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A Special Piece of the Saturday Night Special

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Today is the 41st anniversary of the infamous “Saturday Night Special” game — the 1979 game when the Philadelphia Phillies went mono-maroon, which turned out so disastrously that the uniforms were never worn again.

Today we have a guest entry from Nick Malone (that’s him above), who claims to have Mike Schmidt’s cap from that game. It’s a pretty cool story — take it away, Nick.

My Piece of the Saturday Night Special
By Nick Malone

I’m 35 years old and have been collecting since I was about five years old. A few years back I was introduced to the world of game-used memorabilia when a friend had worked for the Orioles groundskeeping crew gave me two bats — a Carlos Beltrán and a Lenny Webster. I did research on the Beltrán bat and found out it was from his rookie year and possibly used for his second career home run. (It was sold shortly after the Astros scandal.) The Webster bat has “42” on the knob, and I found out he was the last Oriole to wear that number before it was retired MLB-wide. I liked the history embedded in these items and soon found myself hooked, so I started looking for more game-used gear.

My collecting niche, if you want to call it that, is going after affordable items from star players from my youth (especially Ivan Rodriguez) and also finding game-used items that don’t have MLB certification (because they predate that program) or a certificate of authenticity (because it was acquired directly from the player). A lot of collectors are scared off of these items, so they end up being priced at a point that makes them worth the gamble. Sometimes it hasn’t worked out, but I’ve actually landed a few really great items and have game-used batting gloves, wristbands, hats, and bats from players like Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., and of course my favorite, Pudge.

Part of my routine is to skim places like Facebook Marketplace and eBay doing random player searches for guys I’d like to collect. Mike Schmidt is one of those guys, and I recently stumbled upon a Marketplace listing for a game-used Schmidt hat priced at only $50. The seller sent me pictures and I knew immediately it was an oddball hat. It had this unique ribbed fabric that wasn’t typical for a ballcap, and the tagging just had one tag size and an MLB tag — no New Era or Wilson or other brand name to indicate who made it. The hat size was 7-3/8 and had a faded “20” written on the brim in typical fashion of game-worn caps:

Once I completed the purchase, I went into investigation mode. I’m part of some online communities for game-used collectors. These communities can be tough places, with lots of armchair experts, and I was immediately bashed for the “fake” hat I had bought. A fellow commenter tagged a gentleman by the name of Dave Miedema, who has a solid reputation in the hobby and does authentication documentation for those who want it. He was gracious enough to look at the seller’s photos of the Schmidt cap (at this point I hadn’t yet received the physical item and only had the seller’s photos to go by) but said he was going to stay away from it because Schmidt typically wore a 7-1/4 cap, but this one was 7-3/8.

After that it was open season. People told me it was a horrible hat, I wasted Dave’s time with garbage, the tagging was bad enough to give nightmares, blah-blah-blah. The trolls can be tough.

So naturally I started thinking the cap wasn’t legit. But when it came in the mail and I had it in hand, I thought there was just no way it was a retail hat. So I contacted the seller to get his full story for my records.

He said he had purchased it 25 years ago at the annual silent auction held by Montgomery Hospital, a historic hospital in Norristown, Penna. The hospital had a purchase agent who acquired items directly from the local Philly teams for the organization’s annual fundraising auction. Twenty-five years ago was 1995 — the year Schmidt was inducted into the Hall of Fame. So the idea of a historic hospital in the heart of Philly fan country auctioning a game-used hat during Schmidt’s induction year made me think this was looking better. I also found out that due to Schmidt’s killer perm, he actually wore a 7-1/2 early in his career, so the hat’s size wasn’t that bad and was actually in his size range.

