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[Editor’s Note: Today Alex Hider is back with the second installment of his “Gone Too Soon” series. The first one was about the early-’80s Cavs; this one’s about another Ohio team. Enjoy. — PL]
By Alex Hider
As a 26-year-old Cincinnati native, I can’t really remember a time when the Reds didn’t wear black.
To many of you, I’m sure that sounds insane. But we are now an entire generation removed from a Reds uniform without black trim.
As a Uni Watcher and a fan, it’s always bothered me that the team that claims to be the oldest in the league hasn’t been able to keep a more consistent look over the years. This isn’t a modern problem, either. Black, blue, sleeves, no sleeves, pinstripes, new nicknames and mascots — if it was trendy at some point in baseball history, the Reds probably wore it (well, except for powder blue road uniforms and zippered jerseys — they didn’t try those).
If there was ever a Reds uniform that could truly be considered iconic, it would be hard to argue against the Big Red Machine-era pullovers the team wore from the ’70s to the ’90s — where the Reds won three of their five World Series titles.
It’s also perhaps the only time in team history where the Reds kept their uniforms consistent. The pullover unis remained largely the same from 1972 to 1992, save for a pants stripe that added in 1988.
Of course, bringing back pullovers and sansabelts probably isn’t an option for the modern Reds — but there is a roadmap to getting back to the essence of those Big Red Machine classics.
Our own Phil Hecken has called the 1968-71 set “the quintessential Reds uniform,” and it’s easy to see why. It featured nearly all of the elements of the Big Red Machine pullovers, but on a traditional button-front, belted uniform. That includes all-red caps with a white wishbone-C, the iconic “C-Reds” logo on the home jersey, and the vertically arched “Cincinnati” wordmark on the road jersey (which, as Paul pointed out earlier this year, still has some mysteries surrounding it).
The 1968-71 set even included the oversized block NOB lettering that became a Reds staple for decades (no exceptions, not even for Dave Concepcion).
So, what happened to these beauties? As is often the case with the Reds, the trends changed. Cincinnati dropped the buttons and belt to join the sansabelt revolution in 1972.
But instead of picking up were they left off after the pullover trend died in the late ’80s, the Reds rode the wave of nostalgia that was surging throughout the MLB when they overhauled their uniforms in 1993. That meant pinstripes, a sleeveless jersey and a white home cap inspired by the Ted Kluszewski years of the 1950s.
Since then, the Reds have lost their visual identity by jumping from trend to trend. It’d be nice to see them return to something timeless, like that 1968-71 set, but I’m not holding my breath.
Too Good for the Ticker: Did you know “hurdling” used to be penalized as a personal foul in the NFL? I didn’t, until reader Scott Mason pointed me to this 1973 highlight video, which shows the penalty and the ref’s absolutely priceless signal for it. Dig:
How awesome is that? They should make hurdling a penalty again, just so we can see the refs pull that little maneuver.
And that brings up an interesting discussion point: I’m old enough to remember when NFL refs didn’t have microphones. Their penalty signals were important, because they told the live crowd (and also the people watching on TV) what the penalty was. When they got mic’d up, it was a big deal and changed the whole tenor of the game. And it raises a point worth asking: If the ref is connected to the P.A. system, does he really need to give the physical signals? We already know the call is for holding, or offsides, or whatever — he just told us. Why bother with the signals?
I’m not saying I want the penalty signals to disappear (on the contrary, I enjoy the sense of ceremony and official-ness they provide), but they do seem a bit redundant for a ref with a microphone.
Culinary Corner: The day after tomorrow is the first Saturday of May, which means it’s time for the Kentucky Derby. And that means I’ll be making the dish I always make for the Derby: a derby pie, which is a lot like a pecan pie but made with walnuts and chocolate chips.
Technically speaking, you’re not supposed to use the term “derby pie,” because that’s a registered trademark of some annoying people in Kentucky who insist that they own the name and love to send their lawyers after anyone who thinks otherwise. (They even sued their own chocolate chip supplier, Nestlé, for printing a “Tollhouse Derby Pie” recipe on the chip package.) So you’ll often see wink-wink names like Triple Crown pie, race day pie, winner’s circle pie, and so on. But screw all of that — derby pie belongs to the people. It’s also really easy to make. Here’s how to do it:
1. If you know how to make pie crust, make some dough and position it in a 9-inch pie pan; if you don’t know how or just can’t be bothered, get yourself a frozen 9-inch pie shell.
