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When Irish Eyes Were Smiling (ND Hoops '77-'81)

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[Today we have a guest entry from reader Chris Geis, which is *almost* timely — today being the day after St. Paddy’s Day. Enjoy! — PH]

Notre Dame Basketball Uniforms, 1977-1981
By Chris Geis

Notre Dame basketball may not have the luster of the Irish football program, but it still has a long history of success.

The most successful period in school history was in the 1970s and early 1980s under Digger Phelps. The Fighting Irish went to eight straight NCAA tournaments between 1974 and 1981 when getting an NCAA bid was a big deal. In seven of those eight years, they finished in the final AP Top 10 Poll and won 22 or more games (when only a few teams played as many as 30 games in a season). The one year they did not, they won 19 and finished ranked No. 14.

They routinely knocked off No. 1-ranked teams. They stopped UCLA’s 88-game winning streak in 1974. They beat No. 1-ranked San Francisco when it was 29-0 in 1977. In 1978 they beat No. 1 Marquette, the defending national champion, and in 1980 they beat No. 1 DePaul when it was 25-0. In 1981 they beat No. 1 Virginia when it was 22-0 and on its way to the Final Four under Ralph Sampson.

The Irish teams of that era sported future NBA players such as Adrian Dantley, John Shumate, Kelly Tripucka, Orlando Woolridge, Bill Hanzlik, Bill Laimbeer, Tracy Jackson, and John Paxson.

My focus here will be on the five-year period from 1977 to 1981.

I first started following the Irish during the 1976-77 season. They had an excellent run to complete that season, upsetting the USF team led by Bill Cartwright at the end of the regular season. On St. Patrick’s Day night, in the NCAA East Regional semifinals, they lost by two points to North Carolina, which would go on to lose to Marquette in the NCAA championship game, Al McGuire’s last game.

They returned a good nucleus in 1977-78 and added a freshman named Kelly Tripucka. They spent the entire year in the Top 10 and made it to the Final Four. But they never got back. The next year they lost to Magic Johnson and eventual national champion Michigan State in the Midwest Regional final. In 1981 Danny Ainge of BYU drove the length of the court for a buzzer-beater victory in the Sweet 16.

I was in grammar school when I started following Notre Dame and was absorbed by college basketball. I am Irish and Catholic, and I attended Catholic schools. Our school colors were green and gold, and I played basketball. So I naturally loved Notre Dame basketball, and loved their colors and uniforms.

During a nationally televised weekend game between Marquette and Notre Dame in 1977, NBC did a pre-game feature on the teams’ uniforms. Notre Dame had a polo-style warmup shirt with green, blue, and gold stripes and a shamrock on the chest, and I loved it. (Marquette had its own iconic uniforms, but that’s another story.)

I saw Notre Dame play on the road and in person in 1978, 1979, 1981, and 1983. I met Digger Phelps and several players, and picked up a few trinkets along the way, such as this media guide autographed inside by Phelps, Tripucka, Paxson, and Woolridge, and these wristbands, which were designed only for Notre Dame and worn during the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons.

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I kept tabs on the Irish and my favorite color combination was blue, green, and gold.

Notre Dame’s official school colors are blue and gold. But if you are Irish then your color is green, so green has always been an unofficial color for Notre Dame teams. This was never more true than in October 1977 when a Joe Montana-led Irish football team surprised everyone just before the game by changing from blue jerseys into green jerseys for a game against USC. Notre Dame won and went on to claim the national championship. For the next three years the Irish wore green and gold in football instead of blue and gold.

The basketball team soon followed. When I first started following the Irish in 1976-77 they wore a white home uniform with blue and gold letters and numbers, and their road uniforms was blue with gold and white numbers and letters. I believe these were the uniforms the next year, 1977-78, when they made the Final Four. The home and road versions are here:

1976-77 and 1977-78

Home:

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Road:
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The road uniform was strictly blue, gold, and white. The home uniform was white with blue and gold numbers and letters, but the trim was in stripes of blue, gold, and green. There was a Fighting Irish leprechaun logo on the side of the shorts. And during that 1977-78 season, in honor of the football national championship, the Irish started wearing, with the home uniform, green socks with blue, gold, and white stripes.

