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Old Paperwork Reveals Trove of Uni Details About 1978 Orioles

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Good morning! Today I want to show something really, really cool that reader Steve Stout recently spotted on eBay. The bad news is that I got outbid for it at the last minute — grrrrr. The good news, however, is that the eBay listing included a bunch of photos, so I can still show you this really cool thing, even though I didn’t win the auction.

The auction was for five carbon-copy pages that constituted the Baltimore Orioles’ road and alternate uniform order from Wilson Sporting Goods ahead of the 1978 season. Check this out:

There’s all sorts of faaaascinating stuff here. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit — the request for skipper Earl Weaver’s now-famous inner-jersey cigarette pocket:

I love that additional detail about Weaver’s jerseys having shorter shirttails!

I did a bit of research but am still not sure whether the guy who signed the order, Ray Kolas, was the O’s equipment manager at the time or, more likely, the team’s Wilson sales rep, who would have finalized the order with the team during spring training and then sent the paperwork to the factory. Either way, Ray had some sensational handwriting, right?

Update: Proofreader Jerry Wolper looked up the Orioles’ 1978 media guide (which I should have thought of doing) and confirmed that there was nobody named Ray Kolas on the team’s equipment staff. So Kolas was almost certainly the Wilson sales rep.

Additional update: Reader Alan Kreit has confirmed that Ray Kolas did indeed work for Wilson.

Note that this order was only for the road greys and the orange alternates. Why? Because the O’s, like many teams in those days, had multiple uni manufacturers. In 1978 they were in the midst of a seven-year run of using Rawlings for the home uniforms and Wilson for the road and alternate designs, as spelled out on this page from Bill Henderson’s jersey guide:

The order specified that the orange jerseys should be shipped to the team’s home ballpark in Baltimore, while the road greys were to be shipped to County Stadium in Milwaukee, where the O’s were scheduled to open their season against the Brewers on April 6 (although that game ended up being rained out and played on April 7):

Then there are all the individual player specifications. Here, for example, are the jersey sizes for the various Baltimore players and coaches — uni numbers on the left (well, except for the bat boy), chest sizes on the right:

Also interesting to see that the order form uses the term “Shirt,” not “Jersey”!

As you’d expect, the pants section of the order form included columns for the waist and inseam specs. But there was also a column for “Sz.,” which for some players differed slightly from the waist measurement:

It’s not clear to me what the “Size” measurement represented. Anyone..?

As you can also see in that last photo, most of the players had special tailoring instrux. Here’s a photo that gives us a better view of those details:

Lots to process here, beginning with this: The first five notations are for skipper Weaver and coaches Frank Robinson, Ray Miller, Jim Frey, and Cal Ripken Sr.  Note that all of them, including Weaver, got a watch pocket on their pants (as you may recall, I was completely obsessed with that uni detail about a year ago), and all but Weaver also got “large hip pockets” (which I didn’t even know was a customization option!).

It’s also interesting to see that certain players got extra pairs of pants. I haven’t yet gone back and tried to match up which notation went with which player, but I’m pretty sure the extra pants were for starters and/or guys who attempted more stolen bases and would therefore be sliding more often.

Here’s another shot with more customization details:

The most interesting thing there is the last notation — wider sleeve cuffs!

Here’s a shot that makes it a bit easier to see which customizations were for which player. At the bottom of the sheet we can see that the wider sleeves were for pitcher Nelson Briles, who also got “No elastic at bottom of legs, has very heavy thighs” (!):

For reasons that aren’t clear to me, there were also instructions for 11 road uniforms without NOBs, with the team planning to add the NOBs later:

———

That’s about it. Isn’t it great? What a fun treasure trove! It is killing me — killing me — that I got outbid on this. How fortunate for us that the seller included so many photos in the listing (and that Ray Kolas had such clean, legible handwriting).

(Doubleplusthanks to Steve Stout, who deserves all the credit for this one.)

• • • • •
Speaking of cool things found on eBay, here’s some news: Brinke Guthrie has decided to bring his long-running “Collector’s Corner” column to a close. He told me about this a couple of months ago but asked that I not make a big fuss over it and was similarly quiet about it himself (he didn’t even include a farewell note in last week’s final CC installment). So I’ll keep this simple and just say how much I appreciate the decade-plus of fun content he’s provided. Thanks, Brinke! — Paul

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Comments (73)

    Paul, my dad is Nellie Briles and he indeed had large thighs and calves. You are likely correct about the instruction for the elastic as he always wore his pants at mid calf and showed most of his stirrup. He saved a lot of his gear over the years and I will look to see if we still have those pants. I know we have Brooks Robinson’s which may have been given to my dad at the end of 1977 when he was a September acquisition by Baltimore.

