Skip to content

The Lost Art of VAL

[Editor’s Note: Paul is on his annual August break from site. Deputy editor Phil Hecken is in charge from now through Aug. 25, although Paul is still on the clock over at ESPN and may be popping up here occasionally.]

(If you want to jump to the Grand Rapids Griffins Fauxback Contest Voting, Scroll Down)

By Phil Hecken, with Bill Henderson

Back before I started my weekday run for the month of August (well before I knew Nike and the NBA would eat up 1/3rd of my time by bleeding out their jersey reveals) I had asked Uni Watch friend (and legend) Bill Henderson if he’d be interested in penning a few pieces for our viewing pleasure during the month of August. Unfortunately, I have set up a number of posts with other artists, designers and readers (some of which I just won’t be able to get to during August), and I only have room for one Bill Henderson piece, but it’s a great one, and it’s below. Bill and I had discussed a number of topics which would be of great interest to the UW reader, and the first (and now as it turns out, only) one is on the lost art of vertically arched lettering (VAL).

As many of you are aware, Bill produces the incredible Game Worn Guide to MLB Jerseys, the latest iteration being his eighth edition. If you don’t own a digital copy, you’re missing out bigly. It’s a MUST OWN for any baseball fan and particularly any uni watcher.

So, without further ado, I’m pleased to present this great article by Bill Henderson. Enjoy (you can click any image to enlarge).

• • • • •

Vertical Arched player names — A lost design element that should make a comeback
By Bill Henderson

It disappeared from MLB in 2006, and most people never noticed it was gone, let alone lamented its passing. But I noticed, and I suspect that looking back, many of you did as well. 2005 was the last year that any team used a vertical arched player name on back. The team was the Atlanta Braves, and without fanfare they simply stopped doing it. But looking back to the years between 1977 and 1984, of the 26 teams in baseball that used player names on back, 11, or nearly half of them used vertical arch some or all the time.

Let’s back up and do some explaining. Our topic today is to deeply explore a lost detail in jersey design that we think is due for a reprise: The Vertical Arched player NOB. I will explain what it is, how it is done, why it disappeared, and why it should return.

The jersey pictured here has its player NOB “Radially arched”, the style used exclusively today in MLB. That means the letters have been grabbed from a pattern, cut out, arranged on an arc, then sewn in place. All the letters are straight up and down and there is nothing fancy. Today in MLB, every team that has a name on back of their jerseys uses radially arched NOB. Simple, straightforward and no frills.

Now, look at this jersey back. Even if you are not a graphic designer, you will notice the difference. The name has a swoopy, powerful, emphasis to it. There’s a real presence; even personality. Let’s compare vertical arch to “Italic” print, something that we all are familiar with. When a word is written in italics, the vertical strokes of each letter leans forward slightly, imparting a sense of urgency. This sentence is written using an italic font.

The Vertical Arch style is family-related to italic print. But instead of italic’s characteristic of the vertical stroke of every letter leaning forward, in vertical arch, instead the horizontal strokes of every letter are drawn to follow the arc on which they are placed, and the verticals are all perfectly upright. Look closely you’ll notice that unlike the radially arched name, with vertical arch, every letter in the arc has its own unique characteristics depending on where it falls in the word. It’s easier to see than to explain.

I created the graphic below using Adobe Illustrator, a professional tool used by graphic designers and one that is nearly incomprehensibly complicated to anyone else.

The top example is radially arched on a 33-degree arc. All the letters are identical, and their bottoms are laid flat against the arc.

The middle example is also on a 33-degree arc, but it is vertically arched. All letters are the same height, but each letter is slanted uniquely from any other. Using Illustrator, this effect can be applied automatically with just a few keystrokes.

The bottom example has a simple artistic modification, where the arc at the bottom of the name is a tighter radius than the one at the top. The letters at the ends of the name are therefore stretched taller and the bottoms of those letters are individually tweaked to make them follow the tighter arc. It seems like a small thing, but when viewed in the cloth, the tweaked example looks more balanced. Without it, the optical illusion makes the name seem fatter in the middle and too narrow at the ends.

