NBA Leak-o-Rama

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Major NBA development late last night, as a someone on Reddit posted what appears to be a sheet outlining all of the NBA uniform changes for next season (see above). It includes a lot of things we already knew but a whole lot more that we hadn’t yet seen. It quickly spread via all the usual channels.

Before we get into the details, let me get some quick disclaimers out of the way: I do not know who posted the sheet on Reddit and have not yet independently confirmed that the sheet is legitimate, so everything in it should be treated as provisional for now. It’s worth noting, however, that the sheet includes accurate depictions of a bunch of previously released designs. That makes me inclined to believe that the unreleased designs on the sheet are probably accurate as well. Also, the format and design of the sheet itself, including the “Confidential” stamp on the bottom, are all consistent with internal NBA documents of this sort, which further leads me to believe that it’s probably legit. Not definitely, but probably.

The big problem, obviously, is that the image is low-res and out of focus. I’m no wiz when it comes to Photoshop, but I’ve done my best to enlarge and brighten the mock-ups of the new designs.

The sheet is formatted into four horizontal rows. Let’s go one row at a time, working from left to right within each one, shall we?

Row 1
• First up is the new Hawks identity. Nothing new there.

• Next is the new Clippers identity, which includes a glimpse of the black alternate uniform, which hasn’t yet been officially released:

This appears to confirm the earlier leak of this design.

• Next comes the new Bucks identity, which includes a glimpse of the black alternate uniform:

As you can see, it appears to show a buck’s head with the uniform number positioned between the top of the antlers.

• Next comes the new Sixers set, which came out last month. Nothing new there.

• Then we have the long-awaited Raptors set:

No purple, thankfully. Of the two alternates, one is presumably the rumored “Drake alternate.”

• At the end of the row is the updated Wizards primary logo, which we already knew about.

Row 2
• First come the tweaks to the Nuggets’ uniforms (shown at last month’s NBA draft) and tighter tailoring on the Rockets’ jerseys (already leaked a while ago). Nothing new there.

• Next up is a surprise — new jerseys for the referees:

Why the white jersey? Presumably because we’re seeing more grey-vs.-grey games, and they want the officials to stand out more from the players. We had already seen a few games in which the refs tried to solve this problem by wearing the older jerseys with the dark sleeves, but now they appear to be trying a different solution.

• Next is a series of alternate uniforms (click to enlarge):

From left to right: The first design is the Mavericks’ fan-designed alternate, which we already knew about. Then comes a GFGS Pistons design with blue lettering; a new Heat design; Rockets GFGS with sleeves (boy does that one look dreadful); Thunder “OKC”; and, uh, what is that last one? I’m not sure. I’ve played around with the image a bit and think the chest lettering says “Utah,” but other people are saying this is a Suns design.

Row 3
This row shows eight new “pride” uniforms, all with sleeved jerseys. Here are the first four of them (click to enlarge):

First is Charlotte’s “Buzz City” design, which was released last month. Then we have what looks like a GFGS Bulls design; a Cavs design that looks a bit like the 2014 Xmas jerseys, except they put the uni number on the upper chest instead of on the sleeve; and a Nuggets design that actually looks like fun.

Here are the next four (click to enlarge):

We begin with a “Clutch City” design for the Rockets; then a NOLA design for the Pelicans; then an absolutely brutal purple-on-blue uni for the Kings; and, in the most confounding development of the entire sheet, a Wizards design that hearkens back to the franchise’s old Baltimore Bullets days. Why would you ever create a sleeved version of that uniform? Bizarre.

Row 3
• First are the “Stretch” jerseys. We’ve seen this term before in an earlier leak, and it wasn’t clear what it meant. Judging by these designs, however, it appears to refer to foreign-language or cross-cultural designs (although someone in the comments just said it refers to an alternate jersey worn with the team’s existing road shorts — hmmmm):

• Next we have this season’s throwback designs, including the Pacers’ just-released Hoosiers-inspired uni. Odd to see that listed as a throwback, because Pacers exec Todd Taylor repeatedly referred to it as a Pride uniform when I interviewed him the other day, but whatever. In any case, all of these except the Pacers design had already surfaced a while back in an earlier Adidas catalog leak, so nothing new there.

• Finally, we knew from an earlier leak that the Heat would have some sort of military tribute uniform, but we didn’t know what it would look like — until now:

I’ll just say, “At least it isn’t camouflage” and leave it at that.

The final item of note is this text running along the bottom of the sheet (click to enlarge):

No more sleeves on St. Paddy’s Day, whoop-whoop!