2. Set your oven to 350º. While it’s heating up, get a big mixing bowl and beat together four eggs, a cup of light corn syrup, 3/4 cup of light brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of melted butter. Then add 3 tablespoons of decent bourbon (or maybe a smidge more than that, if you’re so inclined), a tablespoon of vanilla extract, a tablespoon of flour, 6 ounces of chocolate chips, and a cup of chopped walnuts.
3. Mix all of that together, pour it into the pie dough or frozen shell, and pop it into the oven for an hour. It’ll puff up high like a soufflé, but it’ll settle back down while it cools, which you should allow it to do for an hour or so. This up/down motion usually results in some cracks in the top of the pie, which used to annoy me, but now I’ve grown to like it:
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, the chocolate chips always sink to the bottom (I guess they’re less buoyant than the walnuts), resulting in a nice two-tone effect:
It’s traditional to serve each slice with a dollop of whipped cream, although I don’t bother with that — the pie is rich enough on its own. Less traditional and even less necessary, but nonetheless delicious: this bourbon sauce, which is pretty much the bomb.
Trust me, there won’t be any leftovers.
Assorted reminders: In case you haven’t been keeping up with Uni Watch, here are some things you should be aware of:
• You can help to support Uni Watch by entering the auction for a full set of 2015 Uni Watch T-Shirt Club shirts in a custom-made pine box. The auction runs through this Friday evening. Full details here.
• Bobblehead doll restoration artist extraordinaire Chris Callan is willing to make custom Uni Watch bobbles for up to three customers. One customer has already placed an order, which leaves two slots remaining. Full details here.
’Skins Watch: Local residents have been debating what to do about a Cincinnati high school that uses “Redskins” as the name for its sports teams. Given that we’re talking about Cincy, why not just change it to “Reds” and call it a day? (From David Sonny.)
Baseball News: Here’s a podcast that discusses Ole Miss’s grey uniforms. … Ray Hund sent along some 1950s magazine covers with great baseball-themed artwork. … Back in 1964, the Seattle Rainiers didn’t want players to throw their batting helmets in frustration because they might break them, so they put a boxing speed bag in the dugout as an alternative method of letting the players vent (from BSmile). … Here are some photos of the New Orleans Baby Cakes’ one-game stint as the CrawDaddy’s — which for some reason included that apostrophe (from Joseph Adams). … The Rockies sent rookie OF Noel Cuevas on a coffee run in full uniform. … Former Red Sox P Pedro Martinez attended last night’s Boston Bruins playoff game and wore a Bruins jersey with numbers in the Red Sox’s color and font (from Chris Giorgio and @bdh_photos). … The Aberdeen IronBirds will become the Harford County Anglers of Aberdeen for a weekend series in late July. … Following up on an item from yesterday’s Ticker, here’s more on the Nationals wearing Washington Capitals caps (WaPo link) (from @bryanwdc). … Mets OF Yoenis Céspedes broke one of his necklaces during a slide into second base last night. … The Diamondbacks will be wearing these throwbacks for this afternoon’s game against the Dodgers. … Gorgeous striped stirrups for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (from proud USMMA alum John Kimmerlein).
NFL News: The NFL’s new helmet-contact rule might not be that big a deal. … With Pats QB Tom Brady’s helmet set to be banned from the game after the 2018 season, Brady is resigned to using a new helmet model in 2019. … The latest NFL cheerleading scandal: Washington cheerleaders were forced to pose topless for photo shoots while male spectators watched (NYT link) and also had to serve as personal escorts. This all happened during a trip to Costa Rica for which the cheerleaders were not paid, and during which their passports were confiscated so they couldn’t leave. Pull the plug on NFL cheerleading squads already — the whole thing is an embarrassment.
College Football News: Virginia Tech has released its annual safety rankings of college and high school football helmets. The Vicis Zero1 ranked at the top, just as it did in the NFL’s recent rankings.
