The Comrades of Summer: The 1990 Soviet Baseball Team

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[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry from Michael Kimball, who’s going to share a really sensational story about a very unusual uniform. Enjoy. — PL]

By Michael Kimball

Potter County Memorial Stadium, a now-vacated minor league and college ballpark in Amarillo, Texas, was never anyone’s idea of a Cold War showdown site. Fans could gaze beyond the advertisement-studded outfield wall and see a grain elevator in the background. From the top of the stands you could see the nearby stockyards, their omnipresent feedlot aroma mixing with the odors of fresh popcorn and just-mowed grass.

As a six-year-old in 1990, I spent many a summer evening there watching the Amarillo Texans in the now-defunct collegiate Jayhawk League. But July 17 of that year was different. For starters, fans were allowed on the field for handshakes and autographs after the game, which was the most exciting part for me. More notable to my dad and most of the other fans were the Texans’ opponents that night: the USSR National Baseball Team.

After the game, baseball and ballpoint pen in hand, I slipped past the first base dugout toward the players, in search of an autograph. Dad suggested I use a particular word to get the attention of the broad-shouldered, visiting player near the baseline.

“Comrade!”

Spinning around to face me, his attention duly caught just as Dad suggested, was a player on the Soviet Union’s National Baseball Team. In Amarillo, of all places. It was all part of a goodwill tour that the team was on at the time.

The player smiled as I wordlessly handed him the ball, and Dad said a couple of welcoming words he knew in Russian. Splashed across the player’s white pullover jersey were four red letters with gold trim: “CCCP.” Those same letters appeared on his red cap.

I collected four autographs that day. Most of of them were largely indecipherable, but one of them remains legible to this day. It came from a guy named Bunny Mick, an American baseball lifer who was in between stints as a hitting coach with the Cardinals and Astros and had been recruited to coach the Soviet players during this tour. The roster consisted of professional athletes in the Soviet system who were fringe players in other sports. “Good athletes, not yet very good baseball players,” as Dad put it.

The program was essentially started by an American businessman living in Moscow named Rick Spooner. The Soviets sought to build a program to compete in what was then a new Olympic medal sport. Mick and coaches like him brought expertise and equipment to help spread the American national game on the other side of the weakening Iron Curtain. The team that played in Amarillo was part of a U.S. tour before the Goodwill Games in Seattle.

“[Amarillo] was an awesome place for baseball and southern hospitality. It drew their best crowds,” said Bob Protexter, another one of the Soviet team’s coaches, in a recent Facebook Messenger interview. “The Soviets loved Amarillo.” It’s not hard to imagine why. As exotic as real, live Soviets seemed to me at the time, the western wear, Texas accents, cowboy hats, and 72-ounce steaks no doubt seemed just as exotic to a Russian athlete. (You can read more about Protexter’s experience with the Soviets here.)

The baseball product was not quite as sharp as the uniforms, which were made by Russell Athletic and likely picked up when the team arrived in the United States (information is scarce, from what I could find). The Texans scored nine runs in the first inning and cruised to a 13-3 victory, although the Amarillo crowd got behind the visitors and roared with support to reward good play.

More of the same awaited the Soviets at the Goodwill Games, as detailed in this entertaining L.A. Times story. But the Soviets, by all accounts, had a great time, learned the game, and went on to spread it widely. A couple of the players went on to minor league careers in the Angels’ system, and many kept investing time and energy in the Russian baseball program.

This all happened more than 30 years ago, but the memories were brought back to the surface for me when I recently found my autographed baseball in a trunk of keepsakes. That sent me down a rabbit hole to learn more about the Soviet team’s tour, which in turn led me to an eBay listing for an authentic, game-worn “CCCP” coach’s uniform from 1990. (Some of the photos in this entry are from that eBay listing.) This seemed like a great find — not just a legitimately unique and interesting item, but one from a now-defunct country, and that I saw as a kid with my own eyes.

The listed price was a bit high, but the seller immediately accepted my “Best Offer” bid. I was delighted – not only is the uniform itself cool and valuable to me, but the hat and warm-up jacket looked plenty wearable.

I was so excited about this that I told Paul about it. He invited me to write something about the vintage Soviet uniform once I received it from the eBay seller, and I readily agreed. And then … it got lost in the mail.

Yes, really. The seller did everything right – sent it insured with signature confirmation – but it just disappeared. It was last in the USPS tracking system on June 8. Since then, despite a missing mail search on my end and a package intercept on the seller’s end, the parcel remains missing.

Everyone is financially whole because of eBay’s refund policy and the insurance, but a unique and irreplaceable item is apparently gone forever. Very frustrating and disappointing.

Meanwhile, the Russian baseball program continues, although it didn’t attempt to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. And I still have the ball. Thanks, comrades.

Special thanks to Sam Jones, reference librarian at Amarillo Public Library, for locating and providing scans from the July 16-19, 1990, editions of the Amarillo Daily News.

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Uni Watch Screening Room: There’s a new documentary, called The New Bauhaus, about the great Hungarian artist, designer, and educator László Moholy-Nagy, who taught at the Bauhaus in Germany and then founded what’s now known as the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago.

I’ve been a huge fan of Moholy-Nagy’s work since I first encountered it while editing graphic design books about 30 years ago. Much like another one of my favorites, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, Moholy-Nagy leaned heavily on geometry, so that even his abstract art felt more like design. Check this stuff out (for all of these, you can click to enlarge):

Is that awesome stuff or what?

In addition to being a great artist/designer, Moholy-Nagy was a highly influential teacher. He felt that when an artist or other creative person is creating something, what they’re really working on is themself. In other words, personal growth is the true finished product. I like that way of thinking.

Moholy-Nagy is one of those people who make you realize how little you’ve accomplished. He died of leukemia at 51, which means, as the joke goes, that when he was my age, he’d been dead for six years. But the movie includes interviews with one of his daughters, two of his grandsons, and several of his former students, creating a reasonably fleshed-out portrait of a complex character.

