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In Which Brinke Lands His White Whale (or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof)

[Editor’s Note: Got home last night from Wisconsin and am still getting recombobulated, so today we have a guest entry by Brinke Guthrie, who you know from his weekly “Collector’s Corner” column. Today he’s going to tell us about one of his holy grails. Enjoy. ”” PL]

By Brinke Guthrie

Today’s entry is about tennis socks. That may not sound so exciting, but hear me out — this has been a 35-year quest.

Now, in the 1970s and early ’80s, Bjorn Borg wore Fila tennis wear, personalized with his own “Bj” logo (which also appeared on his Bancroft rackets):

Borg was the first player to maximize his earning potential with gear. He wore Fila worldwide except for Scandinavia, where it was Jockey, of all brands. Rackets? Bancroft in North America, Donnay elsewhere. Shoes? Bancroft affiliate Tretorn in North America, Diadora elsewhere. Very few pros have ever had arrangements like that.

And then … there were the socks.

First, I need to explain that I played a lot of tennis in those days. I was a Fila guy, like Borg, and socks were a big thing for me on court. I remember seeing Vitas Gerulaitis wear Nike socks at the U.S. Open in 1979, but they weren’t sold in stores. So I wrote to Nike and got this reply: “No plans to get into clothing at this time.” Honest. They did, however, send me three pairs of plain socks with some green and blue striping in a Nike package.

Anyway: Up until 1979-ish or so, Borg wore whatever Fila socks matched his shirt/shorts. Then he signed with a company called “DuParc.” I can’t find a single thing on them, but they made socks with Borg’s “Bj” logo. You can see him wearing them in the photo at the top of this page. Here’s a closer look:

I always wanted those socks, but you could not find them anywhere. And this was, um, very pre-eBay. So I have wanted a pair of these since then — 35 years! I even included them on my Christmas wish list that I wrote last year for the website Tennis Identity.

Enter a company called Vollaix (voll-LAY — “volley,” get it?), which specializes in retro tennis wear. I’ve written about them on the Tennis Identity website. Vollaix is run by a fellow named Brian Purdie, and he has decided to make reproductions of those old “Bj” logo socks. He told me he saw that wish list of mine, so maybe I even helped inspire him.

Two pairs of the socks arrived in the mail the other day:

The pair with the larger logo was a test run; the pair on the left is the style they’re selling. You can buy your own pair here.

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Year-end raffle reminder: Paul here. In case you missed it yesterday, I’m giving away lots of very cool stuff in my annual year-end reader-appreciation raffle. Check it out here.

• • • • •

Leafs-redesign contest reminder: Also from yesterday, my latest ESPN design contest is a challenge to redesign the Maple Leafs. Full details here.

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Another day, another grommet: I did this one last Friday, before heading Wisconsin-ward, but didn’t get around to posting the photos until now (click pics to enlarge):

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: Great item from Dustin Semore: Serial killer Ted Bundy wore a Mariners T-shirt underneath his sport coat during his 1979 trial in Miami. … Pete Rose has a dress shirt with “Hit King” stitched onto the collar and his number, 14, on the cuffs. … The Mets posted a gallery of their road jerseys from over the years. ”¦ Speaking of the Mets, newly acquired 2B Neil Walker will wear No. 20, which is the same number his father, Tom Walker, wore while playing for the Expos in the 1970s. He’d been unable to wear that number while playing for the Pirates because it had been retired for Pie Traynor. … Funny bit about the Expos’ logo in this sequence from an old episode of Newhart (from Ferdinand Cesarano).

