Back in late April, I ran an entry on the Orioles’ orange uniforms. Several of the comments that day came from a guy I hadn’t seen before on the site. He called himself Ricko, and one of his posts in particular led me to raise an eyebrow:
I have two four-drawer lateral files full of MLB, NFL, and college football clippings dating back to the ’50s. I know, cuz I’m the one who clipped them and saved them. Most times if the uniform was unique and there was no date on the clipping, I’d write the year on it somewhere. I’ll dig through my files over the weekend and see what I can find. I have an SI midseason photo of Ken Holtzman pitching all-kelly, from the A’s Bando/Rudi World Series era. And it’s just as ugly as the Orioles orange. Maybe uglier.
Envisioning a field trip in which I’d end up dancing barefoot through all these incredible clippings, I quickly dashed off a note to Ricko to find out more. Alas, he said he lived in Minnesota, so I couldn’t just drive over for a quick visit. I asked him more about his files, and here’s what he wrote back:
Period covered is generally mid-’50s to late ’70s or so. So I kinda have the beginning of the double-knit (baseball) stretch pants (football) era covered.
Files were created cuz I used to do sports artwork (painter, cartoonist).
Need a photo of Joe Womack or Larry Garron or Paul Blair in a sleeveless Orioles vest? Or an opening-week SI clipping saying that in 1971 the Orioles experimented with orange shoes but the players didnt’ like them? I can probably find you one.
LOL, I get steamed a team can’t even get its own history correct. Those Jets Titans throwbacks? Wrong color gold. That combo was light gold, similar to Steelers, etc. The colors they chose are correct for the FIRST Titan unis only. When they went to shoulder stripes, they brightened and lightened the gold. What, they’re so dense they can’t look at old football cards?
I’m really not a cranky old man. Just amazed at inaccuracies. Broncos never wore Tennessee Orange, for example. That’s the creamsicle orange the Bucs wore. My former partner was Denver Post sports editor at the time. Broncos ordered “Burnt Orange,” thinking they’d get Texas orange (wanted to wear same color as Texas). Instead they got the Orioles-Browns-Giants orange that everyone else got. And being thrifty (as those early AFL teams were), they just went with them.
Here’s a story you’ll like. In my pro sports PR days I met the Houston Oilers’ original PR guy (name fleeting — “Jack Harrigan,” maybe). He thought the Oilers maybe should wear black and gold (“black gold,” right, good thought). Nope, Bud Adams pointed to a big turquoise ring he always wore. “I want them to wear this color,” he said. Presto, columbia blue for the Oilers.
Why haven’t I been to your site sooner? Just found it. Was searching on “stirrup socks.”
I don’t claim to know everything. But the sports and time period I DO know, I know pretty well. And I have lotsa photos to lead to (hopefully) accurate findings. ”¦ I can probably provide stuff you wouldn’t believe. I was a freak about it. Have index cards I made (hand colored) for NFL/AFL unis from mid ’50s to early ’60s. Watched stuff like a hawk. For example, no stripe on Raiders helmets til ’62. Period. I can bury someone in photos who claims there were stripes prior to that.
Holy shit. Clearly, this was someone I needed to get to know better — like, a lot better. Just one problem: Ricko said he didn’t have a scanner, so there was no way for him to digitize his clippings and send them my way. So I basically told him, “Get yourself a scanner. Now. And then get back to me.”
And that might have been the end of it. When a week passed — and then another, and another — I figured Ricko was either a serial exaggerator or one of those old-school eccentrics who can’t deal with “sophisticated technology” like scanners (you know the type). I hear from people like this all the time, people who talk a big game but then don’t deliver.