You can stream the movie on Google Play for $4.99, which is a bargain. (It’s actually $3.99 for SD, but spend the extra buck for the HD version — it’s worth it.) If you’re already a Moholy-Nagy fan, it’s essential viewing; if you’re not yet a fan, you’ll likely become one after watching this. Don’t miss.

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: The way the “Minnesota” script broke across Twins 3B Josh Donaldson’s jersey yesterday made it look like “Minmesota” (from @MileHighFan29). … The Florence RedWolves of the collegiate wood-bat Coastal Plain League will announce their new name and logo on Saturday (from our own Phil Hecken). … P Wade Davis wore old cleats from his past days with the Royals last night. Davis currently wears No. 71. He previously wore No. 17 with the team (from @shelbyrays). … Here are the championship rings for the Sarasota Circus of the Florida Gulf Coast Softball League (from Griffin Smith).

Football News: New unis for SMU (from multiple readers). … New naming advertiser for the Arizona Bowl (from Trevor Williams).
 

Hockey News: Hockey-themed band and longtime friends of Uni Watch the Zambonis have a new song: “The Gretzky Twist.” … Winners of the WHL’s sweater design contest comment on their work (from Wade Heidt).

Basketball News: New advertised name for the Thunder’s home arena (from multiple readers). … The WNBA released a picture of its new Commissioner’s Cup trophy (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … Reader Scott Rogers’s neighbor made some awesome retro Bucks-themed yard art.

Soccer News: New second kit for Scottish club St. Johnstone (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … New kit for Premier League team Everton (from our own Anthony Emerson).

Olympics News: The Dutch women’s gymnastics team wore leotards with “The Netherlands” in Japanese on them (from @bryanwdc). … Tokyo’s mascots aren’t getting as much exposure as past Olympic mascots. … Here’s why gold medal-winning table tennis player Jun Mizutani of Japan wears sunglasses indoors (from Jeremy Brahm). … This CNN article takes a look at some Olympians’ tattoos (from Timmy Donahue). … Beach volleyball players love that they have options on what to wear during matches (from multiple readers). … The next two items are from Kary Klismet: The head of the Olympic Broadcasting Services is trying to curb the sexualization of female athletes in televised coverage of the Games. … Here’s an article about how women Olympians are taking control of their uniforms.

Grab Bag: New logo and branding for the D3 Northwest Conference. … Campbell’s Soup cans are getting their first redesign in 50 years, although the changes are fairly minor (from Tom Turner). … The Hamilton County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office is wearing new badges to honor victims of 9/11 and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks (from Timmy Donahue). … Pocatello High School in Idaho has a new mascot costume (from Kary Klismet).

Gashouse’s Sports Catalog Collection, Vol. 2: NFL 1971

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A few weeks ago I showed you photos of Kevin “Gashouse” Cearfoss’s 1970 NFL merchandise catalog, the oldest item in his collection of sport merch catalogs. Today we’re going to take a look at the next catalog in his collection — NFL 1971.

Like all of Kevin’s catalogs, this one was intended for retailers looking to stock their stores, not for consumers. The embossed cover is shown above, and here’s the introductory note (“No other spectator sport in history has generated the interest and excitement of professional football!”) and table of contents:

The section dividers featured the now-familiar montage of NFL team wordmarks:

“In-store promotion means profit and prizes!” and “Window displays put team loyalties out front!”:

The 1970 catalog didn’t mention anything about Punt, Pass & Kick, but the ’71 catalog had a page devoted to it. Note that all of the kids are wearing Northwestern-striped socks, and most of them appear to be wearing Adidas footwear:

“Sweet dreams of pajama profits” is my favorite line in the entire catalog. Check this out:

Here are some additional pages from the Apparel section. Note that one of the photos features a Black boy hanging out with two White boys — the first of several Black models who appeared in this catalog. That’s a shift from the 1970 edition, whose models were all White.

Here are some pages from the Toys and Games section, including a two-page spread devoted to Electric Football, which wasn’t mentioned at all in the 1970 catalog:

Moving on, here are some pages from the Novelties and School Supplies section (although, as I’m sure is apparent by now, some designations of which products went in which category seem to have been fairly arbitrary). Note that the left-hand page on the third spread begins with the line “The NFL’s got a brand new bag” — whoa, the NFL quoting James Brown!

And now a few pages from the Specialty Gifts section (again, these category distinctions seem pretty random — I’m not sure what the difference is between a “Novelty” and a “Specialty Gift” — but whatever). In the first spread, left-hand page, check out that poster on the wall behind the director’s chairs, with “the national football league” heading — all-lowercase lettering! Such a period-specific detail.

Here’s an anomaly: One of the spreads in this section featured Bears linebacker Dick Butkus! As far as I can tell, he’s the only player to be shown in any of these catalogs:

Just like the 1970 catalog, the ’71 edition concludes with a page about the NFL Mascot of the Year competition, along with a photo showing the previous year’s winner at the Pro Bowl:

And then there’s a foldout spread showing all of the then-current NFL helmet designs:

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I skipped a few pages that were essentially dupes from the 1970 edition. You can see the entire catalog here.

I’ll be showing more of Kevin’s catalogs in the weeks and months to come.

(My continued thanks to Kevin Cearfoss for sharing his catalog collection with me, and allowing me to share it with you.)

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie
    

Once upon a time, the Arizona Cardinals were in St. Louis. And before that, they were in Chicago. So here’s a 1959 Chicago Cardinals trading card from Topps. Nice design, even if the yellow lettering on the pennant looks a bit misaligned.

Now for the rest of this week’s picks:

• Proving once again that any product can be licensed by the NFL, here we have an empty carton of “Frozen Tundra Chip ice cream,” from Edy’s. This rolled out following their 1997 Supe victory.

• The Seattle Pilots existed for only one season, so you don’t often see much memorabilia from them. But check out this 18″ Pilots medallion/pendant from 1969!

• This 1970s Blatz Beer coaster says “NFC/AFC,” so it could theoretically appeal to every fan.

