[Deputy Editor’s note: You guys may recall that last year, I asked uniform and logo designer Todd Radom if he’d share some of his logo case studies during Paul’s vacation, and he happily obliged. I had planned on running this one while Paul was on vacation, but I had enough ledes to carry me through, but I wanted to be sure to share this awesome one as we prepare for the Rams to open the season back in LA tomorrow! I’m sure you guys will enjoy it. It was originally published on September 6, 2013 ”” Phil]
Athletes as Artists — Andrew McCutchen and the 1948 Los Angeles Rams
By Todd Radom
Andrew McCutchen is an All Star center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the leading candidate for the Most Valuable Player award in the National League. “Cutch” is rightly cited by many as a role model; raised in humble circumstances by hard-working parents, he is deeply involved with many charitable causes both in Pittsburgh and on a national level.
Not only that””his talents extend to the visual arts.
I recently issued an artistic challenge to McCutchen on Twitter, the results of which were fantastic. The man can draw. Turns out that he has always loved the arts””the challenge originated with an interview that my good friend Buster Olney did with McCutchen for ESPN’s E:60. During the interview McCutchen discussed his talent for drawing and his desire to go to art school.
This exchange got me thinking about other athletes who had artistic abilities and one name came to mind: Fred Gehrke.
Fred Gehrke is recognized as the first designer to incorporate a logo or insignia on a professional football helmet. He was also a star running back for the 1948 Los Angeles Rams and a 10-year NFL veteran.
An art major at the University of Utah, Gehrke joined the Rams in 1940. He worked as an aircraft technical illustrator for Northrop Aircraft in Los Angeles during World War II.
A 1994 Sports Illustrated article about Gehrke and his artistic creation states the following:
Fred Gehrke liked everything about football except the leather helmets he and his fellow NFL players had to wear. “My gosh, I loved the game,” says Gehrke, 76, who was a halfback and defensive back for the Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams during the 1940s and for the Chicago Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers in 1950. “But those gosh-awful helmets we used to wear? At best, you’d have to call them dull.”
So one day after the 1947 season, during which the Los Angeles Rams had gone 6-6, Gehrke took matters into his own hands. Deciding that his teammates needed inspiration, he went to coach Bob Snyder with an idea. “I told him we needed to put some kind of design on our helmets,” Gehrke says. “No other team had anything like that, and I thought it was time for a change.”
Gehrke, who had majored in art at the University of Utah, painted one of the team’s brown helmets dark blue and then added the now familiar yellow horns. He and Snyder presented the helmet to the Rams’ owner, Dan Reeves, who liked both the idea and the design. Gehrke took 75 helmets home with him that summer and decorated them all. He was paid a dollar for each paint job.
The article goes on to cite the first usage for the helmets as September 2, 1948, an exhibition game against the Washington Redskins, but that is not so-the following Los Angeles Times clipping shows that the Rams wore their new helmets in an in August 25 inter-squad scrimmage at Hollywood’s Gilmore Stadium, attended by 11,205 fans.
Gehrke was a versatile player for the Rams, playing both ways and returning punts and kickoffs. His versatility extended to the maintenance and care of the Rams’ helmets””he said that “for two years I touched up the bonnets after every game. I kept a can of blue paint and a can of gold paint in my locker, and even took them along on road trips.”
Riddell introduced plastic football helmets to the NFL in 1949””the Rams’ horns were then baked right into the plastic, thus ending Gehrke’s helmet repair career. He retired from the NFL after the 1950 season, then became a pro football scout and executive, eventually becoming the general manager of the Denver Broncos in 1976. He passed away at the age of 83 in 2002, his unique legacy as artist/athlete forever secure.
In recognition of his Rams helmet design, the Pro Football Hall of Fame honored Gehrke in 1972 with the first Daniel F. Reeves Memorial Pioneer Award for a “significant, innovative contribution to professional football.”