Did I miss or misinterpret anything? Quite possibly. I didn’t become aware of the sheet’s existence until about midnight, when I was about to go to bed, and then I stayed up until about 2:30am writing this entry, so I was (and am) a bit punchy. Feel free to fill in any gaps that I might have left.

(Big thanks to Mike Chamernik, who was the first to let me know of the sheet’s existence.)

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Flaugher

Membership update One card — just one! — has been added to the membership card gallery (that’s Jonathan Flaugher’s shown at right, which is based on Ohio University’s “Battle of the Bricks” jersey). Why only one? Because membership sign-ups have slowed to a crawl lately.

If you want to help jump-start things, you can order your own custom-designed membership card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here, and you can see how we make the cards here.

• • • • •

Baseball News: “On July 31, the Cards are giving away a Lou Brock bobblehead that commemorates the Brock-for-Broglio trade,” says Jim Santel. “The figurine depicts Brock trading in his Cubs pinstripes for the birds on the bat, and his Cubs hat rests by his feet. I wonder if a bobblehead has ever featured two teams’ unis at once?” … If you buy an overpriced polyester shirt featuring the name/number of a player who gets traded at the deadline, Majestic will give you a 50% discount on the next overpriced polyester shirt you buy. Wow, what a deal! This is the part where I remind you that a much better solution would be to avoid buying overpriced polyester shirts to begin with. … Steve Salayda was watching Game Four of the 1993 World Series and heard broadcasters Tim McCarver and Sean McDonough discussing high- vs. low-cuffed pants styles. … Egg-themed jerseys last night for the Toledo Mud Hens. … Star Wars jerseys on Saturday — such an original idea! — for the West Virginia Black Bears (from Jason Moore). … Three Astros players wore stirrups last night. … Yesterday was a “Wayback Wednesday” for the Padres, which means they wore their 1980s throwbacks. In addition, they went with retro-style game notes and scoreboard graphics.

NFL News: A sailboat that won a recent race in Michigan had the Lions’ logo on the side of the hull, plus the crew wore Lions T-shirts (from Mike). … “The other day there was an ad on the side of my Facebook page for Dolphins merch,” says Tyler Cochran. “It had the throwback ’66 logo (which I love), so I clicked on it. It took me to a page of the throwback merch from Nike, all labeled ‘Miami Dolphins Alt.’ They had all the usual stuff (jacket, personal logos for NFL stars (from Jamie Burditt).

College Football News: Miami now has a “hype video” for its new uniforms (thanks, Phil). … Also from Phil: Texas will not have alternate unis this year. … The Citadel will wear a memorial decal for the Charleston massacre victims this season (from Harrison Wallace). … Some Big 12 players talked about alternate uniforms. … With Penn State reverting to NNOB this season, a player had the team’s longtime equipment manager personally remove the nameplate from his jersey (from Mike McLaughlin). … Countless layers of paint recently slid off of Tennessee’s Painted Rock, leaving the rock as a largely blank slate. According to this story, at least one Vol sees a uni-related subtext: “‘It’s a God-given way to say we are starting over,’ [UT Freshman Jonathan] Mays said. ‘We are about to do something big. We switched from Adidas to Nike and everyone is excited about that and now we literally have a new slate to start off on for The Rock'” (from Patrick Lasseter).

NBA News: The Hawks are partnering with the Fulton County parks department to install a new basketball court surface at a local park. … With all the chatter about the Clippers new uniforms, I think this might be our first look at the rear view (from Sandy Dover). … Yesterday’s entry about the Pacers and their Hoosiers-inspired alternate uniforms prompted Kary Klismet to note that Milan, Indiana — the town whose high school formed the basis for the film — has a museum devoted to the school’s 1954 state title team, including a large collection of uniforms worn in the movie. … This is pretty funny: A local TV newscast began a report by using the wrong 76ers logo and then used the correct one just a few seconds later (good spot by Michael Paolucci). … Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen says the team has logo changes in the works. Additional info here, here, and here (thanks, Mike).

College Hoops News: Kudos to Conrad Burry, who gained access to an Adidas catalog and found a bunch of retro-styled alternates, with a heavy emphasis on cream tones — look here, here, here, and here. Not sure if those are throwbacks or fauxbacks, but a lot of them look pretty good (the retro logo on the Louisville shorts is particularly nice, and I love Nebraska design). Condrad says the catalog lists them under the heading “HWCN,” which presumably stands for “Hard Wood Classic Nights,” or something along those lines.