Luv Ya Blue! Here’s a Houston Oilers bike reflector for young Houston fans and their powder-blue Schwinn 10-speeds.

• Remember the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick (PPK) library? Here’s a set of 16 titles!

• Here’s a 1950s screened white felt Chicago White Sox patch. The seller thinks it might’ve been a Bazooka gum premium.

• Danbury Mint offered this Yankees bullpen buggy model back in 2000.

• Tom “The Bomb” Tracy of the Steelers, Norm Van Brocklin of the Eagles, and Bill George of the Bears recommend “Favorite” chewing tobacco on this reproduction 1950s store display stand. “You Can Taste The Quality!”

• In honor of the Milwaukee Bucks winning their first NBA title since 1971, here’s a Bucks watch from that era, “made in Switzerland for basketball fans of all ages!”

• I think whoever did the layout for this 1979-80 Seattle SuperSonics T-shirt thought, “Let’s jam as much text on this design as we can.”

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Too good for the Ticker: Reader Matthew Houk recently came across a copy of the Feb. 18, 1952, issue of Life magazine, which featured an article on Red Wings goalie Terry Sawchuk, who was then 22 years old. Man, look at that blocker — the waffleboard style didn’t yet exist!

Here are some additional photos from the article:

Love that last photo, including the ref wearing the old-style sweater!

(Big thanks to Matthew Houk for sending these great images my way.)

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball News: Here’s more background on how Cleveland landed on “Guardians” (from John Cerone). … Speaking of Cleveland, friend of the site Todd Radom has some thoughts on the new name and is quoted a fair amount in this article (from Brinke). … Here’s a shirt that pokes fun at the Indians to Guardians name change (from Terry Mark). … Reader BillJ spotted a White Sox fan in an “I Still Call It Comiskey” shirt during Sunday night’s Sox/Brewers broadcast. … The Yankees are holding Syracuse alum night at the Stadium in August and will give away these caps (from @PhillyPartTwo). … A Reds fan has been depicting team greats as comic book covers. Here’s their take on Ted “Big Klu” Kluszewski (from @BannedUser001). … Seen at the Peshtigo Fire Museum in Wisconsin: vintage baseball uniforms worn by teams in the area through the years (from Jason Collins). … Looks like Phillies P Archie Bradley was wearing one of teammate Bryce Harper’s belts (from Kyle DeLash).

NFL News: The Broncos have unveiled their 2021 uniform schedule. They’ll wear their blue jerseys twice and their Color Rash getup once (from Wade Heidt). … Here’s what the Superdome will look like with its corporate-name ad signs (from Dan Kennedy). … KC team execs say they have no plans to change their team name but will stop running “Warpaint”, a Native American-themed horse, before games this season (from Brinke). … Also from Brinke: The NFL Players Association is opposed to the use of colored wristbands to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated players on the practice field. … Browns LT Jed Wills shared a good side-by-side comparison of the team’s home and throwback uniforms (from Griffin T. Smith). … Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has inked an exclusive memorabilia deal with Fanatics.

College Football News: If this retail posting is to be believed, this will be the “Shamrock Series” jersey that Notre Dame will be wearing against Wisconsin when they face off at Soldier Field in Chicago in September (from Jeff Cox). … NC State will wear a new helmet design featuring a throwback logo for their season opener (from Kary Klismet). … Mizzou players have apparently leaked the team’s new uniform design (thanks to all who shared). … New uniforms for Towson (from Ben Rosenbaum). … Here’s more on Texas’ new FieldTurf (from James Gilbert). … The Pac-12 has sold its championship game’s naming rights to a beef jerky brand (from Timmy Donahue). … New front bumper design for BYU.

Hockey News: Can’t get enough of this video, which features a bunch of vintage goalie mask designs (from Moe Khan).

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Basketball News: The Pelicans’ new GD-League team in Birmingham will be known as the Squadron, which, aside from the military connotation, is also the collective name for a group of pelicans (from Griffin T. Smith). … The Pac-12 has sold the naming rights for its 2022 basketball tourney to a beef jerky brand (from Timmy Donahue).

Soccer News: The Athletic (hard paywall) continued its “football kit week” by having writers share their all-time favorite uniforms (from John Flory). … Crystal Palace has unveiled their new third jersey for next season. The design draws from a previous Crystal Palace club that was founded in 1861. The club says the design is the first shirt the old Palace club ever wore, but as Jamie Rathjen points out, there’s no evidence that the pattern was actually used (also from @CrystalPalaceDC). … New jerseys for second-tier South African side Royal AM Football Club (from Kary Klismet). … FC Dynamo Kyiv teased new uniforms yesterday (from Ed Żelaski). … New jerseys for English fifth-tier club FC Halifax Town (from Neil Barraclough). … New second shirt for Scottish club Aberdeen. “I absolutely do not mind that it’s blue and orange,” says our own Jamie Rathjen.

Olympics NewsGreat Britain women’s field hockey captain Hollie Pearne-Webb wore a rainbow captain’s sock-band the other day (from Jamie Rathjen). … Jeremy Brahm came across the IOC branding guidelines and the volleyball uniform guidelines for the Tokyo Olympics. … The New York Times published a piece about First Lady Jill Biden’s apparel during her trip to the Games (from Tom Turner). … An American competing in air rifle is breaking one of the sport’s biggest taboos by eating candy before she competes (WSJ link, hard paywall) (from Trevor Williams). … Timmy Donahue notes that all four members of the U.S. 3×3 women’s basketball team had the waistbands of their shorts rolled during a recent competition.

