By Phil Hecken
As those of you who read on the weekends are likely aware, back on June 26, I featured a website called Baseball Backs (here’s the link), which in a nutshell features the back sides of baseball jerseys throughout history (although it is not quite a complete listing). At the time, I did not know who created this site, nor what his plans for that site were.
Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to the gentleman who created Baseball Backs, Ryan Simmelink, who reached out to me shortly after that article ran. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
I’m Ryan, the creator of Baseball Backs, and I would like to thank you for featuring my site last Sunday. I meant to do this earlier but I was swamped with grad school stuff as well as many requests via the exposure you got Baseball Backs. I appreciate all your kind words. I also spent time updating the website as well as changed the domain to baseballbacks.com.
One thing led to another and I interviewed Ryan about his board. I’m pleased to bring that to you now:
Uni Watch: How old are you and where do you live?
Ryan Simmelink: I am 28 years old and live in Carroll, Iowa.
UW: And what’s your favorite team?
RS: I grew up close to Des Moines where the Iowa Cubs play and attended lots of games as a kid so naturally I started rooting for the Cubs.
UW: Are you a regular Uni Watch reader, and for how long? Do you post in the comments?
RS: Reading the blog has become part of my morning routine since I started reading it about four years ago. I post in the comments here and there and have been mentioned in the ticker a couple times.
UW: What prompted you to start “Baseball Backs”
RS: I started creating the Baseball Backs just for my personal use. I noticed that I really couldn’t find anything like it and wanted to share them with others who might be interested.
UW: Was it purely a hobby or did anyone ask you to design one of these first?
RS: I actually made my first Baseball Back while I was a sophomore in high school. I had just started learning how to use Photoshop and wanted to replicate my own baseball jersey. After doing some digging, I found the original Baseball Back created back in 2000. However, I didn’t start making them until August 2009.
I had recently become hooked on the iPhone game Robot Master. I wanted to make a physical version of the game to play so I decided to make a Cubs version. I then decided to try putting my name on a Cubs jersey which then led to making other players jerseys. Now, it is strictly a hobby I do.
UW: How do you do research for these? Is it all old photographs or is some of it educated guesswork?
RS: If its a jersey from 1970 to the present, I turn to Henderson’s MLB Jersey Guide. It has helped me out tremendously and without it, it would take me a lot longer to make the Backs. If its pre-1970, I look to see if a vendor, like Mitchell & Ness, has created it. I also check out auction sites for examples. I do look at old photographs and even old movies.
To help with the correct colors, I head over to The Society for Sports Uniforms Research (now ColorWerx) to see what colors I need to use. For example, I really wanted to create a 1942 light blue road flannel for the Cubs. I found several photos of the front of the jersey but nothing of the back. I found an old movie from the 1942 spring training and went frame by frame trying to get a good look. I found a decent shot of it that confirmed what I thought, white number with an outline. I had to make an educated guess that the number mirrored the front lettering of white with a blue outline.
I also recently did a 1935 Gabby Hartnett road jersey for the Cubs. I found an example of the jersey but still unsure of the font. I searched through the Chicago Tribune pictures and found they used the McAuliffe (Red Sox) font that year. Usually, I don’t spend THAT long on jerseys but this was a personal crusade.
UW: Do you have plans to expand this to all years for all teams (maybe not immediately, but over time)?
RS: I try to get as much variety from different teams for different years. In the future, I’d love to have each jersey represented.
UW: Have you ever considered turning Baseball Backs into a reference site, a la “Dressed to the Nines”?
RS: I had never thought of Baseball Backs in that light before you mentioned it. I really like the idea now that I have some more free time (I’m just finishing up grad school). Because of Henderson’s guide, it would be easy to get from 1970 on; however, it would be a lot more difficult for pre-1970.
UW: How did you create the templates?
RS: I used one of my own jerseys to take measurements of the numbers and letters. I then had to tweak somethings here and there to make it look “right”. I also used some jerseys to scan in the background textures. I used to have a different template for each type (home double-knit, road double-knit, home flannel, road flannel, home Cool Base, etc.) but decided to consolidate it into one template. My template has multiple layers that I can simply delete to get the desired background. It has a generic name and number that I can change.
