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Introducing Remembership: A Uni Watch Membership Card Retrospective

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[Editor’s Note: With the Uni Watch membership program winding down (it will end when I leave the site in late May), card designer Scott M.X. Turner came up with the idea of a weekly series in which he looks back at some of his favorite card designs. Here’s the first installment. Enjoy! — PL]

By Scott M.X. Turner

Back in 2007, Paul launched the Uni Watch Membership Program. It’s a lot of work — seriously, a lot of work — but mainly for Paul, who has to handle all the logistics. Me? I draw each member’s request on a computer and do lots of additional photo research to make sure we get everything right. I do love the research part. 

It’s been fantastic seeing what each member has requested. It’s always a challenge for me and Paul to get it just right. These designs are hand-rendered — I don’t have a program or an app where I just input a name, number, and team and out pops the design. Wouldn’t do that if I could, because the results generated by that type of approach are never quite right. Humans design, cut, affix, sew, and wear the things we’re basing your card’s artwork on. Your card should be made by humans, too.

Paul and I have created a lot of cards over the past 17 years. The current count in the Flickr gallery is 3,371. Paul and I (well, mostly I) feel like that’s a significant enough body of work to deserve a retrospective before he leaves Uni Watch in about four months, so we’re launching this new weekly series, called Remembership, where I will look back through some of the more notable designs. Some weeks will be devoted to a specific category; other times, the category might simply be “I really like these.”

Before we get to this week’s category, I want to give you a sense of how far the membership card program has come. We produce the cards in sheets of eight. Here’s the very first sheet we ever did:

The first four cards were for the then-core members of the Uni Watch team: Paul, intern Vince Grzegorek, web administrator John Ekdahl, and me. We all chose the Uni Watch colors and fonts. The other teams are the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Yankees, and the Cleveland MLB franchise. A few years later, we would stop doing cards for teams with Indigenous team names and artwork.

Simple — names and numbers. That’s what Paul and I envisioned the program being. It was a bold move when a member asked for a uni design that didn’t have an NOB, just the number.

Now, 17 years later, a sheet often looks like this:

So much for just names and numbers: This sheet includes the Slippery Rock mascot’s T-shirt, reader Kyle Arnott’s Ohio University marching band uniform, Indy driver Fernando Alonzo’s helmet, and Nicki Hayden’s Grand Prix motorcycle.

Along the way, we’ve done card designs based on helmets (baseball, football, motorsports), stadium infrastructure, band uniforms, landmarks, banners, playing surfaces, referees and umpires, mascot costumes, a championship ring, a belt buckle, a sumo wrestler’s mawashi (satin padded belt), a tennis shirt’s cat motif, a wrestler’s rhinestone-festooned robe, Olympic athletes’ pin-on numbers, jockey silks, scarves, and more. In response to member requests, we’ve also included smudges, dirt stains, and torn fabric. We’ve done designs that reference other Uni Watch items (meta!), and we’ve done one design based on how the member’s eyesight processes jersey letters and numbers.

In between the simplicity of that first sheet and the complexity of the other one, there have been lots of interesting sub-niches. Such as…

This Week’s Remembership Category: Places

Humans connect to places. Our memories are rooted there — memories of our first time at the ballpark, stadium, or arena. That magical night when the team won it all. Talking to a stranger in the next seat during a meaningless game.

Twenty members over the years have asked us to depict places. Sometimes they tell Paul their stories. I get the assignment and forge ahead. For a few of these, the connection is obvious just by glimpsing the artwork. Camden Yards on the night of Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive-game record; the ivy wall at Wrigley Field and, separately, its hand-operated scoreboard with the Cubs leading 10-0 at the end of the first inning; Notre Dame’s classic end zone. Others may be rooted in the member’s personal experience. Either way, they’re all special. Here are eight examples:

Clockwise from top left: Robert Indiana’s MECCA court design (Jeff Ash); Baltimore Ravens’ BaltiMOre end zone (Keith Adelsberger); Super Bowl XL field (Austin Snelick); University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium (Jon Caraccilo); Wrigley Field outfield wall (Martin Fox); Shea Stadium outfield wall (Jenna L. Kershenbaum); Chelsea F.C.’s Stamford Bridge (Corey Patterson); Cameron Indoor Stadium (Andrew Arellano).

Recreating the places that members request is rewarding. It’s also time-consuming. A lot of these designs involve a lot of trial and error. It’s great when I can crack the code — the ivy leaves, the seam in the padded Shea Stadium wall, the slight overlap of the lettering in the Ravens’ end zone. Sometimes the only code is “Just start laying out those yard markers.” I save these intensive designs for the end of each sheet. Knowing that I’ve finished seven name-and-number designs makes these complex requests easier.

