certain that would have looked better if the patch had been rendered in plastic.
Longtime Uni Watch pal/ally Todd Radom has designed many a patch over the course of his design career, so I asked him about this. His response:
I always design with the “Will it embroider?” question firmly in mind. I’ve never been tasked with an assignment knowing that the most visible application of it would be in plastic, at least not yet. Even if I knew that the patch would be plastic, sleeve patch logos are utilized extensively across all kinds of other stuff, so it wouldn’t necessarily affect my design.
Seems to me that there are varying levels of execution here, much like embroidery. I generally like the Super Bowl patches — the design decisions that involve texture and use of lines can enhance the overall look if done well. Lighting matters, as witnessed by what the World Series patches looked like in the dim lights of an illuminated Wrigley Field, as opposed to what these might look like during a day game (or indoors).
All very interesting, and something to keep in mind as the embroidery-vs.-plastic situation plays out in the months and years to come.
Meanwhile: I find it disappointing that the Bengals are celebrating an ordinal instead of an anniversary. Look at the dates on the patch — 1968 and 2017. So unsatisfying! Would’ve been better if they’d waited to do a proper anniversary patch in 2018.
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ESPN reminder: My latest ESPN column, which went up yesterday, looks at various reader-submitted proposals to redesign the Raiders.
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’Skins Watch: In Virginia, where ’Skins owner Daniel Snyder wants to build a new stadium, two candidates running for the state’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination both oppose the team’s name (from Tommy Turner). … Student leaders at San Diego State have narrowly voted to keep the school’s “Aztecs” team name. There had been a movement to change it because it was viewed by some as being culturally insensitive. If the motion had passed, it would only have been a non-binding recommendation that would have been passed along to the school’s administration, which has resisted previous efforts to change the name (from Daron Nowak).
Baseball News: Red Sox P Chris Sale, who famously took a pair of scissors to a throwback uniform last summer, now appears to have cut a small notch in the back of his cap (great spot by Kyle Barber). … New ALS-awareness uniforms for NC State. Note that the “Strikeout ALS” NOB is grammatically incorrect, because “strikeout” (one word) is a noun, not a verb. The proper form would be “Strike Out ALS” (from James Gilbert). … The Twins are showing their players wearing civvies on their scoreboard this season (from Peter Burns). … The Pirates had planned to do a Starling Marte replica jersey giveaway in July, but that promotion has been scrapped in the wake of Marte’s PED suspension (thanks, Phil). … Earlier this week we Ticker-mentioned that the St. Paul Saints are changing their name to the Duck Duck Grey Ducks later this season. Here’s an article with mockups of the other finalists for the name change contest (from Michael Blomquist). … The Nationals are providing uniforms to DC-area Little League teams. … As an aside, that last item refers to the new unis as “new digs.” I see that usage semi-frequently and don’t understand it. “Digs” is slang for a place to live. I think the slang term for clothing that people mean to be using — but for some reason aren’t using — is “duds.” … Padres players Ryan Buchter and Hunter Renfroe wore team jerseys while serving as baggage handlers at the airport yesterday. Some of the baggage must have belonged to SDSU lacrosse players, because that video includes a shot of Buchter trying on a lacrosse helmet (from Jared Buccola). … Here’s the uniform that the Albuquerque Isotopes will be wearing later this season when they become the Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers for a day. Additional info here (from Rob Montoya). … New pink anti-cancer uniforms for Northwestern State softball. … The Rangers tweeted this photo of baseballs at their ballpark. But if you look closely, you can see that some of the balls have the Mariners’ 40th-anniversary logo. “Might have been left over from the last trip,” says Drew Solka). … They showed a close-up of Phillies INF Andres Blanco’s personalized bat knob decal during SNY’s Phils/Mets broadcast last night. “Gary [Cohen] and Ron [Darling] then mentioned the Billy Ripken ‘Fuck Face’ incident,” says Dave Rakowski. … Pretty funny backwards jerseys last night for the Fresno Grizzlies. … If you watch this video clip, you’ll see a Nike maker’s mark in an unusual place: on the brim of the cap (from Zachary Loesl). … Yesterday’s Ticker had a photo of Copa Airlines plane with an MLB logo as part of its livery. Trent Guyer points out that this is because Copa is MLB’s official airline for Latin America and Canada.