Soccer News: New shorts sponsor advertiser for Wigan, and they’re putting the ad logo in the tramp stamp spot (from George Chilvers). … New jerseys for Malaga (from Christian Machowski). … New kit for AFC Bournemouth (from @espitt). … New away kit for Monaco (from Tim Cross).

Grab Bag: Here’s a poll where you can vote on your favorite Buffalo Sabres uniform from the team’s history (thanks, Phil).The latest installment of the great design podcast 99 Percent Invisible is about the history and impact of the AIDS awareness ribbon (from @holycalamity). … Excellent story on the Tour de France’s chalkboard lady (from Sean Clancy). … Also from Sean: There’s a new set of trading cards featuring female cyclists. … Speaking of cycling, here’s a visual timeline of interesting bike helmet designs. … The city of Reno may be getting a new logo. … A new, supposedly more comfortable version of Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneaker will be released next Tuesday (from Andrew Cosentino). … Steve McQueen’s racing suit from the film Le Mans is up for auction (from Dane Drutis). … Here’s a look at which 2016 presidential candidate has the worst campaign logo (thanks, Phil).

Some Thoughts on the Pacers and Their Hickory Uniforms

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Big news yesterday out of Indiana, where the Pacers announced that they’ll be wearing Hickory uniforms from the movie Hoosiers for select games next season and beyond (no word yet on exact dates; additional photos here; and there’s a side-by-side comparison of the movie uni and the Pacers’ reproduction here). It’s not the first time Hollywood and a major-level pro sports team have overlapped, but it’s definitely among the most interesting ones.

I had a lot of questions about this initiative, and I got to pose them yesterday to Pacers exec Todd Taylor. You can see a transcript of my interview with him in this ESPN piece, which was posted yesterday, a few hours after the uniforms were unveiled. I suggest you start there before reading the rest of this entry.

So what do I think? I think it’s pretty cool. “But wait,” I hear some of you saying, “you’re supposedly opposed to advertising on uniforms, and this uniform is basically one big ad! It’s promoting a movie! It’s basically just a 69 between two big corporations, which is precisely the kind of thing you’re usually against!”

True enough. But sometimes a piece or art or commerce (a movie like Hoosiers qualifies as a bit of both) transcends those categories and becomes part of the civic firmament. Granted, I’ve never lived in Indiana, but I get the impression that Hoosiers has achieved that kind of status there. As such, it’s a legitimate component of Indiana culture, and is therefore a perfectly legitimate thing for the Pacers to be drawing upon. I would definitely be opposed to this move if it involved a uniform taken from a new movie, or if MGM had a remake of Hoosiers in the works. As it stands, though, I’m cool with it. In fact, I really like it.

Incidentally, the Pacers aren’t the first team to have worn the Hickory design. “There is a high school all-star game that uses Hickory uniforms every year,” says reader Derek Linn. “It’s called the Hoosiers Reunion All-Star Classic. They play in the gym used as Hickory High in the movie and they play as Hickory vs. Terhune. Here is a cool slideshow from the 2007 game.”

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: Bryce Harper hasn’t been wearing an undershirt lately (from Eric Wright). … The Buffalo Bisons held a Star Wars Night on Saturday (from Mike Kent). … The Fresno Grizzlies will be renamed the Tacos on Aug. 6. … Someone reimagined the Padres’ swinging friar logo as an air guitar logo. … The Winnipeg Goldeyes will hold a Bacon Night on July 30. … The Lakewood BlueClaws will become the BruceClaws, in honor of Springsteen, on Saturday (from Phil). … The Washington Wildthings will wear breast cancer awareness jerseys on Saturday against the Normal CornBelters (from Aric Wendorff). … The Rochester Red Wings had Nos. 1 and 2 leading off the game the other night (from Aaron Staebell). … “I got a box of gummies today at the store and noticed it had Cal Ripken on the back,” says Dustin Semour. “I understand there not being Orioles logos, that always happens with a player is advertising something on their own. But usually when that happens, the uniform the player wears at least mimics the wearer’s club. Jeter ads have him in a white jersey with navy pinstripes. Interesting to see Ripken In a completely red uniform/hat as opposed to a white/orange uniform.” … Andy Chalifour visited the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend and picked up a Pedro Martinez Lego figurine. The jersey had an accent mark on the NOB, though; Pedro, to my knowledge, never wore an accent mark in real life. … Russell Martin wore LeBron Solider 9 spikes last night, and Joey Votto wore Kobe Bryant’s shoes adapted as spikes. … Former pitcher Atlee Hammaker played for a semi-pro team named the Chargers that had a similar wordmark to the NFL team. … The Reds gave racer AJ Allmendinger and team owner Brad Daugherty jerseys. Cincinnati had to get creative to make AJ’s NOB fit (from Jon Horton). … Big Klu would be proud: The independent team Kansas City T-Bones are holding a Redneck Weekend and players will wear sleeveless jerseys (from Jeff Husted). … Drake is the most popular artist of MLB at-bat walk-up songs. … The Tennessee Smokies will wear Smoky Mountain service dog jerseys on Aug. 30 (from Phil). … The top of Yankee Stadium is rimmed with flags representing the various MLB teams, which are rearranged daily according to the standings. Here’s a great article and slideshow on the workers who handle that task. … The Mets make an annual visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center during one of their road trips to DC. This year’s visit was yesterday, and the team wore their camouflage jerseys for the occasion (from Phil). … Christmas in July jerseys this Saturday for the Boise Hawks (from Brandon Mehling).