UW: I love the attention to detail you have, particularly how you can almost feel the “texture.” Is there any specific program you use for that?
RS: I use Adobe Photoshop for most of the process. I do use Adobe Illustrator to create the underlying number/name shapes.
UW: How do you decide the font for the numbers and letters? Do you look at MLB style guides or do you just “know” what to use?
RS: If its post 1970, I use Henderson’s guide. Everything else, I have to do some digging through auction sites, old photos and movies.
UW: Do you have plans for teams with no #OB (number on back) — basically pre-1929 for most teams? Would you ever do backs for the Tigers (with the Tiger logo) and Braves (with the native american head)? [As of this writing, Dressed to the Nines is "down" -- originally I had links to the 1928 Tigers & 1930 Braves -- PH]
RS: I had never really considered it before because of the lack of name and or number. I had came across the Tigers and Braves jerseys while looking through Okkonen’s work. Those two are currently on my to-do list.
UW: What happens if someone finds a mistake? Do you have a comments section or email address on the board?
RS: I’m human and make mistakes. I do appreciate when someone nicely points out an error because I want the Backs to be as accurate as possible. I have a contact form on the website that people have used to contact me. For example, I had Rob Nenn instead of Robb Nen, wrong type of 5 on a Mark Teixeira, and radially arched names on late ’60s Orioles jerseys instead of vertically arched.
UW: How do you decide which jerseys/players to create?
RS: I take requests from people and try to create those. I also look at who has had their numbers retired, award winners, current players who are playing well and up-and-coming rookies. I also like trying jerseys that are unique and different. I also look for jerseys that have unique aspects to them, such as materials, textures and name placement.
UW: What are some of your favorite Backs that you’ve done?
RS: I really like the old pin-striped flannels. I also enjoy anything that has different fonts, numbers and colors.
Great stuff, Ryan. Shortly after that interview, I followed up with him and he had a few last things to add:
• When I first started, I had many people ask me to make personalized Backs with their names and numbers on them. I turned them down because they take awhile to make and really only one person wants to look at them. As I expanded the site, I found the need to buy a Flickr Pro account, Henderson’s guide, software upgrades and recently a domain name. Now that I see all the hidden costs, I decided to offer a free personalized Baseball Back with a $5 donation. I’m not out to make any money; just cover those hidden costs. I don’t sell any MLB Baseball Backs (those will always be free). I’m always up for requests as long as I don’t get a long list. If its a tougher one, a picture helps out tremendously.
• When I first started, I was just uploading them to Photobucket but found the quality lacking. So I decided to switch over to Flickr which is nice… high quality and the ability to see how many views. But it was missing that website feel so I decided to throw together the website at Weebly. As the number of Baseball Backs grew, I needed to organize them better than what I had been so I decided to use Google Sites to help organize the Backs.
• I’ve been doing graphic design elements since high school. My dad, a former art teacher turned principal, started using Photoshop to make sports graphics and I quickly followed suit. I took computer graphic classes throughout high school and continued on my own since. I’ve done various projects for my alma mater. I’ve also done many music posters for several musicians. Last summer, I got the chance to help out the Arizona Diamondbacks with a graphic in their D-backs Insider Magazine for Luis Gonzalez’s number retirement. I just recently did the graphics for the iPad game Immix.
Tremendous job, Ryan. It seems like you have a great future ahead of you. Thanks for your time.
A Quick All-Star Game Round-Up from Paul
Hi there. I watched last night’s game with my longtime buddy Tim Adams, who was in from Chicago. He’s a regular Uni Watch reader, but I’m not sure he was prepared for what it was like to watch an All-Star Game while sitting next to Mr. Uni Watch. We were busy catching up on this and that, not really paying close attention to the game (it’s amazing how the rest of the world fades away when you start discussing Michele Bachmann), but I kept periodically pointing at the TV and saying, “Look at that patch!” or “What’s the deal with those shoes?”
