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1962 Broncos Photo Has Lots of Stories to Tell

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About a month ago I linked to four photos from the Broncos/Titans game played on Sept. 30, 1962 at the Polo Grounds. Those shots, provided to me by Broncos historian Tom Jacobsen, gave us best looks yet at the Broncos’ blue helmet logo, which was worn for the first five games of that season (and then was changed to white, so it would contrast more with the orange shell).

Now Tom has sent me another shot from that game (see above), and it’s notable for reasons that go beyond the blue helmet logo. For starters, the kicker is Gene Mingo, who’s credited with being pro football’s first African American placekicker.

But the real prize can be seen near the right edge of the shot — a player wearing No. 0! That’s Johnny Olszewski, who normally lined up as a fullback. “That’s the only No. 0 I’ve ever seen in a Broncos photo,” says Tom. “From what I can tell, this was the only year the team had a 0 on the roster.”

The Broncos were the fourth and final team Olszewski played for in a 10-year pro career. According to, he had already worn No. 0 for the ’Skins and Lions. (The number may have referred to his nickname, “Johnny O.”) And sure enough, I did a little digging and found that our own stalwart NFL historian Ricko had posted a comment back in 2010 that included photos of Olszewski wearing No. 0 for both of those teams:

“Never have found a photo of him with the Broncos,” said Ricko at the time. Well, now we have one.

• • • • •

Party reminder: Uni Watch party tonight, May 25, 7pm, in the backyard of the Fourth Avenue Pub in Brooklyn. This will be a serious summit meeting, as Chris Creamer of will be on hand. Chris is inviting his readers to join us, so maybe we’ll have some sort of smackdown between his crew and my crew — come out and make me proud, people!

While we’re at it: Tomorrow night — Thursday, May 26, 7pm — I’ll be a featured guest at this live “Talk Show” event, where the host will be interviewing me on the finer points of what it’s like to be a uniform reporter. It’s free — you should come.

Tomorrow is also the 17th anniversary of the first Uni Watch column being published in The Village Voice. Happy almost-birthday to Uni Watch!

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Paul

Baseball News: Longtime reader/pal Joe Hilseberg DIY’d himself an Orioles TATC jersey and also made custom O’s jerseys for his one-year-old twins. They will all be worn during a trip to Camden Yards on Father’s Day. … A Pennsylvania high school has a pitcher who has only one hand, like former MLBer Jim Abbott (from Mary Bakijia). … Like most MLBers on minor league rehab assignments, Alex Rodriguez wore his big league helmet last night. That’s because minor league helmets are, by rule, double-flapped, so MLBers are allowed to take their single-flapped helmets with them when rehabbing. … Pretty bizarro BP jerseys for the Cincy Bearcats (thanks, Phil). … Cottonwood High in Utah wears yellow sannies that match the team’s yellow jerseys. Nicely done (from Christopher Jones). … If you think minor league theme unis are wacky, check out the Buchbinder Cup, a German tournament — yowza! (Phil again.) … Lots of vintage flapless replica MLB helmets available here (from @the_boot_room).

NFL News: Here’s a first (at least for me): a Plexiglas interview backdrop. Gotta include that corporate advertising wherever you can, eh? Douchebags (from James Gilbert). … Whoa check out this early color Bears photo. Naturally, I love all the stripes. … Hmmm, are the Eagles switching to white cleats? … New stadium food offerings for the Vikings. … The Bills have an idiotic new media policy but an honest GM. … Key quote from This 1941 newspaper article: “The league should not permit uniforms so much alike as Green Bay’s and Cleveland’s [referring to the Rams, who had not yet moved to LA]. When the Rams perspired, their lighter blue became almost as dark as the Packers’ jerseys” (from Kenn Tomasch). … Former Bear Ryan Mundy is suing Schutt over a 2014 injury (thanks, Phil).

College Football News: UCLA has inked a new deal with Under Armour, believed to be the biggest apparel contract in NCAA history (thanks, Phil). … In a related item, here’s an updated list of FBS schools’ outfitters (from Zach Barnett). … Tennessee Tech has a new five-year deal with Adidas. Interesting that the story says the contract is just for the football team, not the entire athletics program (thanks, Phil). … New BFBS jersey for Northern Iowa (thanks, Phil). … Here’s this year’s Shamrock Series logo. … Interesting: According to a poll of recruits, Alabama has college football’s worst uniforms. And yet they still manage to recruit great players, imagine that. Could it be that recruits don’t actually decide which school to attend on the basis of uniforms? Shocker. Also of note: Maryland’s unis are ranked as both the third-best and the fourth-worst (from Phil).