NFL News: A Chiefs ugly Christmas sweater misspells the word “decibels” (from Phil). … Baseball Hall of Famer Randy Johnson is now a photographer, and he’s even worn an NFL vest to shoot pro football games. … Sports Illustrated mimicked a 50-year old cover shot, originally done with Joe Namath, with Darrelle Revis. … Panthers CB Josh Norman turned some laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s NASCAR Experience and was photographed with a Carolina race helmet (from a reader who didn’t give his or her name). … The Seahawks are giving 12th man flags to season ticket holders. The flags even contain the year in which the person first bought season tickets (from Andrew Cosentino).

College Football News: New uniforms for Chattanooga (from Phil). … The winning coach in this year’s Boston College-Georgia Tech game wins a Waterford Crystal helmet (from James Gilbert). … New uniforms for Lamar (from Chris Mycoskie). … New unis for Elon (from Dan Wyar). … Some small uni adjustments — including, thankfully, the return of the full pants stripe — for Auburn (from Jon Walden).

Hockey News: Anyone ever seen this jersey before? Tiffany Burns wants to know what it is. … “Just saw a commercial for the new comedy show about hockey called Benders, coming in October to the IFC channel,” says Chris Flinn. “There were four jerseys featured in the commercial.”

Soccer News: New away kit for Chelsea. It will be worn for the first time next Tuesday (from Chris Cruz). … Also, here’s Chelsea’s non-EPL kit typeface (from Conrad Burry). … New uniforms for Buffalo (from Dennis Abrams). … “West Brom’s James McClean stirred up controversy in South Carolina for not respecting a flag — but not that flag,” says Yusuke Toyoda. “McClean is from an Irish nationalist area of Northern Ireland and he’s received death threats before for not wearing the poppy for Remembrance Day.” … Also from Yusuke: Cerezo Osaka released a cherry blossom-patterned alternate jersey for a match in August.” … And one more from Yusuke: Fans in Spain are upset because the goalkeeper kits for Valencia and Real Betis are identical.

NBA News: Both Jon Solomonson and I have seen these toys around: NBA Heroes, which are NBA player figurines mixed with action figures, wearing a jersey. … Check out this portrait of Boris Diaw out of 11,750 push pins. And, someone made the Blazers’ logo out of beads. … If Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis is to be believed, Carmelo Anthony texts his name as “Me7o” in casual settings. … Some 2016 All-Star logo apparel has been released. … Here’s a look at how the new Hawks uniforms look in video game form (from gamingtailgate). … A Houston-area carpet cleaner has a logo similar to what the NBA used for the 2011 All-Star game. … The Sporting News ranked the best jerseys that were unveiled this offseason (from Phil).

Grab Bag: Zach Johnson wore Titleist mittens during the final round of the British Open on Monday (from Pat Costello). … Possible new logo for PayPal (From Brinke). … A Massachusetts newspaper is letting artists redesign the alphabet one letter at a time. … Here’s how Tour de France leaders get their bikes turned yellow so quickly (from Sean Clancy). … The Smithsonain started a Kickstarter to preserve Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit (from Justin Dilks). … David Firestone broke down a bunch of NHRA items. … New Aussie football ump jerseys will have the word “umpire” in seven different languages (from Phil). … How did NC State volleyball end up with a typo on their own logo?

• • • • •

What Paul did last night: Two meat-centric documentaries opened here in NYC last Friday. They’re both on one-week engagements and my only open time window during that week was last night. So last night I went out and saw both of them.