NFL News: A Change.org petition proposes that the Dolphins make their throwbacks permanent (from Phil). … As postgame jersey swapping is becoming more common, equipment managers are struggling keep up, as they have to replace the jerseys and make custom alterations to them every week (from Brinke). … NFL QB Mike Kafka, currently a free agent, has designed a slimmer hand-warmer pouch (from Mike Engle). … Here’s a 1969 newspaper ad for an NFL 50th-anniversary LP set (from Jerry Wolper). … Also from Jerry: Fourth paragraph of the article at far-left has this to say about the AFL/NFL merger: “During merger negotiations, the 49ers were so uptight over Oakland’s success across the bay that they had a myriad of details written into the NFL-AFL shotgun wedding: picky little things lke the Raiders couldn’t change their colors (to 49er red?) and the Raiders couldn’t play the Rams more than once every four years, so as not to usurp the Ram-49er rivalry.”

College Football News: Here’s a look at Arkansas’s Liberty Bowl patch. … “UCLA posted its 2016 football schedule poster with a player wearing a 2014 jersey,” says Jared Buccola. “Notice the Clarendon font, shorter shoulder ‘stripes’ and no perforated stripes or numbers.” The Bruins wore this blue uniform in 2015.

Hockey News: Buzzfeed subtly altered all 30 NHL logos and made a quiz where you have to choose which one is the correct version (from Brent Bollmeier). … The AHL’s Binghamton Senators will wear Christmas sweater jerseys on Saturday (from Nathan Tweedie). … Sportsnet named the 10 best jerseys worn in outdoor games (from Phil). … This week, the Makers of Sport podcast had an interview with Eric Bodamer, a uniform designer for the NHL (from Brooks Simpson).

NBA News: The Nuggets and Wolves went blue-vs.-black last night (from @HitTheGlass). … We missed this: Last week, the Celtics wore LOSCY shirts in warm-ups in honor of Jim Loscutoff, who recently died. The image on the shirt matches his spot on the retired numbers banner. The Cs also wore black memorial bands on their jerseys (from Mario Cuttone). … The Rockets’ Trevor Ariza lost his shoe the other night, so Nuggets G Will Barton craftily tossed it away from him. Barton got a technical foul for a delay of game. … Pelicans players explained the significance behind their uni numbers (from Phil). … The Nets will give away Christmas sweater T-shirts at tonight’s game against the Heat.

College Hoops News: Ohio State added a “GH” memorial patch to honor the associate coach’s sister (from Phil). … UMass will wear these ’90s-style uniforms when John Calipari visits the team tonight against New Orleans. Currently at Kentucky, Coach Cal led the Minutemen to the Final Four in 1996, but the appearance was later vacated (from Phil). … Missouri-KC will wear Darth Vader uniforms on Jan. 9.

Comments (84)

    Love the grommet bacon. That’s awesome and you hung it up too making use of that grommet! Still wish there was a way to put a squatchee on meat but of course the fabric wouldn’t hold up. Would look cool though.

    Anchor the squatchee through the grommet so the meat wouldn’t come into direct contact with the fabric.

    Sad to say the “You can buy your own pair here” link doesn’t work. That’s quite a find.

    Why “BJ” and not “BB”? I don’t get it. Is it something only the tennis elite understand?

    Purely speculation, but any number of reasons:
    – ’twas a less multicultural era, and the majority of top-ranked players came from English-speaking countries – the name “Bjorn” was an outlier, still instantly recognizable when abbreviated as “Bj”
    – combining an upper- and a lower-case letter was more striking visually than a pair of upper-case letters would’ve been, especially the same letter repeated
    – the dot on the lower-case “j” enabled a tennis ball image to be incorporated into the logo, again making it more distinctive

    I agree with much of what scottrj said.

    This was at the time when some of the elite players were getting their *own* unique (and more expensive) lines of clothing — in the Fila stable, Guillermo Vilas also had his own logo’ed “gear.”

    As scottrj said, the “Bj” was instantly recognizable as Bjorn Borg. No need to go with the possibly more generic “BB”.

    ah, but the Vilas line was not was it appeared to be. The “VG Box” was added on after the fact- no attire was ever made with it. You can tell if you look closely- it was hand-added on by whoever- I doubt he did it himself! Around 1980 or so, the “BJ” box disappeared from Borg’s gear, and that left the plain “F Box” as it is referred to. Never read anything as to why, but I’m sure it was a dispute over royalties, money, etc. Notice in the photo- no BJ badge on the shirt chest, and I believe he was wearing a retail pair of shorts which still had the Bj box. Notice with Fila attire at the the time, the pro versions had the large logo on the shirt chest and shorts, whereas the retail version had no logo on the chest and just the small box(es) on the sleeve only and shorts. I came across a pro version at a local pro shop, took out a bank loan, and bought it.

