By Phil Hecken, with Tim Brulia and Rick Pearson
It struck Ricko and me at about the same time. We were trading E-mails before the Denver Broncos played the San Diego Chargers in their throwbacks this past Monday, and exchanging some barbs about the uniforms as depicted on the 1960 AFL section of the Football Uniforms Past and Present website — that website is an invaluable tool, and the amount of incredible research that has gone into it cannot be undervalued — and Ricko asked me, “you don’t think the Broncos are gonna wear brown pants with white stripes, do you?” Now, I wasn’t born when the Broncos played that first season, but I did know they only had one pair of pants. Yet, on the 1960 section of FUPP, those pants are depicted as having white stripes (which would have made infinitely more sense, only it didn’t happen).
Then we looked more closely at some of the other uniforms — and Ricko informed me they were wrong too. In fact, it occurred to him (and it hit me at about the same time): “Did the NFL actually use the FUPP site to base a good number of their AFL throwback uniform upon?” Could they have been that lazy? Were they relying on a (very good, but not infallible) website to dictate the look of their throwbacks? Certainly, the Houston Oilers, who are depicted as having blue numbers and blue stripes on their socks (for their road uniform) — which is also wrong — could have been the NFL’s model. When the Titans came out wearing their road throwbacks, sure enough they were wrong. In fact, they really butchered the socks, (those are the home socks).
Anyway, this got us (and by us, I mean Ricko) to thinking … just how many of those 1960 uniforms depicted on FUPP were not correct? As it turns out — EVERY SINGLE ONE had something that is incorrect — some mistakes are minor, some are major — but every single one of them is incorrect. And that is a shame, because FUPP is such a great site, but really, accuracy is of paramount importance. As it turned out, the Broncos did wear the correct pants for their game, but many believed they screwed up. Had FUPP correctly depicted the gold pants stripes, perhaps no one would have even noticed. But the fact that many felt the Broncos were actually “wearing the wrong pants” speaks volumes about the importance of making sure the historical record is correct.
One of UW’s outstanding research historians, Tim Brulia, who has compiled two historical columns for the UW archives (“White At Home in the NFL” and “Pro Football Uniform History” — both of which can be found on the right hand side of the UW main page, under “Research Projects”), is actually planning on working with and expanding upon the efforts begun by the FUPP website. I will now turn the column over to Tim, who will explain a bit about that and more. Here’s Tim:
“What is my stake in all of this? I am trying to extend the great work the FUPP site did when it was first launched. But in order for a site to have teeth, it must be accurate, as close to 100% accurate as possible. With a site like FUPP, every little nuance, and detail (colors, stripes, numeral fonts, patches, logos, etc.) has to be accurate.
“In my research, I have used the Proquest archives of the New York Times that are available online. When I was a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), they made available the Proquest archives of the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. I utilize the Pennsylvania State Library in Harrisburg, PA and their vast microfilm collection of PA newspapers, including the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia papers. When I get a rare chance to make it to Washington, I also use the microfilm newspaper collection from the Library of Congress. As well as various historical football pictorial books. Not to mention various contributions from others along the way. I thank all the facilities and generous people for the help.
“Currently, I am working with a contributor who is doing the graphic work on the pre-1959 uniforms. The aim is to complete these sets of unis. From here, we hope to revise the corrections that need to be made that is currently shown on FUPP and bring the uni combos that have been worn since 2003 up to date. When will all of this see the light of day on a website? Frankly, it is too early to tell. But even after our dream becomes reality, our work will never be done. There will always be something that we missed or we need to fix.”
Thanks Tim. I will now turn the remainder of this section over to Rick Pearson, who will explain the importance of “getting it right” when it comes to stuff like this. Through Ricko’s tireless efforts this past week, he has reworked every single AFL uniform template for the 1960 season. This has come about by using his personal recollections, the study of numerous photos and clippings from “The Ricko Files” and the experience of being a “uni watcher” from birth. I’m often impressed, usually wowed, suitably satiated, and never bored by what we as a Uni Watch community bring to the table. But what you’re about to read and see, which is the culmination of that lifetime of paying attention to the little things that really DO matter, is one of the most amazing efforts I have ever seen, and not just on UW. If he and Tim (and others) collaborating now and into the future produce results like those below, then the historical record will have found in Tim and Ricko an equal to Marc Okkonen.