Grab Bag: New 75th-anniversary logo for U. of Houston Athletics (from Robert Malvaez). … Arlington County, Va., has released several new potential logo designs (from Dave Raglin). … Rob St. Clair put together a ranking of his favorite uniforms from the recent Volleyball Nations League. … Next two submissions are from Kary Klismet: New team name and logo for Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School in Mississippi. … Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton wore a new helmet at last weekend’s British Grand Prix. … More racing: David Firestone notes that the NHRA Sonoma Nationals take place at Sonoma Raceway, which is both a road course and a drag strip. Not only that, but the drag strip is located in the center of the NASCAR restart zone. … NCAA D-II school Missouri Western State has a cool Easter egg hidden in its Griffon logo — its wings resemble Missouri’s eastern border (from Tim Burgess). … The Wall Street Journal (hard paywall) has a feature about a guy who invented a new shade of purple for his low-rider truck (from Trevor Williams). … BBC has a podcast episode about the history and impact of the high-vis safety vest. … Speaking of high-vis, here are some statistics about the safety vests (from James Gilbert). …. Which defunct pro sports teams had the best uniforms? This blog investigates (from Brinke). … Clint Richardson over at Auburn Uniform Database investigates whether the Tigers should seek a new apparel deal in light of Under Armour’s financial difficulties in recent years. … Two police officers in famously conservative Orange County, Cal., wore rainbow Pride badges in June (from @CantankerousRex). … In other law enforcement news, the police department in Saint John, NB, Canada, is asking officers not to wear “Thin Blue Line” apparel (from Timmy Donahue).

Assessing Cleveland’s Big Uni Weekend

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As you probably know by now, there was a lot of Cleveland-related uni news over the past few days, as the Cleveland MLB team announced its new “Guardians” identity and the Browns finally unveiled their 1946 throwbacks (part of their 75th-anniversary celebration). Before I get to my own thoughts on those developments, let’s have a standing O for Phil, who provided great coverage over the weekend. If you haven’t already read his stories on the Guardians and Browns, I strongly urge you to do so.

As for me: Let’s start with the Browns, since that’s a fairly straightforward situation. Just to refresh your memory, here’s a look at the design:

As Phil did a good job of explaining, this isn’t a true 1946 throwback, because the one-shell rule makes it impossible for them to use the era-appropriate white helmet. So instead they’ve added TV numbers and a white stripe to their standard orange shell, mimicking the look they had in the late 1950s.

While the resulting uni may be more fauxback than throwback, it still looks great. I love the helmet, the block-shadowed jersey numbers, and the sleeve/sock stripes. My only gripe: The “1946” jersey patch seems really cheesy to me. I mean, imagine if every throwback uni had a patch indicating its year of origin — lame-o. And the matching “1946” decal on the back of the helmet isn’t even accurate, since that helmet design didn’t yet exist in ’46.

Those are minor quibbles, though. Overall, this gets a big thumbs-up from me.

Okay, now let’s talk about the Guardians, going one element at a time:

The Name
Ever since the team announced that it would be changing its identity, people have been asking me what I think the new name should be. My answer has been the same all along: “I have no dog in this fight. As long as they move away from the Native American theme, it’s an upgrade.” And that’s still what I think — “Guardians” is way, way better than “Indians.” (And yes, they both end in “dians,” which was no doubt a factor in the final choice.)

As you’ve probably heard by now, the new name is based on the city’s “Guardians of Traffic” statues (you can learn a lot more about them here). That’s a very local reference — I’ve been to Cleveland at least half a dozen times but was not even aware of the statues’ existence until the name change was announced on Friday, and I get the feeling that I’m not alone in that regard — which makes this feel very much like a City or City Connect approach. Similarly, the party line throughout the team’s messaging about the new identity has been “It’s the first name that counts; Cleveland, that’s what counts.” Again, that feels very City Connect to me. That’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing — it’s just the vibe I get from the name, its inspiration, and how they’re framing it.

I do worry a bit that “Guardians” lends itself to all sorts of comic book/superhero nonsense, but let’s see how they leverage the name in the months and years to come. Any way you slice it, it’s better than the old name, and the local Indigenous community seems pleased with it. I’m happy for them.

(As an aside: “Cleveland Guardians” is also the trademarked name of a men’s roller derby team. The MLB team definitely knows about them and has been in touch. More details in this Twitter thread.)

The Colors
Given how many other teams out there use red and blue, I was wondering if they might use the new identity as an opportunity to stake out some new chromatic territory. But that would probably be too jarring a change for the fan base, so I understand why the team has chosen to stick with the existing color scheme. Sensible, if a bit conservative.

The Script
I hate the script. H-a-t-e the script. It’s all sharp corners and clunky angles. In this regard, it reminds me so much of the Milwaukee Bucks’ “Cream City” script from a few years ago (which itself was clearly based on the Milwaukee Tools logo), except the Guardians script feels more ham-handed, sort of like a Flintstones version of the Bucks script:


The use of corners instead of curvatures is apparently supposed to evoke a chiseled-in-stone effect, because the Guardians of Traffic are made of stone. In any case, the resulting script feels both brutal and Brutalist — no elegance, no flow.

The “Winged Baseball” Logo
This logo, which will be used as a sleeve patch and maybe as an alternate cap logo, feels very, very minor league to me — although with a few tweaks it could look Major League:

Sort of bizarre that the stitches on the new logo are oriented almost exactly the same as the stitches on the Major League logo, no?

More importantly: It seems odd that this “G” doesn’t match the one in the script.

The Wordmark and “C” Logo

Again, this feels very Flintstones to me: clunky, uneven, unpleasant to process with the eye. The standalone “C,” which will be used as a cap logo, is a particular disappointment — after the boring block-C, I figured they’d go for something with a lot more character. Also, the standalone “C” doesn’t match the one in the wordmark (are you sensing a pattern here?).

The font is called “Bridge Print” — again, an apparent reference to chiseled letters in the bridge where the Guardians of Traffic stand sentinel. This is the same mistake the Tennessee Titans made with their chiseled-font uni numbers — type that looks like it’s chiseled into stone might make for good “storytelling,” but doesn’t read well on a uniform.

Speaking of the uniforms, the team has released these mock-ups:

I’ll say this much: Most of the graphics look better on those mock-ups than they do on their own, although the overall effect is still pretty underwhelming. I’ll reserve further judgment until we see the full uniform set in real life.

