Good morning, and happy Christmas to everyone in the Uni Watch comm-uni-ty!
Now then: Fifty years and one day after the Immaculate Reception, and four days after Franco Harris’s death, the Steelers got almost everything right last night. The festivities and tributes included the following:
- They retired Harris’s No. 32.
- They wore their throwback jerseys with the block number font (shown above).
- They added a patch to mark the 50th anniversary of the miraculous play.
- They had players wear Harris jerseys when they arrived that the stadium.
- They had defensive lineman Cam Heyward carry a giant “32” flag when he ran out onto the field during player introductions.
- They had retro scoreboard graphics.
But there was one fairly simple but visually powerful thing they chose not to do: They didn’t swap out their black facemasks for grey, even though that’s what the Steelers were wearing on that fateful day 50 years ago.
The Steelers routinely stick with their black masks when wearing their throwbacks. There’s nothing wrong or historically in accurate about that per se, because they wore the black masks along with block numbers from 1977 though 1996. But last night’s throwback game was specifically pegged to the Immaculate Reception, not to the overall block number era, so I’m disappointed and, frankly, surprised that they didn’t go the extra mile with the grey masks.
The facemask issue is particularly interesting in light of something that longtime reader William Yurasko has noticed. As you probably know, there are two statues in Pittsburgh that show Harris scooping up the Immaculate Reception — one at the Pittsburgh airport and the other at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in the Heinz History Center. Yurasko recently noticed that the helmet and facemask on both statues have changed slightly over the years.
Let’s start with the airport statue:
As you can see, the original statue had the wrong kind of nose bumper and a slightly inaccurate mask. The new version is closer to what Harris actually wore (although it still doesn’t have the proper “rubber snubber” nose bumper).
Now let’s look at the museum statue:
Oh boy — the original version was a disaster! Wrong mask, wrong bumper, and no front helmet numbers! The current version is much better.
It’s not clear to me when these changes were made. Anybody..?
One other thing about last night’s game: The Steelers used throwback end zones featuring the old AFC logo — but also used the current NFL logo. A weird pairing:
Meanwhile: Santa’s left something extra under the tree this year for several dozen lucky Uni Watch readers — the winners of our annual year-end raffle. Here are this year’s winners and the prizes they’ve won (you can see photos of the prizes here):
1. Uni Watch membership card — Joe Yesh*
2. Substack subscription — Jim Brewer**
3. Green Uni Watch basketball jersey — Chris Jennings
4. White Uni Watch basketball jersey — Josue Rodriguez
5. Green Uni Watch hockey jersey —William Yurasko
6. White Uni Watch hockey jersey — Amy Marantino
7. Uni Watch tequila sunrise T-shirt — Nathaniel Studebaker
8. Uni Watch blank notebook — Phil Fleckenstein
9. Uni Watch “gold circle” cap — Stephen Foelster
10. Purple tequila sunrise shirt — Nick Emanuel
11. Puppy Bowl sweatshirt — Dave Feit
12. Puppy Bowl socks — Ryan Madden
13. Puppy Bowl bandanas — Michael Altese
14. 49ers replica jersey — Alex Rubin
15. Purple windbreaker — Will Klumpenhower
16. Purple cycling jersey — Mark Emge
17. Purple socks — Paul Burclaff
18. Sabres Reverse Retro jersey — Adam Badt
19. Sabres Reverse Retro hat — Shawn Dzwonkowski
20. Mets blood-donor T-shirt — Steve Droho
21. A Mets/Seinfeld T-shirt — Brian Noel
22. Mets wristbands — Mitchell Scherr
23. Cyclones Easter baseball — Charles Reynolds
24. Another Cyclones Easter baseball — Kyle Naber
25. Space Cowboys T-shirt — Mark Sakowitz
26. Space Cowboys cap — Rex Doane
26A. “Brip” soccer jersey — Andy Zak
27. “Kit Swap” soccer jersey — Terry Mark
28. Atlético Nacional jersey — Mike Boyce
29. Harry M. Stevens polo shirt —Kevin Corcoran
30. Ray Fosse memorial patch — Al Villacara
31. Soccer bobblehead — Mike Enriquez
32. Kranepool-autographed ticket stub — Glenn D’Auria
33. The Great NFL Fun Book — Drew Tornquist
34. The Great NFL Fun Book II — Ryan Perkins
35. Black Fives book — Jay Palmer
36. All Caps book — Brent Wilson
37. Dodgers mail-order brochure — Dave Richards
**Jim, your one-year Premium subscription is now active. You should be able to access all of the Premium articles on my Substack page, and you’ll receive all the articles via email starting with the coming week.
Congrats to all the winners, thanks to all the entrants, and doubleplusthanks to people who donated some of the prizes. I’ll try to get everything mailed out by New Year’s!
As for today, I’m going to do a bit of cooking and baking, and then I’m going to bring the resulting comestibles to my friends Garth and Nina’s place in Manhattan, where I’ll be attending their annual Christmas party. However you’re spending the day, please accept my best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy holiday, and my thanks for being part of the very special comm-uni-ty we’ve all built here. Peace. — Paul
(Special thanks to William Yurasko for the statue observations, to Rich DeMarco for the item about the end zone logos, and to our own Jerry Wolper for the tweet about the retro scoreboard graphics.)