Then, exactly four weeks after our initial correspondence, I got an e-mail from Ricko, with some scanned attachments. A few minutes later came another. And then another. And another. For the next 24 hours, it was all Ricko, all the time, with no less than 33 communiquÃ©s arriving during that span. Another 40 or so have come along since then, making for a full-blown Ricko-O-Rama.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Most of the material Ricko’s sent has been primo. There’s waaaaaay too much of it to fit in one entry, so here’s the first installment of the Ricko Files, which should become a regular feature around here (and would have debuted much sooner, except I was waiting for Ricko to provide a photo of himself, which he finally did a few days ago). Without further ado:
• Here’s the Sporting News‘s season-opening uniform descriptions — A.L. and N.L. — for 1962. The interesting thing is that the Mets are listed as wearing “white with orange piping” at home (no mention of pinstripes) and “gray with orange trim” on the road. Obviously, that never happened; to my knowledge, the only time the Mets have ever worn orange trim was in the Civil Rights Game back in March. Also, note the mention of the “black belt,” when the team always wore blue belts in the early days. (This isn’t the only instance of the Mets’ inaugural uniforms being erroneously described, by the way: In January of ’62, Casey Stengel posed for this photo, which showed the Amazin’s set to wear striped stirrups and a flashier chest insignia. By the time pitchers and catchers reported a month later, the design had changed.)
• We all know that the A’s began wearing green and gold in 1963, when the team was still in Kansas City. But here’s an amazing tidbit: According to this Minneapolis Star clipping, KC’s original technicolor duds were made of nylon! But wait a minute — there’s nothing nylon-y about this photo, dated August of ’63. Ricko explains: “The first gold uniforms were actually satin, much like Dodgers uniforms you’ve shown. I know the A’s actually wore them because I watched the game on TV the night the Minneapolis Star photo ran. Even in black and white, it was easy to see they were, indeed, shiny satin.” I suspect the “satin” Ricko refers to was actually the nylon mentioned in the newspaper clipping, but either way it’s a major addition to the historical record. Anyway, they soon switched to standard flannels during that season. (Also, note that the team’s white shoes, striped stirrups, and yellow sanitaries aren’t shown in the clipping, because they didn’t appear until four years later.)
• Check out the stirrup stripes on Jim Hunter in that 1967 SI cover — tough to say if there are only two yellow stripes or if there’s a third one that’s obscured by his pants, right? Ed Charles definitely had three stripes, but the width and spacing look different than Hunter’s. And here’s Campy, clearly wearing two fairly narrow stripes. All these photos came from the same season, 1967.
• Here’s an amazing 1980 article with all kinds of info on stirrups — stop whatever you’re doing and read it now. Tons of valuable info here, including the tidbit that the American League wanted to fine players who lengthened their stirrups back in the late 1960s, but umpires didn’t feel like it was their duty to enforce the rule, so they didn’t bother. The mishmash of sock/pant stylings we see today can probably be traced to this chapter in history. Also: Calvin Griffith was so disgusted by the Twins’ hosiery stylings that at one point he took away the team’s stirrups during spring training. And sure enough, Ricko found a photo of Rod Carew wearing stirrup-less sanitaries! Unfuckingbelievable.
• Speaking of modified stirrups, I’ve written many times about Frank Robinson and others extending their stirrups by adding a loop of fabric on the bottom. But instead of adding fabric below, some players appear to have cut fabric away from the top of the foot opening, which is particularly easy to spot when the stirrups are striped. That’s Pete Richert, from the 1969 World Series.
Okay, that’s enough for today, but there’s a lot more where this came from — expect a new Ricko installment about once a week or so. At some point down the road I’ll probably do an interview with Ricko (whose real name, incidentally, is Rick Pearson), and I’m still waiting for him to provide a photo of his file drawers (digital cameras are another high-tech phenomenon he hasn’t yet embraced). Stay tuned.
Many Marks, Many Beasts: Ronnie Belliard has pulled his pant cuffs back down (that photo is from yesterday), but the impact of his swoosh-emblazoned socks, which I wrote about last Thursday, continues to reverberate.
First, Mike Engle reports that Miguel Cabrera has been wearing the Phiten logo, of all things, on his socks lately. I had actually linked to this photo of Cabrera way back in May, but I didn’t realize what the logo was or that its appearance more than a one-time phenomenon. This is strictly a Cabrera thing, not a Tigers thing (no logos for Curtis Granderson or Micahel Holliman), but why isn’t the equipment manager telling him he can’t wear the Phiten-branded hose? It’s total bullshit — looks like crap, adds to logo creep, and why the hell is Phiten making socks anyway? Can’t they just stick to their titanium placebo necklaces? This needs to be nipped in the bud — like, yesterday. I know several people in the MLB office read Uni Watch, so could someone kindly place a call to Detroit and tell the Tigers that Cabrera’s logo-branded socks are a uniform violation?