To longtime Indians fans: I realize that this is hard for you. I totally get the emotional connection that forms between fans and their favorite team’s visual identity — hell, that connection is a big part of why Uni Watch exists — so I understand that you may be mourning a bit about the name change, even if you were in favor of it happening. Please accept my condolences — I feel for you.

(My thanks to Twitter-er Brian Chesnick for the ‘Major League’ joke and mock-up, and to Rick Moreno for pointing me toward the roller derby thread.)

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“When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”: On Friday we drove up to western Massachusetts, where we saw some music and spent the night with Mary’s brother and his family. The next day we drove southwest to the Hudson Valley, where we met up with friends and spent the night near Kingston, N.Y. Along the way, we passed the town of Rock City, N.Y., where there’s a fork in the road — two of them, in fact.

The forks are at the intersection of Routes 199 and 308. The two roads split around a grassy triangle of land, where a local artist named Stephen Schreiber erected a 31-foot-high fork in 2000. The sculpture is locally famous and has been featured in various road guides, but we had no idea it was there until we drove by it. Seemed worth a stop, so we pulled over and took a few pics:

As we were getting set to move on, we noticed another piece of playful art (by the same artist, I’m pretty sure:

After being stuck at home for so long during the pandemic, it’s great to see roadside attractions like these. Looking forward to more of the same next month, when we have a nine-day road trip planned.

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LAST CALL for the new cap: I’ll be putting this cap concept into production with Ebbets Field Flannels in the next day or two. I’ll be ordering enough for readers who’ve expressed interest, plus a few extras — but not many extras. So if you want in on this cap, you must tell me now.

If you emailed me to say you’d be willing to purchase this cap, I will soon be getting in touch to ask you to pre-order and confirm your size.

If you missed my previous posts about this cap concept, here are the details:

• This will be an eight-panel cap (not the more common six-panel) with green piping as shown in the mock-up.

• Just like the Classic Cap, this one will be 100% wool and made in the USA by Ebbets.

• That green brim is a Kelly green. As I recently explained, Ebbets no longer has the shade of green we were using for the Classic Cap. I don’t want to do a solid-Kelly cap, but I think the combination of Kelly, grey, and piping works really well.

• Speaking of the brim: The photo that I used for the mock-up showed a cap with a short, soft visor. But the real-world cap will have a conventional-length stiff visor.

• No visible maker’s mark, of course.

• It should be available to ship around the end of September.

• Based on the quote Ebbets has given me, the price will be $43 plus $6 shipping.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering this cap based on the info I’ve just provided, please send me a note indicating that you’d be on board. If you want to list your preferred fitted size, that would also be helpful. I’ll be back in touch soon to arrange your pre-order payment. Thanks!

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The Ticker
By Jamie Rathjen

Baseball News: The Orioles usually wear black jerseys only on Fridays but have now worn them for three games in a row (from multiple readers). … Reader Darick Sears sent us a picture for the Ticker item yesterday of Bally Sports Wisconsin using the new Guardians logo in its graphics, which didn’t have a picture. … Double-A Harrisburg Senators manager Tripp Keister was ejected for removing his cap and jersey during an argument (from Max Weintraub). … The Single-A Lansing Lugnuts are doing a promotion for Tool Time, the show-within-a-show on the sitcom Home Improvement.

Football News: The Buccaneers are planning to use colored wristbands during practices to distinguish between players who are and aren’t vaccinated (thanks, Brinke). … South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium has a new banner that clearly uses the wrong shade of garnet, and the school admitted as such (from David Sharples).

Hockey News: The KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk have new jerseys (from Conan Smeeth).
 
 

Basketball News: Ohio 1804, a team in The Tournament, comprised of former Ohio University players, has interesting Ohio-themed uniforms (from @TreeWeezel).

Soccer News: On Friday, Germany’s 2. Bundesliga’s Schalke 04 wore black armbands for the victims of the recent German floods (from my brother Nate Rathjen). … New second shirt for Portugal’s Sporting CP. … Scotland’s women’s team are to start playing all their games at the men’s home of Hampden Park in Glasgow. … Kansas City NWSL goalie Katelyn Rowland was traded to the team from North Carolina last week and kept her No. 0, remaining one of the few pro players to wear it. Kansas City also has a No. 99, midfielder Victoria Pickett, and not only does KC now have both 0 and 99, Rowland was previously sometimes listed as No. 99 on scoring apps and websites like ESPN that can’t display somebody wearing No. 0. Now that Rowland’s at Kansas City, ESPN duly switched her to No. 98.

Olympics News: The U.S. women’s 3×3 basketball team wear a grey version of the other basketball teams’ white uniform, but have the same blue one. … Members of the Great Britain soccer team have been kneeling before matches and getting their opponents to join in, and yesterday the women’s field hockey team also did so and got Germany to join them. … It wasn’t just Uni Watch readers who pointed out that France’s men’s basketball team wears the Jordan logo but the U.S. teams don’t (from Chris Mycoskie). … At least some of the teams participating in the first games of the rugby sevens tournaments have numbers on the front of their shirts, which is unusual in sevens (from @Stumpy7780). … The Mongolian 3×3 basketball team appears to have a cover-up patch over its maker’s mark (from @flowfloxflow).

Grab Bag: Here is an overview of the shirts for The Hundred, a new English men’s and women’s cricket competition that started last week using an also new short-form 100-ball format. … New pandemic surges are slowing down production in Nike’s and Adidas’s Asian factories.

Browns Unveil 1946 ‘Throwback’ Uniforms

By Phil Hecken

Good Sunday morning, Uni Watchers. Hope you all had a good Saturday.

After Friday’s plethora of uni news, as you’re all likely aware, very early yesterday morning the Cleveland Browns released their 75th Anniversary uniforms. While these were mentioned in yesterday’s post, I promised the rundown on those uniforms today.

Unfortunately, due to the leak (which Paul covered way back in March), the jersey design unveiling was one of the worst kept secrets ever. We all knew what was coming — the only details we didn’t know were what pants the team would pair the jersey with, and what kind of helmet the team would use. Both of those questions have now been answered.