And with that, here’s Ricko:
I’d just turned 14, with six or seven years of serious uni watching (lower case) already under my belt. It was a black and white world, except for Sports Illustrated, SPORT magazine, baseball and football cards (the latter being almost worthless) and Preview Annuals. One NFL game a week on TV and only a half-hour weekly highlight show on Saturday mornings. So if you didn’t see it on Sunday, you pretty much weren’t gonna see it.
And then along game this new American Football League. Lots of ink, mostly about how stupid and lame-brained the idea was. Precious little detail. Hard to know who the players were, much less anything about team colors or unis. Such things were of little or no concern to most people. No “gamers” on sale anywhere. No fan hats. Nuthin’.
Anyway, here comes this loopy new league, with lots of new names and faces, and plenty of familiar old ones.
I parked myself in front of the TV every Sunday. Actually had one in my bedroom, a bit of novelty for a kid back then, and I watched the AFL, making sketches of their unis. What color were they? Well, that required something of a science in itself. Scarlet and royal look almost alike on b&w TV”¦unless they’re on the field at the same time. If you knew “A” was red, then you could figure “B” (although when together, royal generally did look a bit darker).
You needed to be around for the beginning of the telecast. That was the time, if ever, the announcers would “set the scene. “ Maybe half the time, though, they didn’t bother to describe the unis at all.
Gradually, I figured them out. Logic indicated the Oilers were in powder blue (though yellow gold was something of a possibility). Eventually, announcers confirmed the blue. The Titans certainly wore old gold pants. One announcer said they were in “maize and blue, like Michigan.” My ass, they were. Those pants were WAY too dark to be “maize” as Wolverines knew it. And so it went. And sometimes you’d guess. Educated guesses, but still guesses. And look for details. Is there a feathered edge on those stripes? Especially on socks. That could be a tough one. Not a ton of close-ups back then.
Wasn’t until maybe the third time I saw the Broncos that someone said they were in brown and gold. Until then, I was thinking maybe navy and gold. Or navy and the light orange we now call “Tennessee Orange.” I had reckoned the Patriots were in royal (not wanting to be the “Redcoats,” as many of you have mentioned) and that the Bills had chosen red and silver. Why not, it was a great look at Georgia at the time, and had served the 49ers well the season before. Then I learned it was just the opposite, probably when they played each other and I could compare the “grays”. Or when an announcer bothered to tell us what the hell the teams were wearing.
After a full season of carefully watching all or part of probably every ABC telecast, I had everything pretty much down. Then it was just a case of waiting until the end of the following summer to check preseason magazines (and hope for SOME quality in football cards) to check my findings ”¦ even though the magazines would all be black and white, too (it wasn’t until SI’s pro football preview in ’62 that I finally saw a color photo an AFL game).
And somewhere along the line it occurred to me that maybe no one else what recording the things I was recording ”¦ and that maybe someday it all would mean something to someone. Guess maybe now it finally does.
So that’s it. The photos I’ve supplied Phil all are from 1961 publications (unless noted), so they have to be 1960 games. Tough to find a camera that will photographs next year’s games.
And I have nothing but respect for FUPP. When I first saw the site, the mistakes irritated me. Then I came to realize they had taken on an outrageous task and very probably just hadn’t had the time to search for everything. I wish I’d know of them sooner, I’d have been glad to help.
What DOES irritate me is that it almost appears that the NFL simply went to FUPP for a lot of its input for the Legacy project. You like to think they’d have bothered to, oh, I dunno, look through their own photo files”¦or send someone to probe the local newspaper archives.
When Paul visited me a year ago, I kidded about being available to consult with the NFL on the AFL’s 1960 unis for the 50th celebration “for a reasonable fee.” We both laughed, and then he said, matter-of-factly, “They don’t care.”