NFL News: Here’s an old shot of Eagles QB Ron Jaworski with a badly off-center NOB. … The investigators who tracked down Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey also recovered Broncos LB Von Miller’s helmet from Super Bowl 50. … Giants QB Eli Manning angrily denied recent allegations that he provided fraudulent “game-used” gear to a memorabilia dealer. … Lots of great old NFL posters, ads, and other visuals on this Pinterest page. That sound you just heard in the background was Brinke Guthrie drooling. … Here’s this year’s Thursday-night NFL schedule, which was released yesterday. I haven’t had sufficient time or masochism to map out what the Color Rash pairings will be, but I’m sure someone out there is already taking care of that, yes? … The Lions’ sideline mascot, Roary, has made his first appearance in the team’s new home uniform (from @dmoon).
NBA News: With Carmelo Anthony’s days as a Knick apparently numbered, SI imagined what he might look like as a Piston. But the photo they chose to Photoshop was from a game when he was playing against the Pistons, so the resulting image was Pistons vs. Pistons (from Austin Fowler). … Here’s a time-lapse of the giveaway T-shirts being laid out at the Pacers’ arena (from @tasty_magic). … And here’s a similar time-lapse for the Grizzlies’ rally towels (from Kendall Cruse). … The Bucks wore their black alts and used their alternate court design for last night’s playoff game against the Raptors. And although there’s no time-lapse, here are the T-shirts they gave out. … Down in Mobile, Ala., there’s a landscaping company called Laker Man. They use the Lakers’ logo, and the guy in that photo is even wearing a Lakers cap! (From Stephen Rains.) … The Wizards’ stars/stripes uniforms, which they’re wearing for home playoff games, are sold out, so fans can’t buy them during the playoff run (from Craig Kirkpatrick).
Soccer News: A Korean team, Gangwon FC, has a ski jump at one end of its stadium, thanks to the Pyeongchang Olympics (from Saurel Jean Jr.).
Grab Bag: Back in December, American Airlines flight attendants said that their new uniforms were causing bad skin reactions. Now AA’s pilots are saying the same thing about their new uniforms. … New 45th-annivesary logo for the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia. … Long Beach, Cal., has updated its city signage with a more user-friendly design (from Andy Garms). … Star Trek bathing suits? Sure, why not. … More “family friendly” uniforms on the way for Hooters (thanks, Phil). … Here’s an interview with the designer who created Air Canada’s new black-centric livery (from Edward Hahn). … Police uniforms in Wichita, which had been khaki, are changing to blue. … Duquesne athletics is switching from Adidas to Nike. … A Chinese court has fined Puma about $420,000 for creating a “Year of the Goat” logo that infringed on the trademark of a Chinese company (from @GKG_77).
There are many letters of the alphabet that can only be written only one way. But there are others that can be rendered in multiple styles, like the lowercase “a,” which comes in two different styles. Those two styles are shown at right — let’s call that Style 1 (the green version) and Style 2 (the red version). Style 2 is the one that’s used for the ubiquitous “@” symbol, which was used primarily in accounting and computer programming until email and social media transformed it into an internet workhorse.
Style 1 is never used for the “at” symbol. Or at least that’s what I thought until yesterday, when I got a note from longtime reader Cork Gaines, who noticed something interesting about the backdrop used for NBA press conferences:
I’ve never seen that before. Moreover, as Cork pointed out in his email to me, it seems like you’d have to go out of your way to design it like that, right?
