[Editor’s Note: Paul is on his annual August break from site. Deputy editor Phil Hecken is in charge from now through Aug. 25, although Paul is still on the clock over at ESPN and may be popping up here occasionally.]
By Phil Hecken, with Jerry Wolper
There was once a time, not that long ago (although in the uni-verse, that’s the stone age) when teams would get new uniforms to little or no fanfare. This may seem like a quaint concept today, when even a new cap, helmet or pair of socks seems to be accompanied by massive social media saturation, a hype video (fortunately no longer set to an Imagine Dragons piece) and usually a bunch of press. But back in the day, many times teams walked off the field one year wearing one set of uniforms, and retook the field the next year wearing a brand new outfit, often to the surprise (and sometimes consternation) of the fans.
Our pal, and frequent Uni Watch contributor, Jerry Wolper (who has worked on several articles with me, and who is responsible for the AMAZING Buc-Tracker Project [writeup] and [project]) will take us back to that time today. Jerry is, among other things, an incredible researcher — frequently scouring hundreds (probably thousands) of archived articles to document his research. We’ll check in with him now as he documents the (lack of) hype over the “Bumblebee” Pirate uniform introductions in the late 1970s. Here’s Jerry
Let’s just wear new uniforms
By Jerry Wolper
The world has changed a lot in the last forty years. Now, when a team is going to wear a new set of uniforms, it’s a major event, which is nice for those of us who care, even with all the marketing nonsense. When the Pirates switched to their mix-and-match set in 1977, it just happened. I went through the archives of the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette sports sections in the 1976-77 offseason, and here’s what I found:
One October 8, 1976 column about upcoming changes mentioned that the Pirates “will wear new uniforms in 1977,” but the rest of the piece was about personnel moves. And that was it until spring training. The photos of new players (and a new manager) at introductory press conferences had them holding up 1976 jerseys:
When the beat writers got to Bradenton for spring training, they wrote brief descriptions of the new unis; in the Feb. 24 Post-Gazette, Charley Feeney wrote, “[Pirates Vice-President Joe] O’Toole said the Pirates will wear the three uniforms both at home and on the road. The uniform colors are gold shirts and black pants, black shirts and gold pants, and a striped black and gold. The two caps, not included in the uniform price, will be black with gold piping and gold with black piping.”
In that day’s Press, Bob Smizik wrote, “With not one, not two, but three different sets of flashy new uniforms awaiting them, with an enthusiastic new manager greeting them but still without a third baseman, they began. Almost.” since rain kept them off the field. Smizik also quoted O’Toole about charges by the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers that the team was being un-American by ordering uniforms from Japan. “We bought three sets. One was made by an American firm and the other two by a Japanese company. They came up with the best uniform for us. They’ll probably cost us more, but we were interested in quality.”
In a March 1 column, Smizik wrote, “The Pirates will be wearing new uniforms during the coming season and they could pose problems. There are three basic outfits, solid gold, solid black, and a white with a gold and black stripe. But by switching around tops and bottoms (a gold top with black bottoms, etc.) and adding two different colored sweatshirts and hats the Pirates figure they’ll have nine outfits.” He wondered if pitchers, or the team, would become superstitious about wearing unis they’d won in. There was a day where the prototypes were worn and photographed; the AP sent out a picture…
…and the April 3 Pittsburgh Press Sunday Roto Magazine had some color photos with other players still wearing the old uniforms; the magazine article itself was about the team. Unfortunately, some tweets with those Roto photos have disappeared.
In the April 6 Press baseball preview, Smizik wrote:
“As for the threads, in one attempt to bring back the fans, the Pirates have gone to three new and completely different sets of uniforms. There is a solid black, a solid gold, and a white with a gold and black pinstrip[sic].
“All three can be worn with each other, and when two different colored hats and sweatshirts are thrown in, the Pirates will be attired as they’ve never been attired before.”
In a Pirate ad in the same preview, new uniforms are apparently a selling point.
On Opening Day, April 7, Feeney wrote in the Post-Gazette:
“The Pirates will be a three-uniform team this season.
“The uniform colors are pin-stripe, black and gold. For today’s inaugural, the players will wear pin-stripe uniform[sic] with black hats and black socks.”
In that afternoon’s Press, Pat Livingston’s column started with
As the Pirates frolicked listlessly through the abbreviated drill that, due to the chilly weather, had been substituted for the regular workout, Jerry Reuss took a dispassionate view of the babel of colors streaking across the tartan-turf outfield.
To accommodate television, which wanted a preview of the Bucs’ tri-color mix-and-match uniforms, Tony Bartirome had outfitted half the squad in the colorful garb the Pirates will wear this year.
Willie Stargell dressed out in solid black. Bill Robinson was in gold pants and a striped jersey. Tommy Helms wore a black shirt over gold pants. Mario Mendoza was in stripes.
“Creeping Finley-ism,” snorted Reuss, the blond iconoclast who started today’s opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Hey, that’s a good line,” a reporter remarked. “I’m going to use it.”
“If you use it,” cautioned Reuss, “credit it to the right person. It’s not my line.”
“It’s not! Whose is it?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Reuss. “Somebody in Boston. A couple of years ago, when they wanted to put an electronic scoreboard in Fenway Park, the Red Sox turned it down. ‘We don’t want that thing’, somebody said. ‘That’s creeping Finleyism.'”
The column ended with:
“Suppose Jerry Reuss were to win six in a row wearing the striped uniform, a writer wondered. What would happen if, on the day of his seventh start, the front office dictated black as the uniform of the day?