    Yeah I don’t really get that either.

    On the flipside, if that’s going to be a thing, then teams need to hire a couple more EQ guys. Shouldn’t really be an issue.

    Soccer players do it all the time, and they’re not amateurs.

    I’m neither defending nor decrying the practice itself; simply saying that saddling it with the “amateur” tag seems inaccurate and misguided.

    Soccer. Pffft….please.

    j/k

    I guess what I mean is that, it seems like trading stuff with your competition reminds me of the Olympics (I know, not amateur sports anymore) where athletes would often trade pins or hats or something of their country with other athletes.

    I live in the past.

    I believe hockey players have traded sticks in this manner for a while as well. (Since they have their owners’ names on them.)

    To me, it seems professional and dignified; an expression of friendship between opponents. Something on the order of the postgame handshake in hockey.

    Soccer players used to swap jerseys only during major competitions. It seems fairly recent that they do it on a regular and consistent basis, watering down the impact and import of the tradition.

    Am a sensing a certain tone of derision for “amateur sports” from some or is it just the playing off the two meanings of the term amateur (someone who plays recreationally and not as a profession versus an inept bungler), or am I seeing something that isn’t there?

    At the amateur level teams wouldn’t be able to afford to swap jerseys on a regular basis unless they started wearing their opponents jerseys as their own for games.

    Doesn’t bother me who does it but I agree with the assessment that when it becomes commonplace it loses it’s intensity and appeal.

    In any case, when I think jersey swap this is the one that comes to mind:
    http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b154/spyboy1/TSG%20Blog%202013/DzurillaVachon1976.jpg

    I’ve come to realize that the negative connotation of “amateur” is almost always wrong. Hereabouts, people (including me) often call poor design “amateurish,” but as a matter of practical experience, most of the amateur design I encounter is actually quite thoughtful. Perhaps not always expertly executed, but by and large, amateur design work is usually superior, often vastly superior, to the “design” work done by national athletic lifestyle brands such as Nike. In the earth sciences, in archaeology, in meteorology, in literature, in ornithology, in astronomy, in comics, in poetry, in visual art, in video, in podcasting, in philanthropy – in short, in almost any field of endeavor where the cost of entry is less than the price tag of a large hadron collider – amateurs do great and vital work that is at least as good and important as the work done by professional specialists.

    So increasingly, when I see the word “amateur” as a put-down, especially when I think it myself, as I often do, I conclude that the word is not so much a signal of the quality of the thing being described but rather a sign that the person using the word hasn’t really thought about the words he uses, nor the conclusions he’s drawn and is trying to describe with his words.

    I definitely wasn’t using amateur as a negative. Not *my* intent at all. Just a delineation.

    On page 20 of the Pittsburgh Press linked above it lists the Sport On Air for Saturday. It shows the AFL playoff game (KC vs. Jets) can be seen on THREE different TV channels. Crazy!

    And the Sun Bowl (no sponsor name attached) will be on TWO channels.

    2 and 11 were (and still are) the CBS and NBC affiliates, respectively, in Pittsburgh. The other listed stations are in places like Johnstown and Wheeling, which were important in those pre-cable days.

    Another favorite – when nothing else was going on, they’d open the Civic Arena for public skating.

    Nebraska won that Sun Bowl over Georgia that year, the year before they won their first national championship. And on channel 53, there was “This Week In Pro Football” by the new NFL/AFL Films. Pat Summerall would do the NFL highlights and Charlie Jones would do the AFL highlights.

