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To Play or Not to Play: That Is the Question

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With the NFL draft kicking off last night, I want to share this 1935 Philadelphia Eagles letter that reader/proofreader/pal Jerry Wolper came across the other day. At first I thought it was a Ticker item; then I thought it merited “Too good for the Ticker” status; and now I’ve decided it deserves an entire blog post for itself, especially in the context of the draft.

How remarkable is this letter? Let us count the ways:

1. The letterhead design is a doozie. So good! Damn, they don’t design stationery like that anymore.

2. The blue/yellow color scheme will be familiar to anyone who remembers these Eagles throwbacks, which were worn (and largely ridiculed) in 2007. The colors are based on the Philadelphia flag. But here’s the thing: According to the mighty Gridiron Uniform Database, the Eagles wore those colors in 1933 and ’34, but in 1935 — the year at the end of which this letter was written — they had dropped the yellow and started transitioning to green. Interesting that they were still using the blue/yellow letterhead. Then again, it was the Great Depression, so maybe using the color-outdated design was just a matter of thrift.

3. I love that the Eagles’ GM at the time, as listed at the very top of the page, was named Lud Wray — now that’s a name! His full signature at the bottom, “J.R. Ludlow Wray,” is somehow less satisfying. (There’s more on Wray here.)

4. The letter is addressed to a “Mr. Bill Shakespeare” at Notre Dame. At first I thought this was some sort of joke, or maybe a placeholder name used on a sample letter, but it turns out that there really was a William Shakespeare who played football at Notre Dame! He was variously nicknamed “The Bard of Staten Island” (which is where he grew up), “The Bard of South Bend,” and “The Merchant of Menace.” (More on Shakespeare here.)

5. Oh man, that salutation — “My dear Shakespeare”! Did Wray begin all of his letters this way, or only letters sent to people who shared a name with the world’s most famous playwright?

6. When Wray says the Eagles “have decided to rebuild our entire club, thereby giving a number of new men an opportunity to make good,” he doesn’t mention that the likely reason for this was that the Eagles had just finished a season in which they went 2-9.

7. I hooted out loud at this passage:

Professional football gives a college man a great opportunity to get a start in life after graduating and is in no way detrimental to his future, for the men in charge of all the League clubs are of the highest type.

So fascinating to see that prospective players apparently had to be reassured that football was “in no way detrimental to [their] future” as early as 1935, and that any such fears would supposedly be assuaged by the supposed integrity of the team owners. Good one!

8. Finally, there’s this epilogue: Shakespeare did not end up playing for the Eagles in 1936. Why? For one thing, that was the year that the NFL held its first draft, and Shakespeare was chosen by the Steelers. But he opted not to play pro football and never appeared in the NFL. The Eagles, meanwhile, went 1-11 that year, so apparently Wray’s rebuilding program didn’t go so well. Ah, there’s the rub.

(Huge thanks to Jerry Wolper for bringing this letter to my attention.)

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As for this year’s draft: As you can see above, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn had a helmet on display for last night’s draft with a navy number and a yellow bolt. That doesn’t match any of the versions shown in this week’s unveiling.

In other uni-related news from last night’s virtual draft:

• Giants GM Dave Gettlemann was ridiculed last night for wearing a mask while conducting the team’s draft activities from his home, but had his reasons.

• The NFL announced yesterday that the logo on game balls is changing from gold to a metallic red, white, and blue. Commissioner Roger Goodell already had the new ball on display in his basement studio last night.

• We Ticker-mentioned last week that the 60 prospects participating in the draft had received caps for all 32 teams. Apparently they also received 32 jerseys. Actually, that should be 31 — no need for a Rams jersey, because they didn’t have a first round pick (and, of course, haven’t yet unveiled their new jersey design).

• The Bengals sent first round pick Joe Burrow and his parents No. 9 jerseys.

• With the NFL setting various brand restrictions for the draft, here are some of the “innovative” marketing deals that resulted (from @HitTheGlass).

• NYC radio station WFAN’s Twitter feed reminded us that graphic design is important.

(My thanks to all contributors, including Mike Chamernik, Kevin Rice, and our own Anthony Emerson.)

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rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

ITEM! Teespring raffle: Reader Ryan Harrington has generously offered to allow a lucky Uni Watch reader to choose up to $45 worth of merchandise from the Uni Watch Shop, and he’ll pay for it. Nice!

This will be a one-day raffle. To enter, send an email to the raffle address by 8pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner on Monday.

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Hockey jersey reminder: In case you missed it on Thursday, we’re now taking orders for another batch of Uni Watch hockey jerseys. Just like before, you’ll have your choice of three different colors (see above) and two different tailoring cuts (standard “fan cut” and roomier “game cut,” which will fit over pads for on-ice use).

To get in on these, you must order by next Friday, May 1. Full details here.

While we’re at it:

• I still have the Uni Watch Classic Cap in sizes 7 and 7-7/8. And remember, the price has been reduced to a pandemic-friendly $35.99. (If you’d like to be notified when other fitted sizes and adjustables are back in stock after our factory reopens, email me.)

• I have one last green gumball helmet remaining. Who wants it? Now SOLD OUT!

• Uni Watch memberships, which usually cost $25, are reduced to $20 until further notice.

• You can get 15% off of everything in the Uni Watch Shop and the Naming Wrongs Shop by using the checkout code COMMUNITY.

• You can also support Uni Watch by making a donation.

My thanks, as always, for your consideration.

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Hypothetically speaking: I ask you: Who doesn’t enjoy a nice, tasty brat? Wouldn’t you like to have one right about now?

