By Phil Hecken
Saturdays in the fall are usually reserved for College Football here on Uni Watch, and with good reason — the colleges play on Saturday. But with Sunday Morning Uni Watch reviewing the Saturday action, and teams churning out new uniforms at an alarming clip…I’m going to turn today into NFL Saturday. And we have an extra special day today, because the Pittsburgh Steelers will be throwing back to these “1934” uniforms when they face the Washington football club tomorrow. You can see more photos from the fashion shoot this week here. (Why is “1934” in quotes? You’ll just have to read on.)
But that’s not just why today is special.
It’s a really special day because we have a post authored by one of the foremost football historians out there, Tim Brulia, and Tim was ably assisted in his research by three of the best out there, Rob Holecko, Bill Schaefer (those three form the “Gridiron Uniform Database” triumvirate), and BucTracker Jerry Wolper. So, without further ado, please let me now turn this over to Tim, as he takes you…
Inside The Steelers Throwback Jersey
by Tim Brulia
Earlier this year the Pittsburgh Steelers unveiled a new throwback jersey for this season that they will debut tomorrow against the Washington Redskins. It will be replacing the 1962 style that they have worn since 2007. In 1994, for the NFL’s 75th Anniversary, the Steelers wore a throwback to the 1933 uniform that featured the city of Pittsburgh’s city seal. At the unveiling of the new throwback, the Steelers stated that this throwback would hearken back to the 1934 season. The design, by anyone’s standards, is pretty wild. It features yellow and black stripes throughout, with the players’ numbers in black set inside a white rectangle per each digit surrounded by a think black outline. The name on back (NOB) is in black set inside a yellow nameplate.
The throwback’s most well known visual comes from the team photo of the 1934 Pittsburgh Pirates, what the team was called before changing their name to the Steelers in 1940.
As a founder of the Gridiron Uniform Database, and as one who claims himself as a Steeler fan, I take particular interest in the Steelers’ uniform history. About six or seven years ago, when I began my original research into the team’s uniform history, I utilized the facilities of the Pennsylvania State Library in Harrisburg and dug into the microfilm collection of Pittsburgh newspapers. To update those findings with the new 2012 throwback, I decided to make another trip the PA State Library a few days ago to confirm what I found. I searched the archives of the three Pittsburgh daily newspapers: The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. For extra measure, I also searched the archives of the three daily Philadelphia papers from 1933 and 1934, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The (Philadelphia) Bulletin and the Philadelphia Record. Specifically, I wanted to nail down exactly when the Pirates wore the striped (or “prisoner”, “convict”, “bumblebee”) jerseys purported to be from 1934 in an actual game. I wasn’t able to make photos from the microfilm on this trip, and the quality of online photos you see linked in the following paragraphs isn’t indicative of the photos that I was able to view at the library. As with all of our research at The Gridiron Uniform Database, we are always open to further refinement with new documentation, but what we have presented here is what we believe to be fact, to the extent that we have been able to prove within our research.
Here are the results:
Photographs were found for four of the five Pirates home games that season. The game without a pic was the 10/11 game against the Cincinnati Reds. The first four games (including this Sept. 20 game against the Giants) were played under the portable lights at Forbes Field, because up until November 7th, the Pirates could not play at home on Sunday due to Pennsylvania’s blue laws. Each of the three night games discovered clearly showed the Pirates in the city seal jerseys. For the last home game in ’33, a Sunday afternoon game played on 11/12 against the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Pirates DID WEAR the bumblebee jerseys. Google archives has the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (as well as the Pittsburgh Press) in its online archives. There was no photo in the 11/13 Press from the game, but there was a photo of game action in the P-G. While the pic of the Google archive is too dark to tell, the microfilm image at the state library does show the evidence of horizontal stripes on the sleeves. The city seal jersey only has two vertical grip strips on the sleeves. The confirming evidence comes from a beautiful shot found on page 23 of the 11/13/33 edition of the city’s third daily at the time, the Sun-Telegraph. There, two Pirates are clearly seen in the prisoner jersey and the stripes clearly extend on the players’ jersey backs. While not clearly visible, there is no evidence at all of the players numbers inside of white blocks on the jersey fronts. As for away games, I have been able to gather evidence from three of those games, 10/29 at Boston (courtesy Boston Herald), 11/19 at Philadelphia (courtesy of the Phila. Inquirer, Bulletin and Record) and 12/3 at New York (courtesy New York Times and via the nicely colorized photo that recently made its rounds on Uni Watch and which is seen above). I have not been able to find any photos from the 10/15 game at Green Bay, 10/22 game at Cincinnati or the 11/5 game at Brooklyn. So in conclusion, of the 11 games the Bucs played in 1933, we have documentation of seven games: six games in the city seal jersey, and one game in the striped/convict jersey. There are four games that we have no confirmation of what was worn.
