By Phil Hecken
Earlier this week, I received an email from Uni Watch reader Kyle Cambpell, which read, in part:
My name is Kyle Campbell and I am a long time reader of Uni Watch. I play Unicycle Basketball – yes, basketball played on a unicycle. This sport is gaining popularity across the world. In the United States we have two teams, both based in California. I returned a few days ago from an annual tournament in Belgium, where there were 13 teams. In July, my team is going to Spain to compete against around 20 other teams for the world championships. I play on the San Luis Obispo (SLO) Ballerz, and we won bronze at the last championships in 2014.
I am very passionate about unicycle basketball, and could go on about why it is such a great sport. But also I find the uniforms in the sport very interesting as well. I am wondering if there would be an opportunity to write a weekend post about the sport and the uniforms in the sport.
We traded a few more e mails back and forth, and the rest, shall we say, is history.
Please sit back and enjoy a piece about one of the oddest (IMO), but yet, fascinating, sports out there. And they’ve got some pretty out there unis too. (You can click on any photos to enlarge).
Here’s Kyle with…
By Kyle Campbell
Unicycle basketball is just as it sounds: basketball played while riding a unicycle. There are jump balls, traveling calls, free throws, offensive and defensive fouls, and lane violations. One can hold the ball while idling, rocking back and forth, or speed back in transition by riding backward. There aren’t as many fouls and falls as you would imagine, as skilled players make riding a unicycle look like a natural extension of running.
The game has gained popularity across the world. The Puerto Rico All-Stars claim several gold medals, and teams compete throughout California. Over three dozen teams compete in Europe, where players call the sport MonoBasket (unicycle is “monocycle” in French). The League MonoBasket (LMB) is the sport’s European organizing body, and nearly every European club hosts an annual tournament.
I attended such an event last month in La Louvain Neuve, Belgium. A front court player for the San Luis Obispo (SLO) Ballerz, I spent a weekend riding, hopping, and shooting with over 100 players from 13 teams. In a sports center featuring adjacent courts, the sight of over 20 people dribbling and pedaling in colorful uniforms is surreal.
The gameplay might sound bizarre, but players and their fans treat the sport seriously. The Olympics of unicycling ”“ the world championships for all things unicycle ”“ takes place biannually. This summer, nearly 3,000 unicycling athletes will make the pilgrimage to San SebastiÃ¡n, Spain, to compete at UNICON XVIII. Participants will contend in racing, mountain unicycling, team and individual freestyle (think figure skating on unicycles), technical (still-stand, one-footed races, etc.), urban, and the team sports of hockey (some call it ‘puckwheel’), and basketball.
In San Luis Obispo, California, the SLO Ballerz train weekly for UNICON XVIII. Unicycle basketball is addictive; the balance, coordination, strength, and team strategy required make it unlike any sport I have played. The relatively small numbers of players worldwide results in friendships being formed off the court.
A longtime reader of Uni Watch, I also delight in the sport’s uniforms. Each club’s look echoes its origins and the unusual nature of unicycle basketball. Many players engage in the circus arts, and uniforms reflect this culture, too. At the tournament in Belgium, I found uniform designs to be modern and cartoonish, in bright colors that aren’t usually seen in professional sports leagues. Many teams wear matching warm-ups of professional quality, and some even ride on seats embroidered with team logos.
SLO Ballerz (San Luis Obispo, California)
The SLO Ballerz are the Central Coast’s home team. Their founder and captain, Mark Wilder, is a professional juggler. A lifelong Boston Celtics fan, Mark wanted a clean, classic jersey with traditional piping and scoop neck collar. The green and blue represent the hills and ocean surrounding San Luis Obispo. The Ballerz’ unicycles are also outfitted with a basketball-themed tire cap. The Ballerz placed third at the 2014 UNICON world championships in Quebec. Here’s a look at the logo and jersey. Read more about them at SLOBallerz.com.
Berkeley Revolution (Berkeley, CA)
California’s first team, the Berkeley Revolution have competed at UNICON for years, finishing as high as second in the world. They regularly scrimmage at halftime during Cal Bears basketball games. They wear both white and blue jerseys accented in yellow, perhaps as a shout-out to their local university. They often rock barber-pole socks as well.