Meanwhile, Nile Smith reports that the USA softball team — which once upon a time were a model of stirrup perfection — have gone straight to Nike hell. “I’m watching them play Tennessee on ESPN,” he wrote on Thursday evening, “and all of the USA national team players have navy blue socks on with a swoosh on them. Even worse the pitcher Abbott has the Nike socks with red Adidas spikes.” I haven’t been able to find pics of this, but this shot, from another game, shows the problem. Ugh — for a socks-centric guy like me, these developments are like watching your favorite grove of trees all succumb to Dutch elm disease simultaneously.
Two Housekeeping Items: Response to my proposal for a Uni Watch gathering this Thursday evening in Times Square was exceedingly meager, so we’ll scrap those plans and aim for a weekend gathering sometime in the not-too-distant future.
On another matter, if reader Ronald Charles is reading this, please contact me asap. Thanks.
Uni Watch News Ticker: With C.C. Sabathia now in Milwaukee, it’ll be interesting to see whose uni is baggier: Sabathia’s or Prince Fielder’s. ”¦ “Aston Villa, who are in the English Premier League, got permission to not have a sponsor on their jersey and instead will have the name and logo of the Acorns Children’s Hospice,” reports Andrew Kennedy. ”¦ Faaaaascinating logo creep conspiracy theory here. ”¦ No need for me to bash Nike when the rest of the world is doing it for me (with thanks to Greg Trandel). ”¦ Another great photo of the star-stirruped ’Stros (courtesy of JC Helf, who got it from Steve Dewing‘s awesome photo site). ”¦ You already knew that Washington State wears different helmets at home and on the road. But now they’ll have different helmet decals. Details here (courtesy of Eric Read). ”¦ “I thought it was interesting how the Bucks handled the last name of rookie forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute,” writes Erkki Corpuz. “What really caught my attention was the small ‘A’ in the middle. At UCLA, they had his name in all caps.” ”¦ My ESPN.com colleague Rob Neyer has been reading Ed Mickelson’s autobiography and reports that it includes the following passage about the 1950 Meridian Millers: “It was very hot in the Southeastern League and the team appeared in baseball pants that resembled Bermuda shorts. The pants were cut off just above the knee, allowing a little air to circulate. I don’t think the guys really wanted to wear them, but they appeared that way for the remainder of their games that season. Their attendance increased somewhat as a result of the shorts, for some people were interested in seeing grown men play ball in these funny cutoffs and knee socks. But baseball has long and lasting traditions which are hard to break, and Meridian went back to the normal attire for the 1951 season.” Neither Rob nor I had ever heard about this team wearing shorts. The only shorts-clad teams I’m aware of the are the Chisox and the Hollywood Stars, although Rob says, “I do recall something about a Texas League team (Fort Worth?) wearing shorts at some point.” If anyone has additional info, photos, etc., please speak up. ”¦ Cool 1920 Suquamish Indian baseball team photo here (with thanks to Dan Klempner). ”¦ I’ve linked several times to this UK soccer uni site, and now Michael Dove has pointed me toward an interview with the site’s creator. ”¦ Chris Parkin notes that the visiting bat boy in Thursday’s Bosox/Yankees game was wearing an EMC ad patch, which the Sox wore during their Japanese series against the A’s back in March. Surprising they wouldn’t have removed the patch so many months later. ”¦ Good interview here with the Wisconsin hoops team’s equipment manager (with thanks to Karl G. Anderson). ”¦ The Rugby World Cup logo is getting a facelift (with thanks to Caleb Borchers). ”¦ China Eastern Airlines flight attendants are getting new uniforms (courtesy of Chris Bisbee). ”¦ Lots of stories about the Garmin’s new Tour De France uniforms — look here, here, and here (with thanks to Eric Burtis). ”¦ Morris Levin was in Yorba Linda, California, the other day, where