    Changing a hue wasn’t really fair. I go the Dallas Stars one wrong (and that is my team) because I thought the correct one looked closer to the older green…

    I got the Blues wrong as well. The only other one was the Maple Leafs. The stem is really that long?

    And yeah, some of them were ridiculously simple (e.g. the Sabres) and some were just correct guesses, as in the aforementioned Canadiens and Stars.

    the local tennis association I am on the board for has toyed with the idea of holding a wooden racquet tournament for fun. I think I would have to go full on Bjorn (socks and all) if that ever happens.

    Ah Brinke… today’s post takes me back.

    Growing up, my *idols* (not really, but for lack of a better term — maybe those whom I attempted to play like?) were Borg, Connors and later, Mac.

    I patterned my first backhand on Borg’s style (two-handed, later switched to a one-wing, which was still de rigueur at the time, tho the double fist was becoming popular due to Borg, Connors and Chrissy Evert) and *tried* to grow my hair like his. My temperament was much closer to Connors/Mac though. Tried to serve in the style of Roscoe Tanner, with a hint of Mac, and definitely celebrated a good shot a la Jimbo. Tried to wear Tacchini like Mac. All in all, it was a terrible mashup of styles, but eventually I developed my own game.

    Back to the socks. Never liked Fila. Never used a Donnay or Bancroft. Never wore Tretorn kicks. My racket went from a T-2000 (Connors) to a Jack Karmer Auto (similar to Mac, who used the Jack Kramer Pro), and finally to several different of the composite rackets, which were becoming popular at the time (think original Prince and then the various graphite/kevlar models that followed). Sneakers were basic Nikes.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, B. If we ever meet, we’ll have to play a set or two.

    I got 28/30 on the NHL quizzes. Some of the “changes” that were color shade changes were a bit BS, but thought it was a fun way to kill 5 minutes.

    Curious about the FilaOne frame on your wish list link, Brinke. Was it ever sold in the U.S.? And was it really medium stiffness?

    Reason I ask is b/c I played with a Donnay Borg Pro (strung at 67 psi even) into the early 80’s, even after most of my opponents had long-since switched to oversized Princes. If that fram was post-Donnay, it would’ve been an incredible anachronism (hell, I was an anachronism playing with a Donnay in 1982). And if the FilaOne frame was comparable to the Donnay stiffness-wise, is it really fair to characterize it as medium? The Donnay frame was insanely unforgiving, and the sweet spot just about the smallest of any racket ever manufactured. Though it you hit it right, my god, the power it had.

    If memory serves (and for me, this is a struggle), BB had has rackets strung at something like 72 lbs. … when the average wood racket (including the Kramer’s I used) was closer to 50-55. That’s how he got all that control and topspin at a time when mere mortals could barely get the ball over then net with a racket strung that tight.

    I think it was even more- about 80 pounds for that bugger. Normal retail frames would snap under that pressure- I believe- though I am not sure- his frames had extra laminate for stiffness.

    The Donnay was one of the early composite frames, not a wooden one like the Kramers, Maxfli, et al. I don’t know that a wooden frame could’ve even withstood been strung at that tension w/out snapping like a twig. I dimly recall it having a note on the side of the frame suggesting it be strung at 55-60 psi.

    Ain’t no way stringing a racket that tight would increase control, though (nor spin, I would think). The less time the ball spends on the string surface,the less of either. Science!

    Actually, tis true. And I couldn’t believe it myself until I watched a (very rare at the time) special on it by Vic Braden (!)

    I thought increased tension led to increased power, but in reality it’s the opposite — tighter tension leads (or at least led, on wooden rackets) to more control, whereas lower tension leads to more power due to the “trampolining” effect of the strings. A quick google search just now confirms this.

    Another thing I didn’t realize at the time, but now know, since I’m good friends with my racket stringer — the type and tension of the strings also lead to tennis elbow (I think it was thought at the time it was due to poor form). I developed a bit of T/E later in life, and coincidentally got a new stringer; he diagnosed the problem immediately (based on my game) and voila, tennis elbow gone.