Puerto Rico All-Stars (Puerto Rico)
The Puerto Rico All-Stars are one of the legendary teams in the unicycle basketball world. Besides having brought home several UNICON gold medals, the All-Stars have redesigned their uniforms often throughout their long history. Currently they are sporting some seriously striped flag-inspired multi-color jerseys. They also ride matching saddles featuring an embroidered Puerto Rican flag motif.
Woom (Lyon, France)
Woom are the reigning UNICON world champions. The team name is an acronym for the French translation of “Man on one Wheel.” The club fields enough players for an “A” team (Woom Noir), and a “B” team (Woom Blanc). Woom Noir feature top players in black shorts and tops. Woom Blanc’s attire includes white tops and black shorts. Yellow accents appear on both teams’ uniforms. Woom have matching black warm-up suits and white shooting shirts, and ride embroidered saddles.
BAM (Saint-BrÃ©vin-les-Pins, FR)
BAM is the newest incarnation of the team based in Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, France. They are always one of the top teams. They have white jerseys with red, green, and blue accents. They have matching numbers on both the front of the jerseys and their shorts. Previously, many of the BAM players played for the now-defunct team AOC. AOC sported pink and purple flaming jerseys.
Troubadours (Brumath, FR)
The Troubadours are one of many youth (under 18) teams based in France. Uniforms include black and red jerseys, with a modern color pattern. There are other youth teams in France, but the Troubadours were the only team that made it to the tournament in La Louvain Neuve in April.
Anim’a Fond (IngrÃ©, FR)
Anim’a Fond’s unicyclists stand out for their quick, shifty riding. They wear bright yellow and red uniforms, with names and numbers in a sci-fi type font. Their logo is a cartoonish unicycle with wings.
Rennes MonoStars (Rennes, FR)
The MonoStars wear primarily white tops and black shorts that highlight a large blue star. Their tops feature a stylized unicycle rider logo.
Roule Ta Bille / Roule Ta Bis (RÃ©gion Parisienne, FR)
Roule Ta Bille, which translates roughly to “Roll Your Ball,” wear flame-patterned jerseys that heavily feature pink and purple. These are some of the most interesting and unique uniforms at the tournament. Roule Ta Bis, the “A” team from the Paris area, have a more traditional look, with black shorts and side panel, with a white top.
Cycl’Ass (Scionzier, FR, and Switzerland)
Cycl’Ass took silver medals both at the 2014 UNICON and at the Belgian tournament. Their uniforms feature an unique, organic-looking striped pattern in green and blue. Their tops showcase the team’s logo, a basketball-dunking, unicycle-riding, twirling, horned Cyclops! Cycl’Ass also have matching green unicycle tires and white shooting shirts promoting their namesake mascot.
Monogygote (Bordeaux, FR)
Monogygote have bright orange tops and bottoms with a bomb-like logo and cartoonish number font.
Wheel Frites (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)
The hosts of the recent tournament in Belgium, Wheel Frites sport a clean red jersey with black and white accents. Their logo is a unicycle-heart-basketball arrangement that appears prominently on their unicycles. The name “Wheel Fries” calls out Belgium’s famous food. There is also a humorous second meaning that has to do with a former Belgian politician’s nickname, but unfortunately because of my lack of knowledge about Belgian political history, the second meaning of the name got lost in translation.
There is also a team that is associated with the Ringling Brothers Circus. The King Charles Troupe was founded in the South Bronx on June 3, 1958. After an audition outside of Madison Square Garden, the troupe was signed to Ringling Brothers Circus, and became the first all-black circus act in the history of the Ringling Brothers. The King Charles Troupe does not compete at UNICON but are an inspiration for all players around the world because of their showmanship and riding abilities.
Unicycle Basketball is just a small subset of the competitive unicycling world. We are trying to grow this unique, fun, and challenging sport across the world. At UNICON, there will be many more unicycle basketball teams in attendance than at the tournament in Belgium, and depending on how many new teams are there, there may be a Part 2 of the unicycle basketball uniform review on Uni Watch!
Wow. Just…wow. I’m not quite sure I have ever seen anything like this sport — thanks so much for sharing and for providing a great bit of background/history too!
Well readers: what say you?
