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The Story Behind Team Israel’s ‘Jew Crew’ T-Shirt

[Today we have a guest article by Mickel Yantz, who’s going to tell us about an excellent WBC-related project he’s been involved with. — PL]

By Mickel Yantz

For a couple of years I’ve been a freelance artist for an Arizona-based company called Americas Finest Apparel, creating unique sports-themed shirts. Most of them feature Day of the Dead-style sugar skulls with sports themes. (Sugar skulls originated as actual skull-shaped sugar molds decorated with colorful frosting every year on the Day of the Dead holiday to honor loved ones who’ve passed on.)

Throughout my partnership with America’s Finest, I’ve talked with Steve, the company’s owner, about his background in sports media and some of his friends. One friend who he mentioned last year was Cody Decker, a minor league ballplayer who’s also on Team Israel’s roster for the World Baseball Classic. I followed Decker on Twitter and saw how entertaining he is with his fans and teammates. At one point he even had a fun back-and-forth with William Shatner.

This year Decker was signed to a minor league deal by the Brewers, who apparently gave him a cap with the Barrel Man logo, and Decker asked his Twitter followers to explain the logo to him because he wasn’t familiar with Barrel Man. Plenty of fans replied back to him. (It turns out it was the Brewers’ 2013 spring training cap.)

A few weeks later, Steve — the America’s Finest owner — texted me a picture of the full-body version of Barrel Man and asked, “Can you make this into a swinging rabbi?” It was certainly the most unique request I’d ever received from him. He didn’t say what it was for, but I remembered Decker’s tweet and knew Decker was playing for Team Israel, so I thought there might be a connection there.

Here’s the funny part: Steve didn’t realize that my day job is working as the curator at the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art in Tulsa. We have an exhibition opening this April about Jewish ballplayers, called Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American, which is coming to us from the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, and I’ve been in touch with the Israel Association of Baseball to procure a Team Israel uniform for us to display in conjunction with the exhibit. So I was definitely in the right frame of mind to create the “Barrel Rabbi” illustration.

I worked on the design and sent it over to Steve, who then added some lettering to spell out “Jew Crew” and put it on a T-shirt. He let me know it was for Decker and Team Israel (my understanding is that Decker requested 40 shirts to give to his teammates as gifts, with permission for America’s Finest to sell sell the shirt on its website) but asked me to keep it quiet until the reveal. Two weeks later I checked Twitter and saw that Decker had posted a photo of the shirt in Phoenix after meeting his teammates:

Team Israel has surprised everyone in the World Baseball Classic by sweeping the first round Pool A and moving on to the second round in Tokyo. Along the way, the swinging rabbi shirt has shown up at various press conferences and in other social media posts.

I have an exciting job promoting and sharing Jewish cultural history and heritage with museum guests, but this is the first time I’ve found myself contributing to that history. One of the “Jew Crew” shirts will even be on display in my museum’s upcoming baseball exhibit, so my side gig and my day job will be merging into one.


Paul here. Good stuff, right? I love Mickel’s design. My only quibble is that the swinging rabbi would be even better if he were based on the Padres’ swinging friar. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in purchasing the “Jew Crew” shirt, it’s available here.

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When the look goes beyond the uni: Remember Batting Stance Guy, who mimicked various MLB players’ batting stances? Former D-League player Brandon Armstrong has developed a similar shtick for NBA players. In the video shown above, he captures many of the physical nuances of LeBron James, James Harden, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony. It’s all pretty great.

There’s further info here, and you can see Armstrong’s YouTube channel here.

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jersey contest usa

Contest reminder: In case you missed it over the weekend, Phil is running a contest to design new World Baseball Classic jerseys and caps for Team USA. All the details are in this post. Get your designs in to by this Friday, March 17, midnight Eastern. Get crackin’!

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Screen shot 2009-10-04 at 10.07.15 PM.png

Culinary Corner: NYC was supposed to get a serious blizzard yesterday. As you’ve probably heard, the storm turned out to be a lot less severe than had been predicted, at least here in Fun City, but the Tugboat Captain and I weren’t taking any chances. We decided to spend most of the weekend cooking something that would sustain us while we rode out the storm: a gumbo.

The impending snowpocalypse wasn’t our only motivation. I’d been wanting to make a gumbo all winter long. And while we sampled two very nice gumbos during our recent visit to New Orleans, neither one quite achieved the upper-echelon flavor explosion that I’ve experienced with some gumbos in the past. I felt like we could do better.

I had a very good recipe for us to use, too (if that link doesn’t work for you, try this instead). As you can see, it calls for a shitload of ingredients, including a whole duck, a whole chicken, a pound and a half of shrimp, pheasant sausage, and a ton of vegetables. Takes all day to prepare, too. But it’s worth it — I had made it once before, in 1998, and it was amazing.

So that’s how we spent a good chunk of our weekend. We did make some adjustments to the recipe, though:

• Instead of pheasant sausage, we used andouille.

• Instead of using chicken or vegetable stock, as the recipe calls for, we used the shrimp shells to create a shrimp stock, which formed most of the liquid in the gumbo. (We also used the duck bones to create a duck stock and used a little of that in the gumbo as well. And by “we,” I really mean the Captain, who did all of the stock-related work.)

• A gumbo starts with a roux, which is flour cooked in fat (which in this case was mostly duck fat that rendered out while we were cooking the duck). The usual way to do this is to stir the roux in a saucepan on the stove and watch it darken as the flour cooks over the course of a half-hour or so. It works fine, but it’s tedious and you tend to get splattered a bit by the hot fat. Some websites suggest toasting the flour by itself on the stovetop, without any fat, and then adding the fat and letting the roux cook in the oven. Neither of us had ever tried that before, but we were intrigued, so we decided to give it a go.

First we put a cup and a half of flour in a pot over medium heat and stirred it to keep it from burning. It felt sort of weird — who cooks flour all by itself? — but as the Captain noted, “I’ve toasted other grains, so why not flour?” After a few minutes, it began to smell nutty and roasty-toasty, so we removed it from the heat. It had gotten every-so-slightly browned, as you can see here — regular flour on the left, toasted flour on the right (click to enlarge):

Then we added the rendered duck fat (plus a bit of vegetable oil, because we didn’t have quite enough duck fat to reach the specified amount) and stirred to blend in the flour. The resulting mixture was a light tan:

Then we covered the pot and put it in the oven. The idea was that the flour would continue to cook, darkening the roux to a deep chocolate color. It did darken somewhat, but not enough — or at least not fast enough — so the Captain took it out of the oven and finished it on the stovetop, stirring (i.e., the normal way of making a roux). Eventually it reached a nice, deep shade of brown:

The rest of the process involved mixing the roux with the stock, adding the vegetables, adding the protein (duck, chicken, andouille, shrimp), and several hours’ worth of simmering, all of which made the house smell soooooo good. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of any of that, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Between the shopping for ingredients, roasting the duck and the chicken and then picking the meat off the bones, peeling the shrimp, and all the rest, the project took a good chunk of Saturday and all of Sunday. It was finally ready to eat at about 7:30pm on Sunday, and we invited two friends over to share it with us. It did not disappoint — one of the better gumbos I’ve ever had, and definitely better than the two gumbos we ate a week earlier in New Orleans (which is no surprise, since neither of those included duck, or had a roux made with duck fat).

Quick tangent: Back in the late 1980s I was a book editor. Some of the books I worked on were cookbooks, and some of the cookbooks were about soup. My boss at the time, a very smart lady, hated having to approve the cover designs for these books because photos of soup always looked like, as she put it, “puke in a bowl” (I actually worked on that book). Nearly 30 years later, I’m always haunted by my former boss’s words when I try to photograph soup. With that proviso in mind, here’s how the gumbo turned out:

Looks pretty good, right? We had a lot of leftover servings (which, as you’ll recall, was the whole idea). In fact, I’m going to have some gumbo as soon as I finish typing this.

But before I do that, I should mention that the Captain did way more of her share of the work on this project. She chopped all the vegetables, made the shrimp and duck stocks, monitored the roux, and a lot more. I did some work, but not nearly as much as she did (in part because I was busy trying to finish writing the massive travelogue entry that ran on the site on Monday, and in part because she’s just far more kitchen-adept than I am). So the credit for the gumbo’s success really belongs to her. Take a bow, sweetie.