Before we look at the “throwback” uniforms — I put that in quotes because, unfortunately as we’ll see, it’s actually more of a fauxback/mashup than a true throwback — let’s take a look at the uniform worn by the 1946 Cleveland Browns.

As you can see, back in their inaugural season of 1946 (in the All-America Football Conference), the team wore a jersey very similar to the one they will don in several special anniversary games this year. Obviously, the sleeves were longer, but the classic striping pattern of brown/orange/brown/orange/brown was present back then. Pants were white with an orange/brown/orange stripe, and the team wore plain white (leather) helmets. Here’s some photos from that season:

The numbers on the jersey were standard block, rendered in brown, with a pronounced orange blockshadow. Here’s a great graphic from the Gridiron Uniform Database. In case you weren’t aware, those orange blockshadow numbers were a one-year wonder, as the team went to one-color numbers beginning in 1947. We’ll be referring back to that page in a minute or so.

So…that’s what the original 1946 uniform looked like. How’d the Browns do?

Let’s discount the helmet for a second. As you can see, despite the modern tailoring, the jersey fairly well represents that which was worn in 1946. It’s got the brown numbers with orange blockshadow, and the brown/orange/brown/orange/brown “sleeve” (cap) stripes. Obviously, there were no makers marks in 1946, but neither the 1946 nor the 2021 “throwback” jersey have TV numbers. The obvious signifier that this is a retro jersey can be found in the form of a football-shaped patch with the date “1946” emblazoned in brown on it (really, a football shaped patch?).

Obviously there were no NOBs in 1946, but as they are a requirement now, the new retro jersey has them. The rear numbers, like their original predecessors, also feature block brown numbers with orange blockshadow.

And the pants? Not much has changed between 1946 and today’s look, and the team nailed the orange/brown/orange stripe, as well as the five-striped socks, which mimic the pattern found on the sleeve caps.

OK, now let’s get to that orange helmet. As we’ve seen, in 1946 the team wore a plain white helmet (leather and without any kind of face protection), but due to the still-in-effect “one shell” rule, we know the team can’t (yet) have a helmet in any other color but the current orange. While this gives them some “leeway,” nothing they could wear would make this a true “throwback” look — at least not until 2022, should they continue to wear these (and could go with white shells). However, rather than going with a plain orange helmet (and simply removing the brown/white/brown striping from the current helmet), instead the team has done something intersting.

They took the orange shell, and added a single white stripe as well as TV numbers, and a gray facemask, producing this look:

Note the nose bumper is blank — the current helmets have brown masks and the nose bumper says BROWNS (as does the neck bumper). The “throwback” helmet has a blank neck bumper, and will feature a small, football-shaped decal (the same design as the patch on the left breast of the jersey) reading “1946.”

So why the decision to use a white stripe and TV numbers? Well, the team did wear a helmet in that style from 1957-1959.

That’s an interesting choice. For those not familiar, while the team has never reached, let alone won a Supe, they were a very successful franchise from their inception through the mid-1960s. They won four AAFC championships (1946, 1947, 1948 & 1949), and after that league folded following the 1949 season, the team joined the NFL, and immediately won the NFL championship in 1950. They were also NFL champs in 1954, 1955 and 1964. If you refer back to that GUD page, you’ll see the team added a white stripe to the helmet in 1952 (but not TV numbers), and added TV numbers in 1957. So the helmet they’re wearing with this uniform is not in the same style as any of their AAFC or NFL title seasons. Obviously they can’t go with a “straight” throwback plain white helmet, but they’ve chosen to mash up the 1946 uniform with the 1957-59 helmet.

The team will wear the fauxback uniform three times this season, but haven’t announced which dates they will be worn.

Like many of you, I’m a big fan of throwbacks and (usually) fauxbacks, and I love these. Considering the one-shell constraint, I have no problem with their choice of helmet (though I’m surprised they didn’t go with just a plain orange shell). If you didn’t read the team’s release (posted yesterday), here it is again, where they explain (sometimes in cringe-worthy detail) the uniform, and the helmet choice.

I’m looking forward to seeing these on the field this fall, whenever that may be.

Your thoughts?

Men’s Olympic Soccer Kit Review

In case you missed it, my “soccer guys” Kyle Evans and CJ Fleck provided us with a p/review of the Women’s Olympic Soccer kits yesterday (scroll down) and today they’re both back to bring us up to speed on the kits for the men’s teams. Rather than a kit-by-kit review, the lads have looked at the first games played by all the teams and their hot takes are below.

• • • • •

Men’s Olympic Soccer Kit Review
by Kyle Evans and CJ Fleck

Thanks Phil! We’re back today with the men’s soccer tournament in Tokyo and we’ll take a look at what teams have worn so far. Keep in mind that this is mostly a youth tournament and that there are 16 teams in the men’s event as opposed to 12 in the women’s.

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Group A

Mexico vs. France

Mexico actually unveiled new green uniforms before the tournament with a geometric pattern paired with red shorts. (At the current Gold Cup they’ve been wearing maroon/black and all-white.) France retains their options from the Euros and in this match countered with their all-white with red/blue side stripes.

Kyle: Mexico should always have green in its rotation and this particular pattern just feels so right for them.

CJ: Not sure I’m a fan of the pattern, but it could be much worse.

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Japan vs. South Africa

Japan’s primary look is the same as the women with an artistic jersey pattern while South Africa wore a new yellow over green kit.

Kyle: Still not sold on Japan’s look and it looks like South Africa could clean up those side panels.

CJ: Between the socks, shorts, and side panels, I’m not impressed.

__________

Group B

New Zealand vs. South Korea

As usual, New Zealand has all-white and all-black options with the white jersey having a side stripe made up of black triangles. South Korea wore their primary red gradient with a wavy geometric pattern and has a zebra-style secondary as well.

Kyle: South Korea is the eye-grabber here and I’m going to chalk this one up as a nice-looking gradient design!