1978-79 and 1979-80

The following season, the Irish went from blue and gold to green and gold.

The home uniforms looked similar and had the same striping, but the numbers and letters became green instead of blue. The uniform also had a slight green tinting to it. I noticed this at the time, and it was discussed on this site once when a replica Bill Hanzlik jersey was featured. Whether that tint was by design or was runoff from the laundry, I don’t know.

Here is the Hanzlik jersey:

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The road uniforms were green with gold numbers and letters outlined in white, and the trim was in stripes of blue, white, and gold. These uniforms lasted for two seasons.

Home:

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Road:

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I even remember the warmups, which I saw in person. They included a gold jacket, blue pants, and a green shirt with blue, gold, and white stripes across the chest.

The common denominator over these four seasons, when the Irish switched from mostly blue and gold to mostly green and gold, was the trim stripes. Not only did the home uniforms have this tri-color striping all four years, but the green road uniforms had tri-color striping.
In addition, for all four years the socks had blue, gold, and green stripes (and later had a green shamrock on them); the wristbands were blue, gold, and green; and the shoes were white Adidas with white, gold, and blue stripes. You couldn’t find these anywhere else but on Notre Dame basketball players. One year, a friend and I bought white Adidas with white stripes and used markers to color in the stripes blue, gold, and green.

(The blue-gold-green striping is similar to what the New Orleans and Utah Jazz, and later the New Orleans Hornets, wore, only with purple instead of blue for Mardi Gras colors.)

In 1980-81, Notre Dame dropped the green completely. The home white uniform looked generally the same, with “Irish” on the jersey, but the numbers and letters went back to blue outlined in gold, and the striping became navy blue, gold, and royal blue. A gold shamrock outlined in blue was on the side of the shorts.

The road uniform was navy blue with gold letters and numbers, and “Notre Dame” on the jersey instead of “Irish,” and the striping was also navy, gold, and royal. The wristbands and socks had this same striping pattern (those are the wristbands I picked up, as you can see from the above photo). The team also ditched the Adidas and wore Pony shoes with blue trim. These uniforms lasted two years and looked like this:

1980-81 and 1981-82

Home:

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Road:

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Through some connections I was able to get a pair of those navy/gold/royal sweatbands after attending a Notre Dame game in 1981. But I never got a pair of the navy/gold/green ones. I have never seen them anywhere else and would love to have a set. For that matter, I would love to have a pair of those socks and tri-color Adidas.

Before and after this five-year period, Notre Dame wore gold uniforms at home on occasion, perhaps mostly famously for the 1974 game against UCLA. Digger himself designed the “Shamrock jerseys” for that game, gold with blue and green trim:

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I never saw them wear gold during this five-year period, but I could have easily missed this. Here is a program cover from a 1981 Kentucky-Notre Dame game showing Notre Dame in gold uniforms:

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If these were worn in 1981 or 1982, they would have had blue trim if they kept with the pattern of the other uniforms worn those years. If they were from 1979 or 1980, they would have been gold with green letters and numbers and possibly some blue trim.

In 1981-82 Notre Dame began rebuilding. After a losing season in 1981-82 and an NIT berth the next year, the Irish made the NCAAs five years in a row starting in 1984-85. David Rivers and LaPhonso Ellis were pretty good, making the Top 25 regularly and beating No. 1 North Carolina in 1987, but they never were as good as the Irish were from 1977 to 1981.

During this time the Irish almost always wore blue, white, or gold, sometimes with green trim, but did not wear green uniforms regularly. They did break out green for St. Patrick’s Day in the NCAA tournament in 1989, and they wore a horrible lime-green home uniform for one forgettable game at the end of a losing season in 1990-91, Digger’s last year. Here are some photos:

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After Digger left, Notre Dame switched from bright yellow-gold for basketball uniforms to the more muted old gold that it has always worn for football.