Classic Ballpark Scoreboards
I’m pleased to continue with a favorite weekend feature here at Uni Watch, “Classic Ballpark Scoreboards,” — now in Series III — which are created by Gary Chanko. This segment will appear every Saturday on Uni Watch.
Here’s Gary (click on image to enlarge):
Classic Ballpark Scoreboards – Series III
by Gary Chanko
Classic Ballpark Scoreboards travels south to the Launching Pad for a historic baseball moment.
Baseball Home of: Atlanta Braves (MLB) (1966”“1996); Atlanta Crackers (IL) (1965)
Football Home of: Atlanta Falcons (NFL) (1966”“1991)
Opened: April 9, 1965
Closed: October 24, 1996
Demolished: August 2, 1997. Watch the implosion.
Thought it was called Fulton County something
When it opened in 1966 the ballpark was simply named Atlanta Stadium. It wasn’t until Ted Turner acquired the Braves team in 1976 that Fulton County was incorporated. Today it is commonly known as Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium or just Fulton County Stadium .
Atlanta Stadium was a stereotypical cookie-cutter stadium of its era. It was nondescript, multi-purpose, round, with a totally symmetrical playing field. The nickname The Launching Pad resulted from its reputation as a home run friendly park. With an elevation of 1070 feet above sea level, it was the highest MLB ballpark elevation until the birth of Coors Field.
The drive to bring MLB to Atlanta began back in 1961 with the mayoral campaign of local businessman Ivan Allen Jr. The stadium construction was completed in just under a year (many of the other cookie-cutters required multiple years to complete) and was ready for the Braves relocation in 1965. Legal problems keep the Braves in Milwaukee during 1965, so the minor league Atlanta Crackers played their final season in Atlanta Stadium.
The concise history of the stadium development through its demise is covered here.
Original Scoreboards and Message Boards
The original scoreboards and message boards were located at field level. There were four components to the arrangement. Left field consisted of a message board and the American League line scores. In right field one board provided the Braves game info and the other the National League line scores. That ubiquitous Longines clock was nestled into the left field arrangement.
Roof mounted display panels were added in sometime late seventies (or early eighties).
Home Run 715
The graphic illustration recreates the left center field display board at the moment Hank Aaron became baseball’s all-time career home run leader by hitting his 715th home run on April 8, 1974. Watch it all again here. A few minutes after Aaron circled the bases the message board switched to this display.
A Few Things to Know
• The parking lot for Turner Field occupies the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium site and features a memorial marker of the outfield location for Aaron’s 715th home run.
• The ballpark claims this oddity: the first batters for both teams during the inaugural 1966 game were brothers – Matty (Pirates) and Felipe Alou (Braves). Thirty years later Felipe’s son, Moises would become the last regular season batter in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
• Had things worked out, it could have been the Atlanta Athletics that moved into the new Atlanta ballpark in the mid-sixties. However, Charlie Finley wasn’t able to get the American League to approve the relocation from Kansas City.
• The Atlanta Stadium architectural team of FABRAP with Heery and Heery also were responsible for Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.
If anyone is interested in purchasing a digital copy of these posters, Gary is working on an online purchase option. In the interim you can contact him directly at Classicscoreboards@gmail.com.
…for the rest of us
You readers may recall last weekend I had a sub-lede detailing New York Mets’ slugger Yoenis Cespedes (scroll down, it’s in this post) and his seemingly random wearing of his (patented) neon sleeve. Towards the end of the post, I (semi-jokingly) asked if anyone was interested in charting/tracking Yo’s wearing of the sleeve (win/loss, left arm/right arm, his success, etc.). I never thought anyone would actually take me up on the offer.
I was wrong.
This week, I received an e-mail from Matthew Logan, which read as follows:
Long-time Uni-Watch reader and Mets fan here. Was reading your post yesterday and took particular interest in your request for info on Cespedes’ neon sleeve (a.k.a. I had a lot of free time at work today””Monday).
After thinking about it and bathing information, I ended up making an Excel spreadsheet that includes his game-by-game stats, highlighting and recording stats from each game he wore the sleeve. I also went through every game this season and determined if he wore a sleeve, what arm he wore it on, what jersey it was with, and whether he went high-cuff or pajama. My MLB.TV subscription came in handy here, as I used highlights and game archives to look back and see what he was wearing in all of this year’s games.
