In yesterday’s installment of Collector’s Corner, Brinke Guthrie showcased a few items featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ original mascot character, Bucco Bruce.
I was 12 years old when Bucco Bruce and the rest of the Bucs’ inaugural creamsicle design scheme were introduced in 1976. Bruce was an object of scorn for years — in part, no doubt, because the early Bucs were a historically bad team, although I’m pretty sure people also disliked the logo on its own terms. When the Bucs jettisoned the creamsicles and went pewter in 1997, most people said, “Good riddance.”
In recent years, though, Bruce has had a bit of a renaissance. What once seemed embarrassing now seems nostalgically quaint. Disdain and contempt have given way to a sentimental embrace. (Lots of other old logos and uniform designs have traveled that same route, of course.)
All of which raises two questions that I don’t think we’ve ever addressed here:
1. Who came up with the nickname “Bucco Bruce”? It was never an official mascot name bestowed by the team; it was just a nickname that gained traction. So who came up with it — a local reporter? A fan? A player? Someone else? When was the nickname first used? I’ve never seen a good attribution for it.
2. Whoever came up with it, was the name “Bucco Bruce” really just a backhanded way of denigrating the character by saying he looked gay?
Some quick background: Younger readers may not realize this, but back in the 1970s it was commonly understood that Bruce was a “fag name.” I have no idea where that came from, but it was definitely a thing. If you wanted to tease a male kid, you’d call him “Bruth-ee,” with an exaggerated effeminate lisp. (I did this myself to some kids. Not something I’m proud of.) If you wanted to joke about homoerotic overtones between Batman and Robin, all you had to say was, “Well, his name is Bruce Wayne, after all,” and everyone understood what you meant. When The Incredible Hulk TV show debuted in 1978, the producers changed the main character’s name from Bruce Banner, which is what he’d been called in the comic book, to David Banner because they thought Bruce sounded too gay. And so on.
There’s no question that Bucco Bruce has become gay-associated over the years. Just last year, in fact, the gay sports site Outsports named him the gayest logo in NFL history (whatever that means). But was the sobriquet “Bucco Bruce” intended as a way to define the character as being gay? Whoever came up with the name, did they intentionally choose Bruce (instead of Bob, or Bill, or other alliterative options) as a commentary on the mascot’s supposed gayness? Do contemporary fans who currently enjoy Bucco Bruce because he seems retro or kitschy also think of him as gay? Is his gayness part of why he seems kitschy?
It would be great to be able to ask Bucco Bruce’s creator about all of this. But the guy who designed the logo, Tampa Tribune artist Lamar Sparkman, died in 2010. Interestingly, that obituary seemed to acknowledge Bucco Bruce’s perceived gayness, noting that Sparkman viewed his creation as “an Errol Flynn kind of thing, not a gay pirate.” Errol Flynn, of course, was the 1930s and ’40s star of Hollywood swashbuckling movies — who has long been rumored to have been bi.
With all of that in mind, here’s a simple poll:
In addition, I have some questions for readers who fit into certain categories:
• For those of you who are younger than I am, are you even aware that the name Bruce was once considered stereotypically gay?
• For those of you named Bruce, have you ever had to grapple with this issue regarding your name? If so, how do you feel about Bucco Bruce and his name?
• For those of you who are gay, how do you feel about Bucco Bruce, his name, and this whole issue?
To be clear: I’m not suggesting that we need to come up with a new name for Bucco Bruce, and I’m certainly not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with being gay. I’m just interested in how this character got its nickname, and what the intended message or subtext might have been at the time.
Raffle reminder: I’m currently raffling off a pair of green Adidas baseball cleats. Details here.