Now that we’ve explained what it is, let’s talk about how such a thing was done back in the old days of the 1980s, before a powerful computer sat on every desk and also ran every piece of office and factory machinery. Back then, people instead depended on an individual who was a skilled graphic artist to either create each player name “from scratch”, or more likely to create a set of templates like the example below, my own historical recreation of the Philadelphia Phillies’ player name font of the 1970s and early 1980s. When creating such a template, each letter of the alphabet would be rendered by the artist in vertical arch, and in every possible position of the name arc. Now, when it came time to create a player nameplate, using the templates, a more marginally skilled worker could lay out the name, by simply finding the center of the word, then choosing the appropriately positioned letters from the arc of each template. He or she would then trace them on cloth and cut each letter out by hand to be then sewn on the jersey (or to a nameplate).

This all was quite a lot of work! And for teams with two-color NOB (like the San Francisco Giants and California Angels) outline layers had to be created on templates as well, then two layers of cloth traced and cut. But the effect was attractive and popular and perhaps it was done this way”¦ well maybe because it always had been done this way. MLB has always been very slow to change, and frankly, uniforms often seemed like an afterthought, from the people I’ve interviewed over the years who were a part of the process. They often did things this year because that’s the way they were done last year.

You might wonder, why couldn’t MLB just share a single version of alphabet templates among them, after all, wasn’t one vertical arch NOB the same as another? Well- no, they were not. In fact, nearly every team’s NOB font was different. The Angels’ font was different than the Royals than the Giants than the Twins or the Phillies. And in the manual-labor, pre-computer era of the 1970s and 1980s, creating a new physical copy of a template was not a point/click/drag/drop function with a computer mouse; it instead involved tracing the original pattern onto card stock and cutting all the letters from the cards with an art knife. Who had time for that, even if teams were in the mood for sharing with each other, which few did?

Timing was a problem too. While some teams did their own player name/number lettering themselves using a local shop, others depended on Rawlings or Wilson to do the sewing for them at the factory. The team’s first set of uniforms would arrive at the start of the season beautifully lettered and ready for use. But, what if a player joined the team midseason as a trade, or was called up from the minors, as often happened? Unless the team had enough lead-time to order him a jersey from the factory, or had the skills to letter his name with vertical arch locally, that player often got a jersey with plain, radially-arched NOB. Not perfect, maybe, but who was going to notice?

The jersey at left was most likely lettered by Wilson at the factory, as part of the team’s opening day set of uniforms. The “Jackson” jersey at right belonged to Roy Lee Jackson, a relief pitcher who appears to have joined the team in late May 1986. It is probable that this jersey was lettered locally, and therefore didn’t get the vertical arch NOB.

Photo credit: Sports Investors LLC

Bo Jackson was called up by the Royals to the majors late in the 1986 season. This is his jersey from that year, original and unaltered. It lacks a vertical arch NOB because most likely it was lettered locally in Kansas City. At left is a Royals road jersey from the team’s beginning-of-the-year set, most likely lettered at the factory by Wilson with the team’s correct vertical arch name font. An interesting note; the Royals as a policy stripped player names off of jerseys sent to the minors (and to the hobby), and a great percentage of them that surface today have been restored incorrectly with standard, radial arched names.

Now, let’s instead look at the jersey lettering process when radially arched (not vertical arch) player names are created. The shop tells the cutting machine (or the guy with the cutting die or the scissors) to cut 100 each of every letter in the alphabet, and 300 extra of each of the vowels. These cut letters are dumped into 26 bins, one for each. When a jersey is to be lettered, the relatively unskilled worker pulls the letters out of the bins, arranges them in an arch using a simple cardboard template, and heat-presses them in place. That’s it… the whole pre-sewing process, explained in two sentences. And that alone explains why teams stopped using vertical arch. It was just too darn much trouble.