First I went to Cinema Village to see Famous Nathan, which is about Nathan Handwerker, the founder of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. The film was made by his grandson, Lloyd Handwerker, and it’s tremendous. It’s a little bit about hot dogs, but it’s mostly a very intimate look at the pleasures and perils of running a family business. It’s very American, very New York, very Brooklyn, and very, very Jewish. It’s at Cinema Village for two more days, and then it goes to San Francisco and L.A., plus it’ll be available on demand in early August. Highly recommended. Here’s the trailer:

The director was on hand for a Q&A session, so I stuck around for that and then I walked over to the IFC Center (stopping for a hot dog along the way) and saw Steak (R)evolution, a French film about one man’s quest to find the world’s best steak — a quest that takes him to Japan, Spain, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Sweden, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and Brooklyn. Along the way he interviews butchers, ranchers, cattle breeders, restaurateurs, and chefs (all of whom insist, often contradictorily, that they know the one true secret to great beef). It’s super-interesting and informative, the visuals are mouth-watering (I probably muttered, “Whoa-ho-ho!” and “Ooooh!” a bit too audibly several times), and the filmmaker’s pick for the world’s best steak turns out to be a major surprise on several different levels. It’s at the IFC Center for two more days, and then I’m not sure where it’s playing after that. But again, highly recommended. Here’s the trailer:

Thrift Store Find of the Year

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Matt Texter is a musician and graphic artist who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. He likes to collect oddball items and frequently visits thrift shops in search of interesting finds. It was during one such visit, at a local Salvation Army, that he recently came across the shelf full toys and action figures shown above. At first glance, there was nothing unusual about them. But then he realized what set them apart: They’d all been painted in Cleveland Browns colors, and in some cases they had little uniform elements painted onto them as well.

Whoever did the paint jobs was pretty obsessed. Check out some of the toys:

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“Once I took a closer look, I realized how detailed they were,” says Matt. “All hand-painted. They’re some of the coolest folk art pieces I’ve seen in a long time of digging in thrift shops. There must be 200 or 300 separate pieces, priced at 49¢ each. I didn’t buy any of them, but I plan to go back to ask about buying the whole lot, even though I’m a Steelers fan. The effect of all of them together is what generates the most impact. If I am able to score the whole lot, I’ll be excited to put them all out on the floor to just look at them.”

Pretty cool. Who painted these, and why? How did they end up in a Salvo? If anyone knows, do tell.

(Big thanks to reader Tony Kellogg for letting me know about Matt Texter’s find.)

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

Now this Peter Max-painted Giants helmet is FAR OUT. “Super Bowl XLII Champions.” This would look terrific at Uni Watch HQ … if Paul wants to cough up $7K. [Not gonna happen. — PL]

Looking for something a bit more conservative and budget-friendly? Collector’s Corner has lots of suggestions that should meet your needs:

• Here’s a 1969 “psychedelic” print ad that shows women lining up in NFL team-branded clothing. Gotta love that groovy late-1960s vibe!

That, my friends, is how a uniform is worn. Note the sleeves — they have stripes! So do the socks! The numbers are embroidered, and the socks are perfect height. This was the Dallas defensive front when I lived there — from left, that’s George Andrie, Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh, and Larry Cole. Doomsday.

• I like this 1970s all-white Milwaukee Brewers rain jacket, c/o “Me and My RC.”

• Here’s a classic-looking Green Bay Packers varsity jacket from Sears, Roebuck & Co.

• Raise your hand, all of you who remember the 1960s ABA Oakland Oaks, represented on this nifty pin.

• This 1960s Colts coffee mug from Chase & Sanborn is in perfect shape.

• Here’s a sheet of 1970s NHL logos for media use.

• Check out the logos on this 1960s NFL bed sheet. This was the same set of logos I used to have on an NFL thermal poncho. Sure wish I could see that one again.

• Look at the artwork on the cover of this 1967 Eagles yearbook — doesn’t get any better than that. Great Eagles/Giants artwork here and here, too.

Rarely ever see a helmet pointing to the left, as on this 1980 Browns matchbook.