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball News: The Rockies celebrated Pi Day lining up in pi uni-number order — or so it initially appeared. The photo was actually a doctored version of the shot that appears at the top of their Twitter page. … Speaking of the Rockies, do their color changes a signal for an upcoming redesign? (From Perry Sailor.) … Kind of hard to see, but this may be the stars and stripes caps MLB teams will wear this year (from J.K.). … Francisco Lindor usually wears striped stirrups with the Indians, but has been wearing solid Stance socks for Puerto Rico in the WBC. … Dusty Baker is a treasure trove of baseball stories, and he had a lot of good stuff to say about baseball bats yesterday. … Robinson Canó’s captain’s C looks to be a lighter shade of blue than the rest of Dominican Republic’s jerseys (from Brian Bomser). … Matthew Prigge wrote a couple of posts on Brewers unis of the past. According to him, the team’s ’78 home set was supposed to include NOBs, but owner Bud Selig nixed the idea because he didn’t like the way the letters looked against pinstripes. … With much of the east coast under snow, Michael Clearly sent along shots of Mel Parnell, Mickey Mantle, and Chris Speier balling in the snow. … Cool move by the St. Paul Saints, who will be honoring Mary Tyler Moore with a hat giveaway this season. It’s meant to look like the same one she tosses during the opening credits of her show (from Patrick O’Neill). … Akron RubberDucks players got rings for their 2016 Eastern League Championship last night (from CN). … St. Joseph’s College in in Indiana has some awesome posters for each home series this season (from Eric Bunnell). … Good-looking color-on-color game yesterday between Motlow Community College and Calhoun Community College (from Motlow Baseball). … Matt Ryburn sends along this photo from the Atlantic. It was taken at Irwinville Farms in Georgia, though the player remains unidentified. The photographer, Roy Stryker, told his editors not to run a photo by punching a hole through the negative. A whole gallery of these photos is available here. … Japan’s WBC team has a raised helmet logo (from Jeff McClure).

NFL News: Packers RB and former WR Ty Montgomery says he’ll continue to wear No. 88 next year (from Brad E.). … New Rams signing Kayvon Webster was wearing a cap with a gold-trimmed logo yesterday, instead of the team’s new blue/white logo (from Moe Khan). … NFL Network reporter Jason LaCanfora shared a photo of his old pair of Baltimore Colts gloves on Twitter yesterday (from Patrick Sesty). … Check out this Miami Dolphins basketball program from 1974. According to Francisco Monteagudo, former and then-current Fins players used to hoop against high school and city teams during the offseason. … Here’s an article about the ’57 Steelers that includes some great helmet and facemask photos (from Bill Kellick).

College and High School Football NewsTexas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is not allowing his team to wear its logo until they “earn” the right to wear it (from Edside Manor). … Awesome find by Bill Moss, who sent along this color clip from the 1940 Rose Bowl. Appropriately, Michigan and USC went color-on-color. … North Carolina celebrated Pi Day yesterday (from James Gilbert). … New helmets for Warner Robbins High School in Georgia (from Doug Hazard).

Hockey News: On Monday I said that a James Harden/LeBron James frankenjersey may have been the strangest I’ve ever seen. We might have another contender: Panthers/Leafs (from Brett Kirkham). … Taylor sends along photos from this black-on-blue matchup between the Kings and Jets, possibly from 1988-89. Anyone know anything about it?

Basketball News: Here are new NBA  socks for St. Paddy’s Day. The Bulls and Celtics will be wearing them as part of their holiday uniforms later this week. … Great looking color-on-color game in the NBA last night between the Cavs and Pistons (thanks Mike). …  ESPN mixed up St. Mary’s and Mount St. Mary’s on their website last night (from Eddie Lee). … Not sure if we’ve brought this up before, but Michigan’s DJ Wilson wears some really short shorts (from Max Weintraub). … March Madness means T-shirts with unimaginative slogans are in season (from James Gilbert). … The public radio show Marketplace had an excellent report last night about the D-League G-League (from Andrew Cosentino). … TNT broadcaster Lewis Johnson was using a mic cube with a “Sager Strong” message (from Zach Loesl). … Also from Zach: Wake Forest and Kansas State went grey vs. purple last night.

Grab Bag: Liverpool will wear a 125th-anniversary crest on their kits next season (from Moe Khan). … Cal Lutheran University has a new logo (from Andrew Luttrell). … Not often you see pink on the racetrack. That car is owned by team Force India in F1. Drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon will also wear pink helmets. … Disney has made logos for 18 of its attractions for a “March Magic” promotion (from Yancy Yeater). … The officers at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are switching from silver belt buckles to gold — at a cost of $300,000 — in order to have the buckles match the officers’ badges (from Matt Shevin). … The amazing Japanese artist Gaku carves some very intricate designs into foodstuffs (from James Gilbert).

Nothing But Net: Lakers Suspected Foul Play in ’68 Finals

Longtime Uni Watch reader Jerry Wolper spends a lot of time researching his way through old Pittsburgh newspapers. Along the way, he often spots things that would be of interest to Uni Watch, and he recently came up with a doozy.

On April 24, 1968, The Pittsburgh Press ran a UPI wire story about the NBA finals that were then taking place between the Lakers and the Celtics (yes, the finals took place in April in those days). The first two games were in Boston, and the Celtics had won the first one. That set the stage for some gamesmanship during the lead-up to Game 2. As the article explains:

When the teams meet tonight in Boston Garden [for Game 2], there will be new nets attached to the baskets. … The Lakers claimed the strings on the Boston Garden nets were too long and too loose, enabling the ball to drop through quickly so Boston could get its fast break started an instant fast than it normally would with tight nets, which slow the ball down a bit.

Faaaascinating. Granted, I don’t follow basketball as closely as I follow some other sports, but I’d never heard about “loose nets” allegedly being used to gain a tactical advantage.

I don’t think we’ve ever covered basketball nets here at Uni Watch, but it’s definitely a ripe topic. Among the questions that come to mind:

• How has the net evolved over time? When was the last change or alteration to its basic design?

• How long is the net supposed to be?

• Is there any difference between the nets used in the NBA and the ones used in college?

• Are today’s nets made from natural or synthetic twine?

We can answer some of these questions by looking up the rules. The NBA rulebook, for example, includes Rule II(d), which reads as follows:

Each basket shall consist of a pressure-release NBA approved metal safety ring 18″ in inside diameter with a white cord net 15″ to 18″ in length. The cord of the net shall not be less than 30 thread nor more than 120 thread and shall be constructed to check the ball momentarily as it passes through the basket.

The NCAA basketball rulebook has similar language. Rules 14.1 and 14.3 state:

Each basket shall consist of a single metal ring, 18 inches inside diameter, its flange and braces, and a white-cord, 12-mesh net, 15 to 18 inches in length, suspended from beneath the ring.


The cord of each net shall be not less than 120-thread nor more
than 144-thread twine, or plastic material of comparable dimensions, and constructed so as to check the ball momentarily as it passes through.

I was initially surprised the net can vary so much in length, but that probably allows for the differences in drape and “hang” as a net gets broken in. In other words, two nets made to identical specs could hang at slightly different lengths.

Who invented the basketball net anyway? We all know Dr. Naismith began by using peach baskets, but who decided to add the net? I haven’t seen the net attributed to any particular person, but most sources seem to agree that nets were added in the late 1890s. This page, for example, includes the following:

The rules, of course, began being tweaked nearly from the beginning and the old peach basket was thrown out in favor of iron rims with netting as early as 1893 (though, interestingly, the first netted hoops had a closed bottom, so a long wooden dowel still had to be used to retrieve the ball for around a decade after the net was introduced, until someone finally got the bright idea of just using an open-ended net so that the ball would just fall through, no stick required).

It’s been many years since I last shot hoops, but I played a lot of basketball as a kid — in gym class, on youth league teams, and just messing around outside with friends. I always liked the metal nets often found on playgrounds — the “ch-chink!” of the ball going through the net sounded even better than the “swish!” provided by traditional twine nets, and the ball seemed to get suspended in the metal nets for just a moment longer, which for some reason I found very satisfying.

I’m interested in hearing what you folks have to say regarding basketball nets, so feel free to explore this topic in today’s comments.