Confession: Two of these designs — the Duke basketball floor and the Supe design — were provided by the members themselves, who actually sent the artwork to Paul along with their membership orders. So too with the Boston Garden parquet floor on the next sheet I’m about to show you. Fantastic! Ready to rock! It lets us get those cards to the members so much faster.

Clockwise from top left: Memorial Stadium main entrance (John Kimmerlein); Boston Garden (Mike Sullivan); Camden Yards B&O Warehouse showing Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive-game record (Keith C. Adelsberger); Giants Stadium 50-yard line (not sure who this one was for); Shea Stadium fence, 1969 (Matt Edwards); Notre Dame Stadium end zone (Warren Junium); Wrigley Field centerfield scoreboard (Greg Trandel); Fenway Park’s Green Monster (Michael D. Delia).

Two of these were particularly tricky. For Kimmerlein’s, in addition to creating an entire entrance to a mid-century stadium, I had to render his name using Memorial Stadium’s deco font. And for the Fenway park treatment, I tried to capture the ghost number behind the current “310.” Look closely, it’s there.

So that’s 16 of the 20 places. Here are the last four:

Clockwise from top left: University of Dayton’s UD Arena (Todd R. Herzog); Chicago Stadium’s Gate 3 1/2 (Rob Lange); CTA’s Sox-35th Station (Ryan Lindemann); Cleveland Stadium’s Gate D (Rob Lange).

A real Rust Belt collection, this last group. Paul and I differed on the proper width of the boards in the Dayton design (hard to see, but they’re there). That floor is long gone, as are Chicago Stadium and Cleveland Stadium. Ryan Lindemann asked us to use his name in place of the CTA sign’s “to 95/Dan Ryan.” Innovative!

Sometimes replicating what the players wore or the signage looked like means replicating mistakes — uneven arching, bad kerning, weird layouts. Such is the case with the Chicago Stadium “Gate 3 1/2” layout.

So that’s our first installment of Remembership. If you have questions, I’ll monitor the comments section each Friday and reply as best I can.

Next week: Uniform fails.

———

Paul here. I could write a lot — like a lot — about the membership card project, but I’ll try to keep this short:

  • Scott is being too modest. The amount of work and care he puts into the card designs is staggering. He also has an infectious sense of enthusiasm about the whole project. The fact that he came up with the idea for this weekly retrospective series is very much in keeping with that.
  • Speaking of Scott: When I first proposed the membership card project to him back in 2007, my idea was that we would just render each member’s number and NOB in “Uni Watch colors.” It was Scott’s idea to let people base the cards on real-life sports jerseys. I initially thought that would be too challenging, too much work, too overwhelming, but he insisted that we try it. And I’m so glad that he did, because it resulted in a very creatively satisfying project.
  • I didn’t really expect a lot of people to sign up for a card. In fact, my initial thought was to have a 100-member “roster,” with each number from 0 to 99 assigned exclusively to a single person. So if one person ordered a card with No. 18, that number would no longer be available for anyone else. But it quickly became apparent that we’d have waaaaay more than 100 people signing up. It’s kind of staggering to think that we now have well over 3,000!
  • Every one of those 3,000-plus cards has been processed through my trusty laminator, which has held up through the entire 17-year project. I just used it yesterday for our latest batch of cards, in fact! It’s gotten a little creaky over the years, but it still does the job. Amazing!

I could go on — the card project has had endless intricacies and backstories — but I said I’d keep this short. So I’ll just add that none of this would have happened without you folks. Thanks so much for helping to support Uni Watch with all your card purchases, and for making this such a fun and satisfying project to work on. We’ll continue to take membership orders for the next few months, right up to my final day on May 26. Cheers!

 
  
 

Substack Reminder

In case you missed it on Thursday: With the 2024 NHL All-Star Game taking place on Saturday, my Uni Watch Premium article on Substack this week is a ranking of my 10 favorite NHL All-Star uniforms.

You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack (which will also get your full access to my Substack archives). My thanks, as always, for your consideration and support.

 

 

Cans of the Day

Did you know there used to be a candy called Chicken Bones? Or maybe it’s just chicken bones, since it’s all-lowercase on both of these cans. Either way, such a weird moniker for a candy!

Comments (63)

    I feel honored to see both of my cards (Ravens Mo end zone, and 2131) up in lights! Scott and Paul, great work on all of these and thanks so much.

    I LOVE that Mo Gaba card! I think Scott’s retrospective is going to cost me some more money!

    I had the same thought – “hmm, what other designs do I want to add to the 2 (3?) membership cards I already have while I still can?”

    Man, the Meadowlands midfield logo really hit a note of anti-corporate stadium names in me this morning. You had lots of stadiums in the cookie cutter era that had non corporate names, but I always loved how the Meadowlands had that logo mid field.

    It would be really a nice piece of memorbillia if the “Remembership” card itself was offered for those who want something of the site.