    I’m not sure about the request for the larger sleeve size, but he was a pitcher who always wore an undershirt and probably wanted the extra room.

    A cursory look at the roster indicates the uniforms ordered with no names correspond to players that had a higher probability of not sticking with the club (trade, sent to minors). A name could be sewn on if someone else was called up or otherwise acquired. I know the Red Sox had shirts with no number or name ready for that scenario. They would send the shirt to a local vendor to have the name and number applied.

    Based on the Orioles roster for 1978, the numbered jerseys without NOBs were stockpiled for assignment to players that joined the team during the course of the season (minor league call ups, trade acquisitions, etc.).

    Would it have been common practice to ship road uniforms to the location of the first road game, instead of shipping them to the team’s home and then packing them for a road trip? Seems like more can go wrong if you show up for the game without uniforms in hand, expecting them to be there.

    Also the use of the term shirt instead of jersey seems very much appropriate in that time. Jersey always seemed more specific to something like a pull over football top, whereas baseball button ups fall more along the lines of a shirt? Curious if there is or was an official distinction between jersey and shirt?

    Would it have been common practice to ship road uniforms to the location of the first road game, instead of shipping them to the team’s home and then packing them for a road trip?

    Yes. Teams that open their seasons on the road don’t stop at home first after spring training.

    I was more worried about what happens if you get to Milwaukee and the uniforms aren’t a good fit or have mistakes, but yeah, not even receiving them is a huge risk.

    If there were any mistakes, or the uniforms didn’t show up at all, they probably had last year’s uniforms with them, which they would have used in spring training, unless they were left behind to recycle through the minor leagues.

    I’d have to think there was some level of teams working together, too. Surely a Brewers’ equipment manager could recommend a tailor or local vendor if a quick fix was needed, if not help out him/herself. Worst-case scenario, the Orioles’ equipment manager looks one up in a phone book.

    My guess is, team equipment guys were also experienced enough to know what to measure up and say to get what they want, too.

    Collector’s Corner was always one of my favorite features around here. Many thanks for all your hard work, Brinke.

    Collector’s Corner was one of my favorite features each week. Thanks for all your hard work and interesting finds, Brinke.

    Sad that Brinke is going on the “Voluntary Retirement” list. Always an enjoyable column. Even bought a couple of things he featured. Thanks!

    It’s funny to learn that the late ’70s Orioles had different suppliers for their home and away uniforms. I’d always vaguely felt like the road unis looked quite a bit better than the homes (especially the way the names on back were arched and positioned relative to the number). I’d never given it much conscious thought, but it now makes sense to learn that there were different suppliers.

    And a quick Google search shows the road NOBs I liked were vertically arched and the home NOBs that rubbed me the wrong way were radially arched.

    I had done some digging around the ‘net the other day to find games where Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray play in the same game. I found 2 in 1977 (there were plenty where Eddie DH’ed and Brooks PH’ed). The first game Eddie actually started in LF while Brooks started at 3rd. I would LOVE to see the ’77 order form!

    I think that size in the pants section refers to the actual length of the pants. Another observation: The block lettering is so neat and precise as I think Ray Kolas is/was lefthanded. I conclude that from the ending of the R and K in his signature. I am lefthanded myself and not only do I have the same tendency with my R at the end of writing my given name, but I have also develloped a quick but very legible block writing over the years with no smudges on the paper. A lot of flowing lefthanded writing is quite hard to read. Also the x’s he uses (as in ‘extra’) look lefthanded to me. He starts with a small part on the left and crosses it with a larger part. Most righthanders start with the right part and cross it with the left part. His block print G however looks righthanded so I might be totally wrong. I love his handwriting, for sure!

    I think that size in the pants section refers to the actual length of the pants.

    I don’t think so. There’s already a column for the inseam, and at least one player had special tailoring instrux for the rise.

    The inseam is measured from the crotch down, while the outer pant leg (the mysterious ‘size’) is measured from the top of the hip all the way down. Right? Or wrong?

    If you’re already making adjustments from the standard rise — which they were — then there’s no need for a full-pant length measurement.

    Thank you, Brinke, for bringing all the good stuff to our attention! Your contributions were always very cool.

    A fascinating peek into the world of uniform tailoring. As noted above, Wilson went the extra mile and vertically-arched their player names. Chef’s kiss!

