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Remember the Don Almo

St Paul Gophers - Gary Chanko

By Phil Hecken

For the past couple weekends, I’d been telling you that one of the fantastic colorizers, Gary Chanko, had sent me a piece that is simply too good for the colorization section — and today you’ll see why. We’ll get into the wonderful world of college football in a minute, but for today’s lede, I’m going to let Gary both amaze you with his colorization talents, and inform you, with his in-depth historical research. Gary’s e-mail to me a couple weeks ago was simple:

Hi Phil

Back again with a few colorizations and another supporting narrative. The vintage photo of the St Paul Gophers seems to attract much interest and provides an interesting rabbit hole to explore.


What you’re about to read is a tale few probably know but it’s absolutely one that’s great to hear told. Indeed, the times they are a-changin.

So sit back and enjoy this segment from Gary, as he asks us to…

. . .

Remember The Don Almo
By Gary Chanko

If you were an adult living in the upper Midwest a century ago, the chances are you might remember Don Almo cigars. Perhaps you even smoked a few back in the day. Likewise if you happened to live in Hibbing*, Minnesota and a baseball fan, you might even know something about “Bob” the cigar maker.

* Bonus Points in you know the more famous “Bob” raised in this town. Answer appears at the end of the story.

Obviously no person is around today to share those experiences. So we’re left to puzzle over the billboard advertisement that dominates the colorized St. Paul Colored Gophers team picture below. The photo was taken after a game played against the Hibbing Nine on May 21, 1909. As the scoreboard totals show, the Gophers crushed the local team 17-2. Uni-Watch readers may recall the posting of the photo original this past July: Uni Watch News Ticker, 19 July 2012.

St Paul Gophers - Gary Chanko

St. Paul Colored Gophers: Back row (standing), left to right: uncertain, uncertain, catcher Chappie Johnson, Phil E. “Daddy” Reid, shortstop Felix Wallace, William Binga, and Bobby Marshall; front row, left to right: Sherman “Bucky” Barton, Art McDougal, uncertain, William McMurray, and uncertain. The names of the four players not identified are Julius Londo, Robert Garrison, Archie Pate, and Eugene Milliner.

More about the Gophers later, but first back to those curious Don Almo cigars. I don’t know why I became intrigued with the scoreboard ad. I had no knowledge about cigars or cigar history, but quickly assigned the Don Almo brand to a Latin American source, perhaps a Cuban or maybe even some Florida manufacturer. I was wrong.

In the United States cigars were frightfully popular during the period 1880-1915, known as the industry’s Golden Age. In 1900 the there were more than 27,000 factories spread across the country. Cigar consumption totaled six billion with over 300,000 brands on the market! If you were an average guy (less likely a gal), you probably had two or three stogies a day.

Although cigar manufacturing was widely distributed throughout the country, the largest concentration of factories during this period existed on a small island known as Manhattan! However, the source (as best as I can determine) of the Don Almo Cigar brand was located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota along with several other small manufacturers. Their combined production totaled a million cigars annually. These commemorative plaques (left plaque, right plaque) tell the narrative of Sioux Falls cigar manufacturing.

Research failed to discover much about Don Almo cigars, but I did find a series of 1903 newspaper ads for the product. The brand was apparently manufactured by the H.O. Schmidley company and introduced to the market in 1903. It was a premium brand for the time selling for ten cents. Regretfully there’s no mention of Bob the cigar maker.

Having digressed, undoubtedly too far, into cigar anthropology, it’s time to return to the primary subject in the photo, the St. Paul Colored Gophers.

St. Paul Colored Gophers

The St. Paul Colored Gophers were a short lived small club of black baseball players formed in St. Paul in 1907. In 1909, the Gophers defeated what was considered to be the most powerful Negro baseball team, the Chicago Leland Giants, in a five game series, 4 to 1.

This was the era before the Negro Leagues were formed (1920) and much of the history of these regional teams and their players is not fully recorded. Luckily some dedicated fans have devoted time to preserve the rich history of under recognized teams from this era.

This video interview with Todd Peterson, author of Early Black Baseball in Minnesota, provides a quick history of the Gophers and their accomplishments. (Watch for a glimpse of the original black & white team photo about 2:15 minutes into the video.):

On occasion, such as the game this past July against Kansas City, the Minnesota Twins salute the Negro Leagues and the Colored Gophers by wearing replica throwback jerseys of the 1909 team.

The Gophers team in 1909 had many outstanding players, but none outshine the legendary Bobby Marshall. (last player in second row on the right in the colorized team picture above).