Footnote: The Lakers won Game 2. But the Celtics won the series and the title.

(Big thanks to Jerry Wolper for another great historical find.)

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

And we’re back with a Pi Day edition of Collector’s Corner. Let’s start off with this outstanding Buffalo Bills poster. This is obviously O.J., and the eBay listing says it’s from 1974. I seem to remember having this poster prior to ’74, but the Bills didn’t go to that helmet design until that year, so it must be right. Needless to say, a classic example of 1970s NFL artwork.

Now to the rest of this week’s picks (and I’ll have a scoop of vanilla ice cream with that apple pie, please):

• Jets fans! Hang this 1970s Sears cork board in your home office.

• Speaking of the Jets, reader Andy Harris passed along this vintage photo of Jets coach Weeb Ewbank and former Mets skipper Casey Stengel celebrating the Mets’ 1969 World Series win.

• How about this Mickey Mantle pocket watch?

• Here’s a nice-looking Kansas City Chiefs stadium blanket. Listing says it’s from the 1960s, but since it says “National Football League,” probably more like early-’70s at the earliest.

• Here’s another NFL blanket — this time from JC Penney — but this one goes on your bed.

• Nice-looking 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates enamel belt buckle.

• This (Sears?) ad from 1974 shows the Dolphins’ Dick Anderson and a future NFLer in uniform.

• Take a close look at the cover art on this 1960s “Pro Tips” booklet, featuring some of the big pro football stars of the era.

• Here’s a variation on the classic Baltimore Colts prancing horse logo on a 1960s decal.

• Look at the treatment the wings got on this Eagles youth helmet, made by Rawlings, from the 1960s.

• This 1960s NFL St. Louis Cardinals Technigraph plaque is still in good shape!

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jersey contest usa

Contest reminder: In case you missed it over the weekend, Phil is running a contest to design new World Baseball Classic jerseys and caps for Team USA. All the details are in this post. Get your designs in to by this Friday, March 17, midnight Eastern. Get crackin’!

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Click to enlarge

KRC update: The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles is about a guy with three metal items on his key ring, each from a notable juncture in his life. Check it out here.

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The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: All Hiroshima Carp players will wear Hiroki Kuroda’s No. 15 on Saturday. … Yesterday Paul was wondering what cap Hank Williams was wearing in this photo. It was a Nashville Volunteers cap (from Ronnie Poore). … Today, 32 companies supply MLB with bats, up from only five manufacturers two decades ago (from Tommy Turner). … “Dodgertown was built on the site of a former U.S. Naval Air Station in Vero Beach, Florida in 1953,” says Mike Clary. “The dugouts at Holman Stadium weren’t completed in time for the opening of spring training games.” … Giants OF Michael Morse appears to be taking pants-hiking lessons from teammate Hunter Pence (from Chris Mayberry and @SheilaWSF).

NFL and College Football News: Are you a designer looking for a new gig? Always wanted to live in Cleveland? The Browns are looking to hire a graphic design coordinator. Cue the joke about a helmet design (from @LouiseBrooksFC). … Virginia Tech will have two single-digit defensive tackles next season: Tim Settle with No. 4 and Ricky Walker with No. 8 (from Andrew Cosentino).

Hockey News: Lightning goalie Peter Budaj has a new mask design featuring his alter-ego: Ned Flanders dressed as Thor. … The Milwaukee Admirals will wear first responders jerseys on April 1 (from Chad Jorgenson). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Here’s a good film from 1951 about the jobs NHL stars held during the summer (from reader Jet). … During the 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons, the Bruins scrapped their black home jerseys and wore gold instead. Kenny Kaplan remembers that they often chose to wear their white jerseys at home. … The Devils will wear their green-trimmed throwbacks on March 16 — the day before St. Patrick’s Day. … Here’s a shot of a Canucks player spray-painting his stick black. “It’s believed a black lower section makes it harder for a goalie to track the pucks,” says @TheGoalNet45.

NBA News: During the 1960s the Celtics switched from a radial wordmark across the chest to a more horizontal one. In 1968, Larry Siegfried still had the old version (from JP Baillieul). … A Bucks blogger took a look at the team’s uniforms from the last two decades. … The Raptors wore MLSE Launchpad warm-up tops last night. That refers to a Toronto youth sports facility (from Zach Loesl).

College Hoops News: Here’s the court design for this year’s Final Four. … Instead of Valparaiso, a Vanderbilt logo was used during a PTI segment on Bryce Drew’s legendary game-winner in 1997 NCAA Tournament (from Chris Fyfe). … In the same vein, instead of a Mount Saint Mary’s University logo in this graphic, ESPN showed Mount St. Mary’s College (look between Minnesota and Nevada). Here is the correct logo (from Ed Kalas).

Grab Bag: Drexel lacrosse has a new St. Patrick’s Day helmet (from Jackie Treehorn). … Roman Mars, host of the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible, ranked government logos from best to worst (from Adam Herbst). … A few golfers at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week will have Palmer’s colorful umbrella logo on their clothes and equipment. … New logo for the Aldi supermarket chain.

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What Paul did last night: Last night I saw Uncertain, a documentary about the tiny town of Uncertain, Texas (yes, that’s really its name), and three of its more interesting residents.

It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long, long time — spectacularly beautiful, evocative, thought-provoking, and very entertaining. The three main characters are all seeking some sort of redemption — sometimes for things they’ve done, sometimes for things that have been done to them. While each of them is a familiar type (an ex-con, a directionless kid, etc.), none of them is a cliché. The cinematography is spectacular (miles better than what you see in most documentaries), and the pacing and editing are superb. Uni Watch’s highest rating.

As of today, Uncertain is only playing in NYC and London. But over the next week or so there will be screenings in Nashville, Chicago, Seattle, and Corpus Christi. If you live in or near those cities, I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

Here’s the film’s website, the review that prompted me to see the film, and the trailer. Don’t miss.

And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Ribs: Deep South Road Trip Report

Brunswick, Ga., March 7; photo by Mary Bakija; click to enlarge

“Hey,” said the Tugboat Captain about two months ago, “JetBlue is having a crazy sale. Let’s go somewhere!”

And that’s how we found ourselves flying to Savannah, Ga., on the morning of March 1 (only $49 each way!) and then embarking on a 1600ish-mile road trip that took us to New Orleans, where we spent a weekend with two old friends of mine, and then back to Savannah, where we caught a flight home on the evening of March 7.

Here’s a pretty close approximation of our route. The line shown in blue is how we got from Savannah to New Orleans, and the red line is how we drove back. The daily indicators in green — Day 1, Day 2, etc. — show where we ended up at the end of each day of the trip (click to enlarge):

In retrospect — well, even in foresight — it was too much ground to cover in too little time, plus there was a logistical hiccup on the next-to-last day that threw a monkey wrench into our schedule. Still, we saw some great sights, ate some damn good food (and also some mediocre food — I’ll get to that), discovered a watering hole for the ages, and spent time with two of my favorite people on the planet. Not bad. Here’s how it went. (The photos that follow are a mix — some taken by me, some by the Captain. In general, if a photo is really good, you can assume it was hers, not mine. All can be clicked to enlarge.)

Day 1 — Wednesday, March 1: We caught a morning flight to Savannah, rented a car, and headed straight to lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, a former boarding house that now serves world-class traditional Southern food. The seating is family-style — 10 people to a table, so you’re basically forced to make chitchat with strangers, which is a good thing — and the food is all-you-can-(over)eat.

When we sat down, the table was already groaning with more than a dozen different dishes, and at least 10 more came out soon after that. I can’t remember all of them, but they included fried chicken, meat loaf, beef stew, pork barbecue, red rice with sausage, mac and cheese, cornbread, biscuits, corn dressing, and a lot of vegetables — succotash, cucumbers, mashed sweet potatoes, butter beans, baked beans, green beans, rutabaga, creamed corn, squash, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and definitely a few I’m forgetting. It was insane. The price — $22/head — seemed like a bargain.

After lunch, we walked through Savannah’s biggest park and then headed off to Tybee Island, where we went for our first beach walk of 2017. It was a warm day but breezy down at the water — perfect.

At one point the Captain looked down and spotted a sand dollar. But when she picked it up, it was still alive! It had all these little tendrils on the bottom that were wriggling about. Live sand dollars may be common for some of you folks, but we’d never seen a live one before — so cool! I shot some footage of its underside, but what you mostly see is the sun sparkling off of it, which makes it hard to make out the movement of the tendrils. But trust me, they were moving!

