By Phil Hecken
About two weeks ago, Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins posted the above image on his Instagram account and asked, “Who would like to see this?”
Around the same time frame, the NFL’s Instagram account wished Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt “Happy Birthday,” and he replied: “Gift idea hint: Get the Titans to give us the rights to the Houston Oilers throwback uniforms.”
Watt’s sentiments remind me of a quote from Hedley LaMarr (of Blazing Saddles fame), and I’ll paraphrase that quote here to make it Oiler-centric: “There’s only one thing standing in the way of us wearing Oilers throwbacks: The rightful owners.”
The rightful owners, of course, are the Tennessee Titans, who were born in 1960 and entered the AFL as the Houston Oilers, at the time owned by Bud Adams. His daughter, Amy Adams Strunk, addressed Watt (and others) who hoped the Texans might someday don the uniforms of the Oilers with the simple phrase: “That’s a hard no.” (You can listen to that here). She further stated “Very interesting, except the Oilers don’t have anything to do with the Texans.”
She’s 100% correct of course, in the legal sense. The Titans (nee Oilers) and Texans share nothing franchise-wise in common, save for the fact that they both originated in Houston. And apparently 89% of those polled (see here) about it would like to see the Texans wear Oilers throwbacks.
It’s a shame, really, as I (and I’m sure thousands of other fans) would love to see Oilers throwbacks — whether worn by the Titans or by the Texans), but it appears unlikely the former will, and it’s about 100% certain the latter won’t, since they don’t have any legal right to. Sure, the Titans did wear blue and white Oilers throwback during the 2009 season (when all original AFL teams wore throwbacks), but that’s probably the first and last time the team will do so. They feel they have their own history with Tennessee, and they’re Tennessee’s team now.
This of course answers the question of who could wear throwbacks for a franchise that moved from a city (hint: NOT the current occupant of said city), but who should wear throwbacks then? And to back this up a bit — if the Texans were to wear Oilers throwbacks, they wouldn’t be the first team to wear the uniforms of a different franchise. There are probably more, but here are several who have:
Seattle Mariners (Pilots)
The Mariners have no connection to the Pilots (who moved to Milwaukee after one MLB season and became the Brewers). Since Bud Selig was MLB Commish at the time, and his Brewers would own the rights to the throwbacks worn by the Mariners, no doubt gave approval.
Milwaukee Brewers (Braves)
Hmmm. Brewers again. Maybe because they were permitted to wear Milwaukee Braves throwbacks (against the Atlanta Braves, no less), Selig was inclined to let the Mariners wear Pilots throwbacks.
Winnipeg Jets (Jets)
The current Winnipeg Jets were born as the expansion Atlanta Thrashers and have nothing to do with the original WHA/NHL Winnipeg Jets (who moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes). Many NHL franchises have relocated over the years, and this may not be the only example of a non-franchise wearing the uniforms of a former franchise in the same city.
Like I said, there are surely more than three examples, but we also have teams who have worn throwbacks from teams in other leagues. Many in fact, but a few:
Pittsburgh Pirates (Homestead Grays)
Many MLB teams wear Negro League throwbacks, even though none of them (obviously) are the same franchise.
Memphis Grizzlies (Sounds and Tams)
Technically the Sounds and Tams were the same franchise, but changed names (and ownership) during the crazy ABA days.
And then you have examples of franchises that have moved who’ve never worn the throwbacks from their previous city, like the Washington Nationals (who were born as the Montreal Expos). Montreal doesn’t currently have an MLB team (though there is always talk of an expansion team or a current team relocating there). Would there be a similar situation to the Texans/Oilers if MLB ever gets a team back in Montreal?
Other franchises have stood firm (think all the hockey teams who moved from Canada to the US in the 90s) in not wearing throwbacks to their former selves. And after moving from Hartford to Carolina, the Whalers (who became the Hurricanes) were finally recognized by the ‘canes this past season — twenty-plus years after moving. The throwbacks were worn twice — one in Boston — to the delight of the New Englanders who’d been pining to see their beloved Whalers unis one more time. But, in this instance, the Hurricanes owned the rights to do so.