My main takeaways from the game:
• Quite a few teams this season have a team logo patch on one sleeve and a memorial patch on the other sleeve. In all of these cases except one, the protocol for last night’s game was to replace the memorial patch with the All-Star patch, and to move the memorial patch to the chest. That was the case with the Pirates’ Chuck Tanner memorial, the Indians’ Bob Feller memorial, the Dodgers’ Duke Snider memorial, the Cubs’ Ron Santo memorial, the Mariners’ Dave Niehaus memorial, and the Reds’ Sparky Anderson memorial.
• The one exception to this rule was the Twins’ Harmon Killebrew memorial, which stayed on the right sleeve even though the left sleeve was occupied by a team logo patch. I guess they decided that the “3″ would’ve looked weird if worn on the chest.
• In addition, the Tigers’ Sparky Anderson memorial was allowed to remain on the right sleeve. Why? Because the Tigers don’t normally wear a patch on the left sleeve, so that’s where they put the All-Star patch.
• A bunch of players wore these really annoying blue-soled Nike shoes. Is this the new Day-Glo? Whatever, let’s hope we never see those again.
• The little stars on the caps were worn by the umpires as well as by the players, which seems like a bit much. At least they didn’t wear the jersey stars.
Meanwhile, speaking of the All-Star Game, back on Saturday I mentioned that A’s pitcher Gio Gonzalez had worn his All-Star sleeve patch on Friday night. To my knowledge, no other ASG participant had worn that patch prior to last night, so what was the deal with Gonzalez? I learned the answer on Monday while talking to A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, who I was interviewing regarding a completely different issue (one that will be covered extensively in my ESPN column tomorrow). He brought up the Gonzalez patch on his own, like so:
I wanted to tell you about that Gio thing, the All-Star patch. I didn’t go on that road trip to Texas — I had four days off for a family reunion. Now, Gio never wears the gray [when he pitches]. Even if the rest of the team went out there in gray, he’d probably wear something else. But he was gonna take the gray jersey to the All-Star Game, so I figured I’d put the All-Star patch on his gray jersey while we were still in Oakland, before the road trip — that way I know it’s taken care of, I don’t have to worry about anyone else dealing with it.
But then the tragedy in Texas [with the fan falling out of the stands and dying] happened on Thursday night. And they decided that the black ribbons that they wore the next day, you couldn’t really see ’em against the dark green. And it was Gio’s day to pitch, and he said, “Okay, I’ll wear gray.” So all of a sudden he’s out there with the All-Star patch, because I’d already put it on his jersey. I was actually expecting MLB to call me about it, but so far you guys are the only ones who caught it.
Thanks, Steve. For the record, Gonzalez gave up seven runs in four innings that night, so I don’t think we’ll see him wearing gray again anytime soon.
By Brinke Guthrie
Already going through All-Star Game withdrawal? Then you may enjoy this selection of ASG patches. If, on the other hand, you’re ready to move on to other things, check out this week’s haul:
• Paul submitted this sensational wheelchair basketball jersey.
• Here’s a 1970s Atlanta Falcons down vest in good shape.
• Check out the waistband on these 1980s Eagles shorts. Looks like it could double as a girdle!
• Get your 1984 Kamloops Junior Oilers iron-on patch here.
• Staying with hockey for a moment, Bobby Orr and Bernie Parent grace the cover of this mid-’70s NHL sticker album. [That's one killer cover illo. Would love to see some of the interior pages. — PL]
• I love that 1970s MLB poster series where they recycle images of other players. Case in point: That’s clearly Pete Rose, not a Padre.
• And for Paul, a collection of Mets yearbook posters and a T-shirt showing Mets uni history.
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Benchies from the Beginning
By Rick Pearson
For nearly three years, “Benchies” has been appearing most weekends at Uni Watch. While Bench Coach Phil fills in for Paul Monday through Friday during August, we present a retrospective. New strips will continue to appear on weekends. For further background, here’s the “Benchies” backstory and bios on the regular Boys of “Benchies.” Enjoy.