A bit later, on our way to our motel, we spotted something odd in somebody’s backyard: a giant globe, with the name of a local mortgage company. It seemed like something worth investigating, so we pulled over to have a closer look. The globe was was fenced off, but we managed to get some decent pics:

We drove around the corner to the other side of the house to get another view of the globe and found that the house’s mailbox was painted like the moon.

We later learned that the globe had originally been a natural gas storage tank.

We crashed for a bit at our motel, then went out for dinner (just salads, because we were still recovering from the mega-lunch), and then went to check out downtown Savannah, where there was one landmark in particular that I wanted to see: the Lucas Theater. It had such a great marquee that I could almost forgive the spelling:

Day 2 — Thursday, March 2: This morning we bade farewell to Savannah and headed west. Our first stop was at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, which is home to an unusual attraction: the U.S. National Tick Collection, which is technically an arm — or perhaps a segmented leg — of the Smithsonian Institution and is billed as the largest curated tick collection in the world.

The collection is in the basement of the school’s math and science building. It’s open for public tours, but only during certain hours — which, unfortunately, did not coincide with our visit. But they have a “permanent collection” on display, which is basically a hallway with a few museum-style placards and a few creepy-crawly specimens. Here are some pics (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

Looking at blood-sucking bugs can bring on a powerful appetite, so we headed over to Vandy’s Bar-B-Q, which showed all the signs of being a top-notch ’cuery: It’s been in business since 1929, it claims to have one of only six open-pit smokehouses in the state, it’s a nondescript cinderblock building with a rusty sign, the locals pile in at lunchtime, and the waitress is a hoot. We ordered a chopped pork sandwich and a chicken platter and couldn’t wait to dive in.

Just one problem: The meat wasn’t the least bit smoky. Like, zero smokiness. It tasted like it could have been cooked in an oven instead of a smoker, which defeats the whole point of barbecue. Very disappointing. The weird thing is, we snuck around back to check out the smokehouse after we were done eating, and it definitely smelled smoky. But none of that flavor or aroma was imparted to the food (or at least not to our food).

This wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered this problem (nor would it be the last time we encountered it on this trip), and it leads to something worth discussing: Barbecue is super-popular, and there’s this big lore and mystique surrounding it, but the reality is that a lot of barbecue — most barbecue, really — is mediocre at best. That’s part of why there’s a mystique around it, because it’s hard to do well. I know all of that, and yet I still have the urge to pull over and sample the fare at every single roadside barbecue joint I see, even though I know the experience will usually be disappointing. I can’t let go of the fantasy that this will be the place with the mind-blowing ’cue. And occasionally that fantasy becomes reality. Much like the nibble on the end of the line that keeps the fisherman down at the lake all day, those occasional top-notch barbecue experiences are enough to keep me seeking out the next one. But man, I wish there weren’t so many disappointments along the way, like the smokeless ’cue we had at Vandy’s.

We tried to salvage things by going off in search of pie for dessert. But not just any pie — Mennonite pie. I associate Mennonites with Pennsylvania and no idea they had sects or communities in the Deep South, but the Captain’s travel research had uncovered a Mennonite pie shop in the Georgia town of Montezuma. Sure enough, they had shoofly pie, just like the Mennonites in Pennsylvania. But we were in Georgia, so we decided to get pecan pie. They were only selling whole pies, not slices, so we got one for ourselves and sampled it in the car. Deeee-lish! A good corrective to the disappointing lunch. (Oh, and the Mennonites also had some goats. Since we were feeding ourselves, we fed the goats as well.)

Our next stop was a bit more somber: Andersonville National Historic Site. It was here that the Confederacy built one of the Civil War’s largest and most hellishly overcrowded military prisons. At one point 45,000 Union soldiers were held here as prisoners of war, and 13,000 of them died (mostly from scurvy, diarrhea, and dysentery), making Andersonville the war’s single deadliest spot. Think about that: More people died in a prison than in any battle. The commander was eventually hanged for war crimes.

The entire prison was later razed, and the only things currently on the grounds are a re-creation of a small portion of the stockade fence that once encircled the 26-acre facility, a correspondingly small re-created portion of the “deadline” (an inner fence that prisoners were forbidden to cross, or else sentries situated in crow’s nests along the stockade had orders to shoot them), and some tents and shanties like the ones the prisoners had lived in. It probably doesn’t look like much in the photos I’m about to show you, but we had read a bit about Andersonville before arriving, and the visitor’s center had some excellent displays that helped us visualize what the prison had been like, so that small portion of the stockade was enough — we could extrapolate what the rest of the scene had been like, and the overall effect was really powerful. A very strong piece of interpretive museum work.

Off to the side were memorial monuments from the various Union states whose soldiers died at the prison. Most were of modest size, but Wisconsin’s was enormous. It was odd to see these Union monuments in the heart of the Confederacy — again, powerful stuff.

But Andersonville’s most affecting sight came at the end of our visit, when we visited the facility’s military cemetery. Those 13,000 dead prisoners are all buried here, and the sheer number of small tombstones hit like a punch to the gut. Again, these images don’t come close to conveying the scope and impact of what we saw.

We would have lingered longer, but the site was about to close, so we hit the road again and pushed on to Columbus, Ga., where we had hoped to get a drink at a place called the Sputnik Bar, which looked like our kinda place. Unfortunately, when we showed up we found that the bar was closed and the building had a “For Sale” sign. But after some quick internet research, we found an excellent substitute: the Pop-A-Top Lounge, which looked even more like our kinda place. Here’s how it looked when we walked in, and a bit later after we walked out:

Does that look like sheer perfection or what? And what we found inside absolutely delivered on that promise — a surreal scene of near-Lynchian proportions. Among the topics that were discussed: the obvious fakery/conspiracy of the supposed “moon landings” and the fact that Mexico is “a paradise” (“I mean, I haven’t been there, but I know it is. Who wouldn’t want to get deported there?”). Another highlight was the guy who walked in with a big wooden box and promptly sold it to another guy by convincing him that it would be “great for your grenades.” Sorry, no photos (definitely not the kind of place for that), but trust me when I say that this was one of the highlights of the trip, and probably one of the top 10 bar experiences of my life.

Soon it was time for dinner. We had our eye on a soul food place just across the river in Phenix City, Ala., and that brought up a problem: Georgia is in the Eastern Time Zone, but Alabama is on Central Time. We figured the restaurant, being in ’Bama, would observe Central Time, and we had planned accordingly. But when we arrived, we found they were getting ready to close. Turns out some businesses on the ’Bama side of the river, including this one, run on Eastern Time, even though they’re technically in the Central Time Zone, just so the larger Columbus-based community can all be running on the same system. It was all very interesting (I’ve never lived near a time zone border, so I’d never thought too much about this issue), but it left us scrambling to find a new dinner venue.

We eventually settled for a barbecue place in a strip mall back in Georgia. The food was okay — certainly better than our flavorless lunch had been — but nothing special. Plus it was, you know, in a strip mall. Pfeh.

Then we found a motel where we could crash for the night. Our room featured an amusing detail: I’ve seen plenty of cigarette burns in motel sheets before, but I’d never seen an iron burn on the rug.

Day Three — Friday, March 3: Our day began with breakfast at a Columbus spot called Ruth Ann’s. My pancakes were excellent, but what I really liked was the building’s architecture. As a friend remarked when I posted a photo on Facebook, the place looks like an insect that could shake loose from its moorings and walk away:

Before leaving Columbus, we stopped at a gas station to get ice for our cooler. The station’s convenience store included something I hadn’t seen before: a rack of “fully explicit” porno DVDs, all in no-frills packaging and organized by race. The one Asian entry was yellow — classy!

From there we headed west into Alabama. Our first stop: the Museum of Wonder, an unusual folk art installation housed in a series of repurposed shipping containers in the town of Seale. The museum is one of several projects spearheaded by a local eccentric named Butch Anthony. We had read about him and were hoping to meet up with him, but he didn’t respond to our emails — dang.