The Pirates played six home games in 1934. We found photographic evidence of what jerseys they wore for four games, the missing game being the two Wednesday nighters; ironically against the NFL’s two best teams, 10/3 against the Giants and 10/10 against the Bears. In the 9/9 home opener against the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates wore a plain yellow jersey. Likewise for the 9/16 game against the Boston Redskins, the Bucs wore a plain yellow jersey. For the 9/26 Wednesday night game with the Eagles, the Pirates sported a black jersey with a thin batch of yellow northwestern stripes positioned near the elbow. For the last home game (11/18) against Brooklyn, the Bucs wore yellow jerseys, but this set of yellow jerseys featured larger black NW stripes on the sleeves. As for the road games, I was able to gather photographic information from the following games: The Bucs wore black jerseys with yellow NW stripes 10/7 in Philly (courtesy of Phila Inquirer and Record), 10/14 in Boston, they wore plain yellow (courtesy Boston Globe), 10/21 in New York, while there is a photo of game action against the Giants in the New York Times, the jersey is too dark to tell what the Pirates wore, 11/4 at Detroit, the Bucs wore black jerseys with yellow NW stripes (courtesy Detroit Free Press) and for the 11/11 game at St. Louis, the Pirates wore black jerseys with the yellow NW sleeve stripes (courtesy St. Louis Post-Dispatch). As of now, there was one road game that I have no info for, the 10/28 game at Brooklyn. So for ’34, of the 12 games the Pirates played, we have confirmation of 8 games: Three games in the plain yellow jerseys, one game in yellow jerseys with large black NW sleeve stripes, and four games in black jerseys with small yellow NW sleeve stripes. There are four games that the exact combo that they wore is unknown, however, it seems unlikely that they would have worn either the jersey with the city seal that they wore in 1933, or the bumblebee/convict jersey from the team photo that the current throwback is based on.
For some games, in the day of the game edition of the newspapers, the paper would usually run a publicity photo of a couple players of the opponent. One paper, the Philladelphia Record, ran a series of three individual pub shots of Pirate players on page (S)7 in its 10/7/34 edition. One player, Warren Heller, was clearly posed in his “convict” jersey. His number in the pic, 34, was clearly black, with the 3 and the 4 inside of YELLOW blocks superimposed over the black and yellow stripes! This football card of Heller is likely redone from the publicity photo found in the Record.
In spite of all of the publicity of the throwback jersey and the labeling of it as from 1934 by the Steelers, it seems to be based on ONE photograph, the team photo shot supposedly from 1934, and perhaps some surviving posed publicity photos taken before the season. I would surmise that the team picture is indeed from 1934, taken likely before the season started. For whatever reason, the Bucs decided to go with rather generic yellow jerseys and black jerseys for gamewear in 1934. From all of the research we have done of the Pirates for these two seasons, we can confirm only ONE time that the throwback jersey was worn, the 11/12/1933 encounter with Shipwreck Kelly’s Brooklyn Dodgers who, for the record, won 32-0.
Unless the Steelers know something we do not know, this particular game is the only known game that the stripes saw action in a competitive game. I even dug through a rather surprisingly hyped game the Pirates played a week after the 1934 season closed, a charity game played against local collegiate All-Stars, and even there the Buccos wore the blacks they wore in ’34.
As for the current throwback, this being 2012, an NOB is added, the Nike swoosh is present and perhaps for the sake of clarity, the numbers are in white blocks as opposed to the yellow blocks that our research has indicated were actually worn on the original jerseys. Just yesterday however, the Steelers posted this picture on their Facebook page that apparently shows an authentic prisoner jersey with white number blocks that is on display at the team’s office at Heinz Field. Part of the caption that specifically mentions the uniform says, ‘Check out an authentic 1934 uniform that is on display in the [Steelers] offices in Heinz Field.” Earlier when Heinz Field was relatively new, the Steelers had a jersey on display in the concourse that was in the style of the prisoner jersey, but the striping was black and white as opposed to black and yellow. While the homage to these jerseys is laudable, it is a little disappointing personally that the Steelers apparently did not research this style as thoroughly as they could and should have, at least as far as when the uniform actually saw game action. If they could have called them “1933-1934 vintage” jerseys, I could live with that. Perhaps they just wanted to identify them as simply being from 1934 both because of the team photo and because of the 1994 throwbacks also being from the 1933 season. Or maybe the organization simply wasn’t aware how specifically inaccurate they were about what year the jersey was worn. That they were from a “1934 preseason team photo” was good enough to call them “1934” jerseys in their book. If indeed the jersey on display is of 1933 and 1934 vintage, then it appears that we seem to have a discrepancy as to whether or not the jersey had black and white stripes (which now seems to be fully discounted by all), or black and yellow stripes with numbers in yellow squares, or black and yellow stripes with numbers in white squares. If it can be confirmed that this is indeed a truly authentic jersey in display at the Steeler office, then the GUD will adjust its database accordingly. If not, we will stand by the Warren Heller photo as the correct convict jersey worn only in a game in 1933 against the Dodgers, yet in 1934 in the team photo and various publicity photos.
In any event, to publicly portray them as jerseys that were worn specifically during the 1934 season, we believe to be factually in err. Historical inaccuracies notwithstanding, these jerseys are sure to be an eye-popper when the Steelers take the field wearing them tomorrow!