I used to be 100% against teams “usurping” another team’s uniform history (without explicit permission, but even then…), but I’ve kinda done a 180 on that over the years. While yes, the owners own the team (and teams have been relocating for well over 100 years), in every sense but the legal one, cities are inextricably linked to the teams who’ve called that city home. And if a team relocates and changes its name, my feeling is now that said team should relinquish all rights to the colors and uniforms. Property (intellectual and other) is a valuable thing, so it would only be right for such a team to be fairly compensated (though who’s to decide what’s “fair”), but when the owners make a decision to forsake a city (for whatever reason), and choose not to keep the team name and uniforms, especially in the many instances where the relocated team basically “disowns” that history (and uniforms, colors & name), then they should forfeit those for some future team.
It’s happened before — but in the courts. Remember the Cleveland Browns? When Art Modell moved the “original” team to Baltimore, the City of Cleveland sued Modell, which is why we have the Browns back in Cleveland after a four year hiatus. Essentially, that Browns team which moved to Baltimore became, in effect, an expansion franchise, with Cleveland getting a promise to have a “new” (old) team in 1999 as well as retaining history, records, and intellectual property of the original franchise.
That didn’t happen in the Titans/Oilers case, but Cleveland isn’t alone. Ever wonder why the OKC Thunder don’t wear Seattle Sonics throwbacks? They can’t; Whenever the NBA returns to Seattle, the city retained the rights to the SuperSonics name as part of the relocation agreement that birthed the Oklahoma City Thunder.
A similar agreement is in place in Minnesota, where a law passed in 2006 requires that the history and trademarks of the Twins remain in the state in the event that the team ever plays its baseball elsewhere. This is interesting since the original Washington Senators/Nationals relocated to Minnesota in 1961, and (I believe) have never acknowledged their roots in DC. The Nats replacements, the 1961 expansion Washington Senators moved to Texas in 1971 (who have thrown back!), keeping that franchise history alive. But could the current Washington Franchise (born in Montreal) wear throwbacks for either previous franchise? Nope (unless Minnesota or Texas give approval). Should they? Well, the team doesn’t seem to recognize the Expos, but maybe the fans in DC would like to see what their team looked like decades ago.
There’s one other curious situation — not involving throwbacks — but names and colors. The Charlotte Hornets. Recall the original Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002, and played for a decade as the New Orleans Hornets (in the meantime, Charlotte got an expansion franchise, named the Bobcats). When the NO Hornets rebranded as the Pelicans in 2013, and in a deal brokered by both franchises and the NBA, the Hornets name, records, history and colors all returned to Charlotte (more here).
Is that something the Texans and Titans might want to work out? Could they? (Yes). Should they? I believe very strongly they should. If a team’s history, records, uniforms, colors, etc. mean that much to a city, and that city (and the league) can broker some kind of an agreement to transfer those to the city, then I’m all for it. I didn’t used to be, but now I am.
I still do firmly believe that owners have the right to move their teams. I’m not suggesting a “Browns” type arrangement should be made in every instance where a team relocates. And I recognize there is much value in the history, records, trademarks, etc. etc. etc. a departing franchise would need in order to make such an arrangement mutually beneficial (to the departing team as well as the city). But when teams leave (particularly after departing on bad terms), if they wish to “start over” in a new city, then something should be worked out. And not just because I love seeing throwbacks, but that’s an added benefit.
(Just think how Baltimore must have felt, losing their beloved Colts to Indy — which kept the name and colors and records — only to “get” an established franchise that was basically treated as an expansion team. Double whammy! Granted, I have no problem with Indianapolis keeping everything since they kept the name and all that. But imagine if fans in that City got to see the Colts colors worn by the home team, instead of when the Indy team visits. Just some food for thought).
Anyway — that recent Titans/Oilers/Texans thing got me thinking. I’d love to see the Texans wear Oilers throwbacks. They can’t. But they should.
— The Tao of Steve B. (@SteveBCreations) April 6, 2019
For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.
Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.
Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):
Title: “The Final Hurdle”
Subject: Cal Ripken Jr., 1981
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 10″ x 16″
This is one of those situations where the quality of light becomes the main subject of a painting. I mean, as far back as art school, I have been conscious of how light shapes and colors the world, and as a result, when there’s some inspiration that combines an interesting take on that and baseball, well, I’m there. I love the motif of having a figure in shadow behind a glowing sky – something about the nuanced relationship between the contrasted values (and how they worked together to ultimately make one seem flat) and color temperatures is endlessly appealing.