Hockey News: This is pretty great: Patrick Warburton — the actor who played face-painting Devils fan David Puddy on Seinfeldposing with goalie Scott Wedgewood’s mask, which features an illustration of Warburton! … 1980 “Miracle on Ice” goalie Jim Craig is selling his gold medal, mask, and skates (thanks, Phil). … Good story on the winged design of the Michigan hockey helmet (thanks, Phil).

NBA News: Check this out: Early-1990s Clippers C Elmore Spencer wearing eye black on the court! He talked about it in this article (from @EyeBlack_com).

Grab Bag: Interesting piece about how being a costumed sports mascot is more dangerous than you might think (from Tommy Turner). … Check out this window ad, which my childhood friend John Vahey recently spotted at the corner of Broadway and 18th St. in Manhattan. Were they respecting Xerox’s trademark, or just getting creative — or sloppy — with the spelling? … Our current food culture really fetishizes the word “slow”: slow cooker, slow-roasted, “low and slow,” the Slow Food movement, etc. We all understand the reason for this: Slow takes time, time equates with expense/care/effort, etc. Until now, however, I had never seen ”” or maybe had just never noticed ”” something described or promoted as being “slow baked” (see start of second paragraph). … Hilarious story about how big corporations have decided that paying big bucks to “influencers” — i.e., people who are paid to put photos of products on Instagram, just like you do every day only you don’t get paid big bucks for it — is a waste of time. All these idiots deserve each other. Highly recommended reading. … New Indigenous Round Aussie football jumper for Adelaide. … Two UK youngster designed cycling jerseys for riders in a local race. … Yesterday’s French Open match between Jan Lennard Struff and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was not so easy on the eyes (from Drew Stiling). … Faaaascinating piece by PTI’s Michael Wilbon about how blacks aren’t into advanced statistical metrics. Only scratches the surface of what I’m sure is a very complicated topic, but still very interesting. Recommended. … Pro golfer Bubba Watson has a candy store in Florida, and that store now has a logo. … Here’s a photo gallery of the Team Penske shop (from David Firestone). … New soccer kit for Nottingham Forest (from Ryan Walters).

• • • • •

What Paul did last night: Last night at NYU there was a free screening of Big Gold Dream, a documentary about the Scottish punk/indie scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The Tugboat Captain and I really enjoyed it, plus it was great to bump into so many friends who were also there to check it out.

Afterward, we went out with our friend Robert for a bite at a Soho pub, where I made a quick pit stop at the men’s room before we sat down to eat. As I stepped up to the urinal, the guy to my left, in mid-piss, said, “Hey, Paul Lukas — you’re Paul Lukas of Uni Watch!” I wasn’t sure what to say, other than, “Yes, I am,” to which he replied, “Wow, this is so great, Paul Lukas of Uni Watch right here in the bathroom! I’m a big fan, I read all your stuff! Hey, I have some ideas about things you should write about…”

He was genuinely nice about it all, but he was also a bit drunk and ramble-y. So I said, “I’m gonna finish taking a leak, and then I’m gonna wash my hands, and then I’m gonna go back out and have dinner with my friends. So you have that long to pitch me a story idea — go!” And he did. (More on his story idea later.)

Michael, if you’re reading this, it was a pleasure, if a somewhat awkward one, to meet you. Hope you’ll come to tonight’s Uni Watch party, yes? Yes!

Comments (73)

    “first give games” should be “first five games”

    Broadway and 18th Street link goes to last Thursday’s Uni Watch.

    The plexiglas thing is new for football, but I’ve seen it a lot during rugby broadcasts.

    Soccer as well. It’s used if they don’t have a “mixed zone” (the part of a hallway or path where reporters can interview players and coaches immediately after an event. They just tore it out on the field, and do the interview right there.

    I was going to note that, as well. It’s funny, at least in soccer, when you see a solid board that’s L-shaped–usually the close-up camera angles make it look like they’ve got the player/manager cornered.