When I posted the backdrop photo on Twitter yesterday, I got an interesting reply from a graphic designer named Jason Murdock, who seemed to know a thing or two about the “at” symbol, so I asked him if he’d like to write something longer than 140 characters. Here’s what he sent me:
Because the double-storey “a” [i.e., Style 1] is a more complex shape, it can be problematic as the basis of an at sign. It looks like the NBA designer compensated by making the surrounding curved stroke extra-thin. This works fine at the size it’s being used, but in smaller text that stroke would be too light or disappear altogether. It also appears as though the designer centered the “at” sign vertically with the uppercase letters. In my opinion, the bottom of the curved stroke should really drop below the baseline slightly as a way of anchoring it visually. As it is currently, it appears to be floating.
Interesting! Anyone have any further thoughts on this?
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Click to enlarge
Raiders redesign results: The results of my recent challenge to redesign the Raiders are now available on ESPN. Not all of the entries are as entertaining as the one submitted by Aram Gumusyan (shown above), but I think you’ll enjoy the ones I’ve highlighted in today’s column. Check it out here.
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By Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: Miguel Cabrera’s helmet decal is off-center. It was a bit askew over the weekend, as well (from Todd Oliver). … Mets P Robert Gsellman wore a hoodie, instead of a jacket, while running the bases last night. It’s crazy that he reached base, given that he literally couldn’t swing a bat last year. … Rays 2B Brad Miller had been wearing a cleated version of Paul George’s signature basketball shoe (from Ryan Delgago, via Phil). … The El Paso Chihuahuas wore their Diablos throwbacks last night (from Don Patterson). … The Fresno Grizzlies gave manager Tony DeFrancesco a framed No. “1K” jersey for his 1,000th win in Triple-A (from @MiLBPromos). … New Era will sponsor NASCAR driver Austin Dillon this weekend at Bristol (from David Firestone). … A multifamily building across from Nationals Park will no longer allow residents to hang flags or banners, even sports ones, after too many tenants used them to share their political ideas (from William F. Yurasko). … Much has been written about the Cubs’ championship rings, but I’m not sure if we knew this: The team awarded a total of 1,908 rings to everyone in the organization, from players to front office associates to the ballpark staff. That number refers to 1908, the year of the Cubs’ previous title (from Joshua Exline). … Andy Rivkin spotted a Copa Air plane with an MLB logo at Tocumen Airport in Panama. … Sharp-looking stirrups last night for Dodgers SS Chris Taylor.
NFL News: Remember the Football as Football project, where NFL teams were re-imagined as various soccer clubs? Here are a few Sporcle quizzes where you can guess which NFL team is represented by the German, Italian, Spanish, and English club logo (from K.C. Kless).
College Football News: Washington State unveiled new uniforms. The set includes an all-crimson, all-gray, and all-white looks, along with various mixes and matches (from Colin Storm and Phil). … Ryan Keberly found an old Eastern Michigan belt buckle on eBay. “Lived in Michigan my whole life and have never heard ‘East Michigan’ as shorthand for EMU,” he says. … North Carolina players were excited to hear that they would be receiving a pair of Jordan Retro 11s (from Phil).
NBA News: Wizards point guard John Wall has been a sneaker free agent since 2015, when he rejected a $7.5 million deal from Adidas. Wall was seeking a comparable deal to James Harden, who signed a $200 million, 13-year contract with Adidas. Wall has been wearing Nikes and Jordans this year. While looking for pics of Wall’s shoes, I saw that teammate Markeiff Morris has worn Nike Air More Uptempo shoes, which Scottie Pippen wore during the mid-1990s. … The Reno Bighorns of the D-League changed their colors and logo to better match their parent club, the Kings (from Matthew Moschella). … Benet Bartell says that his local ABC affiliate has been airing some really outdated NBA logos. … Kevin Garnett is at odds with the Timberwolves organization, in part due to how the team memorialized his mentor and coach, Flip Saunders, who died in 2015. He is miffed that while high school and hockey banners hang at the Target Center, there is no banner for Flip. The rift will also reportedly delay any sort of KG jersey retirement ceremony. … New court design for the D-League’s Reno Bighorns (from Tony Equiaga).