So with newfound confidence, I started searching for Phillies caps that sold at auction to see if I could find one with the same tagging as mine. I found a completed auction for a complete Doug Bird uniform, including pants, jersey, and cap. I immediately saw that the cap was a dead ringer — same ribbed fabric and tagging. Then I read further and realized that the auction was for a 1979 game-worn “Saturday Night Special” uniform. I didn’t even know about that game, so went down the rabbit hole and learned all about the game, the loss, Schmidt going 0-4, the backlash against the uniforms, and the team never wearing them again. I also found pictures of Schmidt sporting a a nice head of hair in that game, which supported the larger hat size theory as well:

I started finding more auctions of caps from that game, and they all matched mine. So I spoke to a guy named Robert Bradley, who has one of the finest game-used Philly collections. He told me that he knew who owned the Schmidt’s Saturday Night Special uniform but didn’t know if it included the hat, plus he thought the guy had sold most of his collection. Sure enough, I found the jersey online — Grey Flannel Auctions had sold it in 2014, and it was in fact missing the hat! Through further research I learned that the Phillies kept all the uniforms from that game until sometime in the 1990s and then sold them all at auction to benefit charity.

So apparently my hat somehow got separated from the rest of the uniform and was donated to the Montgomery Hospital auction. The gentleman who sold it to me was not even aware that it was from an (in)famous game. (I have since informed him and his response was simply “Enjoy it.”)

Once I got all my evidence and laid it out, Dave Miedema changed his opinion. He now agrees I dumb-lucked my way into a Hall of Famer’s game-used cap!

Meanwhile, all the guys online who were bashing me and the hat have done a full about-face. They now love it and think it’s an amazing find. I’ve even had a couple of “diehard Schmidt fans” inquire about getting it from me. But I plan to keep it unless the person who owns the rest of the uniform wants it — in that case, I would be willing to complete the uniform. I don’t know who that person is, but I do know that Schmidt’s jersey and pants from that game sold for $15,000 via Grey Flannel in 2014. I’ve emailed them; no response so far. [I checked with Grey Flannel honcho Michael Russek, who said he forwarded Nick’s email to the winning bidder. That person apparently never responded. — PL]

So that’s it. I’m enjoying my Indiana Jones moment!

———

Paul here. Great story! The one thing that confused me is why the Phillies would have separate caps for the Saturday Night Special uniforms — it was the same cap design as their regular cap. When I asked Nick, he said, “I can only assume that when they created these uniforms, they decided to do it top to bottom.” Maybe, but I find that an unsatisfying answer, especially since teams were much more spending-conscious in those days. Anyone know more..?

Meanwhile, here’s a video of Nick showing off more of his memorabilia collection:

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie
 

Boy, I haven’t seen this cover art in ages! Here’s a 1968 book about Packers quarterback and Hall of Famer Bart Starr, published right when he was winning his two Supes, and just 60 cents as part of the Scholastic Book Services school program! (Remember that? You’d fill out a form and a few weeks later you get a box of books delivered to the classroom. Amazon, way before its time! As I remember, I always got a lot of “Marmaduke” cartoon books.)

Now for the rest of this week’s picks:

• Paul, take a look at this: a “1944 Champs” Sunbeam Columbus Park Industrial Baseball League jacket. Priced to move — just $640!

• Goin’ way back for this one: a 1930 St. Louis Cardinals Press pin.

• Bears fans will want these promotional Payton Power sweatbands from Wheaties!

• The Rams have justifiably taken a lot of heat for their new uniforms. But this 1980s jacket from Chalk-Line didn’t do them any favors, either. Seller only wants a grand for that, too. 

• Staying with the Rams, this jacket from Starter is a bit cleaner-looking, and has a UK flag on the sleeve for the “London Games.” And while we’re at it, how about a pair of Rams tube socks, too!

• Plenty of official team looks and logos to be found on these J.C.Penney NFL curtains.

• One more from JCP: Any idea why they decided to stick the Dolphins logo on what looks like the back left shoulder of this sweater, while leaving the front of the sweater blank?

• Here’s a 1970s WHA (that’s World Hockey Association, kids) promo puck mounted on a stand. Always liked that logo.

• Got a couple of 1970s WFL items from Collector’s Corner Great White North correspondent Will Scheibler: this set of drink coasters (doesn’t the one for the Birmingham Americans look like a bank or a convenience store?) and some odds and ends from the Hawaiians.