    With all the technological innovations going on from the early 80s to the 90s, the game changed forever. I think for the better, although I could certainly go for a few serve and volleyers (Sampras may have been the last) nowadays instead of guys who can whack the ball at 100 mph to the corners from 15 feet beyond the baseline. Not the game I grew up with at all.

    Well whaddaya know. Guess my power must’ve come from being so darn good at hitting the ball in the Donnay’s ludicrously-small sweet spot :).

    Early on in my junior year of college I had my only experience with tennis elbow. Pain was so agonizing I gave considerable thought to serving underhand. Then I was home for an extended weekend and took a private lesson with a competent teaching pro (my college coach was a certified teaching pro, but a shit one), and within 5 minutes he’d diagnosed the reason for the pain – my arm was less than fully extended when I struck the ball on my serve – and voila! tennis elbow was gone.

    Hmmm, earlier reply seems to be 404. Yes, the Fila1One was sold in the US–earlier named the Wud1One. Medium flex, strung with VS Gut to spec, it was a spin machine. beautiful frame, too.

    this might be one of my favorite conversations ever had in the Uniwatch comments!

    I started played in the late 90’s, so I don’t know anything about playing with anything but oversized racquets. I now string my own racquets and am learning the trade and the nuances of different strings and tensions. I love it. I can’t imagine stringing a wooden racquet with gut string like they did back then. I would still love to give it a shot though.

    I strung the Fila Wud1One’s to spec with VS Gut, which is now referred to as Babolat. You could really feel the difference. I usually had three or four of them, -I was hard on them, I played SO much. Usually one or two had gut and the others just some standard nylon. Looked cool with the red and blue F on the strings, too- and it was as nice looking a frame as I ever saw.

    I dount it’d even be possible with a modern racket to replicate the ball “feel” that you got playing with a wooden racket strung with gut – especially newly-strung VS gut, which smelled slightly earthy and was just a bit tacky the first time or two you played with it. Before I switched to the Donnay this was my go-to frame (complete with faux leather cover), though it never really caught on at the pro level, Dick Stockton being the only pro I ever knew to play with one.
    http://westca.org/photo/201210/121004_001__custom_.jpg
    From an aesthetics standpoint alone, it was a beauty.

    I don’t think I ever had more than a single racket strung with gut at a time, not only b/c of the expense but b/c you didn’t want to take a chance of breaking strings in all of your rackets during a tournament and not having one left to play with. Typically we used “synthetic gut” – by which I mean Blue Star – in lieu of nylon b/c it had superior feel.

    Ahhhh….now scottrj is taking me down memory lane. I was a Wilson guy, so the Kramer Pro and Auto (especially the auto — I probably owned 15 or so of those in my youth, and [when I wsan’t cracking the frames due to stupid fits of anger excessive resistance to hard court non-give] would typically carry 5 or 6 with me to the court for any given match, though I’d rarely need more than two or three) just wanted to look like the pros. We didn’t keep them in fancy carry-bags then, just used headcovers. Of course, I had six or seven presses back home, where the frames went after matches, but you couldn’t bring those bad boys to the courts!

    For strings, gut was an absolute treat (seems like it cost more then than a good synthetic gut does now), so I rarely played with it, but it was the shit.

    Did you (scottrj and Brinke) guys spray your own logos on rackets too or did your stringer have one and do it for you? Back then, that was the mark that you were a *player* — now, since it seems any racket that comes pre-strung has a sprayed logo, it looks cheap and tacky (at least to me), but back then? Oh, yeah.

    Nothing like “dirtying” up a can of balls with freshly painted strings…

    When & where I played the opposite was true: having logos sprayed on your strings, or wearing designer clothing lines (particularly matching shirt & shorts) was sure sign of a dilettante. Mostly we wore t-shirts, at least until you got to a final or something, at which time you’d break out an Izod or Boast collared shirt.