Soccer News: This Sunday, four MLS clubs will wear jerseys made from upcycled marine plastic. They will be worn in two white vs. gray matchups between the Galaxy and Sounders, and Orlando City and New York City FC. Earth Day is Saturday, and the jerseys will raise awareness about marine plastic pollution. … Manchester City is purported to have a new road jersey (from Patrick Thomas).
Grab Bag: After you celebrate Uni Watch’s Purple Amnesty Day next month, you should head over to the Purple Store to really indulge (from Andrew Rader). … In case you didn’t see in the baseball section, New Era will sponsor NASCAR driver Austin Dillon this weekend at Bristol (from David Firestone). … Also from David: Top Fuel dragster Shawn Langdon wore a GoPro and let viewers see what it’s like to accelerate to 316 mph in less than four seconds (from David Firestone). … A Vermont community is split over a change to the high school’s nickname, the Rebels. Tensions are running high, with one local resident accused of stalking the student who led the movement to change the name (from John Pritchard). … Here are the Indy Car liveries for this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama (from Tim Dunn). … The two remaining high schools in Flint, Mich., will combine their athletic programs and adopt teal and black uniforms (from Alex Dewitt).
[Editor’s Note: Today we have an excellent entry by our own Mike Chamernik, who’s going to enlighten us on an important chapter in uniform history that has largely been forgotten. Enjoy. — PL]
By Mike Chamernik
NBA teams are getting uniform ads next year, which is being widely heralded as a first for big-time North American sports. But that’s not quite accurate. It turns out that another pro basketball team wore uniform advertising more than 40 years ago.
That team was the 1975-76 Virginia Squires of the ABA, who wore small “S” patches — the logo of Stewart Sandwich Service — on their shorts during the final ABA season.
How did this happen?
First, let’s set the scene. The 1975-76 season was a struggle for the entire ABA, with each team trying to survive for a potential merger with the NBA. Baltimore, Utah, and San Diego all folded before or during the season.
Things were particularly bad for the Squires. After winning an ABA title several years earlier when the franchise was known as the Oakland Oaks, the team had become a laughingstock. They were bad on the court and unstable off of it. Virginia operated as a regional franchise, shuttling between separate home bases in Richmond, Norfolk, and Hampton, leading to small, apathetic crowds.
During that final season, the Squires dealt with injuries to all of their key players, including Willie Wise, Michael Green, and Mack Calvin. Already drained of major talent (the Squires were infamous for trading away their best players, including Rick Barry, Julius Erving, George Gervin, David Thompson, and Swen Nater), they burned through six coaches and finished 15-68.
According to Loose Balls, Terry Pluto’s definitive oral history of the ABA, Squires players were never sure if they were going to get paid on time — or at all.
I managed to track down several people connected with the Squires, including “Jumbo” Jim Eakins, who played parts of seven seasons with the franchise. He was in the Philippines serving a church service mission when I contacted him, but I was able to exchange emails through his son, Jeff.
“The front office was a total mess,” Jim Eakins recalled. “The door was revolving so fast that we thought that it was an electric revolving door. Front office personnel were coming and going so fast they had to wear name tags. I vaguely remember the [ad] patches but I think the feeling was, ‘Whatever we have to do to get us our paychecks.’ My paycheck never bounced because I was an old veteran and I knew that on payday I had to be the first into the office to get my check, and then I raced straight to the bank with it and cashed it out. Those who slept in were the ones whose checks bounced later in the day.”
The team’s instability was reflected in their uniforms and visual identity. Through the 1973-74 season, they wore red, white, and blue uniforms. For the 1974-75 season, they flipped and rebranded themselves as the New Virginia Squires and adopted orange and brown as their team colors.
In early 1975, an entrepreneur named Van Cunningham became the general partner leading the team’s new ownership group. Cunningham was the chairman of the board for Stewart Sandwich Service, which sold frozen sandwiches and infrared ovens directly to convenience stores, cafeterias, and bowling alleys. (More info on Stewart can be found here. The company had no connection with the Stewart’s root beer restaurant chain.)