To my surprise, he’s worn the sleeve only seven times this year; the team is 4-3 in those games”¦4-1 when on his left arm and 0-2 when on his right. I compiled stats for each category (arm, jersey, cuff/pajama) to see his success rate with each. It’s a little early in the year to start using these stats, but he’s batting .381 with a sleeve!
I’m planning on updating it throughout the year, and thought I’d share it with you now that I’ve started it. Thought you might wanna take a look at it, so I attached the Excel file. It’s updated through yesterday’s (5/8) game at San Diego.
He included with that a chart which was current as of May 8th. That chart is here.
Last night, he followed up with another e-mail as an update to the original:
I’ve got some updated Cespedes stats for you. It doesn’t include tonight’s game (as its still going on), but figured I’d send you the figures since he’s not wearing a neon sleeve. The stuff I have below is some highlights, and the spreadsheet (attached) gives you the total overview. I figure its too early to go into jerseys paired with the sleeve and other total stats yet with only eight out of 35 games represented. Let me know if you need anything else from me.
With sleeve: 4-4
Without sleeve: 17-9
With sleeve on right arm: 0-2
With sleeve on left arm: 4-2
While high-cuffed: 1-3
While going pajama: 3-1 (unfortunately)
With sleeve: .375
Without sleeve: .274
With sleeve on right arm: .417
With sleeve on left arm: .361
While high-cuffed: .417 (yes!)
While going pajama: .267
Clearly, the sleeve improves his average (especially when going high-cuffed), but unfortunately it hasn’t made an impact on the Met’s winning percentage.
Wow — Yeoman work, Matt! I’d like to revisit this, so hopefully Matt will continue tracking the neon sleeve throughout the season.
Now…I wonder if anyone would like to pay pal me a couple grand…
Another fun letter…
…from Jimmy Corcoran
The always amusing Jimmy Corcoran, son of WFL & NFL quarterback “King” Corcoran sent me a note this week — I have to admit, I actually laughed out loud reading this one (which provoked some odd stares in the office). Enjoy! You can click on any photo below to enlarge.
How have you been Phil,
I know that next month you will have your annual Dad’s in uniforms and I plan on contributing a picture. Just when I thought I knew everything about the number’s my father wore during his ten year football career up comes another number, I never knew the King wore 17?
A relative gave me this old Waterbury Orbits program, I love those old 60’s graphics on the program cover.
When the King didn’t make the Jets active roster he was sent down to their minor league team, a couple of his teammates on this team Earl Christie and John Dockery were called up to the Jets and played in the 1969 Super Bowl for them. Of course this wouldn’t be in the cards for The King, he did everything he could to piss Weeb Eubank off and when Weeb cut him he told him “you have some talent, but I can’t handle two of you on this team King” Of course he was referring to Joe Namath, when my father got to Jets camp Joe Willie said, “If you are the King who am I?” my father said, “You are the Lord Joe”
I remember going to Jets practice with my Mother and a police officer asked her if she was one of Joe’s girlfriends, she said no my husband is King Corcoran, the officer opened the gate and let us on the sidelines. I was too young to remember this but my mother told me that as the Jet players were coming over to the sidelines for practice Weeb Eubank smiled at my Mother and said hi.
Real loud my father said “Dig this, Weeb hasn’t looked at a broad in twenty years and he’s checking out my wife! My Mother told me the entire New York Jets team was laughing at this and Weeb didn’t think it was funny, as usual it was all down hill from there. Though the King played well in a scrimmage against the Colts it wasn’t enough to keep him around and he was sent to the minors. After practice my father ran off the field with Joe Namath, they were both wearing red jerseys. My mother walked over to them and Joe said “who is this?” my father said this is my wife (my father got married young while still playing at Maryland) Joe Namath said, she’s too good looking for you King! For once the King was on the other end of a zinger.
Until I saw this program I always assumed my father only wore number 7 while with the Jets and had no idea he wore 17? My nephew is now a QB for his high school and was issued number 17 for spring ball but will wear 7 when the season starts, the same has the King though they never met each other.
Thanks, Jimmy! Funny stuff.