Still, the museum was really interesting and fun. We enjoyed walking around and snapping pics (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

From there we headed west, because there was another museum we wanted to see (more on that in a sec). Along the way, we passed through the town of Union Springs, where we saw a sign that said, “Bird Dog Statue,” along with an arrow. That seemed worth investigating, so we followed the arrow and found a statue of a hunting dog right in the middle of a busy downtown intersection. The statue proclaims that Union Springs is the “Field Trial Capital of the World” and also features a list of people enshrined in the Bird Dog Field Trial Hall of Fame. (I confess that I’d never heard of a field trial before, but Wikipedia quickly informed me that it’s “a competitive event at which hunting dogs compete against one another.”) A handsome mural on the wall of an adjacent building showed a scene with hunting dogs flushing out some game birds.

It was all very interesting, but the positioning of the statue smack in the middle of the intersection seemed like a traffic hazard. (Granted, the fact that I was standing in the street and taking photos probably didn’t help the traffic flow either.)

Eventually we made our way to Georgiana, site of the Hank Williams Boyhood Home Museum. This is where Williams lived from age 7 to 11, and where he got his first guitar. It’s mostly an endearingly amateurish hodgepodge of memorabilia, most of which has nothing to do with the home itself or with Hank’s boyhood, nicely epitomized by this fork:

Note that the placard doesn’t say Williams used the fork, or that it was from his room, or that it was used in the hotel on the same night or even in the same decade as the final night of Williams’s life. It’s simply from the same hotel. It’s hilarious — I laughed out loud when I saw it.

Still, there were some legitimate highlights, most notably an amazing quilt made by a fan. It too has nothing to do with the home or Williams’s childhood, but it’s a spectacular piece of work and was pretty much worth the price of admission all by itself. Great chain-stitching, too (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

There was some other worthwhile stuff — royalty statements, scrapbooks, records, and some amazing curtains. Also, in an unexpected uni-related twist, there was a photo of Williams wearing a baseball cap. Anyone know which team this might have been for?

After this, we hopped on the Interstate (something I usually try to avoid during road trips, but we wanted to make up some time) and headed to Mobile, where we stopped for a late-afternoon snack: oysters.

I like oysters a lot, and I actually have something of an oystering pedigree (my Long Island hometown, Blue Point, is the namesake for the bluepoint oyster), but it had been a long time since I’d eaten Gulf oysters, and I’d forgotten how mild they can be, with none of the briny mineral complexity of cold-water oysters. Not awful, but not fully satisfying either.

We had plans to eat crawfish for dinner in Biloxi, Miss., so we returned to the road. But just outside of Mobile we passed a VFW Hall. VFWs are almost always interesting places, and this one was open to the public, so we pulled over and stopped in for a drink.

This led to a conundrum. As you can see on the sign, it was Steak Night. The post’s commander was grilling ribeyes in a shed adjacent to the hall, and it smelled soooooo good. We sat down at the bar and were quickly informed that we could get a full steak dinner, including salad and sides, for $14 — extremely tempting! But you can eat steak anywhere; crawfish, not so much. So we stayed for a round of drinks, chatted with one extremely friendly veteran at the bar, and then reluctantly said our good-byes and pushed on.

We eventually arrived in Biloxi, where we headed to Taranto’s, an old-fashioned ramshackle crawfish house. I love crawfish and have eaten them many times, but this was the Captain’s first experience with them. She dove in like a champ.

No iron burn on the rug at our motel this time around. But there was this:

Days Four and Five — Saturday and Sunday, March 4 and 5: One of the many nice things about buying a Mennonite pecan pie during a road trip is that you’re likely to have several days’ worth of leftover pie. And if you happen to be in a town with a beach — like, say, Biloxi — that makes for a perfect breakfast:

While we ate pie, I googled something I’d been curious about: As we’d driven toward and around Biloxi, we’d noticed that every traffic intersection on US-90 included a little round sign featuring a numbered shrimp, with the numbers running in sequence:

Were these part of shrimp driving tour? A shellfish tour? Turns out they were installed by the local tourism board as a guide to local eateries and attractions. Interesting.

We needed to get to New Orleans, so we hit the road again, but we made one more stop in Mississippi: the INFINITY Science Center, which is a NASA facility. It has all sorts of cool-sounding exhibits and tours, but we didn’t have time for that. We just wanted to see the massive first stage of the Saturn V rocket that they keep in the parking lot. This rocket was supposed to blast off toward the moon as part of the Apollo 19 mission in 1973, but that mission was cancelled, so now the rocket has become a kitschy roadside attraction. Here’s the Captain trying to look like she has the Right Stuff:

Onward! We soon arrived in New Orleans, where we would be staying for the weekend at the home my longtime friends Rob Walker (a great writer) and his wife, Ellen Susan (a great photographer). I somehow neglected to get a photo of them during our stay, which is a shame, because they’re such a cool-looking couple. They were also incredibly gracious hosts. Hanging out with them was the highlight of our trip. At least we got a shot of their excellent dog, Russell.

Our New Orleans weekend was a whirlwind of eating and attractions. Here are a few of the highlights:

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1: New Orleans cemeteries are fascinating places. Most of the city is below sea level, making burials impossible, so people are entombed in above-ground crypts, many of which are in very poor repair, resulting in a very spooky, surreal atmosphere. Some cemeteries offer guided tours, which provide lots of historical background, but we decided to take a self-guided walk through Lafayette No. 1 (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

Pharmacy Museum: Louisiana was the first state to require pharmacists to be licensed, and the first pharmacist to be issued such a license was in New Orleans. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum honors this history with a huge collection of 19th- and early 20th-century materials — potions, elixirs, pills, instruments, and a lot more. Fascinating and entertaining (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here):

Jazz Museum: The U.S. Mint used to have a branch in New Orleans, and that building is now the site of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The first floor is devoted to the history of the mint itself, with lots of old coins — very cool (sorry, no photos). The second floor currently has an excellent exhibition about Louis Armstrong, which we enjoyed very much. I only took one photo, but I think you’ll like it: It’s a portrait of the baseball team that Armstrong sponsored in 1931. The accompanying placard says that Armstrong “made sure that his semiprofessional New Orleans team had the finest, whitest uniforms in town. He later joked that his players were so proud of their uniforms that they didn’t like to slide.” That’s Satchmo in the suit at far-right:

Food: We ate food. A lot of it. Such as:

• Shrimp po boys with a side of gumbo: One of those things that you pretty much have to eat if you’re in New Orleans, right? Right.

• Beignets: Another New Orleans staple. Fried dough dusted with powdered sugar. The most popular place to get them, Cafe Du Monde, was mobbed, so we got them at Morning Call instead. Just as good. Probably the single best thing we ate in the city.

• Crawfish étoufée and seafood gumbo: At one point we had dinner at Mandina’s, a great neighborhood spot I’d been to many years earlier. We wanted étoufée and also wanted gumbo, so we ordered both and shared. The funny thing is that both dishes are essentially seafood-laden brown glop served with rice — one in a bowl, one on a plate. Honestly, these two versions tasted pretty similar too, although that’s not such a bad thing, because they were both quite good.

• Grilled oysters: Back in Mobile, where we had those bland Gulf oysters, the menu had also included grilled oysters, which featured a topping of breadcrumbs, cheese, and butter. We didn’t order them in Mobile, but the same thing was available at a New Orleans oyster house that we visited, so we decided to try it. Pretty good — sort of the oyster equivalent of baked clams.

• A really weird steak. At one point we had dinner with Rob and Ellen at a fancy new-ish restaurant and shared a bunch of food, including a dry-aged steak served with a big-ass marrowbone and — get this — a scattering of escargot. Stange but delicious.

One other New Orleans note: While walking around the French Quarter, I spotted a guy unloading a delivery of ice cubes that will presumably be of interest to Uni Watch readers.

Day Six — Monday, March 6: We had two days to scurry back to Savannah for our flight home, so we left New Orleans pretty early in the morning. Our plan was to drive to Dauphin Island, just south of Mobile, and take a 40-minute car ferry ride across Mobile Bay (our idea of fun, because we love car ferries).

But when we arrived at the ferry, we learned that service had been suspended due to high winds. This was a drag (no more car ferry!) and also a major inconvenience, because now we’d have to drive around Mobile Bay, which would take a lot more time — and time was something we didn’t have in great supply. It was all very frustrating, and a lunch stop for a plate of what turned out to be overcooked, overpriced shrimp didn’t help matters. Things weren’t working out, and we were cranky. This was the worst part of the trip.