Two years ago Notre Dame had its best year since the Tripucka years, finishing 32-6, winning the ACC championship, finishing in the Top 10, and getting to the NCAA Elite Eight before losing to No. 1 Kentucky. The current standard home and road uniforms are white and blue with blue, gold, and white trim. But they also have a green uniform with gold and blue trim, and a gold uniform with green and blue trim:

Over the years Notre Dame has typically worn just blue and gold uniforms without green in them. But often if they wear green uniforms, there is blue trim in them as a nod to the official school colors. Here are the current Irish green and gold uniforms, worn in the last two ACC tournaments:

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Seeing today’s Irish teams in all three colors is a sweet nod to the best time in Notre Dame basketball history. Long live the blue, gold, and green, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

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Phil here. Thanks, Chris. If that name sounds familiar to you, Chris and I worked on a piece with me many years ago in which we tracked down a white whale of sorts. Hope you guys enjoyed it!

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MLB Go Bragh

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One of my favorite things about MLB spring training is the wearin’ o’ the green. We’ve covered this before, and Paul had some St. Paddy’s day stuff yesterday. We’ve also covered (some of) the history of the tradition, which dates back 40-ish years (the Reds, ironically, were the first to specifically wear green). Now, it’s more marketing gimmick than anything, but I still love it. Not every team (coughYankeescough) participates, but most do. Teams will wear either caps or jerseys (or both), and some teams go the extra mile (shamrocks on bases, green batters’ boxes, etc). Below is a pretty good sampling of the 2017 version of St. Paddy’s Day, MLB style.

My biggest beef with the whole thing is that all the caps and jerseys have been standardized. If your team goes with a green cap, it’s a kelly green crown and a hunter green brim. The jersey is just basically your “colored alternate” jersey with a green color-swap. Still, it’s festive.

Here we go:

There were more…but you get the idea.

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Lukas b&wIn Case You Missed It…Paul’s Latest ESPN Piece

Between assorted makers’ marks and the many iterations of the MLB logo (including the Majestic and MLB logos on the pants, as shown here), today’s ballplayers are wearing more logos than ever before. Paul’s latest ESPN article examines how these logos have spread across the uniform over the past generation, and assesses which ones are relatively harmless and which are more odious.

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here ya go. Definitely worth the read if you haven’t already.

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Uni Watch News Ticker
By Phil

Baseball News: In 1974, as they entered their third consecutive World Series (which they’d go on to win), the Oakland A’s issued shamrock press pins (from Bruce Menard). Slugger Reggie Jackson wore one on his waistband during that series (from Paul). … Speaking of the Athletics — Why do the A’s wear green? You can thank Charlie Finley (from Brinke). … Still more A’s: here’s a look at the 1974 Oakland A’s World Series Ring, with the Shamrock on the side representing the Athletics three-peat (72-73-74). From Bruce Menard. … “Historic Night:” On Jackie Robinson Day, April 15, 2017, the Daytona Tortugas have been granted permission from Minor League Baseball for entire team to wear #9 (from Daytona Tortougas). … Here’s a pretty cool writeup of the one-year wonder 1936 Reds “Palm Beach” uniform (the one with the fancy “Reds” script). From Kasey Beckham. They brought that script look back for BP jerseys beginning in 2011. … The Norfolk Tides thought St. Paddy’s Day was a good time to introduce their new green jerseys & trident hats. They’ll be wearing these alternates throughout 2017. … At some point this season, the Brooklyn Cyclones will become — wait for it — the Brooklyn Slices. … “I’m at spring training watching the Angels at the Rangers,” says Patrick Michael Seamus O’Neill. “And while the Angels are wearing the obligatory green hats, non-roster invitee Jefry Marte was sporting green socks.” … The Charlotte Knights will honor BBQ with a jersey “that is just right.” … The Florida Gators softball squad added a touch of green yesterday (from Florida Gators SB). … Speaking of the Gators, they wore the 1980’s Orioles-inspired tri-color helmet for the matchup last night with the Gamecocks (from Dave Doop). … In what’s become an annual rite of Spring (Training), the Rangers played baseball in the Alamodome (from Mike Chamernik). … CROSSOVER ALERT! The Quad City Malllards wore these baseball inspired jerseys last night and auctioned them off after the game (from Jeff Tasca). Also posted in Hockey. … The Texas Longhorns had a little St. Paddy’s Day sticker on their buckets yesterday. … “Bloomfield College in New Jersey has new tequila sunrise unis for the 2017 season,” says Jack Corley. “My daughter is the head coach. Wish she would have done the socks in tequila sunrise too.”