    An “I was there” memento

    Interesting idea! How do you envision this, PK? Like, would it be a standard membership card format, with the member’s name on the front and the Remembership logo on the back? Or just the Remembership logo and blank on the back? Laminated or less formal?

    Basically, just utilizing the lede’s logo that is posted.

    Since its a template and not customized, it should be easier to print out 8 at a time.

    It should appeal to those who may have always wanted a card, just never committed to it.

    Edits:

    “It’s always a challenge to for me and Paul to get it just right.”

    “And for For the Fenway park treatment”

    This is fantastic Scott (and Paul)!

    Definitely a series I’m going to be pumped to see.

    Playing off what PK said above, perhaps “sheets of 8” or something where blocks of cards are available to membership? Maybe posters (or poster-size) prints if people are interested? Or instead of a single “card,” perhaps a full-size (8 x 10ish) print, suitable for framing, could be made available?

    Just tossing that out there…

    I would love a 3″x 5″ sized sticker would be a cool option to include next to my other Uni-Watch stickers, but the sheet of cards would be really neat as well! Something with like 8 favorite designs I could frame and stick beside the wall with my little card banners would be cool!

    Great article and I’m looking forward to all of both of your remembrances about this project! I’ve enjoyed seeing all the creative ideas that have come forth over the years and I can’t say enough about the job you did Scott. I don’t think I knew you didn’t do this on a computer and I’m blown away by that fact.

    Hiya, Memal…I realize I may have misled folks. I do use a computer for the Membership designs. What I meant is that each design is created one-at-a-time, without an auto-generating program. I layout each letter, number, and element manually. I size them and make sure they’re proportionately correct. Paul examines the artwork with a second set of very precise eyes. But for sure I do it all on a computer, using Illustrator and Photoshop.

    This evoked great memories. Back when I was 13 I had the privilege of using gate 3 1/2 at the old barn. Meeting players, and hearing them tell stories really set the foundation for me becoming a Blackhawks fan. I need to order a card!

    I wish I would have thought about getting the MO end zone or Memorial Stadium’s font. Such creative choices.

    Paul, you should have an auction to give people an opportunity to design the very *last” membership card!

    Terrific write-up on a true labo(u)r of love…can’t wait to read more.
    Thanks to Scott for sharing his time and talent with the comm-uni-ty!

    Proud (literal) card-carrying member of Uni Watch! Love scrolling through that membership card Flickr album every so often. Great idea, Scott! Looking forward to next installment of the series.

    A proud card-carrying member here.
    The “problem” with the Flickr album is it is like the Sears Christmas Wish book for me. At the turn of every page is another card I want or another design I wish I thought of.
    I love my Montreal Expos name and number card, it is a beaut!
    Vive les Expos!

    My problem with the Flickr site is there are so many designs that I think look really cool but I don’t know the origin/significance of them.

    Folks used to go in and add comments explaining what they are. I wish it was mandatory that everyone fill out their page!!

    For sure. I’ve added comments to mine as they’ve appeared. The gallery has so many interesting designs that I can’t figure out.

    Scott’s work has always been impressive but looking at these, I find the creativity of the members of the Uni-verse to be equally impressive. The Memorial Stadium “KIMMERLEIN” is brilliant and so well done; the father of a friend of mine growing up worked in the Orioles’ front office and we went to a lot of games at Memorial Stadium (even though we lived 10 minutes from Vet Stadium).
    I remember when I submitted my design for a card and Paul wasn’t sure Scott could do it. He more than did it, he got a very intricate design absolutely spot-on.

    I remember eating a candy called—I believe—“Chix Stix” when I was a kid; these “chicken bones” look very similar. And I loved ‘em; think bite-sized Zagnut bar…

    Paul and Scott–what a great idea! It has always been fun to see what people request, and the true artistic mastery that Scott puts into accomplishing that vision.

    And Scott, I really appreciate the effort that you put into the Memorial Stadium memory-card for me–it is much more than I imagined, and a framed version has hung in my office ever since.

    But more importantly, I really enjoyed just talking when I would stop by EFF occasionally after work.

    In case anyone is wondering about the inspiration for this card, see my small contribution to the site:

    link

    The Memorial Stadium card is definitely my favorite of the designs shown today because I recognized it right away. A company I worked for had season tickets behind home plate in 1990-91 and every now and then I’d get to use them. Going to games at Memorial Stadium was what made me a baseball fan.

    I always love seeing images of the full sheets of membership cards, or just browsing the Flickr gallery. So crisp and clean and colorful. Very satisfying!

    Chicken bones were purportedly invented almost 140 years ago by an American candy-maker working for a Canadian company in St. Stephen, N.B. They’re apparently a seasonal candy in that part of the world and the same company (Ganong) still makes it

    link

    Wonderful, wonderful. This is what makes UW so special and why it is hard to explain to people who are not into sports logos, graphic design, cans and anecdotes related to them. Like 99,99 percent of the people I know (my middle son being the exception). Great work over all these years, dynamic duo!