The Sports Illustrated article further quoted Gehrke as saying the following: “I spent the better part of my life in football, and I’ll be best remembered for some work I did with a paintbrush, but that’s O.K. “I’ve been called the Da Vinci of football helmets, and that’s not all bad.”
Thanks so much, Todd, for allowing me to share this article with the readership! Great, great stuff as always. You’re the best, buddy — see you at Shea this Wednesday!
“Leo’s World” is a new, semi-recurring feature here on Uni Watch weekends, featuring some excellent uni-related finds from Leo Strawn, Jr.. Each installment will feature a new, unique or just very cool collection of related uniform observations and research. You can click most of the images below to enlarge. — PH
Familiar Gridiron Players (and a Basketball Player) in Unfamiliar Aussie Rules Uniforms
By Leo Strawn, Jr.
The Australian Football League season is gearing up for the Grand Final, the AFL’s equivalent to the Super Bowl. Since NFL/NCAA football is underway I thought this might be fun…and very difficult, oi!
For our Aussie edition, rather than our usual Familiar Players in Unfamiliar Uniforms scoring system of 6 questions and an extra point (equivalent to a TD and PAT), Australian rules football scoring is 6 points for a goal and 1 point for a behind (goal kick that doesn’t quite hit the mark, essentially going “behind” the goal post). However, a behind isn’t kicked after a goal like a PAT so if you want to score 7 points you must kick a behind first, then intercept the kick from the goal square and score your goal…everything is upside down in Australia! Keeping with that theme, the “behind” question in today’s edition is a reversal of the rest: It’s about an American who was a basketball player before playing Aussie rules. Following that are 6 Australians who played football in USA after playing footy in Australia and who must be identified in their Aussie rules kits, except for the last one who is pictured in his gridiron uniform.
Answers in today’s edition will contain three links, one for a photo of their American playing days, one for a Wiki bio, and a third for additional info. (Note: AFL in this edition refers only to Australian Football League, not American Football League.)
Ready? No Googling…
If you know the name of the American and former Oklahoma State Cowboy basketball player who now stars at forward and ruck for the Collingwood Magpies and is the tallest player in VFL/AFL history; he finished tied for fifth in goal kicking for the Pies in his rookie season of 2016 while kicking the club’s second highest goals/game average.
This former punter for the Dallas Cowboys, whose tragic murder has gone unsolved for 23 years, played for the Victorian Football League’s Carlton Blues on the reserve squad and was a 1956 Olympian in the high jump. He is pictured here showing Aussie rules legend Ron Barassi how Americans throw a football.
This former midfielder for the AFL Brisbane Lions and Port Adelaide Power made waves as a punter, returner and wide receiver in Hawai’i.
This former Geelong Cats captain played 12 years in AFL before becoming the oldest NFL rookie in 2005 and tied an NFL record in 2009 with 42 punts inside the 20.
Playing a few games for the West Coast Eagles and 5 years with Melbourne Demons, this forward averaged 2.8 goals/game, leading the Demons in goalkicking for two of those seasons in VFL/AFL before becoming a two-time NFL Pro Bowler.
This player broke #3’s record to become the oldest rookie in NFL history after a stellar 15 year career with Collingwood Magpies and the Kangaroos, leading the Pies in goalkicking every season from 1993-99 and ranking 13th all-time among VFL/AFL goalscorers upon retirement.
This player’s kicking prowess was legendary in the early days of American football; he played for Melbourne Fuchsias and Essendon FC in the VFA (predecessor to the VFL which is now known as AFL) before coming to the USA to play football in college and later coached at Notre Dame and Missouri. Sadly, I couldn’t find even a team photo from his days at Melbourne and Essendon but I would be remiss if I did not include him on this list because of his place in college football history, so here is a photo of him from his college football days.
How did you fare today? This one was really tough…like an Aussie footballer!
Till next time…
Glad to have you back on the weekends!!!