Hockey News: Reader/researcher Jerry Wolper found the following item in the April 21, 1968, edition of The Pittsburgh Press: “The St. Louis Blues are offering a reward for the return of Glenn Hall’s goalie pads and the pads and mask of Hall’s backup man, Seth Martin. The equipment was missing after the Blues’ last playoff game Thursday in Philadelphia. St. Louis won 3-1 to move into Stanley Cup semi-finals against Minnesota. The Blues said they will give the person who returns the equipment two tickets to each game of the Minnesota series in St. Louis plus transportation for two from Philadelphia. The Minnesota series opens today.” … A Tampa writer doesn’t like it when out-of-towners complain about the absurd policy of fans not being allowed fans to wear opposing teams’ jerseys at the Lightning’s arena. … Cross-listed from the baseball section: Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez attended last night’s Bruins playoff game and wore a Bruins jersey with numbers in the Red Sox’s color and font (from Chris Giorgio and @bdh_photos). … Cross-listed from the baseball section: Following up on an item from yesterday’s Ticker, here’s more on MLB’s Washington Nationals wearing Capitals caps (WaPo link) (from @bryanwdc).
Soccer News: New kits for Vasco da Gama (from Ed Zelaski). … Liverpool showed support for an injured fan by hanging his jersey in their dressing room. … New home kit for Lansing United. … New kits for Burton Albion (from Ed Zelaski).
Grab Bag: Very sad to hear that Hy-Way Bowl, the excellent New Jersey pin-bashing venue that I wrote about last September will be closing later this month. I hope to make one more visit soon, maybe this weekend. … Good story on the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (from Joseph Pitirri). … With the Boy Scouts set to begin accepting girls soon, the organization is changing its name. … Nebraska volleyball is asking people to vote on their new floor design (from Kyle Yackley). … Throwbacks on tap for the New Zealand rugby team Green Island. … Under Armour continues to have financial difficulties (thanks, Brinke). … Here’s a good article on the designer who created the mascots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
What Paul did last night: During the summer and fall of 1978, workers at all three New York City newspapers went on strike (which among other things is credited for contributing to the Yankees’ miracle comeback in the standings, because they didn’t have to deal with the media for the last two months of the season). Shortly after the strike began, eight New York Times photographers were hired by the NYC Parks Department to wander the city and take photos of people in the city’s parks. Over the next several weeks, they took almost 3,000 slides of people playing softball, people at the beach, people eating, laughing, sleeping, smoking — and then the photos languished in two cardboard boxes for nearly 40 years.
The photos were recently rediscovered. Forty-two of them were featured a few days ago in this spectacular Times interactive spread, and 65 of them are now being exhibited at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. The opening reception for the show was last night, and the Tugboat Captain and I went to check it out.
The photos are extraordinary. Some of them show people participating in various sports, so I took pics of those pics, beginning with this shot of a soccer game in Brooklyn — I love how the colors of the ball match the colors of the uniforms (sorry about the glare on some of these shots; click to enlarge):
Here’s a softball game in Central Park. The fields are in much better shape these days than they were in 1978:
Here’s one of my favorite photos in the exhibition — the look on the guy’s face, his cap, his white attire, the little hand-drawn circle in which he’s standing. The caption says he’s a “boules player.” I didn’t know what boules was, so I looked it up and learned that it’s basically the French term for bocce.
Back when I moved to NYC in 1987 (nine years after the photos in this exhibit were taken), I’d see a fair number of people playing cricket. Not so much anymore. Here are some guys playing in the Bronx:
Love this shot of guys waiting to play golf at a municipal course in Queens:
Really like the intensity on the face of this kid playing handball:
One last shot, this one of a maintenance worker. Not sports-related, but I do like the uniform:
One thing I found interesting in all of the photos (not just the sports shots): No sports team caps, jerseys, or other apparel — that market didn’t yet exist. No T-shirts with big Nike or Under Armour logos, either. All very refreshing.
A few of the original photographers were on hand at the reception last night. At one point, the Parks Dept. commissioner made a speech and asked, “How many of you are looking through these photos to see if you can find a shot of yourself?” Several hands went up. But I’m more interested in how many people successfully find themselves in these shots. That would be an interesting follow-up project.
The exhibit is open to the public — and free! — at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. Highly recommended.