NFL News: It wouldn’t be St. Paddy’s Day without the obligatory article detailing the (incredibly short) history of the Seahawks green uniforms. In fact, they’ve worn green (jerseys once) and full color-rash (once) exactly two times in their history, though green has off-and-on, been part of their color scheme. … Check out this St. Paddy’s Day themed photo of Don and Earl Elser of the Boston Shamrocks, who played in the short-lived 2nd American Football League (1936-37) — from SportsPaper). … Beast Mode to da Raidahs? “pretty gnarly photoshop job on the ESPN instagram page” says Dan Erbach, who I’m not quite sure is using “gnarly” in the same way a surfer-dude might.

College Football News: This article attempts (pretty much via slideshow), to rank the 21 best uniforms in College Football. It’s a herculean task, because if you put 10 people in a room and asked each one of the 10 for a list, you’d get 10 different lists.

Hockey News: Here are some close-ups of the mask Frederik Andersen will wear today for the Leafs St. Pats game (from The Goal Net). … Outdoor hockey is headed to Canada’s capital. The 2017 Scotiabank #NHL100 Classic will take place in Ottawa on December 16. … Today the Elmira Jackals will wear these unis to raise funds for family of Kelley Clayton (from Pat Leipold). More here. … “Always found the (these) images interesting,” says Kevin Vautour. This “photo is from the table hockey figures (circa 1972). The buffalo is facing east (Rochester).” The second “photo is from the table hockey figures (circa 1985). The buffalo is facing west (Erie, PA.).” … St. Paddy’s on the Ice: Green pucks for the Pens; green tees for the Rangers; and a neat warmup sweaters for the Ducks; there were other warm up tops, but you get the idea. … CROSSOVER ALERT! The Quad City Malllards wore these baseball inspired jerseys last night and auctioned them off after the game (from Jeff Tasca). Also posted in Baseball.

NBA News: According to this article, “There are a handful of NBA teams that have uniform designs so classic that you wouldn’t dare change a thing. The Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Spurs are all exempt from uniform slander, thanks to a minimalist style and a tradition of winning that make it seem blasphemous to change even the smallest detail. But unfortunately, those teams are in the minority, and plenty of others need help in that department as soon as is humanly possible.” … Check out this video which shows old TrailBlazers unis being repurposed into other high-end goods (from Mike Chamernik). … The Brooklyn Nets were nice enough to wear white at home so the Celtics could wear their St. Paddy’s Day unis in Brooklyn. … Here’s a pretty cool Sacramento Kings jersey exhibit at the Golden 1 Center (from Damon Hirschensohn). … Here’s a couple from Zach Loesl: white on the road for the Magic at Phoenix, and color vs. color gray between the Raptors and Pistons.

