Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Well, at least it looks good in retrospect...

I'm a uniform junkie.  And nothing comes closer to my heart than throwback uniforms.  Well, except for MLB's Turn Ahead the Clock jerseys.  I may have been the only idiot out there who loved that concept when it actually happened.

But one thing stuck out to me: as pro football teams celebrate their early playing days' heritage, the throwbacks just look...well, plain.  The simplicity of the jerseys contrasts well with the super busy, swooshed and piped and striped jerseys we're so familiar with today.  But what about in their own time?

I've recently been doing some tangential research on Pittsburgh's semi-pro football teams for a book I'm writing.  One thing that struck me as I spent hours pouring over archive images:  for semi-pro and sandlot teams, these guys have nice uniforms.

Here's a card I snagged out of a dime box. Reggie White sports the Packers' throwback uni from the 1994 season.  Nice, sleek uniforms reproducing what I believe is a 1940's Packers design.  Nice, right?

But for a pro football team?  See, in the multi-billion dollar sports world in which we live, it's easy to forget that pro sports weren't always so well off.  Or even in the black some years.

So back to my original point, below ol' Reggie is a photo of the Garfield Eagles, a black Pittsburgh-area semi-pro football team circa the late 1920's.  If you click the photo, you can get a better look at the uniforms.  For the foreground players, the uniforms don't look too dissimilar from the Pack's.  In fact, I kind of like the diamond design a bit better.  If you look at the player in the back right corner, you can see the Eagle logo on the chest of their other jersey design. 

Pretty snazzy, huh?  Though pure speculation in this case, it wouldn't be out of the question for semi-pro teams like the Eagles to draw larger crowds (and thus more gate money) than their professional counterparts in the early 20th century.  The personal and community connections to the team and players often draw large crowds, particularly to see the most talented semi-pro clubs.  You know, back when a backup middle infielder didn't make millions and owners sold their teams for thousands of dollars (assuming the team didn't go bankrupt first), not for billions.

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