He was right. The league doesn’t. The Broncos, though, put some extra effort into it. And whether we liked the ’60 duds or not, they got it right. All things considered, that’s exceptional. Also unusual, unfortunately.
Phil here. Before we return to Rick’s write up, I want to show you what Rick did to fix the FUPP 1960 AFL team graphics. So, here, for the first time, are all Eight Original AFL teams, properly rendered by color, stripe, helmet, etc. OUTSTANDING effort Rick! And here are each of those eight teams individually:
Tremendous, tremendous job on those Rick. OK — I now return you to the sage uni watcher, Mr. Pearson, who has some notes on those templates:
Notes on the Revised Templates:
1. Wide red band on Patriots socks.
Back then it took me a while to realize that was the top of the crew socks many of the Pats chose to wear. In some games, they wore crew socks that ended with a pair of red stripes, which totally garbled the leg striping.
2. Titans and Raiders helmets.
Raiders wore the same as the Bears at the time. Titans wore something different altogether. It might have been MacGregor, but I don’t remember any other teams wearing it (and I probably should have made theirs a darker blue, because they were). That blue-helmets-darker-than-blue-jerseys thing.
3. Raider numbers were same font as Oilers.
4. Have not double-checked the specific versions of block numbers for teams that wore them.
5. Raiders gold.
You can see on my “Kids Cards” that I had the Raiders’ gold wrong. It had a bit of sheen to it, and I thought it was metallic old gold, like UCLA or Notre Dame. It wasn’t until I saw the 1962 cards (’61 Raider cards all were hand-tinted black & white PR photos and pretty useless) that I learned positively that it was yellow-gold.
6. One-year wonders.
Only Bills and Raiders were unchanged for second season.
* Titans went to white-added loop unis used for the Legacy games.
* Patriots changed loops to royal around white, and lost the white road socks. And, of course, the three-corner hat was gone.
* Chargers changed all bolts to yellow-gold edged in blue.
* Texans ditched white high road socks.
* Oilers changed to block numbers with no contrasting edge on numbers or sock stripes, either home or road.
*Broncos had no TV numbers on home jerseys.
Well, that’s it for the history lesson. All I can say is “WOW”. Outstanding effort Mr. Richard Pearson. It’s clear to me that the once and future FUPP website will be getting an outstanding resource in you, and when combined with Tim Brulia’s yeoman research and a quality graphic artist, we can look forward to an historical record that will rival that of Marc Okkonen. (And maybe even surpass it). Tip of the cap to you gentlemen, for this first salvo. I’m sure the project, when it finally does come to fruition, will be well worth the wait for those uni watchers (and non-uni watchers) who have been waiting for something like this since … well — forever.
What say YOU, Uni Watch community? How freakin’ great was this? Big round of applause for both Ricko and Timmy B!
UW #1 Seahawks Fan Michael Princip has been tracking the Oregon Ducks and all of their 2,456 possible uniform combinations this season. He’ll be updating it after each game. Oregon continued on its winning streak, remaining unbeaten in PAC-10 play and taking Washington behind the woodshed this week, with a 43-19 buttwhoopin’. Look for Oregon to move up from the 11-spot in the rankings and into to the Top 10. The Ducktracker is now updated.
Our man in the street, Jim Vilk brings you his “Top 5” Best and one WORST college football uni matchup from yesterday:
5. USF/Pitt: Bulls are growing on me, while Pitt is a script away from being awesome-looking.
4. Indiana/Northwestern: A lack of Northwestern striping kept this from being rated higher.
3. Tennessee/Alabama: Oh, Bama…if you would have let the Vols wear orange you could have been #1.
2. Auburn/LSU: Tigers win this battle of the unis…
1. Iowa State/Nebraska: Cyclones blew me away with this look, while the Huskers remain classic.
And the worst one: Ball State/Eastern Michigan: A battle of winless teams in more ways than one.
OK that’s all for today. Apologize for the lack of “extras” but needed to get this loaded early. Everyone have a great Sunday. Don’t forgot to nominate your Worst Uni Ever (see yesterday’s post for details). Two legacy games today, plus the ALCS resumes, following the rainout yesterday.