Follow Brinke on Twitter: @brinkeguthrie

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Baseball News: On Friday I wrote about the White Sox and their upcoming 1976 throwback game, the exact date of which hasn’t yet been announced. Now we have our first look at the jersey (from Ryan Gamble). … Not sure I’ve ever seen emerald green-striped stirrups before. That’s the Worcester Braveshearts, a collegiate summer team (from Brian Bednarski). … Looks like Nats TV broadcaster FP Santangelo blacked out the Nike logo creep on his left sleeve. Good for him (screen shot by Noah Petro). … Reds P Michael Lorenzen was wearing teammate Johnny Cueto’s glove last night. … Mets fans never get tired of Bill Buckner jokes. … Stetson Pevear has noticed that Dodgers 3B Justin Turner appears to have some sort of repair — maybe duct tape? — on the index finger area of his glove. … While working a 1987 Phillies/Expos game, Phils broadcaster Harry Kalas was doing the out-of-town scoreboard and made a point of mentioning that the Orioles were wearing orange jerseys as a slump-buster move (great find by Andrew Dixon).

College Football News: New nose bumpers for Michigan State. I don’t really like them — the circular format doesn’t work well within that horizontal space (from Mike Cole). … Looks like lots of little changes for Kansas: silver numbers, new helmet stripe chrome facemask, KU on one side and a jayhawk on other (from @gimmethewooby). … A thoroughbred racing jockey — not sure who — wore silks and a helmet patterend after a Nebraska football uni (from Barry Spears). … Speaking of Nebraska, it looks like their new uniform, slated to be unveiled later this week, will have an even more annoying fabric pattern than Adidas’s standard annoying fabric pattern. … Here’s a fairly detailed assessment of UMass’s new uni set (from Nicholas Phelps). … Yesterday was ACC Media Day, and some Miami players were wearing Nike jerseys. In case you missed it over the weekend, the Hurricanes have new uniforms from Adidas, which Phil reviewed here. … Meanwhile, all attendees received an ACC Media Guide, which had an amusing surprise — the words “Fuck this shit” lurking on page 145. Guess someone involved in the guide’s production was an unhappy camper. … The collar on Florida State’s home jersey now matches the road version. … New uniforms for Presbyterian College.

Basketball News: Samantha Logic of the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars had one of her numerals peeling off the other day. … Ray Allen got a really cool jersey-based birthday cake (from Matt Edwards) … New court design for Northern Colorado (from Ryan Pfeifer).

Soccer News: New third kit for Norwich City. And if you’re thinking there seems to be very little distinction between the team’s, home, road, and third kits, you’re right (from Brian Mazmanian and George Chilvers).

Grab Bag: Ooooh, check out this timeline of spacesuits (from Randy Peterson). … The FIA is retiring No. 17 for F1 driver Jules Bianchi, who died last week after spending nine months in a coma following a crash at last October’s Japanese Grand Prix (from Andrew Jobe). … New Marvel Heroes jerseys for Round 21 of National Rugby League. … Here’s something I didn’t know: High-end bicycles are easy to counterfeit. … About freakin’ time.

Mr. Met Mystery Kinda-Sorta Solved, Mostly

As many of you know, for several years now I’ve been trying to find the identity of the artist who designed Mr. Met — not the live mascot but the cartoon character. The Mets no longer have any records on the character’s history, and I’ve been unable to find the answer myself. I came tantalizingly close three years ago, but then the trail went cold. Grrrrrr.

More recently, however, I’ve been back on the case. The good news is that I think we now have an answer to this longstanding mystery. The bad news is that I can’t quite prove it yet. Here’s the story.

In late May I received an email from Russell Harvey, whose father was the late comic book publisher Al Harvey, founder of Harvey Comics. It read as follows:

I believe Mr. Met was created or the first finished illustrations were by Al Avison, one of my father’s friends and a longtime artist for my father’s company, Harvey Comics, and other comic book publishers. Al told me he was the original Mr. Met artist many years ago and showed me some of his illustrations of the character. … I believe this story to be accurate, but I was a teenager when Al showed me his Mr Met drawings. Al may have miscommunicated to me his actual role, or I may have misinterpreted it.

I was vaguely familiar with the name Al Avison — he was an old-time comic book artist and had worked on Captain America way back in the 1940s. Had he really created Mr. Met? Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get the chance to ask him that myself: He died in 1984.

I asked Russell Harvey if Avison had any surviving family, and he pointed me toward Avison’s son, Todd Avison. I got in touch with Todd and explained that I was a journalist trying to solve the mystery of Mr. Met’s creator. He responded, “Well, you’ve come to the right place — that was my father!”