We pushed on along the Alabama coast and crossed the border into the Florida panhandle, where we made two stops. The first was in Pensacola, where we took photos of the “Futuro House,” a house that looks like a UFO (lots of additional info here and here):

Just east of Pensacola we went for a walk on a beautiful beach. The surf was extremely choppy and dramatic-looking, the sun was starting to set, and everything felt magical. But again, we were pressed for time, so we were only able to stay for about half an hour.

Soon it was time for dinner. I probably should have known better by this point, but I found a well-reviewed barbecue joint and insisted that we go there. My ribs and hot links looked great on the plate, but again — not a hint of smokiness. Let me repeat that: zero smoke. What the fuck? The Captain was smarter — she ordered rice and beans.

It had been an unsatisfying day, and it was about to get worse: In order to keep up our schedule, we had to drive a three-hour late-night haul to get to Tallahassee, which is sort of like paying someone to kick you in the shins. A stop at a good donut shop helped, but just barely. Overall, not a good day.

Day Seven — Tuesday, March 7: Scattered around the country are a handful of Johnny Appleseed statues. One is at an apple orchard, another is in front of a defunct restaurant, and one has been repurposed as “Johnny Donutseed,” which shows Johnny eating a donut and drinking coffee, instead of holding an apple (further info here). That statue is at a truck stop in the Florida town of Lloyd, so we went there to eat donuts for breakfast — a fun way to start the day.

Our plan for the day was to head back to Georgia, make two key stops along the way, and then get back to the Savannah airport in time for our 7pm flight. As usual, though, we encountered interesting things that we hadn’t counted upon, most notably a series of very evocative abandoned businesses. The first one was outside of the Florida town of Yulee, just south of the Georgia state line, where we found a decaying motel and its accompanying gift shop. It was all deserted, overgrown, perfect.

If you can’t see slideshow of the gift shop below, click here.

A few miles after we crossed into Georgia, in the town of Woodbine, we came across another ruin, this time for a barbecue joint called Moody’s (further info here). Bonus pathos points for the “Open” sign, still swinging in the breeze. I accidentally had one of my camera’s filters turned on, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing:

Just a few miles ahead was yet another wreck: the Georgia Girl Drive-In. Imagine how great this sign must have looked in its neon-illuminated heyday:

This stuff was all great, but we were on a tight schedule, so we pushed on and made our way to Jekyll Island, a spot along the Georgia Coast. You have to pay a $6 parking fee just to enter the island, which is kind of ridiculous, but it was worth it for what we were there to see: Driftwood Beach, which lives up to its name and then some. It’s a beach filled with uprooted trees and tree limbs, all left to petrify — absolutely spectacular. We walked around, had a few beers while perched on a tree that was laying in the shallow surf, and generally felt transported to another world (if you can’t see the slideshow below, click here).

We had one more stop to make before heading to the airport: Gary Lee’s Market — yet another barbecue joint. I know, I know, but two friends of ours had personally recommended this one, so our confidence level was pretty high. And it delivered! Excellent ribs and sausage, and decent chicken wings, all nicely smoky. The sausage was so good, in fact, that I bought some extra links to bring home. (Had to put it on ice, which I thought might cause problems with the TSA folks at the airport, but they had no problem with it.)

That was our final stop before heading to the airport. By 10:30pm, we were back home in our apartments in Brooklyn.

Three post-trip notes:

1. I spent a fair amount of time driving around the rural Deep South from 1989 through 2002 but hadn’t road-tripped in that region since then. One big change: There were fewer Confederate flags on display this time around. Like, a lot fewer (and not a single stars/bars bumper sticker). I count that as progress.

2. The use of “y’all” seems to have increased exponentially. I mean, it’s always been a common Southern-ism, but now it seems like it shows up almost every other word. Or maybe I just noticed it more this time around.

3. A few days before the trip, I mentioned here on Uni Watch that I’d be vacationing through the South. Several of you who live in the South sent me emails asking to meet up with me, offering to buy me a beer (or even buy me dinner), that sort of thing. Those invitations were extremely generous — really, I appreciate each and every one of them — and I’m sorry I ultimately decided to turn them all down. Part of it is that, as I mentioned throughout this travelogue, we were pressed for time. And part of it is that I want my vacations to be, you know, vacations — I don’t want to be thinking about Uni Watch or engaging in uni-related chatter. I also don’t want to subject the Captain to any more uni-related chatter than she normally endures on a regular basis. Thanks for understanding, and thanks again for the very kind offers.

That’s it. We’ll get back to regular uni-related content tomorrow. My thanks, as always, for your indulgence with these travelogues.

• • • • •

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Culinary Corner: Over the weekend, the Tugboat Captain and I made a big recipe that included, among many other things, cutting up a duck and roasting it. Ducks are fatty, so there were lots of lobes of fat and wattles of skin that I removed as I did the butchering. The Captain then took those scraps and cooked them in a pot, rendering out the fat, which we needed for a later step in the recipe. (I’ll tell you about that larger project at a later date.)

After the fat was rendered out, we were left with a small amount of duck skin crackilins. The Captain tossed them with some paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper, which made for a perfect mid-afternoon snack (click to enlarge):

• • • • •

Essential reading: Adam Rubin, who until recently covered the Mets for (he’s now the SID for a small NYC-area school), is the best MLB beat reporter I’ve ever encountered, and probably the best there’s ever been. He recently did an interview with The -30-, and it should absolutely be required reading for anyone interested in a career in sportswriting, anyone who’s interested in knowing what it’s like to be an MLB beat reporter, and anyone who’s interested in the Mets. Some of it is inspiring, some is depressing, but all of it is fascinating. Highly, highly recommended.

That site, incidentally, has lots of good interviews with sportswriters. So if you like the Rubin interview, you may want to delve into the archives.

(My thanks to Mets Police for tipping me wise to the Rubin interview.)

• • • • •

Pill design: For years I’ve taken a daily prescription pill to help control my allergies and asthma. The pill used to be a brand name, and then a generic version became available, but the pill’s shape remained the same: square with rounded corners.

The other day I refilled the prescription and was surprised to find that the pills were round. Had the pharmacist mistakenly given me the wrong drug? I went back to the drug store and asked him.

He said, “Oh, didn’t I put a green label on the bottle? We have these labels that say, ‘This is the right medication, even though it looks different.’ I should have included that — my bad.” Then he showed me his big bottle of pills, just to confirm that I’d gotten the right drug. Apparently this happens all the times with generics, although I don’t think it’s happened before to me.

Round pills are so boring. I like the old version better.

• • • • •

Signal Flare: If you’re a sneakerhead and a size 9, drop me a line. Thanks.

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball News: Robinson Canó has been wearing a captain’s “C” for the Dominican Republic’s WBC team (from Zach Leosi). … Jonathon Lucroy has been wearing a stars-and-stripes chest protector (also from Zach Leosi). … Phil mentioned in yesterday’s Ticker that the Cubs’ David Berg is wearing No. 00. But yesterday, pinch runner Elliott Soto stepped onto the field also wearing No. 00 (from Tom Esktrand). … Tom V. sent along a photo of Dennis DeYoung of Styx wearing a Cubs jersey in the video for “Come Sail Away.” … Boston and Philly went red-on-red in spring training action yesterday. … The Akron RubberDucks will wear Canton-Akron Indians throwbacks in July (from Andrew J).

Football News: WR Alshon Jeffrey wore No. 17 with the Bears, but he won’t wear the number with his new team, the Eagles. … Martellus Bennett let Packers fans pick his new number. Looks like he’ll be wearing No. 80 … This Steelers fan has built more than 100 helmets from various eras (from Dell Michaels). … Florida State will wear padded helmet covers during spring ball.

Hockey News: The Ducks warmed up in ’07 jerseys yesterday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their Stanley Cup title (from Louis). … Kings goalie Ben Bishop has a new mask (from Bizbo). … The Manitoba Moose wore retro unis yesterday, which included this awesome shoulder patch (from Patrick Thomas and Alexander Kinkopf).