    A funny one was in a recent program on Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager. They were playing at Exeter City from League Two (the fourth division). They pulled the camera back to show that Klopp was giving his pre-match interview (backdrop and all) in Exeter’s stadium kitchen (and a very tiny one it was).

    In the shortest form of cricket (twenty 20, twenty overs per side fast paced) players sit in dugouts on the side of the field, a branding and sponsorship dream link

    About that Buchbinder Cup uniform, I can see a german heritage uniform coming soon to minor league team near you.
    Also, lederhosen is clearly a thing in Germany:

    When I read the Wilbon piece last night, it struck me as the standard “Nerds are ruining sports” article mixed with the always-dangerous race issue.

    My impression is that mathematically/analytically-inclined fans are a small minority, period. (And, contrary to Wilbon’s thesis, many of us are able to use that information to enhance our understanding of the game while retaining our emotional and aesthetic appreciations.)

    I won’t presume to speculate about how the percentages of those fans vary by race. It’s possible, though, that if Wilbon had wandered into the right place, he’d have found a group of African-Americans who could engage him on analytics.

    I agree. The piece would’ve been better if Wilbon would’ve at least acknowledged how advanced stats increase our understanding of the game. Instead we got this passage:

    “It’s like calculating points per 100 possessions, a very popular go-to stat in NBA circles. Why is that more important than points per 48 minutes, which is the actual time in which an NBA game is played?”

    A quick link told me that per 100 possessions normalizes for pace of play, making it more accurate to evaluate fast teams and slow teams.

    The hand-waving to baseball was the worst part. There’s a sport that apparently bucks whatever argument he’s making, and he just waves it off as “eh, well baseball’s different”.

    And then there’s a published quote about how WHIP is “antiseptic”. WHIP! It’s a counting stat! It’s literally ERA but with walks and hits instead of earned runs, and measured by inning instead of per nine innings! It’s indistinguishable from the venerable, old-timey ERA.

    I don’t think journalists needed to take many math or statistics classes. This probably leads to the bias that they don’t like advanced stats.

    The 100 possession thing is great because it normalizes how often you score per possession (are they good at scoring?). Then you can see how many possessions a team averages per games (do they play fast?). Then these things give a better understanding at how each team can be exploited.

    I listened to him on the 538 podcast, and he asked why stats are normalized for 100 possessions instead of 48 minutes. It was explained to him that it is because this allows players who play in differently-paced offenses to still have comparable stats. So he asked “well why don’t they adjust to 48 minutes?” and the reasoning was explained to him again. The article is interesting in theory, but I’d respect it more if it was written by someone who even pretends to attempt to understand why advanced stats might be useful.

    I’ll have to go back and re-read the article, but personally I feel like sports commentary gets way too bogged down in stat. I can listen to Ian Eagle or Jim Courier tell me over and over and over again how impressive it is that Jack Sock’s forehand causes the tennis ball to rotate at a rate heretofore only matched by Rafael Nadal. Ball rotation is one of a dozen or so “advanced” stats that have crept into tennis commentary over the past couple of years. The thing is that until Jack Sock starts winning tournaments at a level matched by Rafael Nadal, there’s no evidence that the ball rotation stat is relevant – it’s meaningless to fans, black or white, and apparently, it’s meaningless to Sock’s opponents.

    I don’t find that I understand or appreciate tennis any better with all of the advanced stats available. Most of them are what I think are best described, to use Uni Watch parlance, as a SFSS.

    My hope is that with ever-increasing bandwidth becoming available via fiber that viewers will one day have the option to customize how games are viewed, e.g., with or without announcers, with or without all the graphics, etc.

    I’m finding that I’m enjoying games on TV less and less for some of the same reasons I’m enjoying games less in person: overproduction, loud/invasive music, commercialization of and advertising on virtually everything.

    Also, get off of my lawn…

    Love the early Bears color photo too, but that leg stripe sure makes it appear the player has split his pants!

    That Bears pic was colorized by John Tunney who used to share his colorizations here.

    I just love the color Broncos Titans 1962 pics. I am one that likes those Titans unis.

    Interesting poll about ugliest college uni. I knew PSU had to be up there with worst. Alabamas is better looking though since the colors are better.