Bobby Marshall

Like me, you probably never heard of this guy Bobby Marshall. Time to get you familiar with Mr. Marshall, arguably among the most accomplished athletes of the last century. Recognize the name of sports legend Jim Thorpe? Bobby Marshall should be in the same conversation.

A brief summary of his more notable accomplishments:

• First African American to play football in the Big Nine (later the Big Ten Conference)

Marshall played end for the University of Minnesota from 1904 to 1906. In 1906, he kicked a 48-yard field goal to beat the University of Chicago 4-2 (field goals counted as four points)

• Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971

• First African American, along with Fritz Pollard, to play in the NFL

The colorized 1905 photo below shows Marshall in his University of Minnesota attire.

Marshall Univ Minnesota football  - Gary Chanko

A brief biography of the life and times of Bobby Marshall can be found here. It’s worth reading, particularly for the many photos of him as a high school baseball player, semi-pro hockey player, bicycle racer, and more. Even better is this video: Lost Legends – The Magnificent Bobby Marshall.

A colorized version of Bobby Marshall and his Minneapolis Central High School Baseball team is shown below. The photo original is taken from page 159 of the biographical article noted above.

Marshall CHS - Gary Chanko

So there you have it. A vintage baseball photo takes us on an unexpected trip through cigar industry history, introduces us to an amazing black baseball team, and an even more amazing athlete. Still looking though for Bob.


* Answer to the question: Robert A. Zimmerman. Never heard of him? Yes, you have. Try here.

. . . . .

Thanks, Gary. Outstanding job, as always.


Screen Shot 2012-09-28 at 11.26.01 PM

STOP! In the name of sanity…

It’s being billed as “One of College Football’s Most Compelling Games”, and you probably can’t argue with the hype — at least if you’re a Uni Watcher. Tonight, at 8:00 pm EDT (that’s 7 or 6 pm for those of you in flyover country), the Cornhuskers and Badgers will take the field wearing their new adidas uniforms costumes. You might think they’re unnecessary, except when you consider that a normally attired game between these two schools can look like an intrasquad scrimmage. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily.

Enter adidas.

They’ll be outfitting the home team Cornhuskers in an all-red get up with black helmets (you can read much more about that here, while placing the road Badgers in an all-white outfit with red helmets (which someone else wrote about here.

I’ve already had my say on both of these uniforms (“meh” — and “really”), but I am interested to actually see them in action. Hopefully I’ll get to watch a bit of the game tonight. As far as alternates costumes go, they’re certainly not the worst things we’ve seen trotted out there (and lets see how they actually look under the lights at Memorial). And they won’t look like any of the previous Husker/Badger games, that’s for sure.

Are the new unis necessary? Of course not. Will they add to the excitement? Doubtful. But will they move merch and attract recruits? What do you think?

So, what do you think?


50 Years Ago This Week

50 Years Ago…This Weekend

Last year, Rick Pearson took us “back in time” to bring us his look at the featured television college football match-up from 50 years ago. (If you’re not familiar with it, this was the inaugural post of “50 Years Ago” from last year — after that, it became a recurring feature on UW for the remainder of the season). Last year, Rick looked at the 1961 season, and fortunately for us, he “uni tracked” the games from 1962 as well, documenting the game via his “kid cards”. Each week this fall, he’ll do the same, again.


62 Wk 3 Card

Sept. 29, 1962…Notre Dame 13, Oklahoma 7 at Oklahoma on CBS

A clash of titans. And, yes, the helmet Shamrock on the Irish should be green. … I went with the typical thinking of the times, which would have been to make the logo in team colors (was only a couple years ago that I first saw a color photo of that helmet). … In fact, looking at the opposition, this might well be a photo from this game, and of Clay Stephenson. … Notre Dame had those really ornate shoulder loops, and wore stirrups under their crew socks all the time, a rarity. … Oklahoma opted for the exterior padded helmets that had a brief bit of popularity. … By 1962, Riddell was dominating the football cleat scene, but Sooners also were one of a tiny handful that wore SpotBilts, here on the marvelously named Joe Don Looney. … To my knowledge, neither Stephenson nor John Porterfield played pro football. … For the record, we saw them play a year ago at South Bend.

. . .

Thanks Rick! Great job with that as always. A blue clover? C’mon Rick…even Lucky Charms got that right ;). Next you’ll tell us that pony on the ’62 Broncos was…oh nevermind.



B1G Trophy Game

Now that the conferences have settled into internecine play, that means there are lots of “Trophy” games to be played.