CJ: The trend continues, and I still don’t like it, with apologies to Kyle.

__________

Honduras vs. Romania

Honduras have their all-white or all-blue options but without their large “H” federation logo as that isn’t allowed in the Olympics. Romania have all-blue and all-white kits made specifically for this tournament that feature an outline of the Olympic flame.

Kyle: Romania haven’t qualified for this tournament since the last time it was in Tokyo (1964) so why not embrace it? I like the flame outline for the special occasion.

CJ: It’s certainly an interesting choice, but is it a good choice? I’m not sold.

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Group C

Spain vs. Egypt

Spain kept their options from the recent Euros (all-white and red over navy) while Egypt opened by wearing red over black.

Kyle: Still not a fan of Spain’s options (good colors but unnecessary designs) but I do like Egypt’s simple look.

CJ: Simple in the Olympics is good.

__________

Argentina vs. Australia

Argentina continue to wear the latest version of their classic sky blue and white vertical stripes jersey, this time with a camouflage-like pattern inside the sky blue stripes with the shapes of Argentina’s regions. Australia matches the women (and most of their other sports and athletes in Tokyo) with an all-green (or all-yellow) kit with contrasting top diagonal panel and side panels.

Kyle: Whether the shorts are white or black you know it’s Argentina and I kind of like that Australia has a consistent look across most Olympic sports.

CJ: Both sides here are recognizable, but just a bit too different from their usual looks. I appreciate the effort.

__________

Group D

Brazil vs. Germany

Brazil has their classic looks as usual – yellow with green accents over blue and blue over white. Germany retains their Euro looks (minus not allowed Adidas striping) of all-black and white with thin black horizontal stripes over black.

Kyle: The Brazilians always look great and I know CJ prefers a green secondary for the Germans.

CJ: Strange how much better that kit looks without the adidas stripes!

__________

Ivory Coast vs. Saudi Arabia

Ivory Coast wore an all-orange kit and Saudi Arabia countered with white over green with a sublimated palm tree leaves design (based on their national emblem). This design is much more visible on their secondary option.

Kyle: Love the palm tree leaves design and when countries make connections to national elements.

CJ: Gotta second Kyle here, though the mix of colors on the side striping is throwing me off as well.

• • • • •

Thanks, fellas! Everyone please give the boys a nice virtual hand for all their soccer kit previews and reviews so far this year. Look for them to be back soon!

The Other Boys of Summer…

If you’re anywhere near Detroit this coming week, I want to bring your attention to an event you won’t want to miss: the free screening of the film The Other Boys of Summer, which was created by filmmaker (and my friend) Lauren Meyer, and which is a documentary, with many interviews focusing on the trials and tribulations of many Negro Leagues ballplayers (sadly, a number of the interviewees have since passed, but Lauren was able to capture their stories and memories before they departed). She spent years gathering these. It’s a wonderful film, which I saw in late January of 2020, just before the pandemic really struck the United States. It’s all part of the Detroit Tigers “Negro Leagues Weekend” (which is a fantastic experience), and the film debuts Wednesday evening, July 28th. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity and can catch this showing, I urge you to do so!

I asked Lauren to share some more information on the event:

The Tigers are kicking off their 18th Annual Negro Leagues Weekend with a free outdoor public screening of The Other Boys of Summer at Campus Martius Park on July 28th. The Detroit Stars were one of the original 8 teams in the Negro National League in 1920. The Tigers will don Negro Leagues throwbacks as they host the Orioles for the weekend.

Through the lens of America’s pastime The Other Boys of Summer draws from our past to shine the spotlight on issues that dominate today’s headlines. It explores civil rights through the lives of the Negro Leagues baseball players. The film’s narrated by the iconic Cicely Tyson and includes never-before-seen interviews with the civil rights trailblazers who played alongside of Jackie Robinson and changed baseball and America forever.

Following the film Bally Sports Reporter Trevor Thompson will host a panel discussion with Filmmaker, Lauren Meyer (Emmy Nominated Director), Pedro Sierra (Detroit Stars Pitcher) and Craig Monroe (former Detroit Tiger).

The Other Boys of Summer is proving valuable to companies, communities, schools and organizations as an original Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program. It creates a space where people come together (virtually and in person) and engage in courageous conversations around race and cultural bias. Following a program at AT&T in 2020 an attendee was so touched by Bob Scott (NY Black Yankees) that when the pandemic struck, she had groceries delivered to him and his wife, for 6 months! She sent so many groceries that Bob and Mae shared them with their entire block. This act of kindness not only fed families, but potentially saved seniors from risking their health going to the store.

For more information visit www.theotherboysofsummer.com and BallySports.com Or email: TheOtherBoysofSummer@gmail.com

Thanks (and thanks, Lauren!). Do yourself a favor if you have the chance and check this wonderful film out!

Guess The Game…

from the scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from Bob Kazamakis.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.

Bear Trap…er Keeper

Got the following e-mail from reader Alan Filipczak that needs to be shared with the readership:

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Hi Phil,

I hope this finds you well. I came across this weird connection by chance and thought it would be good to share with the Uni Verse to get some second opinions.

For kids of my generation, the Mead Trapper Keeper was an essential back-to-school item. In a recent fit of nostalgia, I was looking at some of the old designs, especially their series that depicted intense animals playing sports in a very 90s Xtreme sort of way. Examples here and here. While scrolling through some of these, one particular binder caught my eye. It was a grizzly bear hurling a baseball that was torn by claw marks. Here it is:

As soon as I saw this, I was like “Wow! That really looks like the old Fresno Grizzlies logo.” The logo I was thinking of was used by the minor league team from their first season in the Pacific Coast League in 1998 through the 2001 season. Here’s that logo.

When I checked the logo, I thought it was just a coincidence. The eyes and teeth are different, the ball is very different, the logo bear wears a cap, etc. But then again…there’s something uncanny about the proportions and the pose of the bear, not to mention the similar overall concept of a grizzly bear pitching with a ripped baseball in the foreground. Looking at the big picture, that old Grizzlies logo was very unique at the time when most minor league logos were either 2D cartoons or very basic clipart designs. If nothing else, it was an inspired concept for the new ballclub. Or did the original inspiration come from elsewhere?

