Tablets from the Mountaintop

Back in February I did a post about how the 49ers’ infamous 1991 one-day helmet had appeared as part of a Duncan Hines cake promotion (if you missed that entry, or just need to refresh your memory, look here). At the time, I wrote, “I’d never seen the Niners’ one-day helmet design used on any NFL-licensed product.”

Now I’ve found the one-day helmet in another place I hadn’t been aware of. Check it out (you can click on the image, and on all the other images in this entry, to see a larger version):

That’s a sheet from an NFL Style Guide that I recently scored on eBay. Unlike other styles guides in my library, this one isn’t from a particular year — it’s a mix of materials, mostly from the mid-’80s through the early ’90s. The guide’s previous owner was an NFL licensee, and he’d just add updated spec sheets to the multi-ring binder as they were sent to him by NFL Properties. In fact, the 49ers spec sheet was accompanied by this memo, spelling out the team’s new look:

Presumably another memo was later issued, saying, “Never mind,” but the licensee apparently didn’t save that one — too bad. In any case, it’s interesting to see that the one-day design made it to the league’s style guide.

The Niners phantom design is the real prize here, but there are lots of other anomalies scattered throughout the style guide, beginning with the cover of the binder itself. Here, take a look:

As you can see, the blue stripe has a tone-on-tone illustration of a receiver making a tricky catch. (The same illo also appears in the red stripe, but it’s hard to make out.) I’ve never seen this image used within the NFL’s branding program before.

Three NFL teams have worn TV numbers on their hips over the years — and all three of them are represented in this batch of materials. Dig:

The big shocker there is that the Cowboys’ spec sheet only shows one shade of blue and one shade of silver. The spec sheet isn’t dated (and no, the “85” uni number doesn’t mean it was from 1985), but the Cowboys wore the hip numbers from 1982 through ’88, and the Gridiron Uniform Database shows them wearing two distinct sets of silver pants during that entire period. Hmmmmm.

The binder includes three separate spec sheets for the Dolphins — with three different sock designs! Take a look:

The first sheet is undated but clearly dates from the mid-1980s. The second one, with the simple color-blocked socks, is dated “6/87.” And the third one, with the script wordmarks on the socks, is dated “9/89.” The Gridiron Database doesn’t include the sock wordmarks for the ’89 Dolphins, but it looks like they’re gonna have to add them, because they were definitely part of the uniform.

(Also not included in the Gridiron Database: The Chargers had little wordmarks on their socks in 1992, and so did the Bengals. Unfortunately, those spec sheets aren’t included in the style guide binder.)

Speaking of socks, here’s something rare: a one-stripe sock design:

The spec sheet isn’t dated, butt the Chargers wore that design from 1985 though 1987. The only other one-stripe sock design I can think of was worn by the late-’80s Packers, although I imagine there were probably a few others.

Staying with the hosiery theme, some of the older style sheets show stirrups, a remnant of the era when football players wore white crew socks over stirrups:

I confess that I had completely forgotten about the Patriots’ inaugural Flying Elvis design, from 1993. So when I saw this sheet, for a second I thought it might be a phantom prototype that never made it onto the field:

Has there ever been another case of the TV numbers being a different color than the main uni numbers? Also: Note that the NFL shield, which had been added to the base of the collar starting in 1991, isn’t shown on this sheet. Surprising.

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about this next image, but I’m including it as a reminder of how nice the Seahawks used to look:

Finally, here are two more memos from NFL Properties to its licensees. The second one is particularly notable because of the sideways NFL logo at the top of the page — never seen that before. Here:


And so on. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this thing cost me a little more than a C-note. Totally worth it.

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Collector’s Corner

By Brinke Guthrie

I pounded down a lot of Gatorade back in 1971 or so in order to collect these NFL bottle caps (and that was before they took out those killer cyclamates). More on these great collectibles here.

In other finds:

• Wake up to this 1970s 49ers helmet clock radio.

• What do we make of this 1920s football sticker? Unusual, yet oddly compelling.

• Here’s a great set of 1974 NHL stickers. Pair ’em with this 1970s NHL logo mug.

• Check this 1948 Boston Braves World Series press pin, submitted by reader Michael Clary.

• The Astros would be well served to return to this look when they move to the AL.

• From Matt Campbell, a 1960s Baltimore Bullets milk glass featuring “Alex the Bullet Dog.” Quoting Matt: “A wiener dog mascot is brilliant!” Agreed.

Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here, or tweet them here.

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Notre Dame auction update: We are now in the final hours of the auction for the Notre Dame promo box. The auction closes today at noon Eastern. Bids received after that time will not be considered.

No bids were submitted yesterday, so the high bid is still $4301 and the minimum bid for today is now $4801.

Full details on how to bid, and everything else regarding the auction, can be found here. The Notre Dame auction is now over. I’ll announce the winning bid/bidder tomorrow.