Paul’s Latest on ESPN
With the Ryder Cup set to begin in two weeks, Paul had an ESPN piece on Friday about Team USA’s new uniforms. Paul notes, “I don’t often write about golf, so this was an interesting change of pace for me, and the finished piece includes quotes from Team USA captain Davis Love III; his wife, Robin Love (the captain’s wife traditionally has a role in creating the team’s look); and the PGA’s merchandising director.”
It’s a great read, so check it out here.
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: A New Kinston, N.C., baseball team has narrowed its new name choices to five options (from James Gilbert). … Have you ever wanted to customize your (New Balance) cleats? Well, New Balance will let you customize your (New Balance) cleats. … Surprised this custom Blue Jays jersey got through the sponsors (from Anthony Delfino). … Tweeter Bill Madison asks, is @NewEraCap logo getting added to MLB game caps? … I’ve got a better word than “priceless”: “When two @MasterCard cardholders join the @RedSox team photo… That’s a #Priceless Picture”. … The Atlanta Braves have cut ties with the Carolina Mudcats (h/t James Gilbert). … His pajama pants were hiding them for most of the night, but check out Matt Kemp’s socks (from Tony Andela).
NFL News: The NFL has banned Adidas Yeezy cleats and Kanye probably won’t be happy. … From our own Mike Chamernik: “Interesting tidbit from yesterday’s deadspin funbag: This week I went to the NFL Shop to order a Pat Williams jersey …. only to discover that I couldn’t. If you’re buying a jersey from the NFL Shop, there are strict rules on customization beyond the standard “No HARAMBE 69 jerseys”-type shit. If you choose the number of an active player, you have to have THAT player’s name on it. You can’t use TRUMP, or BIG AL, or your name … or an old player who also had that number. This is almost certainly due to merch agreements with the NFLPA and perhaps retired players as well. Sure enough, the site won’t allow you to customize a Calvin Johnson Lions jersey, a Peyton Manning Colts jersey, a Randy Moss Vikings jersey, and so on. Though, you CAN customize a jersey with an active player’s number.” … The Cleveland Browns will be wearing orange/white/brown/orange for this Sunday’s game (thanks to Robert Hayes). … Dolphins fans are taking to burning Miami jerseys to protest four players who took a knee during the ‘phins last game. … Reason #246 for not spending hundreds on a polyester shirt: “Got a 2016 @RAIDERS #NikeElite jersey & it doesn’t have the black outline on the numbers like it should,” (from Val Sobrevilla). … Paul had great coverage of the Bills/Jets Color Rash game yesterday, but if you didn’t get enough, here are the 11 best photos from that game. … The Tampa Bay Bucs will be going pewter/white/white/pewter tomorrow (from Tory Thompson). … This isn’t exactly news to Uni Watchers, but here’s an article entitled, “An NFL safety rule is limiting the full potential of new uniform designs,” which discusses how the NFL’s one helmet rule affects such things as throwbacks and Color Rash (from Josh Claywell). Paul is referenced in that article. … The Jaguars have their old shoulder pad numbers on their color rush jerseys (from BROKEN Brother Famor). … Whoops, looks like Madden
improved fucked up the jersey number fonts for the Vikings Color Rash jerseys (they’ll have the ‘sail font’). From Joshua Kramer).