• Speaking of Will: I puzzled and puzzled about what the logo meant on this Montreal Alouettes helmet but never thought to look it up, so I asked Will, and he said it was a “a stylized green and red bird’s head that formed a lowercase a.” The team website says, “The origin of the team’s name comes from the 425th Squadron — the Royal Canadian Air Force’s first French Canadian squadron. Founded in 1942, the 425th Squadron quickly became known as the ‘Alouettes’ in honour of the native Gallic bird renowned for its tenacity as well as for flying at very high altitude.”

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Purp Walk recap: Thanks so much to everyone for making yesterday’s Purple Amnesty Day (Observed) so much fun. People sent me all sorts of purple photos, purple anecdotes, purple coincidences — it was nuts, and a total blast.

In addition, we received over 100 membership orders (to put this in perspective, there have been entire calendar years when we barely topped 100) and sold 99 purple T-shirts and purple 74 caps, whoop-whoop! Not sure of the final purple mask total, but as of 9pm it was 80, which is way more than I expected. (As I mentioned yesterday, my cut of the mask sales will be donated to Doctors Without Borders, so thanks for supporting them with your mask purchases.)

Thanks again to reader Tim Cox for coming up with the idea for Purple Amnesty Day 10 years ago. Such a great ritual, and a great example of how even a persnickety negative obsession like my purple antipathy can be turned into something fun!

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Membership update: Card designer Scott M.X. Turner has hit the ground running with all the Purp Walk membership orders (including Tanner Nissen’s Sacramento Kings treatment), some of which have already been added to the membership card gallery. We’ll keep slogging away, but it’ll likely take a few weeks before we get caught up on all the orders that came in on Sunday and Monday. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, frankly, could use your support these days). And remember, as a gesture of comm-uni-ty solidarity, the price of a membership has been reduced from $25 to $20 until further notice.

As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here (now more than 2,700 of them!), and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball NewsWith games likely to take place without fans, the Reds and other MLB teams are discussing putting tarps with giant ads over the empty seats. … A softball team in Protivin, Iowa, called Protivin Mills, is using an inverted version of the Brewers “ball-in-glove” as a “PM” logo (from Brad Eenhuis). … Got a hankering for a ballpark dog? The Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Giants’ Double-A affiliate, are offering their stadium food for curbside pickup (from Tom Turner). … Janet Marie Smith, the Orioles exec who oversaw the development of Camden Yards, spoke to Buster Olney on the Baseball Tonight Podcast to discuss the iconic stadium (from Andrew Cosentino). … The Batting Stance Guy took on the 1979 All-Star Game and had the vintage caps and jerseys to back it up (from Chris Mayor). … Tim Roberts found an old box of unopened Topps baseball cards from 1999 — the year Roger Clemens was traded from the Blue Jays to the Yankees. Clemens was featured in a Jays uni on the packs, but in a clearly airbrushed Yankees road jersey on the box.

Football NewsThe NFL is in the process of testing a mask that players could wear under their helmets to help limit virus transmission if and when the league returns to play this season (from Aaron Pinto and Timmy Donahue). … Virginia Tech fans have picked the team’s 2010 BFBS jersey as their favorite in program history (from Andrew Cosentino).

Hockey NewsFor years, a 150-year-old hockey stick sat untouched in a man’s umbrella stand in Vermont. It went to auction last weekend and may have fetched millions of dollars (from John Muir). … In honor of the annual Purp Walk, David Everhart shared photos of his hockey team’s jerseys, which he designed. He’s played with the Purple Reign — inspired by Prince — since 2011, and he redesigned the sweaters before last season. Looks sharp! … The home of the AHL’s Binghamton Devils, Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena, will soon have a new name, as the Maines family announced that it would not extend its naming rights deal.