he proved that a picture really is worth 1000 words. ”¦ Decent photo gallery of NFL uni cameos here (as forwarded by Bryan Stabbe). ”¦ Speaking of uni cameos, you’ll never see Serge Ibaka with this jersey again. Same goes for Russell Westbrook (good observation by Andrew Schall). ”¦ The Titans have changed their primary jersey designation from navy to light blue, which I count as a major downgrade (although, as several readers have noted, at least it provides a connection to the franchise’s Oilers days). ”¦ Gorgeous old NOB lettering here (nice find by Greg Riffenburgh). ”¦ Footwear maven Mark Mihalik notes that A.J. Pierzynski was wearing camouflage-patterned cleats on July 4th. In addition, Mark is working on a new site focusing on unique baseball cleats and customized shoes not available to the public. “It’ll basically be a photo-oriented blog with minimal writing,” he writes. “I’ll mostly just post pics of custom shoes, unique team-colored footwear, and special event sneakers and cleats (like Pierzynski’s cleats or All-Star versions of shoes).” Mark has a great eye for this stuff, so I’ll let everyone know when the site is up and running. ”¦ Speaking of sneakers, good Wimbledon footwear wrap-up here (with thanks to Brinke Guthrie). ”¦ And speaking of cleats, Jamison Nash sent along an old photo of Bobby Bell wearing the coolest cleats I’ve ever seen on a football field. Are those awesome or what? If anyone knows more about these, do tell. ”¦ Terry Proctor came up with a shot of a label from his old sporting goods store, although he’s still looking for one of the embroidered versions. He also adds this: “Did you ever hear of a flannel color called ‘Yale Grey’? I vaguely remember it. According to a 1960s price list I recently found, it was a light-brown color for baseball uniforms.” That’s news to me. Anyone else..? ”¦ Fairly routine article here about the Red Sox’s uniforms (with thanks to Kristopher Hunt), and another one about their laundry here (courtesy of Mike Hennessy, who also found an old 1988 shot of Brady Anderson wearing a double-flap helmet). ”¦ Jeremy Brahm reports that Orix Buffaloes pitcher Ryota Katsuki, who normally wears No. 17, recently forgot to bring his uniform with him on a road trip, so he had to use the BP coach’s uniform, which was No. 102. ”¦ ” Late in Saturday’s Mets/Phils game on Saturday night, the guys in the booth were making a big deal about the red webbing on Fernando Tatis’s first baseman’s mitt,” writes Dave Bailey. “I paused the DVR to get a picture of it — turns out it’s an Albert Pujols model!” ”¦ Good article (including a quote or two from me) in this article about the Mets’ revolving-door use of uni No. 6. ”¦ Think I’m the only one worried about logo creep and corporate influence? Check out this cartoon from last week’s New Yorker. ”¦ Still more corporate encroachment on sports: Check out the “Phelps Sorry About Cap” section toward the bottom of this page. … Dominic Brown of the Lakewood BlueClaws is my kinda ballplayer (with thanks to Kevin Clark). … The whole “We won, so let’s untuck our jerseys now!” thing looks even stupider when you’re wearing baggy Negro Leagues throwbacks. Undershirt logo creep doesn’t look so hot either (additional throwback pics here. here, here, and here). ”¦ Underbrim update: Barry Zito definitely had something written under his brim on Saturday. Back in his A’s days, he’d write “Fitz,” which stood for “Fearless in the Zone.” Not sure if that’s still what he’s up to. … In case you missed it, the umps wore star-spangled caps over the weekend too. … The Cowboys have unveiled a Texas Stadium final-season logo, although it’s not yet clear whether it’ll be worn as a jersey patch. ”¦ Great photo here of Hot Rod Hundley in a sleeved West Virginia jersey (with thanks to David Cline, who also sent along a rather odd photo of the U.S. swim team wearing baseball-style jerseys). … Big pile of old flannel jersey available here, an awesome set of pinstriped pants here, and a totally boss old ref’s jersey, complete with button-through sleeve cuffs and a killer sleeve patch, here.