    I seem to recall that sometimes Earl Weaver stood toe to toe arguing with the umpire with his hands in his back pockets, maybe that’s why he needed larger pockets?

    I find it amazing that they were able to order uniforms in March and get them in mid-April. I ordered Nike football uniforms last January and had to play the first game this past season in our previous set because we didn’t have the new ones yet.

    I am curious how much did this auction end up going for? Heck if I would have known about it, I probably would have bid on it myself.

    I love the old Orioles, and this is absolutely incredible. A lot of names and memories coming back after reading through that file. I think there is another lede to be found here, though. The equipment magazine found by Alan Kreit is FULL of things that all of us will nerd out about. At my workplace we are subscribed to a modern version of this type of magazine, called “Team Insight”. I cannot say thank you enough, Alan. That was an incredible find!!!!!

    I miss Collector´s Corner already…thanks, Brinke!

    ¨coaches Frank Robinson, Ray Miller, Jim Frey, and Cal Ripken Sr. Note that all of them, including Weaver, got a watch pocket on their pants (as you may recall, I was completely obsessed with that uni detail about a year ago), and all but Weaver also got “large hip pockets”¨

    I also got caught up in Pocket Mania…now I am off to find pics of all those coaching O´s!

    The Mets also used two suppliers for many years in the 60s and 70s…Spalding at home and Wilson for the road. Explains why the road numbers were different, a feature I, of course, wish would return. The old Wilson numbers are still around…several teams still use them, including the Yankees and Detroit. The Mets version was especially thick.

    link

    link

    I went on Google to look at some pictures of players wearing these jerseys. The 7 inch numbers on the back of the road and orange jerseys were tiny. They could have easily fit 12 inch numbers on the, like the home jerseys had.

    They’re small but in the late 60’s, after the Orioles added NOB, the numbers were only 6 inches tall! Still, a half inch taller than the White Sox, who used 5 and a half inch numbers till 1970. (Info from Henderson’s “MLB Game Worn Guide to MLB Jerseys.”)

    For the pant size versus the waist, I’m going to guess that Ray went to Spring Training to do a fitting, which would be typical for a road sales rep. He had an equipment manager measuring waist and inseam and he was recording it. Then he’d give them a numeric size based on the measurement. (It’s two numeric sizes for each alpha size, so a LARGE could be a 34 or a 36. You have a 35 waist so I’m going to give you a 36.)

    During the fitting he’s probably getting all kinds of feedback from the guys. “Hey Ray, it was too tight at my ankles last year, my feet are going to fall off. Can you loosen that up?” So Ray orders it without elastic and leaves a note that this guy has got “heavy legs” so the factory folks know why he ordered it that way.

    BTW: It’s really common in the sports uniform industry to call any top, including football, a shirt. And a bottom is almost always a pant – including basketball shorts.

    My favorite part is there’s no address for County Stadium (201 S. 46th Street), the team just assumes the post office will get it there.

    Not the first time Ray Kolas has been mentioned on Uni Watch.

    From October 19, 2007: “[Ray] Kolas, who works for Wilson Sporting Goods, twirls his tape measure around 600 players each season. He keeps a measurement chart report on each player that would do credit to Brooks Brothers. For instance, on his chart of the Detroit pitcher Jim Bunning, Kolas noted: ‘Taper shirt — has small hips (no seat).’ ”

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    Sad to see collector’s corner go. I really liked reading it every week but thank you so much for 10 fun and wonderful years.

    Thanks for all the great columns Brinke. You’ve contributed so much to this site and our enjoyment.

    Brinke, appreciate the time and effort you put in each week. You had some great finds each week and never disappointed. Collector’s Corner will be missed!

    One more vote of thanks to Brinke! I guess I’ll have to go on ebay myself now to see what’s out there. You always curated such an enjoyble collection!

    Thank you, Brinke! As a frequent sharer of eBay finds, I’ve always enjoyed reading your stuff over the years!

    Thank you, Brinke!
    CC was my favorite part.
    I’m an old, traditional 59-year old baseball fan, who remembers EVERYTHING about the 1970s including when the CC items claimed a vintage that was off by a decade! :)
    I miss the Tugboat Captain, CC and so…I’m finally done with all the Uni-analysis paywall world and with BFBS marketing.
    Checking out now permanently since CC has ended. Last straw.
    Again, excellent job, Brinke!
    Here’s to road grays…

    Brinke, I’ll really miss Collector’s Corner. Always some good retro Bay Area sports finds in there. Thanks for all of the work!!!!

    Brinke-thanks for your devotion to Collectors Corner. Always a favorite of mine. Best of luck to you.

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