Thanks Tim (and Rob, Bill & Jerry)! Tremendous job. And quite a fine bit of research there lads — I’m smell a “I’m Still Calling Them the ’34 Pirates” tee shirt in the offing. Readers, what say you?
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.
The Big Ten was big time in 1962, and Saturday’s only games for the next few weeks will reflect that. … This week, we saw Wisconsin travel to Ohio State, with future NFL Hall of Fame WR Paul Warfield as a Buckeye running back on account of Woody Hayes didn’t think much of throwing the ball: “Three things can happen on a forward pass, and two of them are bad” (I believe it was he who said that). … Most noteworthy, uni-wise, were the helmets. Ohio State chose exterior padding (here’s the MacGregor version of same). … Wisconsin had their big Scrabble “W”. … Warfield, of course, went on to the Browns, the Dolphins and, after time in the WFL, back to the Browns in time wear the orange pants. … Richter had a fine career as a TE and punter with the Redskins. … After a time with Oscar Meyer, served as Wisconsin’s Athletic Director for 14 years.
Thanks Rick! Great job with that as always. And way to work the Wienermobile into that writeup, too! Apparently that vehicle (or a replacement?) is still making the rounds about the country. Interestingly, while searching for something else, I landed upon this track-the-wienermobile weblog. In fact, there is actually a Hotdogger Blog detailing life inside the “Wienermobile”. Interesting that the website owner(s) spells “weiner” wrong…however, I’m sure Jim “I like catsup on my weiner” Vilk approves.
“Benchies” first appeared at U-W in 2008, and has been a Saturday & Sunday feature here for the past two years.
Hope he isn’t planning on taking the bus in that costume…
Click to enlarge
New ‘stros logo…
It’s not much to go off in terms of what the new uni will look like (I’m still hoping for the full 1965 shooting star — rumors persist that the font will be the same as the 1965 uniform, but without the actual shooting star graphic). As far as the logo — I’m excited (because it means they’re probably definitely throwing back or harking back in some way), but it’s nothing to write home about … yet. But an orange star with a white “H” on a blue field may indicate blue caps. Which would be sweet.
Maybe the Astros are getting screwed by MLB and Selig by having to move to the AL (and causing at least one interplague series for every set of series played), but at least they will look good. Fingers crossed.
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.
And so, lets begin:
First up is Greg Seher, who has an entire set of the MLB, but I’m just going to post one — the rest are directly linked to his blog:
Phil, thanks for posting my NFL concepts earlier this year, it was funny to see the website with the images suddenly get tons of hits once you posted the link. So I’m back now with a complete league wide uniform / logo set for baseball. Similar to my NFL set, not every team is changing, but its comprehensive set and league wide, since in a lot of ways what makes a good uniform is that it is recognizable compared to the others in the league.
Next up is Glenn Simpkins with two diamond and one gridiron concepts:
Some more Uni tweaks and concepts to share with you.
70’s Rockies & the set of uniforms that I’d like the SF Giants to wear. (Bring back the round patch on the grey jerseys!):
The Houston Texans ought to make their helmet more symmetrical, like so:
We close with a logo from KC Tyler for the Big XII:
Just little design I did, big 12 need something new for real.
And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.
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 unfortunately for our first submitter, they weren’t good luck) … here we go (click on each thumbnail for a glorious, full size image):
I’m a Cardinals fan through and through. Certainly you’re receiving several photos of the readership wearing these fine things this week, but here, have another.
I work in a highly visible job and have the type of bosses who allow me to blouse out some pants and spend my day displaying my Cardinal pride (it helps to be located in the heart of Cardinal country.)
Hoping for 12 in 12!
what goes better with a DIY Senators t-shirt than stirrups to commemorate the 1967 Sens!
DC Baseball 2013!
Today’s stirrups are my Halloween stirrups.
Wearing them today as I will be wearing different stirrups on All Hallow’s Eve.
A Robert Marshall special in honor of the impending Sooners victory over the visiting Irish tomorrow!
Tigers need all the help they can get.
Trying to support the Tigers with my stirrup selection this week. It’s not a direct match, but close enough to what they wore at least once sometime in the last 100 years. Plenty of others have over time, also: I think that RPM has listed them variously as the Homestead Grays, Cleveland Naps, and old-time Yankees.
My first foray into Stirrup Friday ”“ I went with the 1908 Cubs. I just wish the cut was a 7 inch opening. The cut barely gets above the lip of my shoe.
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 email@example.com.
So, comrades — why don’t you pick up a pair or three and show us your rups!
That’s all for today folks. Or, as I’m calling it…the day before Sandy kicks some ass up and down the coast. Enjoy the college football today. Back tomorrow with more good stuff (including Colorize This!, I promise). Everyone on the East Coast prepare now and get ready to hunker down tomorrow. And everyone be safe.
Because if you’re not dressed like this, then clearly you hate America. Yes, for everyone interested, that game will mercifully be on ESPN3 only (apparently) today. I’m sure Terry will have all the gory details tomorrow.
Does anyone else see blood splattered on the stripes of flag, on those Boston College wounded warrior uniforms?