Unfortunately, Cunningham is now deceased. But I got in touch with Jack Ankerson, the Squires’ GM from that year. He still lives in Norfolk and remembers the season vividly, including how the “S” patch ended up on the team’s shorts.
Ankerson told me that Cunningham contacted him during the 1975 offseason with a few ideas for uniform changes. Ankerson said Cunningham was such a newbie to the game that he assumed pro basketball teams got new uniforms every year. He also thought he’d take the liberty integrating the Squires’ brand with two of his other business interests.
First, Cunningham wanted to change the team’s colors yet again, this time to orange and blue — which just happened to be the colors for Stewart Sandwich. They were also the colors of the New York Mets, whose top farm team was the Norfolk-based Tidewater Tides. Cunningham sat on the Tides’ board of directors.
Second, Cunningham wanted the Squires to wear a small “S” patch — the Stewart Sandwiches logo — on the shorts.
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An owner integrating his main business with his basketball team was fairly common back then. The Denver Rockets, a fellow ABA team, took its name and logo from owner Bill Ringsby’s long-haul trucking company. The Pistons were originally named the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, as owner Fred Zollner ran an auto parts manufacturing business. But no owner had ever put the logo of one of his other business holdings on his team’s uniform.
By advertising standards, the patches weren’t very effective, because they were completely inconspicuous. Some people no doubt mistakenly thought it stood for “Squires.”
“Once he put the logos together, there was never a thought about the logo,” Ankerson said. “Yes, it looks like a sandwich bun, or something like that, but it was kind of like the company logo of Stewart Sandwiches. But I can assure you, nobody ever even thought about that. Nobody ever even talked about it. … It was something totally nondescript and nobody ever gave it a second thought.”
And unlike today’s NBA teams, which are raking in millions of dollars for the ad patches they’ll be wearing, the Squires didn’t make a dime from the Stewart Sandwiches ad. That’s how incompetent the Squires were — they even managed to make uniform advertising unprofitable.
Although the Squires managed to finish the 1975-76 season, they missed out on reaping the benefits of the NBA merger. The Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, and Pacers all were accepted into the NBA, and the owners of the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis received forms of compensation for disbanding their franchises. The Squires, however, couldn’t meet a $75,000 ABA league assessment fee soon after the season ended and were forced to fold.
One of the enduring legacies of the Squires and the Stewart patches was a great quip from Al Bianchi, the first of the team’s six 1975-76 coaches. According to Loose Balls, after a 1-6 start resulted in Bianchi’s firing, he said “I hope they sell a lot of tickets… and a lot of sandwiches.”
Stewart did sell a lot of sandwiches around that time. The company became franchised nationally in an era when convenience stores were largely regional. No one else was in the sandwich business. Eventually, though, convenience stores caught up and started using and developing their own equipment. With Stewart’s advantage gone, the company broadened its product line and became Stewart Foods in 1992. The company declared bankruptcy a few years later. If only Stewart had been able to keep getting free advertising on the Squires’ uniforms, perhaps things would have turned out differently.
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Merch reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, our classic magnifying glass logo, designed by the great Scott M.X. Turner, is now available on a variety of goods. There are two versions of the logo — one with a gold outline, as shown at right, and one with a green outline. We have shirts and related products for both versions: gold here and green here.
Meanwhile, as noted last week, the Uni Watch social media avatar (a caricature of me, designed by Larry Torrez) is also available on assorted merch.
My thanks, as always, for your consideration.