Soccer NewsJust about every sports league in action at the moment is playing without fans, and several leagues have taken to putting mannequins and cutouts in the stands to make stadiums look full. But FC Seoul took it to a new level by using sex dolls to fill seats. They’ve since apologized (thanks to all who shared). … MLS is holding “jersey week” this week, and will be pushing a series of social media campaigns to celebrate, including a jersey bracket, and an opportunity to design an MLS kit (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … FC Cincinnati is asking fans to help select the seat color in their new stadium (from Wade Heidt). … Chris Cruz has been wearing a different soccer jersey for each of his work Zoom meetings. Here’s his collection. … Does a logo redesign lead to success? This blog examines that factor in France’s Ligue 1 (from Kary Klismet). … Celtic F.C. has a new logo to celebrate its nine straight Scottish Premiership titles (from Ed Żelaski).

Grab BagA pair of sneakers that Michael Jordan wore during his rookie season with the Bulls just went for nearly $600,000 at auction (from Cornelius Boatsports). … Couple of items from Kary Klismet: A history of Alfa Romeo’s badge, and NAIA school University of the Southwest has new athletic logos (also from Timmy Donahue). … A supporter of Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) photoshopped his name — and in some cases, his likeness — into Boston’s pro sports logos (from Lance Harris). … The man who designed NASA’s newly resurrected “Worm” wordmark discussed the logo in a NASA YouTube video (from James Gilbert). … Furman is the latest school to announce it’s cutting athletic programs as a result of the pandemic (from James Gilbert). … A man in South Africa — one of the few countries to criminalize the wearing of military uniforms by civilians — has been sentenced to five years in prison for pretending to be in the South African National Defence Force (from Timmy Donahue).

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What Paul did last night: As you may have noticed, the cushions that we sit on while cocktailing have some white tags sticking out on the back. Normally I wouldn’t care — I’m facing forward, the tags are facing backward, we can peacefully coexist — but they kinda look like shite when they appear in these photos I post.

I try to remember to tuck the tag under the cushion before taking my photo each day, but often — as was the case yesterday — I forget, and then it bugs me when I see the tags sticking out in the resulting pics. I’m hoping that writing this down and telling you about it will help me remember to tag-tuck from now on. Or maybe I’ll just cut the tags off, like I should have done a while ago.

A rare teetotalers’ cocktail session yesterday, because we had a pretty boozy weekend. Diet Coke for me, seltzer for the Tugboat Captain, and substandard Maria cookies for both of us. (Our preferred brand was sold out.)

The branch is still there.

As always, you can see the full set of Pandemic Porch Cocktails™ photos here.

33 comments to A Special Piece of the Saturday Night Special

  • AlMaFi | May 19, 2020 at 8:53 am |

    Brinke mentioned the Scholastic book ordering program. I am continually amazed that this program still exists and even in this era when all my kids’ classes are on school-issues iPads, the colorful newsprint ordering catalogs look pretty much the same as they ever did.

    My standout memory as a young millennial in the nineties was spending 99 cents on Animorphs #1. “Looks like a cool new series – worth a buck.” I still have the first edition somewhere in a storage bin.

    • Ed | May 19, 2020 at 9:27 am |

      I was the coolest guy in 5th grade when I ordered a Star Wars novel from Scholastic, back in 1978.

    • BurghFan | May 19, 2020 at 10:53 am |

      I actually got that Bart Starr book, way back when.

    • Brinke | May 19, 2020 at 11:04 am |

      And they always had “Sydney – Auckland – Englewood Cliffs” or something on the back.

  • trevor | May 19, 2020 at 8:55 am |

    MLS Jersey link is linking to a mail.google.com address.

  • Dumb Guy | May 19, 2020 at 8:59 am |

    RE: ball in glove upside down…. sure looks like “PW” to me.

    • William in KY | May 19, 2020 at 9:15 am |

      Yep. Not sure that one works.

    • Nestor Chylak | May 19, 2020 at 9:26 am |

      Now I have to run down all the possibilities in my mind. If the logo was simply inverted and not turned upside down, it would be ‘md’ and would be a lefty glove. Then the Maryland baseball team could use it.

