You may have noticed that last Thursday’s ESPN column included a brief mention of John Maxymuk’s Uniform Numbers of the NFL: All-Time Rosters, Facts and Figures (which came out about a year and a half ago, but I just became aware of it last month). It’s a great book, stuffed to the gills with uni-numerical arcana. Among the tidbits:
• Zero and double-zero been worn more often than you might think — 21 different players have worn them.
• The All America Football Conference (the rival league where the 49ers and Browns first played, before they were folded into the NFL) had its own uni numbering system. Centers wore 20s, guards wore 30s, tackles wore 40s, ends wore 50s, quarterbacks wore 60s, fullbacks wore 70s, halfbacks wore 80s and 90s, and numbers below 20 weren’t used at all. When the Niners and Browns entered the NFL, they had to redo their numbering schemes, which explains Marion Motley’s radically different uni numbers here and here.
• Mike Michalske wore nine different numbers during his time with the Packers: 19, 24, 28, 30, 31, 33, 36, 40, and 63.
• When John Madden coached the Raiders, he personally assigned uni numbers to his players, because “I’ve always felt you can put a number on a person that tells about that person.”
• Paul Brown only coached one pro player with a single-digit uni number: Monk Williams, who wore No. 6 for two games in 1968. Even after Brown had left the Browns, no Cleveland player wore a single-digit number until 1977.
• Karl Mecklenburg of the Broncos wore No. 77 throughout his 12-year career — except on Nov. 22nd, 1992, when he wore 97.
Like all sports books, this one may need frequent updating. When the book was published in early 2005, for example, Joe Nedney was one of five different players who’d managed to wear the same number with six different teams (No. 6, which he’d worn with the Panthers, Cards, Titans, Dolphins, Broncos, and Raiders). Since then, he’s broken the record by wearing it for a seventh team, the Niners.
Still, such minor bits of obsolescence put only the teeniest dent in the book’s excellence. Highly recommended.
Bumper Scar: Interesting note from longtime Uni Watch supporter and Helmet Hut impresario Curtis Worrell:
Over the years Riddell has slowly been forced to eliminate their brand from the outside of the helmet. First they lost the black “R” that used to appear on the right side rear, then they lost using both the front and back bumpers at the same time [the rear bumper now usually carries the team name, and now I’ve been told by an inside source that they cannot use the rear bumper at all — they’re stuck with the tiny front bumper. From the games I have seen, it sure looks like the truth.
The NFL really clamps down on this stuff, while licensing fees go up. It’s amazing what they make the equipment managers do — if a player uses a different brand shoulder pad, they must cover the brand name, in case the jersey gets pulled down over the pad (which of course does happen frequently). You should do a story on what the NFL makes these teams and equipment providers do — I’d shoot myself! We [at Helmet Hut] have been in many locker rooms talking with the guys, and they want to pull their hair out. Actually, many of them have no hair anyways.
As you might imagine, I don’t have much sympathy for Riddell just because they can’t plaster their brand name all over the helmet (especially since they still get to brand the chinstrap). But I’m intrigued by the idea of asking an equipment manager about all this stuff. Stay tuned.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Unprecedented MLB moves last night in commemoration of 9/11: As usual, the Mets wore first responder caps, but so did their Monday-night opponents, the Marlins, marking the first time that the caps have been worn by a team other than the Amazins. Meanwhile, all other MLB teams wore American flag cap patches (umpires, too), which I believe is the first time since 2001 that such patches have been worn on a day other than Opening Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Labor Day. Some of the patches looked like they’d been applied a bit haphazardly, but apparently there were no debacles like this … Meanwhile, over in Pittsburgh, the Pirates debuted their memorial patch for Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor, who died last weekend. … Surprising development last night in Washington, where the Redskins wore black cleats (and also became the seventh Week 1 team to wear white at home). … Nick McAlister notes that Chester Taylor appeared to have something written on his uni numbers. I didn’t actually see the game — did anyone else get a good look at this? … Yesterday’s Comments section included a short discussion about the special commemorative balls that were used for the games in Cleveland and Arizona. That prompted a note from a source at Wilson, who writes: “Just a little info: Teams are allowed to create a ball for any special event, as long as the NFL approves. The logo must go on the valve panel for any of these events, unless it is an NFL-sponsored event (the Super Bowl, e.g.). We’ll do special footballs for the Thanksgiving Day games, the AFC and NFC Championships, and of course the Super Bowl.” … Latest diacritical discoveries by Jeremy Brahm here and here. … Got my first sheet of Uni Watch postage stamps yesterday, and holy shit do they look cool. … Was Ohio State DE Jay Richardson wearing a QB’s play-calling wristband on his belt last Saturday? (Good catch by John Boerger.) … When Hamas captured power in the Palestinian elections last winter, I noticed that party loyalists were wearing official Hamas baseball caps (additional photos here, here, here, here, and here). Eight months later, NPR’s All Things Considered show ran a commentary about the baseball caps yesterday. The audio file is available here. … Speaking of caps: Got a great note yesterday from reader Rob Tate, as follows: “After Wilfredo Ledezma was pulled in the 5th inning of Friday’s Tigers/Twins game, they kept showing shots of him in the dugout. He started playing his cap, folding it like a rally cap, then messing up the brim, and then in the next shot he’d torn the brim off the cap and was working on de-threading the cap by chewing on it. Tigers announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen had commentary on it.” Alas, the MLB.TV game video is from the Twins’ broadcast, not the Tigers’, and the Minnesota folks didn’t show Ledezma’s antics. Anyone else catch this? … The horror, the horror.