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With the holidays right around the corner, here are a few gift-related thoughts:

• If you want to buy someone a Uni Watch membership as a gift, full details on how to do that are available here.

• From now through the end of the year, if you order two sheets of stickers based on your membership card design (that costs $26), you’ll also get a free sheet of Uni Watch logo stickers (a mix of all three colors). Instrux for ordering stickers can be found here.

• Speaking of the Uni Watch logo stickers, the response to my recent offer has been so overwhelming that I’m fresh out of stickers and have ordered more. My offer still stands: If you want three of these stickers (one each of green, gold, and burgundy), send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Paul Lukas, 671 DeGraw St., Brooklyn, NY 11217. If you want to enclose a coupla bucks or a barter offering, that’d be nice, although it isn’t required. And my easily confused post office would prefer that you please send things to Paul Lukas, not to Uni Watch, okay? Okay.

• I’m still taking submissions and suggestions for my annual Uni Watch Holiday Gift Guide column, which will run next month on ESPN. If you have any tips, send them here. Thanks.

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Uni Watch News Ticker: After all the bogus leaks, we finally know what the Flyers’ Winter Classic jersey really looks like. Eh, whatever — nothing to get worked up about either way. … The Royals will unveil some uniform updates today at noon Eastern. Live video will be available on the team’s web site. According to someone on the Chris Creamer board, they’re dropping powder blue cap, changing the script on powder blue jersey from royal trimmed in white to white trimmed in royal, and adjusting the script on the road grays. As I mentioned last week, a little birdie tells me they may also be adding powder blue pants, although I haven’t been able to confirm that. … Several readers have noted that some of Michigan’s football players have the “M” logo above their nameplate and some don’t. That’s because some players are wearing the new super-stretchies, which include the “M,” while some prefer the older, conventional jerseys, which don’t (big thanks to Alan Topolski for the photo). … Just what the world’s been waiting for: hashtags in the end zone. And we know they’re headed for NOBs soon. … In other Mississippi State news, they’ll be wearing a new uniform for the Egg Bowl. … Two notes from Sunday’s Liverpool/Chelsea match: Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Cech’s headgear now has a noseguard, and Liverpool wore black armbands in support of their back-up goalie, whose six-year-old son recently died of leukemia (from Nile Smith). … Nate Dion attended the Arizona Fall League Championship on Saturday and noted that each team’s first base coach had a rather lengthy NOB. … News from the Tooth Fairy Wars: Those annoying little bracelets that look like women’s wristwatches are on their way out, thanks to a class action lawsuit. … Fascinating contribution from Ryan Perkins, who writes: “During a trip to the Dominican Republic back in June, I spotted these two huge Packers and Steelers helmets tucked away to the side in our resort’s auditorium. My favorite detail, which you can barely see in one of the pics, is that they went so far as to include a front facemask clip on the Packers helmet. They were approximately 18 feet high and stretched with a light canvas and papier mâché over 2×4 framing and plywood. There wasn’t anybody around for me to ask, but my guess is that maybe they recover or repaint them each year before the Super Bowl.” … Yesterday I mentioned that Adidas schools participating in the Maui Invitational tourney would be wearing blue sneakers, but I didn’t have a photo. Now I do. Further details in this press release. … Not often that you see a taffy-pull jersey photo in the baseball world. “It’s from a high school game sometime in the mid-1990s,” says Brice Wallace. … Rick Liebling has written a piece about the clothing worn by on-air talent, managers, and coaches. … If you liked Permanent Record, you’ll love this story about a ledger showing who checked out which books from an Indiana library 100 years ago (major thanks to Dave Flapan). ”¦ More torn-jersey porn: Derrick Johnson, from last night’s Pats/Chiefs game (screen shot by Alvin Burk). ”¦ UConn women’s hoops wore an “OSU” patch last night, in remembrance of the victims of last week’s Oklahoma State plane crash (from Nick Phillips). ”¦ “I was sitting courtside prior to the BC Basketball Classic last weekend at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver,” writes Daniel Carroll. “I noticed that the court had been resurfaced around the center line for the new logo. I thought the shape was a little bit funny until I realized it was in the shape of the Vancouver Grizzlies logo. I did a little research and it looks like the NBA had an exhibition game there in 2009 on the same floor.” ”¦ Now here’s an excellent book title. ”¦ And maybe that book features this photo (big thanks to Matt Mitchell). ”¦ Not sure I’ve ever seen a vintage jersey with such a mish-mash of colors. ”¦ Here’s a completely magnificent Ohio State warm-up top. Look at that chain-stitched buckeye! ”¦ Interesting article on Michigan’s first scoreboard (from Tom Wilcox). ”¦ A giant of the frankfurter world has passed away. R.I.P.