      • Keith A. | May 19, 2020 at 10:09 am |

        I did that for a fantasy team logo a few years back. The Mason-Dixon Marauders.

  • Dumb Guy | May 19, 2020 at 9:05 am |

    My scholastic book memory is “Gamebreakers of the NFL”.

    https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/GwEAAOSw6JVddbvE/s-l1600.jpg

    • Brinke | May 19, 2020 at 11:02 am |

      I had the entire PPK library- but as I recall didn’t get it from SBS..there was a nearby Louisville toy store named Thornbury’s that had a book section, and I got ’em there.

      Every. single. one.

  • Alan from Cincinnati | May 19, 2020 at 9:38 am |

    Great post today! This is off topic but I wanted to mention something and I haven’t been looking at the comments lately, so I apologize if this has been brought up recently………….

    Has there been an more talk of Uni Watch going as “paid” site? I’m not blaming Paul, but these ads are getting more and more obtrusive and the page is taking longer and longer to load. I would gladly pay a monthly subscription fee just to not have to deal with the ads. Normally they don’t really bother me, but over the last few months there are just so many of them, and some of them make it tricky to close them without clicking on the ad itself.

    Just wanted to see what the feelings were surrounding this. Again, I’m not blaming Paul for anything, I just wanted to know.

    Thanks!

    • Jr2t | May 19, 2020 at 12:03 pm |

      I don’t believe Paul has mentioned anything regarding the topic of a paid site recently. However I could be wrong. I have noticed an increase in variety of ads recently. The other day I got an eye-opening one for Rhianna’s lingerie line. Not sure how the algorithm works and whether the ad was targeting me or Uni-Watch readers in general.

  • Johnny O | May 19, 2020 at 9:44 am |

    Great post today!

    I am collector myself (mostly cards, but some memorabilia too) and I can appreciate a good rabbit hole.

    I tend to error on the side of caution when it comes to items that are not authenticated, but I think Nick has turned me. Do a little research and you can find a real treasure!

    What a fantastic collection too! I tend to collect cards because of their easy storage. I wish I had the space to display them properly. I have some real gems that need to see the light of day.

  • Brian | May 19, 2020 at 9:59 am |

    I’m guessing the Phils needed a maroon cap for the Saturday Night Specials because their day-to-day caps always looked more red to me. The color mismatch of their caps to the rest of their unis in the late 70’s and early 80’s is pretty stark. You can even see it when they won the World Series in 1980!

    Having a red cap against an all-maroon uniform would’ve looked even worse.

    • Mike H. | May 19, 2020 at 11:30 pm |

      EXACTLY. There’s a great deal of mismatched red during 1976-1982. When they moved away from vertical arched lettering post-1983, the maroon became standardized.

      This drives me up a tree. This was the First Golden Age of Phillies baseball, and they look all over the place.

      • Brian | May 21, 2020 at 9:13 am |

        Right?! It was so glaring and looked absolutely bush league. Insane…

  • Mike Engle | May 19, 2020 at 10:29 am |

    Loving the cards in the gallery! Would especially love it if people would sign in to their Flickr accounts, so they can leave comments explaining their cards. Why/what is the team, why the number, why the name if there’s an FiNOB/NickNOB/something else, etc! :-)

    • Nate Rathjen | May 19, 2020 at 11:17 am |

      I had this same thought. Some pop up on twitter, including mine, which is not personal but a tribute to the greatest moment in Northern Iowa basketball history: https://twitter.com/rahtgee/status/1262377176277671937?s=20

      I am ever-so-mildly grouchy that the card gallery is apparently not searchable by anything other than last name, but that’s a monstrous undertaking to start now…

  • fuz | May 19, 2020 at 10:41 am |

    re: Celtic

    9-in-a-row is pretty significant in Scottish football down to the rivalry between the Old Firm. Before this week, both teams had managed it, Celtic from 1966-74, and Rangers from 1989-97. Celtic’s was considered a world record at the time, but there is the Jordanian league for which there’s not enough to substantiate the claim there, including when the seasons were played and what years a championship was held.)