NBA News: According to this story, the Thunder have had the most success this season when wearing their orange jerseys. … This might be the strangest Frankenjersey we’ve ever seen: LeBron James and James Harden? (From Stros Bros.) … Zach Loesi sent along a few notes regarding Saturday’s NBA action: The Warriors and Spurs went color-on-gray, and the Cavs and Magic, the Hornets and Pelicans went color-on-color. … Also from Zach: On Sunday the Knicks wore white on the road agains the Nets; the Suns and Blazers went orange vs. black; and the Heat and Pacers went black vs. yellow.

College Hoops News: Cincinnati wore their red unis in the AAC Championship yesterday (from Tom Gelehrter). … Good shot of the changing of the floor at UD Arena in Dayton, where the First Four will be played Tuesday and Wednesday (from Kurt Sutton). … Lots of logo mixups on ESPN yesterday: They mistook Kansas State for Kansas yesterday morning, they were still using North Dakota’s old Fighting Sioux logo, and they didn’t have a logo on file for Northern Kentucky (from Greg Davey and Josh Claywell). … Check out the unis for the 1977 Vermont women’s basketball team. Sleeves and skirts! (From David Bailey.)

Grab BagNASCAR driver Danica Patrick recently appeared in a Coca-Cola ad wearing a suit bearing the name of her sponsor, Nature’s Bakery. The problem is, Patrick’s team is currently suing Nature’s Bakery, so they had to edit out the company’s name (from David Firestone). … Golfer Adam Hadwin’s scorebook almost acts as a NOB (from Petunia). … North Carolina’s gymnastics team has leotards with argyle trim (from James Gilbert). … Lathrop High School in Fairbanks, Alaska, wears Lakers-inspired uniforms (from Aaron Walling).

• • • • •

What Paul did last night on Friday night: On Friday night the Tugboat Captain and I were sharing burgers and beers in the West Village when she surprised me with an early birthday present: tickets for that night to see Exhibitionism, the big museum-style Rolling Stones installation that was located just a few blocks away from where we were sitting.

The Stones haven’t been relevant from a creative perspective in 35 years and have essentially been an oldies act for longer than they were an artistic force (or as New Yorker editor David Remnick has written, they’ve become the world’s greatest Rolling Stones cover band), but I’m still a big fan, and I loved Exhibitionism. I had worried that it might be a half-assed amalgam of memorabilia all thrown together without much rhyme or reason, but it was a lot more professional and sophisticated than that, with lots of storytelling, interactive displays (I particularly liked the consoles where we could remix certain Stones songs or isolate certain instruments within the mix), original notebooks and sketchbooks, and a very amusing re-creation of the London apartment where Mick, Keith, and Brian lived in 1962. They depicted the kitchen as a wreck filled with dirty dishes, open bottles of milk left out, and so on (along with a very nice linoleum pattern on the floor; click to enlarge):

I was having too much fun to take more photos, but there was one quote from Keith that I thought would be of interest from a Uni Watch perspective. Here (click to enlarge):

Exhibitionism’s final day in New York was yesterday (hence the pre-birthday timing of the gift), but it’s opening in Chicago in April. The ticket prices are sort of ridiculous (if you have a super-sweet girlfriend who’ll treat you, that’s a good way to go), but I’d still recommend it for Stones fans.


I realize that today’s entry was (a) really long and (b) a lot more Paul-centric than uni-centric. Thanks for sticking with it.

Head Games

headgear 550
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By Phil Hecken

I was originally going to simply post this submission from Paul, who says, “Really good read, from our friends at the HoF,” — Innovations that debuted in Spring Training — in the ticker, but after reading (and re-reading) it, it got me thinking.

First off, it’s a great read — and it particularly focuses on protective head gear developed for (or by) the Brooklyn Dodgers. At first I was expecting the article to focus on several different Spring Training “innovations,” but I believe this is a series focusing on one separate aspect of ST inventions/innovations. If you haven’t already, please take a couple minutes to give the article a read.

My pop (who many of you know grew up a YUGE Brooklyn Dodgers fan) would often regale me with stories of the Dodgers when I was but a pup. He always told me Pete Reiser (mentioned in the article) had his career shortened by running headfirst into outfield brick walls (which was true but he had several injuries, many of which were self-inflicted), but he also suffered from beanings (as did many players back in the day). It’s hard to understate how many players had their careers destroyed or shortened by beanings (including the only on-field death — that of Indians shortstop Ray Chapman) and how crucial the development of protective headgear has been.

The history of headgear in baseball is lengthy, and has ably been documented by Paul, so I won’t repeat any of that history here.

We laugh today at players like Alex Torres and it seems the Boombang protective headgear for pitchers has faded away, but protective headgear back in the 1940s was met with similar disapprobation. Imagine a hitter today coming up without a helmet (and protective ear flap)? Granted, pitchers don’t (and have never) faced the same consistent danger of head injuries that batters do, but several pitchers have been injured, some seriously by taking line drives to the head. Is protective headgear for pitchers really that far off? It’s already available, but very few seem to want to use it. Is it comfort? Machismo? Something else?

Softball pitchers routinely wear masks and other protective gear (and have for some time) and many position players now sport the gear as well. Clearly there is no stigma attached to wearing the protection (or at least there doesn’t appear to be), but yet we haven’t seen this practice adapted (or adopted, I should say) in baseball. Granted, position players (and pitchers) aren’t as “close” to the batter on a regulation size baseball field as they are in softball, but those balls can pack just as deadly a wallop.

No one laughs if a fielder wears a protective cup (though relatively few always do), but other than John Olerud and Dick Allen, I can’t think of very many non-catchers to wear helmets in the field. Facial protection is almost completely unheard of. But the ‘nads…no one laughs if you want to protect them.

When a batter has an injury (even if that injury has healed), we will often see them wearing a plastic guard or a protective cage — and who can forget Dave Parker’s various protective devices? (Once again, Paul has ably documented facial protection, so I won’t repeat any more here).

Injuries (particularly head injuries) will always be a part of baseball, but I’m always quite frankly amazed at how slowly baseball, our National Pastime, has been in embracing the seemingly simple as the protection of the head and brain. And it’s always been this way. We grandfathered in guys who came up to the show not wearing earflaps — I always remember as a kid growing up in the 1970s, when earflaps were just coming into vogue, none of my heroes wore helmets with the added protection. In little league, those big, awful double-flap jobs with shitty styrofoam padding were mandatory, and no one wanted to wear them. I even had my pop go to Herman’s Sporting Goods and buy me a “professional” helmet (with approved padding) but no flaps, which I tried to wear in a Little League game. No dice. And thankfully so. I was never beaned in the ear, but I did once foul a ball into my helmet and it struck the earflap. I was thankful then to have the added protection. But the point is I didn’t want to wear the helmet because none of my idols did. Today, every player must wear a helmet with an earflap (and I won’t be too surprised when the double flap becomes first de rigueur and then mandatory, within a very short period of time).

Back to the featured article. It’s well worth the read. And it points out how important this bit of Spring Training “innovation” evolved into arguably the most important safety feature in the game today. And it all started because management was as concerned about the overall health of their players as they “wanted (their) player investment protected with skull insurance.” Sometimes money is at the root of it all, but in the end, (eventually) getting all players to wear protective headgear has been well worth the investment. For everyone.

Has there been a more important safety feature in baseball besides the evolution of (and mandatory use of) protective head gear for the batter? I would argue there is not. We can thank the Brooklyn Dodgers and their spring in Havana in 1941 for at least helping to bring this about.


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In Case You Missed It…

…NEW USA Jersey (and Cap) Redesign Contest

jersey contest usa

It’s time for the USA Baseball team to get new jerseys (and caps, too!), so we’re hosting a design contest — all the details are in this post. You’ll be sending your designs to me ( and the deadline for submissions is FRIDAY (March 17th, Midnight Eastern).

You know what to do.

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Your Friendly Reminder…

Spring Forward

Most of you (likely) have devices (phones, clocks, dvr’s, etc.) that will automatically “Spring Forward” for Daylight Saving Time — remember there is no “S” at the end of “saving” — as a local television ad for a mattress company once said, “Leave off the last ‘S’ for saving!”, a good reminder that we’re now in the good time of the year.