UW’s Friday Flashback
In case you missed it, Paul’s Friday Flashback on ESPN was quite possibly the most comprehensive piece ever written about the 1976 Braves and their nickname jerseys. As longtime readers are aware, the Braves’ nickNOBs have been a favorite topic of Paul’s over the past four years or so (look here, here, here, and here).
For years our only photo of Braves pitcher Andy Messersmith’s infamous “Channel 17” nickNOB from 1976 was this one. But now, we have an in-game shot (along with the first photo Paul had ever seen of Messersmith’s “Bluto” nickNOB), which he switched to after National League prexy Chub Feeney put the kibosh on “Channel 17.”
The newly discovered photos and information have helped to fill in most of the gaps that remained from those blog entries.
Great read, so be sure to check it out if you didn’t catch it on Friday!
The Braves weren’t alone…
Got an e-mail from Rich Paloma in response to Paul’s Friday Flashback on the Braves NickNOBs:
Regarding the A’s with nicknames on back two others come to mind.
After Charlie Finley tried to get Vida Blue to change his name to “True” in 1971, Blue went to wearing his first name “VIDA” on back of his jersey to spite the owner.
This continued to when he was traded to the Giants.
And can’t forget about Dick ‘Wampum” Allen who played for Oakland in 1977.
If I recall correctly, Bert Campaneris wore “CAMPY” on the back was because the A’s wore the tank style vest jerseys and there wasn’t no room for the full name.
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: “Desert Camo on Display,” read the subject line from Andrew Seagraves: This was the DH Conley/New Bern game in North Carolina with DH Conley in Desert Camo. … I think we’d have this before, but reader Randy Gindler writes, “I noticed something ‘uni-worthy” at last night Cardinals Angels game. Since the Cardinals were playing a red team, they wore their blue away caps. Everyone was in blue except for the 1st and 3rd base coaches. It looked strange when a player was on 1st to see the coach standing behind with a different helmet.” … Royals will wear a different uniform in all three games this weekend (technically Friday-Sunday), with their “World Champs” gold lettered/numbered jerseys last night, their regular unis today, and beautiful Negro League throwbacks Sunday. … Seems like lots of folks are tracking the D-Backs uni combos this year. … The Lakewood Blue Claws are going to wear Harry Potter-themed jerseys next Friday, May 20th. … “Sportspaper recently posted this photo of Danny Kaye, who was an owner of Seattle from 1977-81,” notes Leo Strawn, Jr.. “The pic appears to feature two different prototypes, powder blue and dark blue, with Mariners on front. Okkonen shows all of their road jerseys sporting the city name across the front during that era.” … If the high socks/cuffed/stirrup look is for you, @Husker_Baseball & @PennStateBASE had you covered last night (h/t Brett Baker). … NFLer J.J. Watt gets custom bats, glove for charity softball game (from Mart). … Check out the locker room set up with lots of historical Cleveland baseball unis (from jon d). … Nebraska wore camopander unis yesterday (from Phillip Schmidt). … Over on Facebook the Reno Aces gave us a look at their Dbacks inspired affiliate jerseys for today (from MinorLeague Promos). Don’t worry — they’re the good throwbacks. … Those 4th of July Caps we love to hate? Well, they’re coming to the minors this year too (from Kub). … Here is a look at the full set of Savannah Banana unis for this year — some of them are a bit…bright (from Lendsey Thompson). … Crossover alert: The Red Sox have announced Celtics Night at Fenway on June 22 — I’m assuming that’s just a fan giveaway, and not the actual cap to be worn during actual game action (from Bruce Menard). Also posted in NBA/Basketball. … The Montgomery Biscuits have some awesome stirrup action (from Roger Kirk). … Here’s a first look at the Iron Pigs’ “Star and Stripes” jersey to be worn on-field and auctioned July 3rd. … The Toledo “Hens” will be sporting these jerseys this weekend, for their for their Eggs & Bacon series vs. the Iron Pigs (via Jeremy). Meanwhile, the Iron Pigs will these one-night only “Bacon & Eggs” caps for their matchup with the Hens on Thursday. … Had you gone to the Inland Empire 66ers game last night, you could have picked yourself up a beautiful ‘halo’ Angels-style cap (from Minor League Promos). … See how the Red Sox uniforms have changed since 1901.