One by one, teams stopped doing it. For example, the Expos stopped after 1979, The Orioles after 1983, The Padres and Pirates in 1984, The Angels, Twins and Phillies in 1986, the Royals in 1993, the Giants in 1999 and finally the Braves, the last team in MLB to still use it, in 2005, now twelve seasons ago.

Vertical arch has not disappeared completely from professional sports. It is still used by the New York Rangers of the NHL

It seems is especially ironic to me that just about the time that computers and automated cutting equipment were becoming common, accessible and inexpensive, MLB gave up on vertical arched player name lettering. If they had held on for just a couple more years, the technology would have been right there to automate the process without missing a step. But now that’s it’s gone someone would have to make a decision to bring it back.

Just like any font can be made italic, any font can be vertically arched. I’ve created a few so you can see what today’s jerseys might look like. There are 29 teams in MLB that currently use NOB. I challenge just one of them to bring back Vertical Arch player names to revive a nostalgic part of the past.

• • • • •

Thanks, Bill! Tremendous job as always. Hopefully we’ll be able to run some of those planned articles in the near future!

Today we vote on the fourth and final group of contestants for the Grand Rapids Griffins “Fauxback Design” contest. In case you missed it, the contest parameters and rules were laid out here.

I received a whopping 119 Entries in this contest, so the voting will be broken down as follows. Thursday: First 30 entrants (you may click here to view that post); Friday: Second 30 entrants (click here to see that post); Yesterday: Third 30 entrants (click here to see that); and Today: Final 29 entrants. As in previous contests, the submissions will be listed alphabetically. The TOP THREE contestants receiving votes in each group will move on to the final group (for a total of 12 finalists — three from each group), from which the Griffins will make a decision and declare the winner who I will announce on Friday, August 25.

We’re using a new polling system, which we hope will eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) any fraud or shenanigans. You will be permitted to vote for as many designs as you would like, but you may only vote ONCE. As you glance over the designs, be sure to write down the name and number of your favorite(s) and then cast your votes in the poll which follows the submissions. The poll(s) will close approximately twenty-four (24) hours after being posted — the TOP THREE vote recipients will move into the final group (the winner of which will be chosen by the Griffins).

REMINDER: The Griffins set out the following parameters for designing an alternate (fauxback) jersey. Please use them to guide you as you make your decision(s) below:

Design Guidelines:

• Create a brand new design for a Griffins alternate jersey (remember: you are ONLY designing a jersey, not a full uniform).
• DO NOT USE current or previous Grand Rapids Griffins logos or previous Griffins jersey design contest winning logo designs. Your work must be original.
• The jersey color must be red or black.
• This jersey will be part of an ’80s Fauxback Theme Night. If the Griffins existed in the 1980s, what would the jerseys have looked like?
• Use official team colors ”“ CMYK Colors: Red 12/100/92/3, Gray 31/25/26/0, Gold 43/49/76/21, Black 75/68/67/90, White 0/0/0/0.

And now, the final 29 contestants (click any design to enlarge):

+ + + + + + + + + +

1. Ryan Schnabel

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

2. Michael Schonhoff

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

3. David Shaw

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

4. Brendan Shively

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

5. Skyler Silvis

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

6. Will Sinnott

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

7. Kevin Sousa

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

8. Brandon Sprague

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

9. Alexa Stanton

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

10. Ryan Stiner

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

11. Alex Stockman

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

12. Peter Tessin

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

13. Luke Thomas

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

14. Ryan Tinnerman

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

15. Jay Tuohey

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

16. Colin Turner

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

17. Mark Ureel

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

18. Lucas VanderBilt

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

19. Ryan Vorpagel

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

20. Jeff Wall

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

21. John Waller

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

22. Patrick Walters

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

23. Marissa Wichtowski

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

24. Steve Williams

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

25. David Wittenberg

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

26. Cameron Wolf

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

27. Johnny Woods

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

28. Dustin Wright

• • • • • • • • • • • • •

29. Diego Yanez

+ + + + + + + + + +


[totalpoll id=”87567″]

Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

Being an ABA fan from way back (Colonels, Chaps) I absolutely love the look on this Carolina Cougars ABA T-shirt. It’s a repro, not vintage, but so what. A simple line drawing, and most effective when you drop the ABA ball in there. The ABA teams did some nice design work- teams like the Colonels and Pacers, Floridians, the New Virginia Squires (looked like a burger logo) and who could forget the Spirits of St. Louis! We won’t say anything about the Memphis Tams, whose logo was drawn by a second-grader. Now for the rest of the week~


• This 1970s New York Rangers hockey skate bottle opener is MIB! (Or as the eBay denizens say, “mint in box.”)

• I’ve just never seen this before. Look at this Cincinnati “BENGALS” helmet plaque. Is this a DIY? Kinda looks like one of those bicycle helmet deals. The seller also has the Jets and Oilers for sale. (*Update: Earl Shores of the Unforgettable Buzz agrees. “Don’t think that is for real. Pretty sure that’s the right half of the NFL helmets that went on your bicycle. From the 1970 NFLP catalog.”

• Nice selection of 1970s NFL Slurpee cups including the cool “double NY” Giants helmet. (At least that’s what I call it.)

• Got a few here from The Pack: notice the G on the helmet of this 1970s ground crew (not grounds crew) jacket is reversed!

• Here’s a rare left-facing Packers helmet decal from Kraft. It says 1970s, but I’m betting on 1980s for that look. And I’ve never seen this Packers decal helmet look before.

• And how about the look of this 1960s-1970s? era boys Packers sweatshirt!

• Check out this 1980s Toronto Maple Leafs wall clock!

• Did you know Pete Rose had his own chocolate drink? He did, and it was called, predictably, PETE. Here’s a can (no contents) if you’re interested.

• Look at the simplicity of this 1960s Philadelphia Eagles helmet decal from WIP Radio.

• I’m including this 1965 SI cover of the Niners because 1) Ken Willard is PL’s guy, and 2) the Niners secretly changed their sleeve striping to more resemble these. Now we have two stripes, not the three, but at least they’re not that truncated set any longer. BTW, Mr. B.B. Foster of 3743 Ninth Street in Philadelphia, your subscription ran out in November of 1966. Please call customer service.

The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: The Memphis Redbirds, Charleston RiverDogs, and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes wore eclipse jerseys yesterday (from many readers). … The Uni-President Lions, a team in Taiwan, will wear Hero uniforms in September (from @GraveyardBall).

NFL News: A few Chargers players had their bolts on the wrong sides of their helmets. This picture shows what I mean, with the incorrect version in the foreground, and the correct orientation in the background (from @mikelewismusic and Russell Goutierez). … The Patriots have narrower shoulder stripes with their new uni template. Some stripes are thinner than others, though (from Joseph Pizziferri). … Judging by the inconsistent block shadows, the 8 is upside-down on Browns WR Kenny Britt’s jersey (from several readers).

College Football News: Marvel Comics created comic book covers for six college football kickoff weekend matchups: Ohio State-Indiana, Michigan-Florida, Florida State-Alabama, BYU-LSU, West Virginia-Virginia Tech, and Tennessee-Georgia Tech (from Andrew Cosentino). … Maryland unveiled new yellow jerseys. The uniform is inspired by what the Terps wore during the 1940s (from many readers). … Western Carolina will wear black unis for a game in September (from Ryan Dowd). … Georgia Tech is expected to announce a new apparel deal with Adidas today (from Mike Cole). … Do you know the history of the penalty flag? It was created by a referee and his wife back in 1941. Before flags, officials used horns and whistles to call infractions (from William Yurasko).

Soccer News: Goalkeepers in England typically have three color options for their jerseys throughout the season, but Arsenal keepers have four, and sometimes as many as seven (from Denis Hurley).