“Tanner didn’t hesitate, even to ponder the question.
“‘If any pitcher wins six in a row wearing stripes and he wants to wear stripes, we’ll all wear stripes on the day he pitches,’ declared the Pirate manager.”
Great job on that Jerry — thanks for researching and investigating this matter. For a set of uniforms that would become “iconic” it’s amazing just how little fanfare was associated with their introduction. We appreciate your bringing this chapter in Pirates uniform history to the fore!
By Brinke Guthrie
Both NYC football teams represented today. This New York Jets helmet buggy in great shape! And wouldn’t this look nice at Uni Watch HQ in Brooklyn. This is a “Cosmo Electric” 14″ New York Giants wall clock , and it “ticks when the battery is inserted,” which is always a plus. But it has “not been tested for accuracy,” so there’s a drawback. Now for the rest of the week:
• Here’s a 1970s MLB “Cricket” table lighter made by Gillette, with all the National League team logos. Don’t know if it works, though.
• For 1970s MLB retro greatness, you can’t beat the Tequila Sunrise AND the Atlanta Braves feather pullover, shown here as part of Majestic’s Cooperstown line.
• Love the helmet looks on these 1970s NFL stickers.
• IMO, the Mariners should have never ditched this logo. Their 1980s trident is showcased on this promo seat cushion.
• This 1970s Phillies mascot doll (Phil) is still in fine shape given his age.
• Nice looking set of 1970s Houston Oilers wristbands, still in the package.
• Interesting wooden drink coasters with drawings of NFL players from the 1970s, including Terry Bradshaw of the…Pittsburg Steelers.
• This Canada Dry bumper sticker says, “PATS FEVER: Together We Can Make It.” It doesn’t say what the “it” is, though.
• More Pats: here’s a set of those smoked drink glasses that every NFL team had in the 1970s- these are for the Patriots and include a sticker for Schaefer Stadium. The interesting thing there to me is that I didn’t know for the longest time that Schaefer was a beer. Same thing with Rich (dairy) Stadium in Buffalo, and Ericsson (cell) Stadium in Charlotte. Schaefer and Rich were regional naming rights deals, and Ericsson phones hadn’t landed in my market as yet.
• Here’s a 1970s NFL brass belt buckle– who could the QB be for #16? It would be too early for Montana.
Griffins Jersey Contest Reminder – LAST CALL
In case you missed it, I’m again hosting a jersey design contest in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Griffins (an AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings). All the details are contained in this post.
The deadline for getting your submission in to me is TODAY August 15 (at 6:00 pm Eastern Time), and we’ll have reader voting on the concept jerseys beginning on August 17th! Last year we had 85 entries and I’d expect we’ll equal or surpass that this year. Prizes include a custom jersey based on your design and tickets to the game that the Griffins will be playing in the jerseys you designed! No entries will be accepted after the 6:00 EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME deadline. Thanks!
StripeRite discount reminder: Paul here. In case you missed it yesterday, you can now use the checkout code uniwatch to get a 15% discount on any orders from the first, second, and third batches of StripeRite socks. The code is good through Aug. 31.
Word to the wise: We have low stock on most of the designs from the first two batches. Once those are gone, they are likely gone for good.
LAST CALL for the Titans contest: Paul here (again). Today is the final day to submit entries for my Titans-redesign contest. Full details here.
By Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: Blue Jays infielder Ryan Goins said that the team has decided to stop wearing its Sunday red jerseys. He said the team’s 2-7 record in red this year is to blame. The Jays are actually 3-5 in the alternates, but several of the losses were particularly lopsided (from Michael Duffy). … In case we missed it, the Astros and Rangers wore 1999 throwbacks on Saturday to honor their respective newly inducted hall of famers, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez. Delino DeShields, Jr., seems to have worn his regular Rangers home uniform, though (from Michael Miller and @igTXSalazar). … Last Friday, the Akron RubberDucks wore jerseys that were designed by patients at a local children’s hospital (from David Fisher). … A little late, but Brent Fountain created a few jersey T-shirt mashups for a Red Sox-Astros game during Fathers’ Day weekend.
NFL News: New Rams WR Sammy Watkins is wearing No. 2 this preseason. Single-digit numbers are not allowed for receivers during the regular season (from Tris Wykes). … Unlike the regular season, NFL teams have locally produced preseason telecasts that feature different graphics and on-screen scoreboards depending on what station on which they are airing. … As you can see in this video clip from 1983, the Giants wore black armband stripes that season as a memorial to Bob Ledbetter, the offensive backfield coach of the Giants, who died during that October. Here’s another look at the stripe (from Brian Wulff).
College Football News: Hawaii has new green matte helmets (from Phil). … New unis for Louisiana Monroe. … New gold jerseys for Texas State (from Brant Freeman). … New away uniforms for Colgate (from Andrew DeFrank). … Tennessee QB Quinten Dormady says he’ll wear loose sleeves this season, much like what Peyton Manning used to do when he was a Volunteer (from @keyvon212). … Ohio State QB JT Barrett IV will go RNOB this year. He did not last year (from Mark McClure).
Hockey News: New jerseys for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. I dig that cartoonish logo, plus that OHL logo is delightfully dated (from Wade Heidt). … Also from Wade: New jerseys for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL.
NBA News: Bruno Mars had an outdated customized Pacers jersey for his show in Indianapolis on Sunday night. Mars and his fellow performers wore jerseys at previous stops along the 24K Magic World Tour (from Alex). … The NBA released the season schedule yesterday. The Magic used a lot of whipped cream pies to reveal theirs.