By Morris Levin
The Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co. in 2014 is the official licensee of NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB authentic reproduction jerseys. Mitchell & Ness was solely an MLB licensee from 1985 to 1998. Last Friday I wrote on this page, “The 1990 Mitchell & Ness catalog” about the company’s beautifully designed and printed first catalog.
In the comments section of last Friday’s post, a few folks lamented a decline in the company’s attention to historic detail and asked that I speak to the company’s evolution.
Steve D wrote in praise of his 1969 Mets home jersey purchased approximately ten years ago but added, “That said, I would hate myself for not bringing to light what many of you know”¦the current M&N line is so inauthentic, … Many Yankee jerseys have inaccuracies from poor number fonts to inaccurate NY logo.” A few minutes later, HextallRules wrote of his disappointment with a Mitchell & Ness line of Flyers jerseys. Mike Wissman wrote,
Morris, to Steve D’s point, could you provide an overview of what has gone wrong at M&N since the early days? The quality control around what’s touted as authentic is appalling, especially given the roots of the company focused on a level of accuracy and detail that was unparalleled. … I think many of us would value and appreciate your inside perspective.
Much has gone right at Mitchell & Ness since the early days. The company does continue to make many outstanding historically loyal reproductions. (I like this Mitchell & Ness 1983 Phillies road Gary Mathews jersey. It has the proper metal [not plastic] zipper. It has vertical arch name on back on nameplate. It is a solid reproduction.)
What has gone right at Mitchell & Ness is that we now in 2014 have a professional sports world rich with historic uniform consciousness. Throwbacks are sports world mainstream. We now have so many resources that we can identify with even greater precision and certainty what is and is not historically accurate.
What has significantly changed in the company’s growth in the past fifteen years is the loss in the company’s the capacity to make as many adjustments incrementally over a long period of time to improve its accuracy.
I have long been fascinated with Mitchell & Ness as a company in that it was at one and the same time an organization with a social history research mission, the accurate reproduction of historic game jerseys, and a business goal, the generation of revenues in excess of expenditures to enable the ongoing research, production, and distribution of historic jerseys.
In service of the former, Mitchell & Ness in the 1980s and 1990s invested an inordinate number of work-hours researching nearly every baseball uniform in Major League Baseball between 1890 and 1973.
Some of the best research came from the customers who wrote long letters to Mitchell & Ness with copies of newspaper articles and photographs documenting their research and conclusions. There were pictures of game worn uniforms with rulers and yardsticks laid across the torso or sleeve, across patches, and down numbers.
Many of these came in response to Mitchell & Ness selling jerseys with inaccuracies. As Mitchell & Ness received these letters, and pictures, the company tweaked patterns and logos with its suppliers. This was the feedback and correction loop, enabled by the economics of producing jerseys and jackets one and six at a time. These small orders enabled Mitchell & Ness capacity to adjust and alter patterns.
At its current size, Mitchell & Ness is not organized to manage multiple single piece orders for the general public. Mitchell & Ness manufacturers many of its poly-knit reproductions overseas. Orders are of dozens or hundreds rather one or six. Mitchell & Ness does strive for accuracy, and there are fewer opportunities to adjust and correct when details may be off.
One of the first national articles about Mitchell & Ness in the baseball flannel business was in Sports Illustrated in the 1987 issue with the Wrigley scoreboard on the cover. 1987 was the third year Mitchell & Ness was making jerseys.
Peter is wearing the 1942 Cardinals home jersey. Fran is wearing the 1957 Milwaukee Braves road jersey.
Look at the space between the Braves word mark and the tomahawk. That is a lot of space! That is a lot of historically inaccurate space.
This is the home version of #21’s 1957 Braves jersey. This is #21 on the road at the Polo Grounds. The tomahawk cradles the word mark. And in time, Mitchell & Ness corrected it and the word mark and tomahawk have drawn closer.
This is a game worn 1945 Cardinals home jersey and this is a game worn 1946 Cardinals home jersey. Mitchell & Ness’ 1987 version of the 1942 jersey is beautiful with its embroidered Cardinals, black bat, and birds. But the proportions of the word mark and logo are not quite right.
In time, Mitchell & Ness adjusted and the current versions are very good.
There is another comment from later in the day from Rad asking about improving the economics of producing and retailing authentic jerseys. Most current authentic and authentic historical reproductions sell at retail today for between $250 and $300.
What we do have today which we did not have in the 1980s and most of the 1990s was the internet and widespread access to powerful graphic design software.
On March 29, 2013, Bill Henderson posted on this page “Uni Watch DIY Project: A Phillies Fanatic” about his precise recreations of 1930s and 1940s Phillies jerseys. By returning to images of original images, Bill could by his own direct research obtain the precise lettering and number patterns.
