Back in November, right after Halloween, I posted the story behind the quarter that’s on my key ring. In case you missed it or don’t remember, here’s an abridged version of what I wrote:
On Oct. 31, 1987, I attended the annual Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village for the first time. Someone in the parade was handing out tiny zip-lock baggies, each containing a quarter and a slip of paper that said, “In case of emergency, call this number.” And then it gave the phone number for a hotline for runaway kids. (Cell phones didn’t exist yet and pay phones were still common, so the quarter was to make the phone call.) My friends and I each got one of these baggies.
For whatever reason, the quarter in my baggie had a little hole drilled in it, right through George Washington’s head. I put it on my key ring, thinking it would truly become my “emergency quarter.” Nearly three decades later, that quarter has been around the world with me, and it’s still on my key ring. I like that.
Because of the little divot that’s been taken out of it, it no longer weighs as much as a regular quarter, so I’m not sure it would even work in a pay phone or other coin-operated gadgets. I could find out by trying to use it in my 1960s Coke machine (yes, I have a 1960s Coke machine in my apartment), but I’d rather not know. Sometimes the question is more interesting than the answer.
After I posted that story, reader Jeff Barak sent me a photo and description of a special item on his own key ring and suggested that this might make a good media project. I liked that idea, so I invited all of you out there to send in photos and descriptions of the special items on your key rings. About 40 of you responded, and many of your stories were very, very good. I became convinced that this could make an excellent crowd-sourced column, and I wanted to pursue it.
Then the year-end holidays came, so I back-burnered the project for a bit, but in late January I started shopping the idea to magazines, websites, literary agents, and book publishers. It was an unusual project to pitch because I wouldn’t be writing anything except for the initial story about my quarter — I’d mostly just be curating and overseeing. And as is often the case with my projects, it took a while until I found someone who Got Itâ„¢.
Still, I never stopped believing in the project, and now I’m happy to report that Key Ring Chronicles (that’s what it’s gonna be called) will soon be debuting on the McSweeney’s website. If you’re already familiar with McSweeney’s, you know how cool they are and can imagine how happy I am to be working with them. If you’re not familiar with them, well, you’ll figure out how cool they are soon enough.
The first installment of Key Ring Chronicles, which will be a reprise of the story about my quarter, will appear either late this week or sometime next week. After that, the column will run every two weeks or so. I’m hoping to get it up to a weekly cycle, but for now the McSweeney’s folks say they’re overloaded with content and want to stick to a slower schedule. Each installment will include an invitation for readers to submit photos and stories about their own key ring objects.
For those of you who submitted photos and stories to me back in the fall: I plan on using some of your stories for the column. In some cases I may get back to you and ask for a better photo, or for a clarification regarding something in your story.
Big thanks to all of you who responded to my call for entries back in November — your stories helped convince me that this could be a viable project. And I’m especially grateful to Jeff Barak, who had the vision to see how this could be an extended project and really deserves the credit for its existence — thanks, Jeff.
Save the date: On the evening of March 24 I’ll be giving a 10- to 15-minute presentation on the evolution of MLB pants, socks, and stirrups. It’ll be in Brooklyn, and my spiel will be part of a larger event that should be very entertaining. More details soon.
Calculate this: As I mentioned two weeks ago, it’s now been 20 years since I left my last office job and started working at home. When I left that job, I took this pocket calculator with me. I think I bought it for like $1.99 at an electronics store near my office, probably in late 1995 (and definitely no later than February of 1996). There’s no way to open up the back or change the battery, so it was definitely meant to be disposable.
What with laptops and smart phones and such, I don’t really need the calculator anymore. But I still bring it out once a year when I’m tallying up the receipts for my taxes, which I did over the weekend. Each year when I fish it out of its drawer, I think, “Okay, this is gonna be the year when its battery has finally died.” And each year I’m wrong — it keeps working fine.
Granted, I don’t give the calculator much use. But still — 20 years! Shouldn’t the battery have expired simply from age by this point? Or am I misunderstanding how batteries on cheapo disposable calculators work?