    The only real concession to style came in the back half of the ’70s, when everyone had to have a pair of these:
    http://www.adidas-group.com/media/filer_public_thumbnails/filer_public/16/4c/164cbcf6-22fb-47b3-a87a-93d81de369e9/katalog_s1.jpg__640x0_q85_crop-smart_subject_location-577,414.jpg
    By that time my days on the junior circuit were winding down…

    Well, eventually, the NFC Central did get a warm-weather team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for about a quarter-century. It’s amusing to think that there was a time where nobody wanted to share a division with Dallas, though.

    Odd to see the adjacent article referring to Cassius Clay in regards to an attempt to arrange a title fight with Joe Frazier in Tampa in 1970 (which obviously didn’t happen, since their first fight didn’t happen until 1971 at Madison Square Garden). I know Muhammad Ali was a polarizing figure throughout his career, but it does still seem a little strange to me that, over five years after his name change, news agencies still wouldn’t acknowledge it.

    True, but nobody missed the Bucs when they were dropped in the evolution to the NFC North.

    As for Dallas, the owners seemed to be choosing their divisional partners solely (or at least primarily) on the basis of how good they were. Or how bad.

    The years when the Bucs were in the NFC North were the same years when the Packers were awful and Berman used to call their twice-yearly matchups the Bay of Pigs. I think he’s the only one who lost out.

    If you were to look, you’d find that many newspapers were calling the champ Ali by then. Some outlets, like the Press, make the editorial choice to continue calling him Clay. This reflected larger divisions in 1969 America.

    All this time I thought Brinke was a woman. Maybe because the only other person I’ve known with that name was female.

    “Missouri-KC will wear Darth Vader uniforms ”

    Is that a Lightsaber on your pants, or are you…….

    Paul:

    Hope your trip to Wisconsin was good. I actually spent Friday-Monday in Wisconsin. Went to the Packers/Cowboys game on Sunday. Love Green Bay…place is just spectacular.

    Pretty good Wisconsin brews and curds too!

    The deeper I got into the NBA court critique, the more I realized all four of these people have no clue – and it just goes to show “ART” is subjective. Some of the critics were all about trends, not design, and some even contradict themselves condemning one team for a classic logo and praising another for its classic look. Not to mention – they say nothing bad and give it a 5 or say it is boring and give it an 8… /frustrated

    I personally found the NBA court critique conversation fascinating. Since there was no grading guidelines to assess point totals — each critic graded the courts on aesthetic merit alone. In the case of teams with winning traditions (Celtics, Bulls, Lakers, Heat and Spurs) were awarded more points since those clubs showed restraint in not forgetting their pasts.
    The interesting part of the feature is how much the judges differ…

    There was a nice supporting article by one of the judges:
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/ct-nba-court-design-spt-1222-20151221-story.html

    I loved that podcast this week, one of the few I actually shared on twitter. I was surprised to hear around the 9 or 10 minute mark that the Nike design team refers to the Broncos uniforms as the “batwing” look. That term sounded unfamiliar to me.

    Apostrophe Catastrophe in President Underwood’s 2016 campaign logo:

    http://www.fu2016.com/

    I know Paul has asked us to avoid electioneering here, but I can overlook a lot from a politician as long as he gets results. Murder, blackmail, foreign collusion, dishonesty, meandering exposition, entire episodes that fail to advance the plot in order to pad four episodes worth of real action into a too-long season. But darn it, I draw the line at bad punctuation.

    Just curious, Paul…did you happen to pick up the term “recombobulate” from the security screening area at the Milwaukee airport? I am pretty sure that’s the only place I’ve ever seen it in use (which is unfortunate…I love that word!).

    I used it in this specific instance as a shout-out to MKE, yes. It’s one of the many wonderful things about that airport, which also includes a ping-pong table and a surprisingly good used bookstore.

    But long before MKE started posted “Recombobulation Area” signs, my friend Liz Danzico had created the website bobulate.com. That was the first time I’d seen anyone play around with the word “discombobulated.”

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