Baseball News: The Rays’ fauxbacks have yellow numbers and NOBs. But when the band the Fray recently played a postgame set at the Trop, the team gave them fauxback jerseys with navy numbers and white NOBs (from Joe Delach, who also points out that the Rays recently completed a four-game stretch wearing four different caps). … It’s a little hard to see, but Delino DeShields Jr. of the Round Rock Express has “JA” written on his cap. Not sure why (from Preston Penn). … Cardinals and Mariners will wear throwbacks this Saturday. … The Orioles will mark the 50th anniversary of their 1966 championship with these giveaway shirts (from Andrew Cosentino). … Holy moly, love this 1975 Pirates shot. That’s Larry Demery in the jacket. “Sapo” was apparently his nickname, although I don’t know what it referred to. You can see another jacket with a nickname here. Jared Wheeler, who supplied both of these photos, says he doesn’t think the “Sangy Jr.” refers to Manny Sanguillen — the hair doesn’t look right, for one thing. I consulted Pirates expert Jerry Wolper, who said, “It’s not hard to imagine an up-and-coming Latino would have become ‘Sangy Jr.’ in the clubhouse. There was no other Hispanic catcher who played in ’75, though.” … The College World Series has featured lots of color-vs.-color action. … Check it out: Dodgers great Don Newcombe in a Chunichi Dragons uniform (from BSmile). … Just what the world has been waiting for: MLB underwear (from Mark Lackinger). … Whoa, check out this great shot of Reggie Jackson wearing Oakland’s solid-gold road uni in front of lots of empty seats. Marc Viquez says that’s County Stadium in Milwaukee, but Steve Rausch says it’s Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota. Either way, good seats still available! … Remember those axe-handled bats that were popular a few years ago? Hadn’t heard anything about them in a while, and had frankly forgotten all about them, but Twins C Kurt Suzuki used one last night (from Shane Drahota). … Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira, currently rehabbing with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, had one of the front numerals on his jersey come loose during pregame warm-ups yesterday. “He ducked into the dugout and came back in time to start the game with the issue resolved,” says Mike Slesinski. … The Mets are one of only six MLB teams not to have player statues outside their ballpark, and Tom Seaver’s wife thinks a statue for her husband is way overdue. … Speaking of the Mets, three of their players — Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Yoenis Cespedes — have had racehorses named after them.
Pro and College Football News: Unusual footwear for former Oilers DB Zeke Moore. Anyone know more? (From Pro Football Journal.) … Here’s an article on whether Clemson should join the trend toward chrome helmets and lots of mix/match alternate elements. … New turf for Bowling Green (from Tom Konecny). … Here’s more on the restoration of UCLA’s UCLA stripes. “It’s interesting to note that Jim Mora was personally involved in the changes, going so far as to bypass Adidas by retaining an independent manufacturer and allowing players to customize the fit,” says Matt Henderson. … A team-autographed LSU helmet is being auctioned off to raise funds for a local couple that wants to adopt a child. … Gorgeous old color-vs.-color shot from a Georgia/Florida game.
Hockey News: New 50th-anniversary center ice logo for Bowling Green’s arena (from Tom Konecny). … Tom Reamer notes that the NHL Draft logo appears to have been poached by the WWE. … Check out this great shot of a softball team comprised of big-name hockey players! That’s Gordie Howe in the back row, second from right (from BQG). … Throwback rumblings: The Dallas Stars have trademarked the logo of the 1940s Dallas Texans (from Cory Hoad).
NBA News: I’ve often said that the Bulls’ logo looks like it should be the logo for a middlebrow steakhouse, and now it is — in Croatia! “Our waitress said it’s most likely because the owner is a fan of Toni Kucoc,” says Miles Crowther.
Soccer News: The Columbus Crew is supporting the USA’s Copa America squad with flag-desecrated uni numbers (from Jay Mazzone). … Croatian player Verdan Corluka has been wearing a Croatian flag-themed water polo cap. … U.S. Soccer forward Chris Wondolowski has a unique jersey modification (from Matt Solly).
Grab Bag: Here’s another very distressing article about the increasing corporate presence at National Parks. Key quote: “That backlog [of overdue maintenance project] has grown during Obama’s presidency as Congress has refused to increase funding for the nation’s parks. The park service increasingly looks to corporate sponsorships and licensing deals with companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, American Express Co., and Subaru of America Inc. to help defray its costs.” Gross (from David Sonny). … New
brand refreshing logo for Pittsburgh’s electricity utility (from Carmen Marchionda). … The Cavs’ title has unleashed a flood of Cleveland-related content around the internet, including this awesome Cleveland Arena Sports Magazine program cover (from @SportsPaperInfo). … Sneaker companies are doing big business by reissuing older retro designs. … The Israeli military is investigating an incident in which Google executives were visiting one of the country’s air force bases and soldiers were ordered to stand in formation to spell out the Google logo. Well, it’s nice to know that the relentless encroachment of corporate culture into every available nook and cranny isn’t limited to America. … New logo for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (from Gavin Lane). … Mozilla — the company behind the Firefox browser — is open-sourcing the design of its new logo. … DIY genius Wafflebored has written a public-service primer on how to make your own jerseys. Highly recommended for all current or prospective DIYers. … The University of North Dakota will unveil its new Fighting Hawks logo today. … New logo for Universal Studios Hollywood. … The first casualty of the Rio Olympics had nothing to do with Zika: A jaguar that was involved in a torch ceremony (now there’s a brilliant move) was shot and killed after it escaped from its handlers. No word on whether the animal had been doping.