Grab Bag: New uniforms for TimrÃ¥ IK, a Swedish hockey team (from Roy Ellingsen). … South Carolina’s women’s basketball team will have pink uniforms for breast cancer awareness (from Andy Shain). … New logo for SUNY Plattsburgh. … The Vatican released a logo for the Pope’s trip to Chile in January. … The town of Greenwood, La., has a new tree logo.

Comments (47)

    Detroit Red Wings fans: Hey, we still use vertically-arched names too! Except in preseason. (You have to “earn” the VANOB!)

    Thank you for the incredible piece on VAL! Whenever the Phillies throw back to this era, I always shake my head and say “nope, still not right…”, and my friends who don’t “get it” have no idea what I mean.

    IIRC, during the Jordan years, the Chicago Bulls had VAL NOBs then changed to RAL NOBs.

    Now I don’t mind either nor prefer one over the other, but seeing VAL NOBs almost makes it look like the name of the player is the name of a team.

    No, they had radially arched one-color sans serif letters; then two-color radially arched serif.

    Oops! You’re right. I was thinking about Jordan and thought it was the Bulls jersey numbers that were also RAL. Now, the Dream Team jerseys were VAL.

    I prefer radially arched over vertically. To me it is not even close. Something about skewing the letters in vertical arch bugs me, I like clean, uniformity of the radially arched nameplate.

    I agree completely.

    Of course it is clear that vertical launching is an art, and that it was a painstaking task in the pre-computer. But it doesn’t belong on the back of a uniform, simply because the letter shapes aren’t uniform. If a guy’s name is “Green”, the two letter E’s sitting next to each other will have different shapes; this makes me itch.

    Vertical arching is just fine for the team name (and the Giants should bring it back) because every player is wearing the same mark. But to use it for player names is chaotic.

    I like radially arched as well. Looks more “lo-fi,” like someone just grabbed some letters from a box and sewed them on.

    Having said that, an absolutely outstanding piece by Bill and I really love his skill and attention to detail. It’s quite amazing.

    Agreed. A letter is a symbol for a sound, and it’s a symbol composed entirely of lines arranged in a certain shape. VAL distorts the shape of each letter, sometimes significantly. That distortion, by definition, reduces legibility and makes the letters more difficult to read. In a purely decorative setting, where the point of lettering is to show the presence of lettering and words as lettering or words, not to communicate the particular meaning of any specific word, VAL can be a great design choice. But on the back of a jersey, communicating the specific meaning of particular words is the whole point. So any choice that reduces legibility is simply a bad design choice. As we can see from the 2005 Nats jersey example: “Zimmerman” is all but unreadable. It would be just as useful for that jersey to have a solid purple stripe above the number on the back.

    RAL preserves letter shapes but shifts their orientation. Which has only minimal effect on legibility. Most of us can read un-distorted text quite easily at most angles, such as sideways on book spines, upside-down, or even mirror-reversed as on the hood of an emergency vehicle. RAL text can be arranged in a complete circle, such as on many government symbols and some coins, and remain easily legible.

    Historically, VAL has been less of a design problem for hockey than baseball; because of the proportions of available space on the back of a jersey in each sport, hockey VAL has tended to be aligned across a shallower arc than baseball VAL. So there’s less distortion of each letterform, and so less reduction of legibility. In baseball, VAL belongs only on the front of a jersey, where the team’s name or location name does not mainly function as a word to be read.

    If you ‘re going to argue that slightly changing the shape of the letters hinders legibility, but rotating the letters does not, then I think your point is weak.

    If that’s the logic, I’d even argue that a vertically arched nameplate is much *easier* to read for the simple fact that all the verticals remain vertical and the word maintains the natural rhythm it has when set on a straight baseline. Tilting the letters to follow the curve makes them much more difficult to read when strung together into a name, especially a long name.

    good thing i’m not the only one who thinks this… i have to strain my eyes quite a bit to read them when they are vertically arched

    And I thought I was the only one. I think vertical arching is fine for the team name on the front of a jersey, but to me it just seems too stylized for NOB.