I did a little more digging and found a print version of the Grizzlies logo from 1999 and now I am mostly convinced that a graphic designer in Fresno copied a 1991 Trapper Keeper design, slapped a cap on the bear and tweaked a few other grizzly details. Here’s a side-by-side.

So what do you think? Am I seeing things that aren’t there or is there some deeper cons-bear-acy going on?

Many thanks as always!

Alan

__________

What say you readers?


Looking Ahead…

As the calendar nears the month of August, you’re probably all aware that Paul will be taking his annual sabbatical from the blog, leaving me in charge of the weekdays.

And as always, I can’t get through the whole month without a little help from the readers, so I’m putting out the call once again.

I’ve actually got enough stuff for a few “Olympics” posts, but I’m still looking for General Interest articles. If you’d like to propose and submit an article of interest to the Uni Watch readership — I’m all ears! Every summer you guys come through with some amazing research, concepts and other fantastic uniform-related materials, and I’ll be happy to feature your work on here again during the month.

So, if you’re interested in contributing something Olympics or uniform-related, please Shoot me an e-mail (Phil.Hecken@gmail.com) and let’s discuss! Looking forward to seeing what you guys have in store for 2021!

Uni Watch News Ticker
By Phil

Baseball News: No photo, unfortunately, but Geoff Poole noted, “The Brewers (we)re playing the White Sox on Bally Sports Wisconsin and the AL Central standings were shown briefly in the top of the 3rd. The logo for Cleveland had already been updated to the new Guardians name, even though the change doesn’t take effect until after the season.” If anyone happened to screenshot that, could you post it below? … United States Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi rang a cowbell on the Senate floor last week to celebrate Mississippi State University’s College World Series championship (from Kary Klismet). … Check out this vintage circa 1915 baseball photo with a mystery attached (from Jason Brown). … Check out this gorgeous photo of Casey Stengel managing his last ever MLB game, with the 1965 Mets (from SABR Bio Project). … Marcus Hall brings up an excellent point about uni aesthetics when teams wear belted throwback pants. … Scotty Rogers is either conspiracy theorist — or onto something — about the Cleveland team purposely obscuring the “IN” of “Indians” in a cover photo shoot. … The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs became the Lagers last night (from MiLB Promos).

Football News: In addition to their 1946-era uniforms, the Cleveland Browns will also have throwback endzones to commemorate the 75th anniversary of their inaugural season (from Kary Klismet). … Colorado State has unveiled new helmets for its annual Ag Day game (also from Kary).

Hockey News: Here is a teaser of the new jersey for the Cape Breton Eagles. The team’s 25th anniversary patch is on the shoulder and jersey striping appears to be a throwback nod to older uniforms worn by the Eagles (from Wade Heidt). … The former mascot of the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans is trying to recover his championship ring from the Amerks’ 1996 AHL title-winning season, which was stolen and has since shown up on eBay (from Kary Klismet). … Looks like some minor logo updating on the Flames jersey as seen at the draft (from Wade Heidt).

NBA/College/Hoops News: This article looks at the uniforms being worn by Ohio State’s alumni team, Carmen’s Crew, for The Basketball Tournament (from Kary Klismet). … Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell is auctioning off hundreds of items of memorabilia from his basketball career, including his 1957 and 1969 NBA championship rings (Kary, again). … And here I thought all those phantom championship jerseys ended up in a random needy nation (good spot by Steve Sher).

Soccer News: The Athletic has a (paywalled) article examining the best uniforms in the history of the Premier League’s Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. (from Kary Klismet). … Bayern Munich has released its new kits for the 2021-22 season (from Kary, once agin).

Olympics News: Interested in a photo retrospective on Olympic mascots through the years? The Chicago Tribune has you covered (from Kary Klismet). … Mexico had an unfortunate uniform mistake on the jersey of midfielder Erick Aguirre, whose shirt displayed the Mexican flag upside-down. … This article decides who has the most stylish national team “kits” from Tokyo 2020. … Shockingly, people aren’t too crazy about having Ralph Lauren continue to design the USA Opening Ceremonies outfits. … The First Lady doesn’t seem to mind wearing “team USA” uniform at the Olympics. … Dakota Bryan Hill asks, “Any idea why the USA Women’s Beach Volleyball Team uniforms have two different sponsors? One player is wearing Adidas while the other is wearing Mizuno.” (I think he means manufacturers, not sponsors) Throck seems to have the answer. … Jeremy Brahm says if you look closely at the scoreboard in badminton and you will see the shuttlecock to show the server. … Speaking of badminton, apparently the USA doesn’t wear red, white and blue? (from Brevity Wit). … In the Olympics opening ceremony, Mike Tirico mentioned on the broadcast that the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were the first to use pictograms because of the language barrier (the first games in Asia). Here is an article on that (from Matthew Wolfram).

Grab Bag: New uniforms for the Rockingham County (N.H.) Sheriff’s Department (from Kary Klismet). … Check out this beautiful Rhode Island logo creation from the great Kevin Cearfoss).

Uni Tweet of the Day

This probably isn’t a big deal to most folks, but I grew up less than two miles away from this spot. Trust me, it doesn’t look like that anymore…

And finally… that’s it for me for today…and this week…and this month. Next Saturday is still July (7/31), but Paul will be handling the content that day, and I begin my weekday August run on Monday, August 2. If you’ve got a story or idea you’d like to see tackled in August, give me a shout (see the “Help Wanted” graphic above for more info). Big thanks (again) to Kyle and CJ for that look at the Men’s Olympic soccer kits.

Once again, too cloudy for a sunset yesterday (after another spectacularly gorgeous day), so we’re going photoless.

You guys have a good Sunday and rest of the week, and I’ll catch you here on Monday, August 2.

Peace,

PH