Despite the fact that it takes my old bones a good two weeks to make up that hour of “lost” sleep, there is nothing better than DST. Living in the eastern end of my time zone, I greatly appreciate the “extra” hour of daylight we’re afforded for the next six-ish months. Yes, I get that those of you who live in the western end of your time zones probably have no use for it (and yes, if you’re an early riser, you probably will wake up in darkness), but there’s nothing better than being able to do something outdoors after work (or after supper as we hit summer). We can’t really do that in the eastern end of the time zone.

So, in case you own some devices (analog/battery operated clock, watch, car radio, etc.) that don’t automatically “spring” ahead for you — and you haven’t already done it — now’s the time to adjust your time-keeping devices to Daylight Saving Time.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

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Uni Watch News Ticker
By Phil

Baseball News: Here’s a look we don’t see everyday (or really at all in baseball): Cubs pitcher David Berg is wearing number 00 in spring training action against the Mariners (from Patrick O’Neill). … I don’t normally ticker color vs. color ST games (since they’re basically all color vs. color), but there was a nice Hallowe’en theme going on yesterday between Balto and Pitt (from Andrew Cosentino). … Our pal Tyler Kepner found a copy of this 1993 Marlins media guide, and noticed the striking similarity of the player depicted on the cover to a certain Detroit Tigers shortstop (and famous double play partner of Lou Whitaker). “They can make him left-handed and turn him upside down, but they’re not fooling me,” he says. … MURICA! #1: Last night’s starting pitcher for the US, Marcus Stroman, had his cleats decked out in a USA flag design (from John Mac). Here are additional looks from Funhouse. … Here’s a great photo of Waller Irvin & Emmett Parker, African American trainers for the NY Giants, who are posing at Spring Training in San Antonio in 1923 (from Bruce Menard). … Wesleyan (CT) & Yale played a 150th Anniversary baseball game last season with AMAZING throwback unis! (from Louise Brooks Fan Club). More here. … Here’s a good shot of Wichita State wearing another great example of UA’s faux-wool template (via Chase Tettleton). … Very strong stirrup game for the Washington State Cougars yesterday, who were also breaking out their alternate crimson jerseys for the first time (from Alex Allen). … Eric Thames of the Brewers was sporting some pretty good body armor yesterday (from Peter Smith). … Dominican Republic players have been sporting a black memorial band on their sleeves. JJ believes it’s a tribute to “Ace” Ventura (the memorial band has also been worn by Royals players of different nationalities). … Venezuela has worn the same (blue) jersey for both “home” and “road” games — the road paired with dark gray pants looks so much worse than it does when paired with the white “home” pants (pics from Funhouse). This disparity was also noted by Carmello Kibblehouse. … Bowling Green and Okie State went charcoal vs black yesterday, and it was not a good look (from Alex Hider). … It looks like Mexico is refusing to wear the Majestic jerseys prepared for them for the WBC. They wore their green tops Friday (notice the pit stains) and their white tops last night (no contrasting sleeves and pit stains). … Our own Jimmer Vilk is not the only one to rank the WBC uniforms (but we do it better).

NFL News: Not much news on the gridiron these days, but there was this: Receiver DeSean Jackson is getting more than $11 million per year from the Buccaneers. He’s also getting No. 11. Bucs wideout Adam Humphries said via Twitter that he and Jackson have “come to terms,” and that Humphries will surrender No. 11 to Jackson. Humphries will instead wear No. 10 (from Brinke, via Paul). … “Shades of Walter Payton!” exclaims Alex Allen. “Roos are back at a Payless Shoe Store in Springfield, Oregon.

Hockey News: Reader Dustin Semore writes, “This was the first NCAA hockey game I’ve gotten to see on ESPN. The scoreboard/social media personnel with a nice homage to John Buccigross’s famous pronunciation of Cawlidge Hawkey.” … “I found the captains “C” interesting on these (high school hockey) uniforms,” says Chad Kaddatz. “This is the Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake (MAML) Moose in the Minnesota state Class A championship game. The antler theme is unique.” … “Cool pirate-themed Canes shirt,” says Louise Brooks Fan Club. “Is it just me or does Justin Faulk look a lot like rock star Dave Grohl?” … Erik Kissel says “it bugs me that the US U18 teams banners are not in chronological order.” … Whoops — looks like the Flyers are using the old Bruins logo (from Fitzy Mo Peña). … Speaking of the Broons, they warmed up last night rocking some St. Paddy’s Day sweaters (from James Beattie).

NBA/College/Basketball News: Yesterday’s ticker included this item: Whoa! “A great high school basketball uniform,” says Paul Hill “Check the socks. The school is in Hobart Indiana, from 1969. The team nickname is the ‘Brickies’, hence the brick pattern on the socks.” Paul followed up today with this, “Thanks for posting that high school basketball photo of the Hobart Brickies on Saturday. Failed to mention the team name “Brickies” came from the 1920’s when most school athletes worked after school at the town brickyard.” … Michigan (who now have their regular unis) and Minnesota had a nice color vs. color game yesterday (from Andrew Cosentino). … Also from Andrew, the MEAC Championship also featured a color vs color match-up: Norfolk State vs NC Central. … We don’t just do jersey tracking on Uni Watch (or just for baseball) — someone has broken down the Thunder’s win/loss record by jersey. … Oops, the Mavericks’ Dorian Finney-Smith almost wore Yogi Ferrell’s No. 11 instead of a Finney-Smith No. 10 jersey last evening. … A Cloverdale (HS) hoops player has committed to Butler, so he wore Butler-themed socks in his HS tourney game (from Indiana Hoops). … I’m sure there’s an explanation but Centerville’s shooting shirts have their school name upside down (from Ole DMH). … “Couldn’t finish the Big East Tournament without tweeting these awesome jackets,” says Shlomo Sprung. Yes, I’d wear those. … Chris Lather says “I love the use of the state on @NevadaHoops jerseys. Simple, well placed representation.” Agreed. … Duke (in BFBS) and Notre Dame went color vs. color yesterday (from Brandon Long). Here’s another look (from Patrick Wright). … “I was at the Bucks-Pacers game in Milwaukee Friday night and during one of the time-outs the Bucks’ dunk team took the floor in Bucks jerseys, shorts etc.” says Andrew Beckman. “Nearly all of the dunk team had random non-roster numbers except for one who was wearing #32 with NOB ‘Stylz’. This struck me as inappropriate as that jersey number is retired for Bucks guard Brian Winters and hangs proudly from the Bradley Center’s rafters. I’d have less of an issue with it if he was wearing it with Winters’ NOB as a tribute, but would not be 100% comfortable with that. Thoughts?” … “I don’t recall ever seeing a logo at midcourt that stated the number of years a tournament has been played at that venue,” says David Westfall of the Southland Championship between Texas A&M Corpus Christi and New Orleans.

Soccer News: The Tampa Bay Rowdies turned their pitch into a giant “#MLS2StPete” billboard for aerial coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which is taking place this weekend (great find from Mike Nessen).

Grab Bag: “I have recently come across the website and I am a huge fan!” says Baylor Watts. “I was a baseball player for the majority of my childhood and I loved it (Although I never admitted to myself that I was really just joining teams for the jerseys/logos), but now I am 18 and I am mostly just designing baseball and ultimate jerseys for my school. I do play ultimate though, and, being who I am/who we are, I have done my share of inspecting all the various kits of the Ultimate frisbee world. I urge you to check them out. Most of them are kind of very ugly, but there are some diamonds in the rough. My faves are probably Seattle Cascades, Madison Radicals and Montreal Royal. You’ll have to look around for the worst. They’re out there.” … Got a nice one from our old pal Leo Strawn, Jr.: Boots worn down under in AFL have been becoming increasingly garish for some time with lots of neon that usually doesn’t match the rest of the kit and lots of two-toned boots. During Friday night’s preseason match v Brisbane, I saw that Josh Jenkins of the Crows has taken that “notice my boots” trend to a whole new level. I didn’t realize at the time but apparently he’s been sporting this look at least since last season.

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And that’s it for today. Hope everyone doesn’t take two weeks (like me) to adjust to Daylight Saving Time — and that you all have a great week. Pray for the Northeast as we begin to hunker down for Snowmageddon 2017, heading our way on Tuesday. And don’t forget to send in those Redesign The USA jersey (and cap) contest entries!

I’ll catch you next weekend, but until then…

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.


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“I love the China unis, but, dude, ketchup does NOT go well on a hot dog, with mustard or anything else. ;)”

— Jon Rose

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