Not only is Comrade Marshall the head of Stirrup Nation, he’s also a Buckeye, bleeding Silver and Red…er, Scarlet and Gray each weekend — and he loves him some B1G rivalries, especially those in which there is some type of ‘trophy’ at stake. So, each week, from now until the end of the season, Robert will grace us with a writeup of the B1G trophy game(s), what’s the “prize” for the winner, and the history behind the trophy. Oh, and he does it all via “minis” (those plaster-cast minis) so brilliantly featured in this post.

This week’s feature matchup is for the “Floyd of Rosedale.” Yeah. And here’s Robert to tell you all about it:

. . .

B1G Trophy Game - Minnesota vs. Iowa

Big Ten Game of the Week:

This years 106th meeting betwixt the Golden Gophers of Minnesota and Hawkeyes of Iowa is for more then just a rare Gopher 5-0 start, or a head up on the M-N-Iowa division of the Big Ten, it is for the super fantastic Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

In 1934 the Gophers roughed up Iowa star halfback Ozzie Simmons, one of the few African American players of his era. The following year in 1935 the two teams came together undefeated, and Iowa Governor Clyde Herring threatened violence in Iowa City if Ozzie was treated the same way. There was quite a stir, relations betwixt the schools had soured, people called each other names, etc. Then to lighten the mood, Minnesota Governor Floyd Olsen suggested the two Governors bet a hog on the game, even though Iowa would be getting odds because Minnesota raised better hogs.

Minnesota won the game on their way to a second straight national title, but after the game, the hog named Floyd from Rosedale farms in Davenport, Iowa, was sent to Minnesota. The Minnesota Governor was going to then offer it up as a prize for an essay contest, but it got cholera and died.

Minnesota leads the series 61-42-2, and count on that number going up for Minnesota who is inexplicably 7 point dogs, but you won’t need them in them for this outright Gopher win.

. . .

Thank you Comrade.


Stirrup Friday

Stirrup Fridays…

Because we love the stirrup here at Uni Watch, this section is devoted to those of us who sport the beautiful hose on Fridays — a trend popularized many years ago by Robert P. Marshall, III. For many of us, it’s become a bit of an obsession, but a harmless one — a reflection of our times. Where we once had Friday ties, which has been replaced by Casual Friday — we now have Stirrup Fridays. It’s an endearingly simple concept — no matter where you work (or even if you don’t) — break out a fresh pair of rups to compliment (or clash with) your Friday attire.

So, in the order in which they were received (and some of these were received last week, but after the prior Friday Stirrup posting, so if there are dupes in names, they’re from separate Fridays). And…here we go (click on each thumbnail for a glorious, full size image):

. . . . .

David Firestone - 67 Sens

David Firestone:


TCK Ooops this week…yes that is the correct spelling. Horizontal Stripes and a great color combination.


. . .

Jason Bernard - Traxxxel

Jason Bernard:


Traxxxel. Smart.


. . .

Will Scheibler - hockeysocksPanorama

Will Scheibler:


Have just ordered a pair of baseball stirrups from Comrade Marshall so it will be a little while before I get them, but I do own some older hockey socks with stirrups. Put some on over my shin pads and took some pics (without the shin pads they would look baggy beyond belief). Flyers, Devils, Sabres, and two North Stars.


. . .

Peter Trunk - 36 Red Sox

Peter Trunk:


Here they are! I’m a 66-year old retired schoolteacher living in Central NJ.

Peter V. Trunk

. . .

James Poisso - Vintage Box

James Poisso:


Today’s stirrups are another from the vintage box. I would have to guess 60s era, Northwestern striped. Not that Robert is offering this shade of red, this does give anyone interested in ordering the Northwestern striped stirrups an idea what they look like.

James Poisso

. . .

Michael Thomas Frick - Braves

Michael Thomas Frick:

Hey Phil,

Just got my stirrups this week and have been waiting for Friday to show of my great stirrups and support my Braves!

-Mike F.

. . .

John Kimmerlein - Old Giants

John K.:


On the road this Friday. I wore the Old Giants stirrups because they are “stealth” over black socks for when on business or travel. ’54 Orioles and Clemente-era Pirates also work well.

John K

. . .

Tom J Juettner - Soccer "Rups"

Tom J. Juettner:


I just got back from my honeymoon in Italy where I spotted these babies in Florence. Sure they aren’t technically stirrups but it’s nice to wear socks that shout, Forza Azzurri!

Tom Juettner

. . .

Jason Bernard - Monarchs

Jason Bernard:


Stirrup Friday, Big 12 debut edition (Monarchs)

For WVU’s first-ever Big XII conference game (tomorrow 9/29 vs. Baylor), they’re trying to get fans to Stripe the Stadium. I can’t make it to Morgantown, so I’m striping the leg instead.