I asked Todd if any of he had any original drawings that could substantiate his father’s connection to Mr. Met. He said he wasn’t sure but that his father’s archives were in storage and he wouldn’t have time to check until early July. In the meantime, he suggested that I speak with his mother — Al Avison’s widow — Peg Avison, who’s now in her late 80s, because she might be able to add a few pieces to the puzzle.

So in early June I called Peg Avison. Here’s how our conversation went:

Uni Watch: I’m told that your husband may have been the creator of Mr. Met.

Peg Avison: That’s right, I remember it well. You know, like, “What do you think of this?”

UW: You mean he was showing it to you and asking your opinion, while he was working on it?

PA: That’s right. We worked together, usually in the same room.

UW: Did you make any suggestions or have any feedback?

PA: I don’t think so.

UW: You’re an artist yourself, right?

PA: Yes, that’s right.

UW: Did the two of you ever collaborate on this type of project?

PA: No. I wasn’t into the cartooning side of things. Strangely enough, I was a men’s fashion illustrator. Unusual for a woman at that time. Now, too.

UW: Do you recall how he received the assignment to create Mr. Met?

PA: No, I don’t.

UW: Do you know if the name “Mr. Met” was your husband’s idea, or if it came with the assignment, or if the name came afterward?

PA: No, I’m not sure. It’s funny, I was just thinking about that after talking with [my son] Todd. It could have come from someone with the Mets. I don’t know if he was given a blank slate or a preconceived idea. I can’t tell you.

UW: Once the character was finished and started being used by the Mets, was that something that you and your husband talked about? Like, “Oh, yeah, Al created that,” something along those lines?

PA: Yes.

UW: Was he a baseball fan? A Mets fan?

PA [laughing]: He was a Yankees fan!

UW [laughing]: Oh no! So that was the dark secret behind Mr. Met — he was created by a Yankees fan.

PA: As I recall, he was a Ted Williams fan, too. That was Boston, of course, but he made an exception for him.

UW: Did he develop a soft spot for the Mets after creating Mr. Met?

PA: Oh, sure. And also, with the Mets being a new team, I think a lot of the city was kind of enthused about them.

UW: Mr. Met was used in all sorts of applications: on yearbook covers, ticket stubs, program covers, and so on. Was your husband involved in those applications, working with the team, or did they just take his drawings and use them as needed?

PA: He was just the artist. He didn’t work with the team on any of that. He didn’t have the background to be intelligent about any of that, about the marketing of a baseball team.

UW: Do you know if any of his original Mr. Met drawings still exist?

PA: I don’t know. I have a vague recollection of a few things kicking around the house, but god knows where it is. It’s possible that [my son] Todd has something, though.

UW: Are there any people who worked with your husband back around that time who might be able to verify this story? It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I’m looking to make as strong as a case as possible.

PA: Most of those people are no longer alive.

UW: Yeah, I realized that was probably a long shot.

———

So that left me with Todd Avison and his family archives. I heard back from him shortly after the Fourth of July holiday weekend: “I went through my father’s boxes this weekend and all I came up with was a 1963 Mets yearbook. Unfortunately, my father didn’t seem to save much of his commercial artwork. I don’t think he thought there was any value in it.”

Dang.

Still, it’s significant that Al Avison’s archives included a 1963 Mets yearbook, because that publication marked Mr. Met’s debut. He appeared on the cover, and one of the interior pages introduced him to the fan base (but without any illustration credit). If Al Avison kept that yearbook in his archives — and remember, his wife said he wasn’t even a Mets fan — I think that’s as close to a smoking gun as we’re going to find.

It’s pretty clear that Al Avison believed he created Mr. Met and shared that belief with at least several people — maybe lots of people. It’s tempting to say, “Okay, I’m convinced,” but I don’t think we’re there yet. Remember, the myth of the MLB logo being based on Harmon Killebrew came from Killebrew himself, who sincerely (but mistakenly) believed he had been Jerry Dior’s inspiration and told people as much for years. So while I’ve heard enough to be convinced that Avison told his wife and son and others that he created Mr. Met, that doesn’t make it true. Do I think it’s true? Yeah, I do. But we don’t yet have definitive proof.

Russell Harvey — the guy who first sent me down this road — has suggested a few other avenues of potential research, like checking with the Society of Illustrators (they may have some of Avison’s old work), or combing through old newspapers in Darien, Connecticut, where Avison lived. I’ll follow up on those ideas when I have the time, but I’d say we’re probably talking needle/haystack territory.

And that’s a shame. An original drawing, in addition to definitively solving the mystery of Mr. Met’s authorship, would also be a really cool thing to see. But I think that’s now very unlikely. Sigh.