    Another round of applause to Scott MX Turner for those Uni Watch band t-shirts. Stellar designs and terrific band choices. Got me Public Enemy and Black Flag. Love’em!

    I have three cards and I simply went for my favourite players; Bobby Orr, Ted Williams and Fran Tarkenton. They all turned out great but I do wish that I was as imaginative as many of you have been in your design requests.

    John H…I think every single card request is imaginative. It’s a culmination of everything you dig about players, teams, sports, life.

    My membership card featuring an Auburn basketball jersey never leaves my wallet. Thanks for all the hard work you guys do!!

    I can’t tell you how much I love this! Thanks, Scott, for putting this together!

    I’ve always enjoyed flipping through the membership gallery to see what creative ideas people have come up with for their cards. Seeing them grouped by theme provides a great new way to view them and appreciate the designs. I can’t wait for the next entries in the series!

    Mine is a fairly standard one. Rams Royal/Gold with last name and number. Displayed proudly on my SB trip display.

    This is a wonderful article that suggests that we’re in for a thoughtful series. Kudos and thanks! I’d forgotten about the original lock-in-your-roster-number thing. A good thing it didn’t stick – the oldest page in the gallery makes clear that my favorite number, 24, was claimed quickly. I’ve tried to order a new card every year or two – here’s my first, from August 2007, based on my favorite Negro Leagues throwback link – and now I’m left to ponder what I should do for my last new card under the Lukas regime. I’m a literal card-carrying member, so any new card will be with me on my person for at least a few years before it joins its predecessors in that drawer of wallet ephemera in the bedside table, along with old transit cards and half-filled-in cafe frequent-guest tickets. So it’s a weighty choice! My most recent is based on Clapton CFC’s “No Pasaran” jersey, with just the tiniest bit of purple so it had to be ordered on Purple Amnesty Day. I think all of my most recent have had purple: Clapton CFC third, Hibs away, Forward Madison keeper, 1916 New York Giants road.

    This is going to be great. What I like about the program is that probably about everyone has some story about their card or why they chose what they chose, no matter how small.

    Do many people have two membership cards? I already have a Padres one, and was thinking of getting a Rams one before Paul leaves as well.

    This is great, looking forward to more in this series! Also a bit melancholy, as I’ve been reading for (I think?) most of the 25 years, but have never pulled the trigger on a membership card because there are too many fun options that I’ve considered, and I can’t pick one. I suppose it’s time to buckle down…

    Chris, as someone who just ordered his 4th design (Orioles, Ravens, OCSC and OPaCY) no need to limit yourself.

    Great piece, Scott! Looking forward to future installments, and thank you for the work you’ve put into this. One minor edit: the Cleveland Stadium card in the final group is mine, not Rob Lange’s.

    Great seeing my card also, and learning all the background.

    Hard core ephemera, but the first two floors at Univ of Dayton Arena were synthetic Tartan (poured then rolled, 1969-86). Since the building is half in-ground by the Great Miami River, a wood floor wasn’t implemented until it was practical to pump water away from the foundation almost 24/7.

    The venerable old Tartan subfloor containing mercury remained until a major renovation in 2017, about the time I ordered my membership card for old time’s sake.

    link

    Scott’s work on the membership cards has been nothing short of brilliant. A great idea to feature his process, as he writes as well as he illustrates. Great all around dude, too, I might add.

    Great article today and I look forward to the next! Scott has done a terrific job on all these requests. And since there’s only one more Purple Amnesty Day left it’s high time I start thinking about this year’s card. Hmmm…

    Scott, the work you’ve done on these cards is beyond belief. I am so in awe of your ability to make any card request a reality. I am gobsmacked when I look at your Camden Yards brickwork or the leaves on Wrigley’s outfield wall. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been impressed with your technical prowess on a card but have no idea what it is and I learned so much just through the tour you took us on today’s Places. Seems there’s just nothing you can’t do! I’ve had my Butkus card for years and I still am in awe of the majesty that name and number convey to me. It never gets old. My favorite card will probably always be your Lakers jersey/shorts design with the mismatched purples. Thank you for this new series – I am so looking forward to the stories you’ll tell. Thanks to all the folks out there who can imagine a card design beyond name and number! It’s so fun to see your dreams come true! Thank you Paul, for Uni-Watch – what a difference it’s made in so many lives!

    As a card carrying member, I can say that my membership card is one of my more prized possessions. It’s so meaningful that I will always keep it close to me in my wallet.

    It’s going to be awesome to see other people’s cards knowing that they likely mean as much to them as mine does to me.

    No need to wait. There’s a link to the flickr gallery of all 3,300+ cards in Scott’s introductory paragraphs above. Paul has always provided the link when the topic of membership cards has come up.

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