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By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Kevin Pillar of the Blue Jays wore a Raptors jersey during BP yesterday (from Mike). … Yesterday marked the 88th anniversary of the Yankees’ first uniform numbers (from BSmile). … Great piece about the jersey Joe DiMaggio wore during his number retirement ceremony in 1952 (from Jeff Ash). … The Tacoma Rainiers will wear jerseys with the Tacoma skyline on May 26. The best part? They were designed by a fifth-grader! (From Phil.) … The St. Paul Saints and the Cleburne Railroaders will play a game in August as the St. Paul Duck, Duck Gray Ducks and the Cleburne Duck Duck Goose. According to this press release, it’s a tongue-in-cheek response to minor league teams rebranding for one game. … The West Virginia Power, the Pirates’ Class-A affiliate, has some fauxback unis inspired by its parent club (from Noah Kastroll). … Willard Kovacs got to the bottom of the “LV” written on St. John’s caps. It’s a tribute to Lou Vitale, the team’s longtime groundskeeper who died before the season. … Louisville and Kentucky went color-on-color yesterday (from @steagles1). … The Bangor High School (Mich.) baseball team wears camo T-shirts on the field (from Billy Braden). … Payette High School and Fruitland High School softball in Oregon went black against black yesterday (from Nik Streng). … The Cubs are asking non-players to sign an agreement giving the team the right to buy back their World Series rings for $1. The idea is to discourage people from selling their rings.
NFL News: WIth Giants QB Eli Manning recently implicated in a game-used memorabilia scam, Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports — one of the big memorabilia houses — tried to defend his business relationship with Manning.
College Football News: Here’s yet another report that Georgia Tech is becoming increasingly frustrated with its apparel contract with Russell Athletic (from Phil). … Broc points out that while Minnesota wore matte helmets during its spring game, the team wore glossy helmets during practice.
Hockey News: Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski’s busted-up face has inspired a new T-shirt (from Jimmy Atkinson). … A family in Scarborough, Ontario, found a trunk full of decades-old hockey equipment that will be donated to the Hall of Fame (from Ian Landon).
Basketball News: ICYMI from the baseball section: Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays wore a Raptors jersey during BP yesterday (from Mike). … Check out the unis Marshall wore in the early ’70s. White jersey with green shorts, script font, double-decker “The Herd” — great stuff (from Brice Wallace). … Whoa. Who knew the Oklahoma State women used to wear tequila sunrise unis — with sleeves! That’s Dr. Linda A. Livingstone, who was just named president of Baylor (from Leslie Blair).
Soccer News: Man City and Chelsea went blue-on-blue for a youth game yesterday (from KRM). … Barron Trump is apparently an Arsenal fan, and he was spotted at the White House Easter Egg roll in a full Gunners uniform (from Ian Landon).
Grab Bag: If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend you check out this new web series about bad sports cards. It’s pretty good. … Many of you have probably know the iconic photo of Katherine Switzer defiantly running the Boston Marathon as the first woman to register and run the event in 1967. Switzer ran the Marathon again Monday and wore bib number 261, just as she did 50 years ago. The Marathon retired the number after she finished (from Mike Styczen). … Speaking of the Marathon, Adidas had to issue an apology after sending finishers an email congratulating them for having “survived Boston,” evoking memories of the 2013 bombings. … Providence lacrosse wore throwbacks last night against Brown (from Joel Mathwig). … Sacred Heart and Hartford played a color-on-color lacrosse game yesterday (from Travis Holland). … Racer Shawn Langston will debut a new dragster at an NHRA event this weekend in Houston (from David Firestone). … In cycling, 2017 is the year of the “jerket” (from Phil). … Whiting, Indiana — a suburb of Chicago — is trying to raise funds to build a “Mascot Hall of Fame” (from Charlie Kranz).
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What Paul did last night: It’s always a bit of a drag when your president declares you to be an enemy of the people (don’t you hate it when that happens?), so last night I went to NYU’s school of journalism to see Prof. Jay Rosen give a presentation on the Trump administration and the press. Lots of really interesting info and analysis on what the press has and hasn’t done well since Inauguration Day. I didn’t agree with all of it, but it was all good food for thought, and a good reminder that I’m lucky to live in a city where I can see stuff like this.
If you’re curious, the whole event is embedded below.