And here’s today’s strips (one for yesterday, and one for today):
A few words of “Thanks”
As most of you are no doubt aware, my father (that’s him on the right) passed away on Monday, after a prolonged illness. He had suffered from a number of ailments over the past few years, beginning with a disease called MDS or Myelodysplastic Syndromes, a group of bone marrow diseases; he also almost died from West Nile Encephalitis, which he may have contracted from a mosquito bite while out golfing with me. Eventually the MDS morphed into leukemia, which finally claimed his life, after a valiant and protracted fight. He was my best friend, the guy who taught me how to catch, throw and hit, who became my tennis and later golf partner, and eventually, towards the end just my bridge partner. He touched my life in so many countless ways, and others as well, and I will miss him greatly. But in the end he was suffering terribly, and as hard as it was for me to say “goodbye,” I know that he is now in a better place.
I wanted to extend an extra special note of thanks to the entire Uni Watch community, and especially our fearless leader, Paul Lukas, for all your kind words and thoughts. Paul’s column yesterday, and all the ensuing comments and e-mails I received, brought a tear to my eye, and a warmth to my heart. The Uni Watch community has always been wonderful, and will continue to be so, and the tremendous outpouring of support you provided to me cannot be adequately repaid. You are all a special bunch of crazy guys and gals with a passion and dedication, and I truly, TRULY mean it when I say “Thank You” for everything. You’re making it much easier for me (and my family) to make it through a very difficult time, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Uni Watch News Ticker: (compiled by John Ekdahl) Those new South Carolina football uniforms look even worse in real life than they did on the video game (thanks to Beau Franklin). … As Patrick Walsh points out, it’s familiar tradition in the World Cup to wear stars over your crest to represent the number of times you’ve won. The U.S. Women’s team wears two stars and the men’s Brazilian team wears five stars, as seen here. But, Brazil’s women’s team has never won the World Cup and yet wears the five stars like the men’s squad. As Patrick says, “It’d be pretty weird if the US men’s team rocked the two stars that the women earned”. Agreed, and I think they’d receive a fair amount of trash-talking for it. … Joe Mauer’s personal logo makes an appearance in his latest Gatorade ad (thanks to Mike Sambuceti). … Inter Milan will be wearing new home kits for next year. … Mack Abbott attended a recent minor league baseball tournament and noticed this odd jersey. “They looked more like BP jerseys or something that would have been better suitied underneath a vest.” … Uni Watch never passes up the opportunity to show some sharp-looking stirrups (thanks to Steve Foster who attended a Mountain Collegiate Baseball League game). … Cort McMurray snapped a great picture of New Era’s hat blocking machine on a trip to their headquarters in Buffalo. … Check out this video (3:00 mark) of the New York Golden Blades wearing white skates during the ’73-’74 season (thanks to commenter Jet). … Zack Nichols has noticed that the University of Wisconsin bookstore is now selling their team’s football jerseys without sleeve stripes, possibly to distinguish themselves from Nebraska. “Every year the replica jerseys have sleeve stripes. I don’t think this was an accident.” Thanks, Zack. … Jon Helfenstein put together some great shots of the 1971 All-Star Game. … Larry Bodnovich wonders whether Denny Fitzgerald was the last player to wear a leather helmet with no facemask in 1960. … Thankfully, Paul is both on vacation and doesn’t play golf (sent by Ben Traxel). … So, I think most of us are aware that Harry Potter is immensely popular and a multi-hundred million dollar (pound?) behemoth. Obviously, the next logical step is to take over Minor League Baseball. That shot is from a Fresno Grizzlies game, and this promotion is for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Thanks to Melanie Worstell and Matthew Robins, respectively. … Some Wyoming fans are worried their football team might be going full Nike-Oregon. It seems like a false alarm. That team is clearly labeled “WYO”, which I believe is between “ATL” and “PHX”.
“No words can describe the feeling. Tears seem to be the best way to deal with it. I know he is in a better place now, where stirrups are never worn backwards, and no logo creep is visible on any uniform.” — Mike Obie