    Those company selling those plastic baseball helmets didn’t do any research on the teams represented. Each is just listed by the letter or weak description of the logo. A few amusing misinterpretations…

    Orioles = Beak
    Blue Jays = Blue Beak
    Cardinals = SLT
    Twins = C
    Indians = Black C

    and my personal favorite is they refer to the Expos “M” as JB!

    I don’t see the descriptions you cited but wanted to note that the company is in the UK, so that would explain the lack of knowledge.

    I can understand these 1980 USA team members selling their game gear and unis, but the gold medal too? I guess some could use the money, but that just seems sad to me.

    I watched the Sports Collectors episode on his Miracle on Ice flag. I thought the same thing, “how sad”. His excuse was “which kid do I give it to?” – it’s easiest to sell. He wanted to secure money for his kids’ futures. Not sure I buy it… maybe his kids don’t give a rat’s ass about hockey and he would rather it go to someone who will cherish the items.

    It is worth noting, his intent was to sell the whole lot to a museum (the original stuff up for sale, not sure if these were part of that sale – I didn’t read today’s linked article).

    The photo also shows Broncos quarterback Frank Tripucka wearing No. 18, which was retired by the Broncos early in their history when they didn’t have much to celebrate. That No. 18 was either “un-retired” or “loaned,” based on how you want to interpret it, when the Broncos signed Peyton Manning.

    That’s the second time a number has come out of retirement at Mile High. The precedent was set when Bill Romanowski got Randy Gradishar’s 53 back in the ’90s. OTOH RB Tatum Bell had asked for 7 but was rebuffed.

    Also notice rehabbing-in-Trenton AROD’s undershirt that bears his personal logo on the sleeve, as opposed to the chest.

    Hilarious story about how big corporations have decided that paying big bucks to “influencers” – i.e., people who are paid to put photos of products on Instagram, just like you do every day only you don’t get paid big bucks for it – is a waste of time.

    Schadenfreude ist die schoenste Freude!

    /Yes, I stole it.

    Cottonwood High in Utah wears yellow sannies that match the team’s yellow jerseys. Nicely done (from Christopher Jones).

    Should I be depressed nothing in the majors looks as good?

    Boy, talk about your strawman arguments. That college football recruits “actually decide which school to attend [solely] on the basis of uniforms” has been said by no one, ever (OK, by some blithering idiot, maybe).

    If anything, that poll illustrates that recruits in fact do pay attention to and have opinions about uniform design/aesthetics. Or put another way, that they’re human.

    That college football recruits “actually decide which school to attend [solely] on the basis of uniforms” has been said by no one, ever (OK, by some blithering idiot, maybe).

    You stacked the deck by adding “solely.” Remove that word and you get a sentence that has actually been said countless times in recent years.

    While I can’t claim to read the minds of college football players, it seems to me that this idea that recruits are basing their choices at all on who has the hippest, most modern uniforms is at best grossly exaggerated as it appears that the schools with traditional (often kind of “bland”) uniforms get the best recruits.

    For example, if you look at Scout’s team rankings for 2015:


    By my count, 13 of the top 15 recruiting hauls are for schools that wear traditional uniforms whose designs are mostly the same as they were 20-30 years ago.

    Oh, I completely agree that it’s exaggerated. I’ll go further and say it’s complete bullshit.

    But it’s the rationale we keep hearing for outrageous uniform designs: “We have to do it in order to compete for recruits.”

    Didn’t stack the deck. The “solely” was simply gratuitous, didn’t change the meaning of your sentence one whit.

    Oh, please. If it didn’t change the sentence, why did you add it? We both know you were stacking the deck, and now you’re just trying to save face because I called you on it.

    The reality remains: Remove “solely” and you have a sentence that has been repeated countless times in recent years, from countless sources. (I happen to think the sentence in question is nonsense, but it has nonetheless become the party line in many circles.)

    We’re done here. Let’s move on. Thanks.

    Got a note from Richard Lewis: “When George Plimpton masqueraded as a quarterback with the Detroit Lions for his book Paper Lion he was issued link bearing the large, and in this case appropriate, ‘0’ numeral. Walter Iooss, Jr., of Sports Illustrated took a number of photos of Plimpton during training camp with the Lions.”