It happens that one of my own personal points of divergence from Mitchell & Ness’ current production of baseball double-knits is the cut of the jersey. I am taller and leaner, and I find the narrower cuts of original 1980s jerseys fit me better than the wider patterns which Mitchell & Ness uses today.
I had in mind that the jersey I wanted was a 1980s Phillies batting practice double-knit jersey. This would be before the team switched to mesh in the late 1980s. I keep an eye on eBay for interesting vintage Phillies items. In 2012 found a 1986 Phillies batting practice jersey. The lettering and sleeve trim were perfect. It had a Phillies Dream Week patch on the sleeve and a MacGregor label.
I bought it for twenty dollars.
I found pictures of representative numbers and letters. A friend from this Uni Wtach community helped me with cutting and application. We distinguished the difference between the back number two and sleeve number two. It is the lead photo on this post; I love how it came out. For about $60 in materials I had my 1986 Phillies #42 Don Carman batting practice jersey.
Not all DIY jersey projects cost so little, and many can be completed for the cost or less than the cost of an authentic. Actual game worn jerseys can be purchased for less than $200 and letters and numbers changed up for your favorite player.
This web site has many stories and models and examples and links to Do It Yourself jersey and uniform projects. Being part of this wider community inspired me to find and put together the jersey that I wanted.
Navy Introduces New “Summer Whites” for Saturday’s Kick-Off Game vs THE OSU
UnderArmour, who now outfits the Middies, has introduced a special “Summer White” uniform for the Navy as they open their 2014 season against the Ohio State University Buckeyes this Saturday. I gotta admit, it’s a beaut.
But here’s the UA corporate speak describing the uni:
This special Under Armour-designed uniform the Navy Midshipmen will take the field in, on August 30, was directly inspired by the iconic Navy Summer Whites. From a helmet directly inspired by the Mid’s cover to a gold belt buckle and solid white cleats, no detail was left out. For the first time, uniforms will slightly vary from player to player, with each athlete wearing their specific rank on the field, depicted in the shoulder and pant leg design of each uniform.
Navy itself had a different description:
From a helmet directly inspired by the covers that the Mids wear to a gold belt buckle, no detail was left out. Additionally, the Mids will be wearing solid white cleats that represent the all-white dress shoes of the Summer Whites military uniform, as well as all-white gloves.
They provided an image showing the similarities:
I love the “different rank” for different players, although the OCDist in me recoils that each player’s uniform won’t be well, uniform. Still it’s a pretty cool feature. Much like when Nike created special uniforms for Navy over the years, these too are being designed to emulate the officers’ uniforms. Below are some hi-res pics of the new unis. Click on any to enlarge.
Pretty nice, eh? Putting aside the wisdom of needing a “special” uniform for opening day, I think this one is rather well done — after seeing what Nike did with Navy for the past half-dozen years, I’m sure we can expect UA to introduce more of these special edition uniforms going forward. May they all be as tastefully done as this one.
UA also released some hi-res photos of Navy’s “Standard” uniforms (which we’d seen before, but not in such brilliant detail). Those are below. Click to enlarge:
Not as big a fan of these, as they contain the stripes across the chest, the tramp-stamp of “Don’t Give Up The Ship” on the back of the pants, and a crazy belt buckle that almost looks like it belongs in a 1975 Dart. Still, they’re neat and clean for the most part, and pretty much stick with what Navy had traditionally been wearing. A gold helmet with navy blue top over gold pants for the home games, and gold/white/navy for the road games.
Here’s what UA had to say about them:
Under Armour’s unique design ethos celebrates and pays homage to the rich history of the Naval Academy Athletic Association. Each aspect of the team’s new football uniform was designed with a purpose and was inspired by aspects of Navy’s deep-rooted tradition. The uniform not only represents the over 4,400 Midshipmen but the more than 300,000 active duty Navy personnel.
The 6 Stripes: The six stripes across the front of the represent the original six frigates, which signified the formation of the US Navy. Currently, there are six naval fleets in operation around the world. And finally, to tie the design directly back to Navy, six stripes represent the highest rank a Midshipman can achieve, Brigade Commander. This stripe detail will be present across all Navy athletic uniforms as a theme that unites the entire athletic department.
“Don’t Give Up the Ship:” The naval battle cry “don’t give up the ship” is embroidered on the hem of each jersey and back of each pant as a reminder to the athletes that when they take the field, they are representing and playing for the pride, honor and tradition of Navy.
Readers? What say you?
U.W.F.F.L. Spring League
UWFFL Developmental League – Weekday Edition
By Rob Holecko
It’s our final Friday appearance here in Uni Watch, next week we’ll be back on the weekends as the UWFFL fall season gets into full swing.