NFL News: NFL Logo poaching, High School Level, Part 285: “I was watching a rerun of The Price is RIght were it was apparently some kind of Teacher’s week and noticed the shirt on this contestant,” writes Seth Shaw. “A quick google search showed that Valley Center High School in California isn’t too shy about using the Jags old logo and word mark.” … A new McFarlane figure of Todd Gurley has retro Rams unis (h/t NYYDJ2 – Cole).
College Football News: The Black College Football Hall of Fame is moving from Atlanta to Canton (which happens to be home of the NFL [Pro] Hall of Fame). Thanks to Jason Hillyer. … Apparently at a certain truck stop in Marion Illinois, you can get a custom Illinois Tigers cap (nice spot by Matt Barnthouse). … We all Missed this during Rutgers’ uniform unveiling; “BELIEVE” sticker in honor of Eric LeGrande is a nice touch (good spot by Andrew Lind).
Hockey News: Ooooohhh – me likey: Check out this gorgeous 1940 Granger Ad with New York Americans Hockey Star Harvey “Busher” Jackson (another rare non-baseball submission from the one and only Bruce Menard). … The Hockey News has Auston Matthews on the cover in a Maple Leafs jersey he’ll never wear (from Nick LaRosa). … Conrad Burry has updated his NHL Playoff Tracker circle bracket.
NBA/College/Other Basketball News: “I was re-watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s last game in the ’89 Finals and noticed the entire team was wearing black patches over their shoulders,” says John Wilde. Video here at the 2:42 mark. “After doing a bit of researching and reading an old Page 2 article of Paul’s on the tradition of the black shoulder patch, I could not find the reason or cause for this particular Lakers team. Do you have the scoop?” Anyone? … Patrick Thomas “Scored a North Dakota State College of Science jersey, pretty sure authentic, today.” He’s trying to date it — can anyone help ID it (Year?). … Conrad Burry had hoped the Jazz would have gone with something like this for their new uni set. … Crossover alert: The Red Sox have announced Celtics Night at Fenway on June 22 — I’m assuming that’s just a fan giveaway, and not the actual cap to be worn during actual game action (from Bruce Menard). Also posted in Baseball. … Here are some new basketball unis for St. Stephen’s Lutheran Academy (from Steven Santillo).
Soccer News: Inside Manchester United’s “Red Cafe” the chair backs are like uniform shirts, with a name and number on the back (thanks to Alan Borock). … Tim Cross asks, “Are the Dasler (sic) brothers sharing designs?” (for those of you who don’t get the reference, Rudolph & Adi Dassler were brothers who feuded and founded Puma and adidas shoe companies). Also from Tim, “Never heard of the Comoros Islands before but these shirts are sweet.” … Interesting new home shirt for Darmstadt (from Ed Å»elaski). … Here’s the Cruz Azul jersey, made by Under Armour (from Patrick Thomas). … Bundesliga side Augsburg is debuting their new shirt in today’s match (another from Ed Å»elaski).
Grab Bag: “I know fan merch isn’t usually your thing, but I thought this might deserve a ticker mention,” writes Britton Thomas. “Chance the Rapper released a new mixtape today, and his site is giving fans the opportunity to customize their own shirt designs. He’s also had some sports-related apparel for sale in the past (as part of a college tour).” … It’s a pretty rare site to a professional golfer without a logo’ed cap (from J. Walker). … Illinois is going to select a new mascot, despite the haters (from Eric Lovejoy).
And that’s all for today. We’ll have an open thread tomorrow.
Enjoy your Saturday & Sunday and I’ll catch you next weekend…but until that time…
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“It’s also obnoxious to automatically assume you have to give a ball to a kid in the stands. What if you have a kid who couldn’t make it to the game and you want to brighten up his or her day? What if the kid who asks you for the ball has been a brat the whole game? I’ve been to games where kids (who don’t have seats there) hang around the rails blocking the view of people who have seats there, and their sole purpose is to get a ball”¦whether it’s foul or caught by the left fielder with one out in the inning. They’re not getting squat from me. Now if it’s a foul ball, I’m probably going to give it to a nice kid, but if it’s a home run ball? If it’s a huge milestone I’d give it to the batter. Otherwise it’s mine”¦especially if I caught it on the fly.
“I called it ‘playing catch’.”
— Jimmer Vilk