Here, it was important to remember that no matter how much I wanted to get super tight and rendered in the face, it all had to be done in deeper values and softer edges, the latter of which would sometimes have to be almost lost in places. At the same time, the play of warm and cool orange and red hues in his face really worked in tandem with the blues and greens in the lit sky, being complements to each other and all. Some of that sky color had to come creeping into his face as well, and then the upper part of that Rochester jersey and hat. It was that kind of thinking throughout that made the piece have a lot of vitality in my eyes.
In the end, I just thought it was a cool image because I saw potential with the play of light and color that could occur throughout the painting. The fact that the young ballplayer happened to be Cal Ripken Jr. was just serendipitous.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
I didn’t announce it on yesterday’s Uni Watch because I didn’t have the details at the time, but yesterday I was interviewed by Ken Carman (a great follow on Twitter, especially if you’re a Cleveland fan), who has a radio show that aired yesterday morning. I’d been on with Ken twice before, to discuss first the Cleveland Browns logo (unveiled before the uniforms) and then the uniforms, both times joined by the great Todd Radom. Yesterday was a solo affair.
As you might guess, he wanted to talk about the new New York Jets uniforms, but we hit a number of topics that were all uniform-related. I think you’ll enjoy it — and you can give it a listen below (unlike many of my podcasts, this one is less than 15 minutes long, so you can enjoy it once you finish reading today’s UW — or now ;)).
Give it a listen — I’d love to know what you think!
(Big thanks also to Thomas Dibenedetto for setting this up!)
Pencil Topper Helmets
Got an e-mail earlier this week from the ubiquitous Gene Sanny, who is definitely one of the more industrious and creative readers we have. I hadn’t heard from Gene for a little while, but he’s got a new project to share with us today.
I’ll let Gene take it from here:
Custom pencil topper helmets
Pencil topper helmets with lots of customization. Some pics showing what they started out as for comparison. Apoxie Sculpt for all the customization. I’m making my favorite classic helmets for all the NFL teams. Tried to hit everything I could, from rivets to jaw pads.
These come as really chintzy, cheap helmets, BUT, they are perfectly shaped to make classic helmets out of (once you scrap the goofy mask), compared to the standard Pocket Pro helmets, which are strangely elongated.
Namath, Csonka, Fouts, and Theismann so far.
Thanks Gene. And here’s a look at the project so far (click any image, including the splash, to enlarge):
Uni Concepts & Tweaks
After being dormant for a while, the Uni Tweaks/Concepts have returned!
I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).
Got a bunch of alternate uniform concepts for the Miami Dolphins from Sam Orelowitz:
Personally I love the City concept for the Miami Heat, so I thought I would incorporate it into the design of the Miami Dolphins. While I generally am not a big fan of BFBS, I thought that it would work here due to the widespread popularity of the Heat’s City uniform this year. Here are the designs. Thank you!
(Home, Away, Alternate, “Miami Nights”)
Thanks Sam. OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.
Threads Of Our Game
Occasionally I receive an e-mail update from Craig Brown, the designer and proprietor of the website, Threads of our Game. As the header explains, the website is a databuse of 1800s base ball uniforms. If you haven’t checked it out before, you’re welcome.
Anyway, got an e-mail yesterday with the subject line: “A look at the uniforms of 1895”. The body was as follows…
Hi Phil and Paul, I have posted some new uniform research to the Threads Of Our Game website. Hello baseball historians,
Here’s a look back at 8 of the 12 National League uniforms from 1895. It was a big year for Baltimore, they won the pennant (again), lost the Temple Cup (again)—and on Emory Street, a bambino was born.
The Orioles this year were enticed to wear black garters as a means to hold up their striped stockings. I wonder how much McGraw & Co. were paid to do so? Naturally, Spalding got on board with the idea and offered the garters at 25 cent a pair to teams everywhere.
See more here.