    I’m 99% sure the Braves moving away from VAR was the night terrors brought on by Jarrod Saltalamacchia coming up through the system

    Actually, custom vertically arching would have made his name fit better, as the computer could arch and size each letter to fit in the assigned space.

    It’s a weird bias, but after sitting through a Finals series against Grand Rapids, I can’t bring myself to vote for any entry that has Tyler Bertuzzi as the NOB.

    You just mad because your team lost and he was the MVP, or is there something that actually happened during the series involving him?

    My focus at the time was on the Penguins’ Cup run, the Golden State-Cleveland clash, and the ongoing collapse of the Tigers, so I really wasn’t paying attention to the Calder Cup.

    I was wondering how Marvel was going to depict the FSU Seminoles on their comic book cover, and what they choose looks pretty odd. The garnet and gold characters remind me of the blue character that the Golden State Warriors used to use.

    They should have thought through the entire concept a bit more before embarking on the exercise.
    Indiana and FSU threw wrenches into the project that caused them to make weird adjustments.
    Even Tennessee is odd – I see now that they’ve used Smokey for a long time, but its weird to include a mascot that doesn’t match your name or appear anywhere in your visual identity.

    I think they would have been better off having football players squaring off in geographically appropriate settings – the stadium, or a famous landmark that represents where the game is being played.

    … painted themselves into a PC corner, that’s for sure. And let’s remember that the Seminole Tribe has given its authorization and approval to use their likeness and imagery. So Marvel created their own obstacle. -C.

    Although the university’s use of names and images associated with Seminole history is officially sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, that doesn’t mean that any and all portrayals of Seminoles are fair game. I don’t know whether Marvel had to get permission from the schools it depicted in the covers, but the fact that the Seminole Tribe has an agreement with Florida State University doesn’t give a third party (Marvel) carte blanche to portray an ethnic group of people however they want to. Oh sure, they may have the legal right to do so, but that doesn’t make it morally or ethically right. It’s one thing to show a comic book style alligator or wolverine, but it’s another thing when you are talking about a specific ethnic people group. The mountaineers of West Virginia are a little different case since it doesn’t have the racial component, but there has certainly been a history of negative stereotypes of Appalachian people as well. Anyway, it might have been interesting to see how a Seminole artist would approach the same commission.

    What I find interesting is that the different covers are homages to past Marvel covers from different eras. link which identifies all the homages.

    Well, I don’t like it, but at least those couple Chargers’ decals match the backwards shoulder bolts…

    The jersey bolts are a monstrosity and it appears they have doubled the length. They are already overkill because of their presence on the helmet and pants. If they want to keep them, they should revert back to the vertical stripes they had in the past (and move the TV numbers to what’s left of the sleeve).

    An acute observation!

    I never noticed that oddity before, it is regrettable that it has taken so long to square the circle of UCLA type stripes on todays Uni Makers designs. The Chargers return to LA surely will eventually result in a new look once they move into their shared new digs with the Rams.

    It would be a nice surprise to see them fix this.

    Uni Watchin’ in action.

    I think for a team like the Astros the nob should be the same style as the front, and radially arched doesn’t look too bad for them. Giants too, which I think san francisco and the nob should be VAL.

    So just like anything its a team by team basis.

    Well, hopefully we won’t have any controversy with today’s poll! Some great concepts today. Though, I’m not a fan of the lace-up collars on some of these which would otherwise be perfect (especially since lace-ups were pretty much extinct in the 1980s).

    yesterday certainly was an odd day with some of the discussion. Usually I don’t get too invested in these contests, I certainly like fan designs, but never get that excited about actually voting. I will say that a lot of the designs fall outside of what I think are the realm of 80’s fauxback, I see people using design elements that just weren’t used in the 80’s, such as typefaces and what not that just weren’t around then. One of the entries gets it right in noting that the 80’s were pretty conservative design wise for hockey, just looking back at them link the numbers and letters were all of similar style, usually some sort of stripe pattern on the bottom and on the sleeves and sometimes on the shoulders, plus the team logo. Not too complicated.