. . .

Dustin Fridkin - Rays

Dustin Fridkin:

Hi Phil,

Working from home in Gainesville, FL and rooting for the Rays to stay relevant through the weekend! Many thanks to you and the rest of the Uni Watch team for providing plenty of delightful distractions every day and for encouraging everyone to rep the ‘rups.

Dustin F.

. . .

Britton Thomas - Braves

Britton Thomas:


I had to break out the stirrups to commemorate the one and only Larry Wayne Jones, Jr.

Britton Thomas

. . .

Chuck Brehm - Blue & Whites

Chuck Brehm:


As an elementary physical education teacher I sported my classic blue stirrups with white stripes today. The ‘rups are definitely a hit with the kids each Friday!

Chuck Brehm

. . .

And that ends today’s look at Stirrup Friday — all of you who participate, send me your pics and a brief (~50 words) description of their relevance, and I’ll run ’em here on Saturday (and sometimes Sunday too!).

If you’re not a member of Stirrup Nation and want to join, just visit Comrade Marshall’s house of hose (and you can see the available selections here) or if you have any questions about the availability of stirrups, drop him a line at Robert now has some new selections, which you can see below — which could be great for the college football season. Check it out:

Screen Shot 2012-09-29 at 12.11.03 AM

So, comrades — why don’t you pick up a pair or three and show us your rups!



Screen Shot 2012-06-24 at 10.32.36 PM

“Benchies” first appeared at U-W in 2008, and has been a Saturday & Sunday feature here for the past two years.

. . . . .

Nobody likes a crabby-ass loser…

9-29-12 d-Mean

Click to enlarge


That’s all for today, lads and lasses — thanks to Gary for that fantastic lede, and of course Ricko & the stirrup wearing crazies. Enjoy your college football today (and your final days of the MLB, and perhaps even the Ryder Cup). Back with SMUW tomorrow, plus the 5 & 1 and the Duck Tracker. And, apparently, Jay-Z may have unveiled the new Nets jersey onstage last night (big hat-tip to Peter Gaston for that). So if you guys see any Brooklyn Nets coverage, be sure to post it in the comments, or shoot me an E-mail (either my own or the uniwatching address — since I’m getting those submissions as well). Gonna be a rough couple of days for me, as I’m just uber-busy this weekend — and I’m handling Paul’s MMUW duties (plus the ticker) as well — so it will be a huge help if you guys would make a supreme effort to forward me any NFL news on Sunday for reportage on Monday. OK? OK! Big thanks in advance for that.

You guys have a great Saturday, and I’ll see you on the morrow.


“Because that’s the proper Cardinal striping. Red, like me, is an old school guy. OK?”
–Terry Proctor

Comments (49)

    I just received an email from about the new Nets jersey. Website has them here: link.

    Of note: both say ‘BROOKLYN’ on the front instead of ‘NETS”.

    Not a surprise based on the McFarlane toy, but both are bland.

    I also got the Nets email – timing makes me think a nets “owner” made some sort of announcement last night at the Barclays Center.

    The new Nets unis are on the shop tried to order one but apparently it’s a restricted product to my address is the UK, which seemed weird to me given teams like to have a global appeal and I have never had problems ordering from MLB or shops .

    That’s what I thought ,I tried other teams and I can get Lakers etc but not Nets or Knicks I can only think it must be some sort of embargo that Adidas have put on for teams that have new jerseys, hope they sort it ,I’ve waited 30 years for a team to return to Brooklyn !

    This is what appears when I try to order Nets jersey to the UK

    We’re Sorry. Due to shipping restrictions, the following item(s) cannot be shipped to the shipping address you have selected.
    adidas Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams Replica Road Jersey

    : (

    Another dumb question from me: Looking at Comrade Marshall’s ‘rups for sale, wouldn’t the ’70 Angels also be correct for the ’39-40 Reds?

    I can’t even get through this whole entry without coming down here to praise Gary Chanko.

    Gary: This is one of the greatest ledes I’ve read on Uni Watch – by anyone – in a long time. Well written, well researched. Just phenomenal. Thank you for putting it together and teaching me something on a cool fall morning!

    Some days UW is like walking into an antique store that has nothing but sports stuff, and before you know it you’ve spent two hours there and you still aren’t ready to leave.

    This is one of those days.

    Great, great lede, Gary.

    I love silver and black but really don’t think we needed another team wearing it, especialy 2 in the same league. Nets logo looks like one of those generic ones you have to choose when making a created team on EA sports. Worse lack of creativity ever.