Throughout the 1890s, Boston was seemingly eager to give up their rich, red-stocking heritage. Of course, it was sacrilege not to wear red hose at home, but all bets were off on the road. For away games in 1895, Boston wore a subtle blue plaid and blue stockings.
See more here.
The Grooms switched to a new cap in 1895, one with a rounded crown. Boston and Baltimore had introduced the style one year earlier but Brooklyn put their own spin on it in 1895—their cap had a slightly higher profile and decorative trim along the ribbing, the first to do this in several decades. Now, was the home cap white with black ribs, or black with white ribs?
See more here.
The team photo of the Reds showed the players wearing white uniforms with the traditional red stockings. In the front row of the picture was their team mascot, a dog named “Trilby.” After learning the origin of the dog’s name, I wonder if Trilby was more svengali than mascot?
See more here.
Speaking of team pictures, have you ever wondered who the 7-ft tall player was in the middle of this 1895 Pittsburgh photo? It took a team of Threads researchers to correctly identify this oversized player and unravel the mystery behind the player’s name in the process.
See more here.
1895 St. Louis
There was little information published about the Browns’ uniform of 1895. However photos recently up for auction in combination with known woodcuts from the New York Clipper and the Spalding Baseball Guide now allow us to make a pretty good educated guess.
See more here.
Despite living in the second division, the Senators had an eye for fashion in the mid-1890s. The 1895 Washington team trotted out one of the first loose-cut uniforms in baseball history. Check out those baggy baseball pants! It was a look that would prevail until the early 1960s.
See more here.
See all of the uniforms of 1895 here.
Thanks for your time. I hope you have enjoyed these little vignettes. If you have any additions or corrections on this information, please send me an email.
How great is that? Very! Thanks, Craig!
A New Mystery…Li’l Help Readers?
Received the following e-mail from Peter Schultz who is hoping the readership might be able to solve a uniform mystery. Here’s Peter (click on the photos below to enlarge):
I have a mystery that I think the uni-verse can solve. There’s a bar that my soccer team usually visits postgame, and for some reason, tonight we became obsessed with a mural on one of the walls tonight. First, we were trying to decide if it’s a real game, or if it’s just staged. I’ve attached some pictures. We think the away team is from Calgary, but we can’t quite tell. Can we figure out who these teams are?
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: Federal Donuts is a Philadelphia donut shop chain that offers this t-shirt based on the Phillies 70’s era uniforms (from Gordon Blau). … “I was watching MLB Quick Pitch and I noticed they used year-appropriate logos and colors when discussing historical teams,” writes MJ. “(The 1924 Cardinals didn’t have a cap logo or an STL monogram, so I guess they get a pass.) For all the times we notice when TV networks get it wrong, it’s nice to see someone put some effort into getting it right.” … Check out this terrific graphic, posted by MLB Historian John Thorn. Make sure to check out the description and the ensuing thread, which is a wealth of info! … Bert Blyleven’s birthday was yesterday, which was a reminder he may have worn the most awesome t-shirt ever (from Beauty of A Game). … Tweeter Chris Lather was curious why Pat Neshek wears 93 (thinking it a high number a rookie might wear). Turns out he has a very good reason (h/t to Frank McGuigan). … Reader/tweeter Doug Keklak notes Thomas Jefferson in Pleasant Hills, PA (Suburban Pittsburgh) has some great, Tequila sunrise inspired unis. Both Douggie & I love the black sani look too! … Good spot by 2019 Wild Card Participants? who notes not only did the Rays ditch nameplates, they also tweaked the NOB font for the road greys (letters now have white trim matching the numbers). … Check out the Alumni embroidery on the jacket former NY Met Wendell is wearing (it’s a combo Shea/Citi logo). From Eric. … Interesting look for the Fresno Grizzlies last night (from Fresno Grizzlies). … Yesterday, the Youngstown State Penguins wore special uniforms for their “Pink Game” for breast cancer awareness (from Robert Hayes). … For what looks like BP yesterday, the Astros Alex Bregman wore Travis Scott’s cap — that comes from Ignacio Salazar who didn’t provide context for why (I mean, other than it’s a limited edition cap and it looks cool). … Looks like the Cleveland Indians have a special ballpark anniversary logo (But I’m Still Calling It The Jake). That’s from Darrell Dawson via Paul. … LSU and Miss St Softball both wore teal yesterday to honor a Miss St player who passed away from Ovarian cancer last year (from Kent Perry). … Do you remember a giant “L” flag Brewers fans brought to Milwaukee to troll the Cubs last year? Well, it returned, but now it’s banned from the ballpark (from Mike Chamernik). … “David Price didn’t play in inter league play in 2018 so his first at bat last year was the WS,” writes Andy Chalifour. This year he is wearing the C-Flap helmet in the new design.