    This isn’t meant to be critical of the contest format, it’s hard enough to put it on and I’d agree that it’s better to include all and let the good ones emerge as opposed to putting more work on Phil or whomever to cull through the designs that don’t meet the “standards” (plus risk upsetting anyone who thinks their entry should have been included).

    Sure, in 2017 its always better to give everyone a trophy for trying, even if they can’t follow SIMPLE FRIGGIN RULES!

    …and this “notion” that its so painstakingly hard to exclude entries that don’t follow so called “rules” is a weak excuse. JERSEY COLORS: RED or BLACK, you see one using wrong colors and it should be gone, simple as that. Same with previously used logos or intellectual property. You see it, its gone. Sorry im the only one who sees it this way. Phil is too nice about bending and breaking rules. Fine, he runs these things, but one shouldnt try to sugar coat this by saying its too much work to eliminate blatantly obvious rule violators. You simply dont add them. Finally, a simple solution would be to give only one vote. One might think twice about voting for a wacky rule breaker for “fun” because your ONE vote will actually have value.

    Great job Bill! I first realized what vertical arching was in the early 1980s on Knicks jerseys. The Knicks may have been one of the first to do it in the late 60s. (anyone know what team in what sport was THE first?) They would also take the step of making the letters wider for shorter names like REED as seen here:


    They stopped vertical arching in the early 90s. It’s odd that the Rangers didn’t use it, even though both teams were supplied by Cosby, and about when the Knicks stopped using it, the Rangers started doing it.

    The Orioles of the late 60s used beautiful arching at home, but not on the road:


    In the 1970s, Baltimore went to 2-color VAL on the road greys, 2-color RAL for the home whites, and 1-color VAL for the alternate orange pullovers.

    Not surprised at the variance in the shoulder stripes for the Pats. After all, we’ve seen variances like that before with other teams. The Panthers are a good example; compare Cam Newton’s shoulder stripes to those of most of his teammates. Cam’s stripes (and those of at least one other skill player whose jersey was tailored like Cam’s) actually went under the armpit, like classic UCLA stripes should, while the stripes on his other teammates’ jerseys both start and end at the armhole.

    Just down the street, the University of Denver uses its vertically-arched wordmark all over the place: link

    More choices is better than fewer, and it would gladden my spirits to see a team or two embrace the vertical arching. I’ll admit something would be amiss if the uniform fronts used radial arching but put VAL on the backs; the California Angels were guilty of this in the 1980s. But I appreciate craft, and vertical arching is one of its highest forms to be found in sports. By the way, does anyone remember the 1997 black sweaters worn by the Washington Capitals with the meticulously done player names in bronze, blue and white? I found those extravagant.

    Small thing but…Dike Beede was the Coach at YSU or Youngstown College/Youngstown University NOT the official.
    so..this is incorrect-Do you know the history of the penalty flag? It was created by a referee and his wife back in 1941. Before flags, officials used horns and whistles to call infractions. As a YSU Alum and former Penguin Equipment manager-wanted to help.

    If the logo for the (not really new) Virginia Squires looked like a burger logo, it’s not a coincidence. The Squires added a patch for Stewart Sandwich Service to their uniforms; this story was featured in Uni Watch earlier this year.


    Great read Bill. I noticed that the 33 degree radial arch is shown as a segment of an eclipse. Radial (radius) has to be from a circle. I do graphic design on the side and it’s interesting because illustrator’s default type on path tool will place the letter parallel to the tangent point on path if it is eliptical or circular.

    I’m the kind of person who doesn’t process visual information all that well, so I didn’t really understand what vertically arched letters were until now. Thanks for that. (I was happy a week or two ago when my wife pointed out an unusual looking car, and I knew it had a matte rather than a glossy finish. Only thanks to Uni-Watch!)

Comments are closed.