First we’d like to congratulate the Charleston Navigators who won the first UWFFL Spring Developmental League Championship last week. The 11-1 Navigators got into the playoffs as a Wild Card team after winning a tiebreaker game, and then ran off three consecutive upset victories against undefeated oppponents Yellowknife, Little Rock and Greenville in the playoffs to take the title. They will begin their Division II fall schedule this week in the Metro South Conference.
But the big game this week is the “Kickoff Classic” as the UWFFL Premier League begins their second season with the San Francisco Reign Fire, sporting a new look for 2014 which harkens back to their classic look, taking on the Vancouver Seawolves, who were promoted from the minors after winning the Pacific Coast Conference last year. San Francisco is apparently kicking off the season in a new stadium, although we’re not sure since this is all fictional anyway.
Next week the other ten teams in UWFFL Premier league will kick off their seasons, but the minor leagues are already in full swing, so head on over to www.uwfantasyfootballleague.com to vote on more of this week’s games.
If you’d like to design a team for future inclusion in the UWFFL, go to our Prospective 2015 Expansion Teams G+ Community and post your ideas and concepts today!
Design Contest Reminder
In case you missed it, I’m hosting a WFL Design Contest. All the rules and instrux are in the link…
…but if you don’t want to click there it’s pretty basic: If the World Football League hadn’t folded in 1975, and the League were still active today, what would the teams’ uniforms look like in 2014? Click the link for more details.
So far I’ve received a good number of submissions, but only from a few people, and we’d like to get some more people involved. Hopefully you design/concepters will participate.
The deadline is going to be extended to September 8, and you can send all your submissions to me: Phil.Hecken@gmail.com.
Should be a fun contest, so if you are a concepter or designer, give it a whirl!
‘skins Watch: Not especially new news, but on August 24, ESPN released the following statement: “Our consistent company policy will continue: using official names and marks as presented by the teams, leagues and conferences we cover. We do, however, recognize the debate over the use of ‘Washington Redskins’ and have afforded individuals the opportunity to decide how they will use those words when reporting on the team.” (thanks Paul). … Michael Paul Williams, who writes for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, feels the city of Richmond, where the Washington Football team has training came, should drop ”˜Redskins’ from name (from TommytheCPA). … An organization of former Washington Redskins players and fans, Redskins Facts, has compiled this video of Native American Redskins fans, including descendants of the Native American who designed the logo, explaining why they are in fact honored by the title, “Redskins.” (h/t Michael Bochum). … The Washington Football Team was number 1 on “The Punch List” in GQ this month. Here are some suggestions from the writer as well (from Coleman Mullins).
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Baseball News: Jorge Soler is the most recent Cuban-born Major League player to wear an atypical number (thanks to Randall Sanders and @NumbersMLB). … Here’s our first look at the 2014 World Series patch (via The Emblem Source). … “Was never much of a baseball card collector but I would have liked to think that I would have remembered this very strange 1974 Topps card of Tito Fuentes,” writes Patrick O’Neill.
NFL News: A current cover of Sports Illustrated features Tony Romo and Nick Foles, with Foles in a midnight green jersey, which of course is in the 2013 style (good spot by Kyle Caffrey). ICYMI, the Eagles have switched to the Nike Elite 51 uniform, and won’t be wearing midnight green for the foreseeable future. … NFL Superstar Dez Bryant Launches Apparel And Lifestyle Brand, ‘ThrowUpTheX’ (via TommytheCPA). Also from Tommy, Hublot Enters Swiss Luxury Watch Industry Into The NFL. … The Buffalo Bills will be wearing their “standing buffalo” throwbacks on 9/14 versus the Miami Dolphins (thanks to Tony Zarak). … Have you guys seen the new Johnny Football Snicker ad? Check out the old school/nu skool uni discrepancies (h/t Tim Cross). … The Bears had two #72’s on the field last night (nice spot by Max Florestano). … On last night’s Chargers/Cardinals broadcast, the Chargers were using the old Cardinals logo (h/t S Jacobs). … “Oh, good lord…please no” says Susan Freeman.