College Hoops News: Did you ever wonder why sneakers make that distinctive squeaking sound on a hoops court? Turns out, it may help to consider violins and the California Spiny Lobster (thanks, Paul). … Man City is the first EPL club to get a shirt sleeve sponsor advertiser — Nexen (from David Svenson via Paul). … Oops (from SAM). … Tweeter Quin Patterson took notice of the slim shoulder area on new jersey templates causing a bit of an overlap for the NCAA patch and jersey. … You could, of course, say this about a lot of schools in post season play, but Dook sure has a lot of shit on their jerseys. Here’s another look (from Peter Kirschenbaum). … There was an obvious mixup on the CBS NCAA tournament app (from Robert Williams). … It wasn’t just Robert who was getting bad info (from Michael Hersch). … Patch malfunction yesterday for Texas Southern (from Adam Jordan). … Here are both custom adidas Dame 3s that the Miami Hurricanes are wearing for March Madness (from Mike Chamernik). … Bit of a floor repair was needed between games in Greenville, South Carolina (from James Gilbert). … The Round Mound of Sound apparently has a beef with UCLA and will wear the jerseys of UCLA’s opponents on air, for as long as the Broons remain in the tourney. Nice.

Soccer News: An “oldie” but a goodie — check out the awesome jerseys the old Cleveland Shamrocks soccer team wore in 1928 (from Ed Å»elaski). … Tweeter Matthew Klimberg asks, “#NYCosmos jerseys leaked?

Grab Bag: This photo gallery includes some University of North Carolina track uniforms through the years; also note the blue track since the 1980s (from James Gilbert). … Here’s a slideshow of the “Best Green Uniforms in sports”. … By the way, the history of green dye is a history of death (sorry, Paul). At least when it came to green dyes through the Victorian age (from James Gilbert again). … Most of the soda displays we see are sports-related. But here’s an Easter Bunny-themed one (from DJD). And here is another Easter-themed display from Wal-Mart (from Jeff Belcher). … It was a gray vs. black affair when Fairfield & Penn State played lax yesterday (from María Canales”). Also from María, the Fairfield Stags wore commemorative 75th anniversary Fairfield U stickers for yesterday’s game. … The placement of Phelps on this van makes it look like Mercedes sponsors him (good spot by Benji King). … No wonder Jimmer Vilk likes Mens Volleyball — check out the fashion statement for the Hawai’i V-ball team (from Jacob Gibb). See what I mean?

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And that’s it for today. Thanks to Chris Geis for the great lookback at Notre Dame’s classic 77-81 unis.

Tomorrow I’ll reveal Part I (yes, there’s more than one part) of the Redesign The USA Baseball jersey/cap/unis — I received FAR more submissions than I expected and many of them are REALLY good, so I’ll do this in a manageable manner. I want to thank everyone who participated. Almost every one of the concepts is better than what the USA currently wears. So, make sure you check back for that. But until then…

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.

Peace.

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“Any manufacturer’s logo, be it Stance, Majestic, or Rawlings, is “odious.” If you want to argue that some are more odious than others, you can, but they’re all odious.”

— Jerry Wolper

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21 comments to When Irish Eyes Were Smiling (ND Hoops ’77-’81)

  • MJ | March 18, 2017 at 9:09 am |

    Mallards is “misspellled” twice.

  • Memphis Bill | March 18, 2017 at 9:11 am |

    After that come from behind thrashing by Sparty last night, “Here are both custom adidas Dame 3s that the Miami Hurricanes are wearing for March Madness ” should read “Here are both custom adidas Dame 3s that the Miami Hurricanes WORE for March Madness”.

    Great feature on the Irish hoops history!

  • GuidoRRMC | March 18, 2017 at 9:21 am |

    Not really important, but it’s seems weird to me to shorten St Patrick to St Paddy instead of St Patty. Paddy makes me think we are shortening Paddington. Just curious if it’s always that way and I haven’t noticed it until yesterday and today.

    • DJ | March 18, 2017 at 9:51 am |

      “Paddy” is the diminutive of Pádraig, the Irish version of the name (think of the golfer Pádraig Harrington). It’s quite proper.

      • GuidoRRMC | March 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm |

        Thanks, I did not know that.