    Yeah, I’m with you on the “enough teams with one color scheme” bit, especially when there is only one shade of black and maybe two shades of silver (pewter, like the NFL’s Bucs, if you want to include it).

    The Spurs pretty much own black and silver in the NBA. There are many teams wearing blue and a “warm” color, but plenty of shades of blue to go around.

    Aren’t the Nets simply Black and White , as opposed to Black and Silver.

    I’m OK with the uni, I’ve said this before , but I think they’re trying to morph the following influences together

    1. The Boston Celtics
    2. The New York Yankees
    3. Urban Hip Hop

    And overall, in my opinion, they’ve succeeded, provided they have the discipline to stick to this look for a long time, and become a strong team – this will become a marquee look in the NBA.

    Anthony–drop Comrade Marshall an e-mail. He might have a pair hanging around. And even if not, he has re-ordered styles if there is enough demand.

    Wisco really should go back to the helmet depicted link – maybe make that “W” just a skosh bigger. That’s a fine and very unique look.

    This also happened on September 29, 1962, at halftime of the Ole Miss-Kentucky game at Jackson, MS:


    The next night, a mob of students and agitators rioted on the Ole Miss campus to protest the admission of James Meridith, the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi. The mob attacked US Marshals who had been sent by JFK to protect Meridith and ensure the orders of the federal court to admit Meridith were carried out. By the end of the night, President Kennedy reluctantly federalized the Mississippi National Guard to put down the riot. Unfortunately, three people were killed during the “Battle of Ole Miss.”

    Washington (state) Board of Education asks state schools to voluntarily drop Native American nicknames: link

    I can see the reasoning and have generally agreed with Paul’s stance on these things. Where I draw the line is my alma mater Sammamish Totems. My school has never used any kind of Indian or red-face mascot. Accurate representations of actual totems and native NW art are used. We have an actual totem at the entrance to the campus (which rival schools have occasionally burned, after which native carvers were commissioned to recreate the totem). The school is near Lake Sammamish and there is no reason to change that name or the nickname.

    Could get interesting in these parts. My alma mater was, and still is, in the same division as your Totems Lemon. They were a mess, since they had a cartoon cannabal mascot, which included a bone through it’s nose. Not good. This was in the 60’s and 70’s. I have no idea if that’s still their MO. Embarrassing and long overdue, seeing as they may be forced to finally wake up. Pick a new one Mercer Island, since the Islanders makes you looks ignorant. And there’s the names out there that are fairly common as mascots. Falcons, Patriots, Bulldogs, Spartans, Rebels, Knights, Wolverines, Saints. Saw some discussion on some of those here recently. Another team in the division went from Indians to Eagles not that long ago. I’m liking the good old Kangaroos. Haven’t seen that name much in the sports world, but I could be wrong. Have a nice weekend everyone.

    I’m sorry,I know this has been covered in the past, but what does Minnesota have on it’s neck bumpers?

    Liverpool FC wore there crappy 3rd kit today away to Norwich City in the EPL, to my knowledge this is the first time Liverpool have wore an alternate kit when they didn’t have to since the all red would not clash with the yellow/green of Norwich!!!!!

    Boston College apparently has a fixation on condiments: Mustard on the top, ketchup on the bottom. Can’t recall if I’ve ever seen that combination before.

    Mad props to Gary for the excellent colorizations & the tremendous article that accompanied ’em. Stellar work & fascinating reading – thanks so much for doin’ what you did & for sharing it with the rest of us here.

    [i]Minnesota leads the series 61-42-2, and count on that number going up for Minnesota who is inexplicably 7 point dogs, but you won’t need them in them for this outright Gopher win.[/i]


    They need to call this the “Scrabble Bowl”. I think Illinois was the B1G vowel of the day with their helmets against Penn State.

    It was funny to hear the Dial Global announcers say that these teams (Nebraska and Wisconsin) should wear these uniforms once and then give them to a local high school. They said they are hard to see from the booth and that Nebraska and some teams should never change their uniforms because of tradition. I think Wisconsin looks pretty good. Nebraska really needs white numbers on their unis. I know even if this were a high school game which I would call, Nebraska would be a tough team to announce because of the black on red.

    Great lede today!

    Hibbing is a great little town. Home not just of Mr. Dylan but also Kevin McHale, Roger Maris, the Greyhound bus, and (if you aren’t too picky) Moonlight Graham. And the Hibbing Last Chance Bonspiel, which is how I got to know the town in the 1990s.

    I heard an interview with Kevin McHale when he related a story about how at a shoot-around before a game he heard someone from the stands yelling “Hey Hibbing, Hey Hibbing” at him and he turned to see that it was Bob Dylan.

Comments are closed.