College Football News: Here’s a look at the 2014 Pitt Panther helmets being prepped for their Week 1 game (h/t Rich Maniskas). … Kennesaw State just got their first ever football unis. Here’s what they look like (h/t C.B. Schmelter). … The new Akron Zips’ helmets were all shiny and ready to go (via Clint Richardson). And here they are. … The UGa Bulldogs will wear a helmet decal to honor Dan Magill, who recently passed away. … The Utah Utes have new visor stickers (via Dom Lewis). … “An item I saw in the Marshall bookstore caught my eye,” says Coleman Mullins. “It’s a program called Operation Hat Trick, and there’s a pic of the details that are on the hat bill. Not sure what percentage goes to the foundation, but there you have it.” Oh, and because it’s West Virginia, the cap also comes in camo. … There is a uniform-related tidbit towards the end of this UCLA team travel/equipment truck article: “To be safe, Burger decided to bring helmets and uniforms on the plane. That still left a long packing list for the truck.” (via Chris Cruz). … Sources indicate that FSU will wear white on white on Saturday (h/t Ben Waivol). … USC will honor Louis Zamperini by putting a Z decal on the back of their helmet (h/t Andrew Lind). … Ugh. The ULM Warhawks gave ‘sneak peak’ at their camo unis (thanks, I think, to Clint Richardson), which they wore last night against Wake Forest. … The Illinois Fighting Illini will debut their white helmets this Saturday vs. Youngstown State. … Meanwhile, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will wear gold jerseys with “MINNESOTA” for their season opener (thanks to Tyler Mason). … Iowa is honoring former defensive coordinator Norm Parker with helmet decal (h/t Andrew Lind). … Vanderbilt broke out new uniforms last evening (thanks to Will Edge). Here’s another view (via Max Herz). Apparently that “ANCHOR DOWN” SlOB is a no-no, because the team was given a penalty (team time out loss) for having it. And then that was overturned — since Vandy produced an e-mail stating the jerseys were approved by the SEC. What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin’ on here? … Maryland will wear red tops and white pants for their game against James Madison. … NIU wore their “cornfest” jerseys last night. Here is pregame and in action. … Dan Bly thinks the “3” on SC’s “30” yard line was upside down. … New helmets for the LaSalle Falcons (from Aaron Hazel). … Boise State wore their new orange helmets last night vs. Ole Miss. … McNeese State will wear these camo uniforms on Sept. 13 vs. Prairie View A&M (h/t Chris Mycoskie). … Here’s the helmet Louisville will wear on Monday vs. The U. …Temple will honor the memory of Lewis Katz this season with “Lew” patches on their helmets (via Kami Mattioli). … Major uni issues for Eastern Illinois last night: this torn jersey, and another one and then this this armpit tear too (screen grabs by Alex Bending). Also, in that first shot, what’s blacked out on Manley’s helmet? … Whoops! The SEC network used a picture of Vandy backup QB Stephen Rivers (Philip Rivers’ brother) for running back Dallas Rivers (who is African American).
NBA & College Hoops News: Check out this 1971 Baltimore Bullets pin, that Bruce Menard is pretty sure “wouldn’t pass muster these days.” … According to NBA Live 15, the Hawks will put the pac-man logo at center court (h/t Conrad Burry). … A user on reddit (/u/cowmastermind) started a petition to get the retro-blue jerseys back, writes Alex Bending. “Interesting-not much response yet.”
Hockey News: Reader Alan Kreit spotted this error at the the NHL store on 6th ave in NYC. John Moore of the Rangers has his first initial on back “J. Moore”. For $200 I would think they would get it right. (Note: That’s because Dominic Moore, number 28, just has “MOORE,” but John Moore, #17, has J MOORE). … Here’s a great photo of Wayne Gretzky with the Indianapolis Racers (h/t Sully).
Soccer News: Big Brother adidas? The company has equipped its bestselling German national team soccer jersey with RFID tags. adidas says it can’t track customers via the tag, but potential privacy and transparency issues remain. … New soccer unis for the University of Dayton. Submitter Patrick O’Neill loves them. How ’bout dem stripes!
Grab Bag: 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Melbourne University’s last season in the Victorian Football League. Here is a contemporary news picture showing Albert Hartkopf wearing the black and navy blue uniform (from Graham Clayton). … Corporate Douchebaggery, Vol. 238, from a reader (anonymous): “I am at a major Nike university and just got an internship with the equipment managing team that came with two interesting tidbits for uni watch. One, they give all equipment managers Under Armour compression shorts for under the shorts, even though they are a Nike school. Two, the head equipment manager made me change socks today because I did not have the correct plain white Nike socks on.” … This is pretty interesting: Leftover Boeing 787 parts are becoming football shoulder pads (from Kevin Mueller).
that, folks, is a wrap. I am now gladly returning the keys to the UW vehicle to Paul — thanks for letting me drive! It’s all filled up with a full tank of hi-test, I put in new wiper blades, and topped off the fluids.
I again want to thank everyone for making my monthly run of weekdays go so smoothly — and a big thanks to Morris for today’s (and the past three Fridays’) lede. Great stuff.
Everyone have a great Laborious Day weekend — Johnny Ek will take you thru till Monday, and then Paul will be back in the saddle. I’ll catch you all next weekend with lots and lots of college football.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“The Wampus Cat is a half-woman, half-mountain lion beast, who eats truculent children. Three high schools ”” one in Arkansas, one in Louisiana, and one in Texas ”” use the Wampus Cat as their mascot.”
— Cort McMurray