College Football News: LSU will be wearing some awesome throwbacks today — so they decided to colorize a photo of Y.A. Tittle in said uniform. … J. Vince “found this at a local department store. He’s pretty sure this is not how visor “decals” work. … Louisiana Tech will be going red/red/red for today’s game against Texas Tech (from JJ Sledge). … Yeezy cleats may be (at least temporarily) banned by the NFL, but it looks like Louisville will be set up in them (from Heath Newman). … Today, in a big matchup vs. Florida State, the Louisville Cardinals will be remembering Muhammad Ali with a butterfly tribute, including this helmet sticker and this butterfly field art (you can read more here). FSU apparently shares these sentiments (h/t Christy). And here are U of L’s plans for today (from DC James). … According to this article, the Miami Hurricanes will be unveiling new jerseys this Monday (rumor is they’re either throwbacks or fauxbacks). … Football uniform combinations are becoming as varied as snowflakes, and the Montana Grizzlies have had a lot of them recently. Montana will debut its new home uniforms next month, the latest in its regularly scheduled three-year rotation. In the mean time take a look back at the best ”” and worst ”” Griz uniforms of the past 20 years. … Pitt football will be going blue/white/white for today’s game. … Bowling Green will be wearing brown/brown/white today vs. MT. … Eastern Washington will be wearing red hats today. … Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, whose teams are the Norsemen, unveiled all white uniforms yesterday (h/t Kade Witten). … The Duckies of Oregon will be going white/white/black today against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (h/t “Honeynut Queerio”) ***I’m NOT 100% sure this is legit***. — No, wait looks like it’s official. … Here’s a look at the special helmets LSU will wear today. … Apparently USC is going to wear all black today. … NC State will be going red/red/white today. … The University of Memphis was established 104 years ago, but the institution has only carried the name ‘University of Memphis’ for the last 22 years. Today, the squad will wear “Memphis State” helmets vs. Kansas. … Looks like the Illini will be going white/blue/white today (h/t Illinois Football EQ). … The West Georgia Wolves will wear white/red/red (h/t Bo Childers). … Here’s an up-close look at the uniforms Arizona will wear tonight to honor the USS Arizona (h/t Graig Sakuma). … West Point player Brandon Jackson died a few days ago in a car crash, and here’s how Army is remembering him. Looks like a “28” helmet sticker there (h/t Bobnpetey). … When color vs. color goes very wrong. That’s John Tyler and Rockwell (h/t Bryce Harden). … Ole Miss will be wearing navy blue hats and shirts for ‘bama. They will also have gray pants … aTm will sport the all white look vs. Auburn. … Vandy will go black/gold/black today vs. Georgia Tech. … The University of South Alabama Jaguars will be wearing an all white getup today (via Clint Richardson, who notes a new white helmet this week – silver nickel plated facemask and chrome decals).
Hockey News: The Michigan State Spartans have some new uniforms for 2016-17 (h/t David Jonathan Smith). … The Florida Panthers are using white pucks in their rookie camp focus drill — apparently you really lose sight of them on the ice (good find from John Muir). … USA Hockey has unveiled jerseys for the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game. … The Dallas Stars have a new center ice logo…. USA Forward Blake Wheeler doesn’t want ads “tarnishing” NHL jerseys. … Here’s a colour vs. color game between the Pens and Habs (that was from their rookie game scrimmage yesterday).
NBA News: New New York Knicks additions Willy Hernangomez, Justin Holiday, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas have decided which numbers they’ll wear with the team.
College Hoops News: Presbyterian College, the awesomely named Blue Hose, has some new uniform options for the upcoming season (from John Reynolds). … Kentucky alumnus Devin Booker does not like the ‘cats new uniforms. … Yesterday, N.C. State University unveiled statues of coaches, including Jim Valvano.
Soccer News: Bayer 04 Leverkusen has introduced a new, fourth kit option for the season (h/t Paul Zielinski). … “Strange sight in the DC United/Chicago Fire game,” writes John Muir. DCU’s Patrick Nyarko lost the ‘idas’ part of adidas on his chest. Funny, of everything on the fro”nt of the United jersey, THAT’S the part that goes missing.”
Grab Bag: There is a guy with no arms who is competing in ping pong in the Para-lympic games in Rio. He could probably beat you. … You can now vote upon the best and worst Ryder Cup uniforms. It seems to be the thing to do.
And that’s all for today. Thanks (huge thanks) to Todd Radom for the lede, and of course, Leo for “Leo’s World.” Lots on tap on the college gridiron today, and I’ll be back with the entire Sunday Morning Uni Watch crew for that tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“I respect the national anthem, but not some song by Irving Berlin that I disagree with.”
— Jon Rose