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Gromm•It update: If you’re one of those people who are grossed out by the very idea of beef tongue, then my latest grommeting entry probably isn’t for you. But for everyone else, you can see additional photos and info over on Gromm•It.
Actual Uniform News, How About That
Baseball News: The Cardinals have usually styled McNOBs as all-uppercase with a space, but Kyle McClellan had a small raised “c.” I’ve always wondered about that discrepancy, and now David Lee tells me that he spoke to McClellan a few years ago and asked him about that, and McClellan said that he specifically requested the raised “c.” So there you go. … Whoa, checkout this awesome photo of Little Leaguers and their uniforms. “It’s from this 1950s Life article about Little Leaguers,” says Stan Olechowski. … Weird scene for Saturday’s Mariners game, as some players wore navy and some wore teal (from L.M. Grismer). … This is disappointing: Texas A&M and Fresno State went BFBS vs. BFBS yesterday. … Green caps yesterday for Mississippi (from @willchitty4). … Good article on how the Blue Jays are switching to an all-dirt infield. … @TweetTweeds thinks it’s problematic if the umps are wearing the same color as one of the teams on the field, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal. … Former MLBer Vlad Guerrero, who’ll be making his first appearance on the Cooperstown ballot next winter, is asking fans which team’s cap logo should appear on his plaque if he’s inducted (from @jacknealy).
NFL News: With the Rams moving back to L.A., here’s a really good piece on the current state of the L.A. Coliseum, which opened in 1923 — the same year as the original Yankee Stadium (and one year earlier than Soldier Field, although that stadium was heavily renovated in 2002 and is nowhere as close to its original state as the Coliseum is). Recommended reading. … Here’s a bunch of old print ads featuring NFL players. … The teams at the North Carolina School of Science and Math — that’s a high school — are called the Unicorns. They’ve poached the Broncos’ logo, with one small addition. Also, note their URL! (From David Rosenthal.)
Hockey News: Here’s something pretty special: a 1930s NHL ref’s sweater (nice find by David Firestone). … New colors and uniforms for the Hamilton Bulldogs (from Phillip Hollander). … The Flyers’ wives organized a charity event yesterday, and players wore jerseys with a new patch for the event. … I like the red vs. gold look of Saturday night’s Minnesota/Wisconsin game (from Nathan Bryson). … Faaaascinating story about how a German hockey team ended up wearing a jersey ad for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s manifesto, The Green Book.
NBA News: The Nets wore their black “Los Nets” unis last night, forcing the Bucks to wear white on the road. … Looks like Celtics C Kelly Olynyk wore teammate Jonas Jerebko’s practice jersey yesterday (from Stephen Hayes). … Here’s the new center court logo for the Windy City Bulls (from @zj100). … Great 1975 shot of Trail Blazers coach Lenny Wilkins wearing a team warm-up jacket during a game (from zj100 and Darren Rovell).
College Hoops News: While looking for something else, I came across this shot from a 1976 Indiana/Minnesota game. Check out Minnesota’s vertically arched NOBs — and, even more surprisingly, the top/bottom school and team names on the chest. I hadn’t been aware that they’d worn that design. … Hey, maybe Adidas got its cummerbund design concept from this late-’60s Marquette uni. … Kansas G Wayne Selden Jr. has JrOB.
Grab Bag: While looking for something else, I came across this early-1940s Marquette track photo. Interesting how the angle of the lettering goes down to mid-chest level, instead of down farther toward the waistline. … Here’s something I didn’t know: Walt Disney Studios designed military insignia during World War II. Details here and here (from Matthew Moss). … Police on the DC Metro are getting brighter uniforms to increase their visibility (from Tommy Turner). … New headgear for UNC wrestling (from James Gilbert). … London Irish — that’s a rugby union team — wore this St. Paddy’s-themed jersey yesterday and will do so again on the 17th (from JamesG). … Here’s your latest chance to vote for the NASCAR paint scheme of the week. … Back in 2014, there was a curling rock contest connected to the Tim Hortons Brier (from Will Scheibler).