NFL News: Here’s a fairly interesting article on the Tampa Bay Bucs uniform “debate”, not so much because there is any new info, but it’s written from a fan’s perspective. Oftentimes objective (read: non-fans) take a much different opinion of how good (or bad) a uni is; also, how “winning” plays into a fans’ view of a uni. … We can all breathe a sigh of relief: the Raiders are NOT changing uniforms. … Check out this great colorization by John Turney, featuring Bill Hewitt, George Halas, Red Grange, Beattie Feathers, and Jack Mander. … As previously reported on UW, the Bears will be getting a new “4th” uni/jersey, and this article makes a guess as to what it will look like. … We know the Browns & Rams will be getting new unis in 2020, but here’s a list of five additional teams the author thinks need reboots. I agree with four of those. … The Museum of Jerseys points out it’s unlikely, but the New York Jets could wear their new uniforms in 18 different combinations. … From the San Francisco 49ers biggest fan, Brinke, comes the news that Jason Verrett wants Matt Breida’s No. 22 jersey.
College Football News: The Syracuse Orange have had Nike as their uniform supplier for quite some time now and they hope to continue that after their contract expires at the end of this school year. That probably means new uniforms for football (and likely basketball too). … Seems like Air Force is hosting it’s own “Final Four” with voting on its special helmets (from James Gilbert).
Hockey News: Is this really something we should be “encouraging”? Last evening ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers wore European hockey (inspired) jerseys, replete with more ads than you can shake a stick at (from Mike Iles). I don’t normally care when minor league teams (any sport) wear specialty jerseys, but this one might be the exception. … As they begin their playoff run, the Carolina Hurricanes have announced they’ll be wearing their black alternates during the playoffs. … Tweeter Ryan Mackman writes, “The @FlaPanthers have jerseys hanging in their “Den of Honor” highlighting players’ achievements. Just noticed that the number borders are sewn on top of the white. Usually it’s the other way around. Have you seen this before?” Tweeter PLAYOFF KYLE responds, “That’s reverse kiss cut! The “normal” style you usually see is layered twill, but this reverse kiss cut style is used by several teams in the NHL (and plenty in baseball, basketball, etc.)” … I’m just gonna leave this one from Andrew Hoenig who writes, “A Caps fan made a Stanley Cup dress and wore it to the game.” Bet Jimmer Vilk doesn’t say “I’d wear that” in the comments. … On the last regular season edition of “Coach’s Corner,” Don Cherry wore green & yellow in honor of the Humboldt Broncos, who lost 16 members of their team in a bus accident one year ago yesterday. Ron MacLean is also wearing a green/yellow ribbon.
NBA & College Hoops News: Over on the twitter, Gurrero asks whether the Orlando Magic are breaking out a new logo. … Cool Sports Cards asks, “by chance do you know the record for most jersey patches worn during an NCAA basketball game?”
Soccer News: Check out the unique uni’s for the Norwich vs QPR match yesterday (from November Kilo). … The new primary kit of the Vancouver Whitecaps features navy shorts, notes Wade Heidt. On Friday night at home, the Whitecaps wore white shorts for the first time with their primary jersey. Doing so as to not clash with the visiting LA Galaxy, who were wearing navy shorts. … FC Cincinnati will be wearing orange shorts and socks today against Sporting Kansas City (from Brian Henke).
Grab Bag: When United States Grandmaster Robert Byrne played USSR Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi at the 1974 Nice Chess Olympiad, he wore a chess-themed shirt during the game (from Graham Clayton). … Yesterday, the Williams College Ephs Men’s Lacrosse wore Renzie W. Lamb stickers on helmets in tribute to Lamb who coached 36 years at Williams (via Paul).