    As a result, there’s going to be big logos and celebrating it, since that number, 9, has become intertwined into Scottish football culture. Whether that’s a healthy or liked thing is up for grabs really…

  • Tom | May 19, 2020 at 10:58 am |

    Just a note, from the comments on the hockey stick article, that stick did not sell at the auction. It was paused and never resumed.

  • Jason | May 19, 2020 at 11:15 am |

    Scholastic Scholar brings back some great memories. There was nothing like growing up in the 70s-80s. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I also distinctly remember going to the school library each week and checking out each of the NFL team books. I was obsessed with reading each one before the school year ended. I’d love to get my hands on a few of those.

    I’ll be careful how I frame this; how can VT fans choose such a played out look? Especially when it’s so blah while they’ve had some pretty clean uniforms over the years. If memory serves me right they lost that game to Boise State in DC. So they chose a one off uniform that isn’t school colors in a game they lost? I’m not a VT alum or fan so maybe they know something I don’t.

  • Niel | May 19, 2020 at 11:45 am |

    re: JCP sweater…. The Dolphins patch is on the front. You can make out the collar tag in the third photo.

    • Brinke | May 19, 2020 at 2:23 pm |

      I stared and stared at that- and just did again. Sure looks like the back to me. It rides high up where the logo is, as if it’s your collar- then lower in the other photo, as if it’s your chest. Maybe it’s a factory second.

  • John H. | May 19, 2020 at 1:42 pm |

    I used to get quite a few sports related books from the scholastic club. I especially liked the Football/Hockey/Baseball Stars of 197* issues. I also remember getting Great Moments in Pro Football and Fran Tarkenton’s Better Scramble Than Lose. It was great getting all of those NFL related books up here in Canada.

  • Joe M | May 19, 2020 at 1:53 pm |

    Received my Hal the Hot Dog Guy cards yesterday. They are awesome and hilarious. Thanks Hal.

  • Joe | May 19, 2020 at 3:20 pm |

    Great stuff Nick! Having done jersey work for the Orioles and Ravens over the years I have accumulated some items from them that collectors will not touch because there is no “certificate” with it. I have used Ravens pants from Siragusa and Ray Lewis, but my coolest item is my Cal Ripken underwear/compression shorts!

  • JFinDC | May 19, 2020 at 4:03 pm |

    Hey Paul, recall about a year ago, you wrote a piece on Dave Volsky’s tremendous NFL Films/music YouTube site: https://uni-watch.com/2019/05/21/vintage-nfl-highlight-film-offers-a-trove-of-uni-goodness/

    Don’t know if you are aware, but the NFL forced Dave to shut down his great site earlier this week, claiming legal issues about using NFL property, etc.

    Really a sad day when this happened, but he always feared a crackdown from the league. He really did a nice job and never made a cent off the site. Anywho, just wanted to make sure you knew.

    • Paul Lukas | May 19, 2020 at 4:30 pm |

      Thanks for the update. Really sorry to hear that.

  • Scott K. | May 19, 2020 at 4:17 pm |

    The Mike Schmidt cap made me think if memorabilia will ever be authenticated using DNA as well. I know there’s ‘touch DNA’ so will that ever become another method to substantiate the provenance of an item?

  • Big Ed Luntz | May 20, 2020 at 6:53 am |

    Good lord this site has jumped the shark. Nobody cares that you sit out and drink on your porch.

    It’s like for every one piece of interesting uniform news we have to wade through Paul worshiping himself.

    • Paul Lukas | May 20, 2020 at 7:49 am |

      Actually, Ed, the main reason I keep posting the porch photos is that lots of people have told me they enjoy them. Frankly, I’m as surprised by that as you appear to be, but people say it gives them a sense of normalcy and routine, which are valuable things to have during the pandemic.

      If you don’t like the porch shots, feel free to scroll past them. And if you don’t like Uni Watch overall, feel free to read something else (it’s a big internet out there!).

      But please — don’t use a term like “jumped the shark” on my website. That’s just sad.