    Rats, I forgot to mention that todays lead story and pics are classic uni-watchin’ red meat. Kudos.

    The kinda stories that clarify exactly what these players wore – down to the names on the back of the jerseys, tv numbers and Ridell cleats. So many layers of story’s within stories.


    Maybe Joe Hilseberg could DIY a couple of Twins jerseys for his daughters next time.

    Those German baseball uniforms would have looked even better if the players had worn those traditional lederhosen socks as well.


    My dad had Bronco season tickets from 1961-63. Wahoo McDaniel and Johnny O were his favorite players. Johnny O was the inspiration for my dad’s only uniform-related comment that I can remember: “he was short and broad and looked like a bowling ball, so that zero really looked right on him”.

    Dad thought he’d pick the tickets back up again when I was old enough to take to games, but by then the prices had gone way up and the waitlist was already pretty long.

    That college football poll tells me everything I need to know about the younger generation… and I’m only 44, and a graphic artist who’s paid to design nice things!

    Good grief…. get off my lawn :)

    I don’t think it has anything to do with the current “young generation” – young people are always going to generally prefer the new and loud designs in just about anything over the plain and traditional. As they get older, their tastes will become more moderate and they’ll start to value tradition over newness.

    Another example is with automobiles: as a teenager, you’re more likely to want something flashy that stands our, in your 50’s you’re probably going to drive something that fits in.

    Agreed. I don’t think the tastes of 17-year-olds are indicative of anything other than, you know, the tastes of 17-year-olds.

    I think the BFBS jersey for Northern Iowa is a one-time-only special from 2015 that was auctioned off after the game.

    Nice historical Bronco photo. Evidence of them playing in those days seems really scarce. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a color photo of the Broncs playing in their original brown and yellow with vertical stripe sock monstrosities.

    I’m not overly concerned about race in sports–talent and results ultimately puts you on the playing surface, not skin color. But I do find it odd that I don’t recall ever seeing an African American NFL (or AFL, I know)placekicker outside of this photo. Tell me if you have. Mingo was also a running back, and of course kickers don’t play multiple positions anymore.

    I’ve also heard that there are currently zero African American punters or kickers in the NFL and there are zero white defensive backs at all. Correct me if I’m wrong. Seems very strange (and very statistically unlikely) if it is true.

    . . . and just one more thing: a <a href=

    Donald Igwebuike — African? yes. But is he American?

    And I’m pretty sure he hasn’t played in the NFL since the Bush administration. The George H. W. Bush administration, that is.

    Thanks, DenverGregg. You found the outlier AA punter and white D Back. Still very, very rare indeed.

    And the color Bronco brown and yellow in action. So ugly it’s cool.

    UCLA has inked a new deal with Under Armour, believed to be the biggest apparel contract in NCAA history (thanks, Phil)


    Jo-Wilfried’s French Open outfit is bad enough, but Jan Lennard is definitely wearing the wrong Struff.

    Yeah, I’ll show myself out.

    Wonder if Olszewski’s 0 Detroit jersey got re-used by George Plimpton in the Paper Lion thingee?

    That colorized photo of Ray Nolting must be from 1936 training camp. GUD says Chicago only wore those navy pants with orange stripe on back of legs on field in 1935 and Nolting’s rookie season was ’36.

    As a former mascot, I can tell you that some people are absolutely miserable humans. I could deal with the people that were legitimately terrified because I could just leave them alone. But others would get extremely mad if I even entered their section to interact with others. Some would even go to the point of physicality. The most trouble I ever got in though was when one guy threatened to call the police for assault when I sat in the row behind him and tickled his ear with my toe

    former mascot? where? what were you? let’s hear some more stories!

    Just as most people fess up to coulrophobia (fear of clowns) nowadays, I had a phobia of mascots, particularly ones with oversized heads. My trip to Disneyworld was especially fraught.

    String spray is the worst substance on earth; wherever it lands, it’s difficult to clean up! I’ve heard that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have used it to detect tripwires that might set off IED’s. That’s what it’s good for.

    You were coming onto that guy from behind; no wonder he got aggravated. Lesson learned, I hope.

    So the Eagles are switching to white cleats.

    Now they just need to switch to kelly green helmets/jerseys and silver pants and we’ll have it made.

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