  • Wade Heidt | March 18, 2017 at 9:40 am |

    Notable about the NHL press releases for the outdoor game in Ottawa and how advertising money can control the message. It is the 2017 Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic. They will not refer to Ottawa’s stadium by its the official name (TD Place Stadium) because it is named after a completing bank.

    • Wade Heidt | March 18, 2017 at 9:44 am |

      *competing bank.

  • DJ | March 18, 2017 at 9:58 am |

    The uniform also had a slight green tinting to it. I noticed this at the time, and it was discussed on this site once when a replica Bill Hanzlik jersey was featured. Whether that tint was by design or was runoff from the laundry, I don’t know.

    It was by design. Eddie Einhorn, the head of the TVS television syndication network, advised Digger that white uniforms didn’t look right on TV; the relatively primitively cameras and transmission equipment made white “bleed” over the picture. He suggested a paler pastel color to cut the effect.

    So for those two years, Digger went with pale green home uniforms. And for the following two years, the home uniforms were not white (as the poster described), but a pale beige color.

    • Jim Vilk | March 18, 2017 at 9:00 pm |

      TVS. Man, I miss that network.

  • Jim Vilk | March 18, 2017 at 10:08 am |

    At some point this season, the Brooklyn Cyclones will become – wait for it – the Brooklyn Slices.

    The MiLB Twitter battle between bacon and tacos can come to an end now…we have a clear winner. Go Slices!

    The Brooklyn Cyclones’ logo is in my top ten of all MiLB logos. If they became the Slices full time (one can hope), they’d still be there.

    • Ferdinand Cesarano | March 18, 2017 at 4:14 pm |

      I strongly dislike the Brooklyn Cyclones’ logo. The font of the C clashes badly with the Dodgers B. The act of interlocking these two disparate letters results in an unsightly mess.

      A better logo would have a C that harmonises better with the B. The designers of the team’s logo should have taken a clue from the Kansas City Athletics’ cap logo.

  • Jim Vilk | March 18, 2017 at 10:13 am |

    Nice piece on Irish hoops today! I’m not a fan, but they were fun to watch in the Digger Phelps/pre-Laimbeer era.

  • Joe | March 18, 2017 at 10:47 am |

    If you ended buying a St Patrick’s Day hat from MLB.com, and you lived on the west coast, you’ll get your hat AFTER St Patrick’s! That is happening to me though I ordered it in late February but it was delivered to MLB by the manufacturer until March 9.

  • Jimmy Powell | March 18, 2017 at 11:10 am |

    Man city should be in the soccer news I think

  • Dan T. | March 18, 2017 at 1:32 pm |

    Pretty unprofessional of Barkley, IMO.

  • Michael Emody | March 18, 2017 at 3:38 pm |

    The article about the A’s and why they wear green is a bit clueless. If section 1.11 of the rule book states that baseball uniforms must be white or grey, then what about all the dark blue road uni’s of the first few decades of the 20th century? And the Brooklyn Dodgers wore green in 39 (I think) and had light tan road unis. Not to mention the Cubs baby blues in the early 40’s.

    Even before Finley bought the A’s, they were adding a bit of color to their bland royal blue Tigers-like design. Their last year in Philadelphia featured the team name in blue script with red trim. Which, for the A’s was a major upheaval. In 62, the Athletics first wore vests with red or navy undershirts and their coaches that year wore white caps. “Athletics” in old English font was sown across the chest, similar to the middle jersey in the DTTN’s image in the article. So Finley was messing with the A’s look for a few years before he stumbled on to the green and gold look.

  • Ted Mark | March 18, 2017 at 4:44 pm |

    Between the Notre Dame piece and the green MLB “gear”, this was a most unpleasant post.

    • Phil Hecken | March 18, 2017 at 10:41 pm |

      Well, you know what they say — you can’t displease everybody.

  • Fred K | March 18, 2017 at 10:55 pm |

    In the article about Charlie Finlay you point out his affection for the color Green then show a Shamrock on the Wold Series ring. Is he wearing a matching Shamrock on his Green jacket in the photo on the color green affection link?