View Comments (148)

  • Has there ever been another case of the TV numbers being a different color than the main uni numbers?

    The Raiders white jerseys for part of '63 and the Tennessee Titans navy jerseys are the only others I can think of.

    /and it's a shame the Patriots had to ditch that uniform. It's the best uniform they ever had.

    • ...and the Titans other blue jersey.

      Also... didn't Ohio State have black TV numbers for a season? Late 60's-ish?

    • I never liked the red numbers on blue jersey. Did the NFL force the Patriots to change to white numbers because referees couldn't make out the digits?

      • If I had to guess, I'd say they just couldn't make up their minds. They had the overhaul in '93, changed in '94 and changed again in '95. I just can't see the league forcing that. In fact that seems like the type of thing that would have contributed greatly to the adoption of the current no-changes-for-5-years rule.

    • The current Cardinals white jersey
      The current Bengals white jersey
      Both Cowboys jerseys from 1960-1963 & the current alt based on them
      Both Cowboys "throwback" jerseys in 1994
      The Cowboys blue jersey in 1995, which was used as an alt in 2001-2003
      The Broncos white jersey from 1965-1966
      The Patriots blue jersey in 1993
      Both Jets jerseys from 1963-1977 & 1998-current
      The Jets 94 "throwback"
      Not quite the same but whenever the Chargers wore numbers on their helmets they were black except for 1960 when they were navy blue
      Both of the Titans blue jerseys

      To my knowledge that is every instance of this in NFL history

      • Well done. But almost all of these have one thing in common: The TV numbers are positioned on a contrast-colored yoke or contrast-colored sleeve that provides a different background color than the main body of the jersey.

        What makes the 1993 Patriots example so unusual is that the main uni numbers and the TV numbers are different colors even though they're on the same colored background.

    • You're kidding, right? Those were the most bland, boring uniforms the Pats have ever worn. There's a reason they only lasted one season.

  • One of the best artifact articles in a long, long time. Great find!

    On the Cowboys, would we really expect the team to list different colors for its different uni elements? I always thought that officially, the Cowboys had one color of silver, that due presumably at first to differences in materials and manufacturing and later to adherence to this de facto difference was represented differently on different parts of the uni. Sort of like how many MLB teams officially designate a true navy as their color, but then wear a much darker Yankees midnight navy on their caps and a much brighter true navy on their jerseys and other elements. Have the Cowboys subsequently made the different hues of silver official and listed multiple silvers in their style guides?

  • I thought I heard somewhere that the Cowboys swithed to the blueish silver to wear with their white jerseys when color tv became available because it stood out more.
    Dark navy caps in baseball look stupid to me. My Nats' navy is way to dark. Their road caps would look less like the Braves if they switch back to the blue from their old patriotic DC cap.

    • That sounds a little bit off to me.

      The gridiron database has them in bluish silver with both jerseys from '64 to '80. Maybe they switched from white helmets/pants to silver-blue because of color TV.

      The pure silver with the blue jerseys doesn't seem to start until '81, which just happens to coincide with the blue jerseys going from royal to navy.

      This does bring up the question of just how accurate the style guides are/were.

    • Actually you're both correct in a way. The Jeff is correct that the Cowboys wore a silver-blue color with both their white jersey and their dark royal jersey from the time they changed uniforms in 1964 through 1980. Some years the silver-blue looked more blue, but for a few years in the early 70s it came off more grey - particularly in 1971 when they won the Super Bowl. I can also remember in 1977 (when they also won the Super Bowl) the blueish color faded to an odd almost purplish shade on the fronts. The "true silver" came in with the 1981 change to navy for the blue jerseys but the silver-blue pants were still worn with the white jersey.

      I think that Davy301 is remembering something I also read a while back that the Cowboys changed to this current "metallic silver green" color for the pants as a function of the color TV technology of the 1990s - that is showed up "bluer" under the lighting in various stadiums.

  • I hated the gray facemask on the Patriots' original Flying Elvis helmet. It felt felt oddly drab for a modern (for the time) uni.

  • Forgot to mention, AWESOME article, Paul. I realize you can't run a feature like this every day (obviously), but this is the sort of think that got me hooked on this site in the first place.

    • Yeah, Jim, great photo. You probably already know (but I'll just say it here for them who don't) that almost all college football fields in that decade featured the same checkerboard "grid pattern" you noticed. Which resembled an old-fashioned gridiron, which gave rise to the anachronistic term we lovingly use today.

  • I remember that when the Patriots introduced those uniforms, the Boston Globe ran a "Reader Feeback" column in which they let people submit better designs for the Pats. Most of them were hand drawn (most people weren't doing their own graphic design on computers even that recently). One of the best ones featured the patriot logo on a full Elvis body. Was one of the funniest things I have seen. Those uniforms were awful. Particularly the big logo on the shoulders which looked really goofy.