• • • • •

T-Shirt Club — LAST CALL: Today is the LAST DAY to order the Uni Watch T-Shirt Club’s latest design — the green alternate shirt. In response to reader requests, we’ve added a women’s V-neck option, which comes in a slightly lighter shade of green. The men’s crew neck and women’s V-neck options are both shown below (click to enlarge):

To order, go here, and you can get further info here.

• • • • •

PermaRec update: On the left is a very beautiful 1940s employee I.D. badge; on the right, a 1940s beer tap handle. What do these two items have in common? Find out over on Permanent Record.

• • • • •

Baseball News: Very entertaining helmet logo glitch yesterday for Jonathan Herrera of the Cubs. He eventually got it properly oriented (screen shots by Jeff Stark). … The Nats usually wear red for Sunday home games but switched to white yesterday because of the heat. … Yankees OF Brett Gardner may have risked a fine yesterday by wearing white cleats (thanks, Phil). … My friend Bill Scanga found a baseball uni-related factoid on the underside of a Snapple cap. … Lots of MLBers now wear those oven mitt-style sliding gloves while on the bases, but Red Sox 1B Mike Napoli’s seems particularly large (from Tim Golden). … Lots of fun uni details in this print of Mickey Mouse and Goofy playing baseball, which Chris Flinn spotted in a barber shop. … Here’s a rare sight: Randy Johnson wearing No. 34 for the Mariners, which he briefly wore early in his Seattle tenure (from David Finer). … Odd sitution in Saturday’s Rangers/Astros throwback game, as one team wore the MLB logo and one didn’t. … Rays P Chris Archer had some stirrup issues yesterday (from Steven Schapansky). … “Crazy Hot Dog Vendor” jerseys yesterday for the Reading Fightins (from Eric Scarcella). … The Salt Lake Bees will wear Salt Lake Gulls throwbacks on Aug. 1. … Rugrats uniforms on July 31 for the Frederick Keys (from Andrew Torrez). … Several Japanese baseball items from Jeremy Brahm, including red uniforms for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp for three August games; 1979-81 throwbacks for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters; and yellow jerseys for the Seibu Lions to mark 100th anniversary of the Seibu Railway. … If you didn’t already think the Star Wars thing had gotten out of hand, this should seal it: The Nats’ racing presidents dressed up as Star Wars characters yesterday. Further info here (from Tommy Turner). … Great shot of Mike Schmidt wearing the National League’s 1976 All-Star pillbox BP cap (from @prefix6).

Pro and college football News: Brett Favre’s charity flag football game in Madison, Wisconsin, was presented by Hewlett-Packard — says so right on the sleeve patch. … Looks like Nebraska will be getting new uniforms this Thursday (thanks, Phil). … Really nice cover photo/design for the WVU media guide (from Coleman Mullins).

Hockey News: Interesting piece on Finland’s Hockey Hall of Fame, which of course has lots of great-looking jerseys (from John Muir). … Detroit News hockey writer Ted Kulfan has ranked all 30 NHL uniform sets (from Lee Lawson).

Grab Bag: New checkerboard jerseys for the Tennessee women’s soccer team (from Lee Wilds). … Here’s a good article about how to design an effective app icon (from Ilana Hardesty). … Interesting infographic on how our brains interpret logos (thanks, Brinke).

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What Paul did last night two nights ago: On Saturday night I was out at a bar in Red Hook with my friends Shane and Friederike. At about 10:30pm we began biking home. Red Hook, like many parts of Brooklyn, is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, but big stretches of it are still industrial and very ghost-like at night. We chose a route that included a long stretch of Imlay St., which was completely deserted — no cars, no people, no street lights, no nothing. It felt like we had the whole world to ourselves.

At the end of Imlay St. we reached the Red Hook Container Terminal, a big shipping port. Like everything else, it appeared to be shuttered for the night, but it wasn’t deserted. As we approached the entrance gate, we saw several dark blobs on the roadway — a pack of feral cats. It was actually much darker than these photos suggest, because I punched up the images a bit in Photoshop (for all of these, you can click to enlarge):

There were maybe seven or eight adults plus half a dozen kittens. The kittens were eating food that someone had put out for them, a nice reminder that even the roughest-seeming places can be softened by a touch of human kindness:

The cats were skittish, but two of them let me get close enough to get a decent shot. I think it does a nice job of capturing the tough, gritty life of a street cat, finding a way to survive in a largely inhospitable place (click to enlarge):