If you’d like to discuss those questions with me, feel free to drop me a line. I’ll bring extra napkins.

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Membership update: Another 13 designs have been added to the membership card gallery, including Patrick Whelan’s. Do you recognize the design? It’s based on the late-’70s San Diego Clippers. Nice one! (Also of note: Benjamin Jones has become the first reader to have a card with the Browns’ new design.)

Ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch (which, frankly, could use your support these days). And remember, as a gesture of comm-uni-ty solidarity, the price of a membership has been reduced from $25 to $20 until further notice.

As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here (now more than 2,600 of them!), and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: Nats P Sean Doolittle’s new glove is inspired by “Ramble On Rose” by the Grateful Dead, and includes a lyric and a rose (from Oleg Kvasha). … Also posted in the soccer section: Here’s a cool photo of the Chicago White Sox before an exhibition game at Liverpool’s Goodison Park, home of Everton FC. Everton also had its own baseball team (from Randy Williams). … Do you want to read an article about the weirdest defunct mascots in MLB history? Of course you do (from Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: Here’s a cool story about Stars Park, the defunct home stadium of the Negro Leagues’ St. Louis Stars, and the efforts to preserve its memory at the site where a college baseball field now stands. … One more from Kary: The Fredricksburg Nationals had a “virtual opening day” yesterday, on what was supposed to be their actual opening day.

NFL News: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s latest sports-related coronavirus press conference move was adding Browns and Bengals helmets to the dais for the NFL draft (from Brian Spiess). … In case you were wondering, a Redditor has mocked up how the Colts’ new “C-Indiana” logo would look on a helmet. They should stick with the horseshoe (from Kary Klismet). … John Roshell was watching ’70s and ’80s Raiders highlights on YouTube, and found a shot of K Errol Mann and QB David Humm wearing different NOB fonts in a 1977 games against the Vikings.

Hockey News: Did you know, the Capitals and Islanders went color vs. color in a 1989 game? It’s a good look (from Ted Starkey). … The Alberta Junior Hockey League has revealed the logo of its newest team, the Blackfalds Bulldogs (from Dan Ukrainetz).

Hoops News: Here’s a very cool video showing how the Thunder are turning their surplus T-shirts into masks (from @OKCTracker).

Soccer News: Here’s a good article about how Coventry City fans revolted following the leak of an unpopular new badge design (from Kary Klismet). … Another day, another Liverpool kit leak (from Shawn Edwards). … Celtic FC photoshopped the Nike logo and advertisement logo off their kits in a story about then-Barcelona ST Samuel Eto’o playing at Celtic Park (from Ed Żelaski).

Grab Bag: UVA athletics posted a teaser video last night hinting at new logos. Another account then tweeted what it claimed to be the new logo set; that tweet was later deleted, but not before our own Jamie Rathjen — a proud UVA alum — had made this screen shot. “There’s enough in them that matches up with the video” to suggest that these are legit, says Jamie. … This article traces the history of the mascots of some of North Carolina’s smaller colleges (from Kary Klismet). … Check out the pants worn by Bobby Allison’s pit crew in 1972! (from Patrick Lind). … Timmy Donahue writes in: “At the AF Academy graduation, cadets commissioning into the Space Force wore silver sashes. Cadets commissioning into the Air Force wore the traditional gold.”

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What Paul did last night: Yesterday was a hard day. A bunch of things went wrong, and all day long I felt like I was scrambling to put out little fires but never quite caught up with all of them. So by the time porch o’clock rolled around, I didn’t just want a beer — I needed one (or more than one). It’s rare that I feel that way.

Porch time helped. So did a new dog we met, Anika. Such a cutie!

Okay, that’s it for this week. Enjoy Phil’s content this weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. I have some really good stuff in the pipeline, so it should be a really good Uni Watch week. Until then, take care and stay safe. — Paul

Comments (72)

    Anyone else catch Falcons owner Arthur Blank (and presumably his grandkids?) wearing the new jerseys for the draft last night. The giant ATL word mark looked even worse than in the unveiling photos.

    That Eagles letterhead is awesome.

    San Diego Clippers jersey in the membership card section links to the Harlem Globetrotters jersey from yesterday.

    Hey Paul, is that the same number font as the other three Charger helmets? Also wondering how many teams have had 3 separate decals in one year, recently I can remember the Rams when they first brought back the white horns for a Thursday night game when they still had the old gold ones.

    Looks like the font they’re using.

    Three different decal treatments is probably a record, assuming they actually go ahead and wear all of them.

    It is pro football but north of border. CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders had 4 sets of helmets decals on a single green shell in 2009.

    The usual helmet:


    The helmet with the old wraparound helmet logo back for one game. Forget reason why for that game. Was the regular helmet logo from 1985-2007:


    The regular alternate uniform was a throwback and had vintage logo and helmet striping:


    The 1960s “throwback” featured an old Roughriders logo. Though the Riders never wore this logo on their uniforms in the past, it was on the helmet for these 1960s “throwbacks”:


    “As you can see above, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn had a helmet on display for last night’s draft with a navy number and a yellow bolt. That doesn’t match any of the versions shown in this week’s unveiling.”

    Isn’t the inconsistency actually the face mask color? I thought the navy blue uni set had the navy blue number but a yellow face mask.


    1) There is no black helmet.

    2) The *royal* helmet has yellow bolts.

    3) The navy helmet has navy bolts.

    4) The helmet that the coach had last night — navy with yellow bolts — does not match any of the helmets revealed earlier this week.

    The end. Let’s please move on. Thanks.

    Point #2 in the lede. I think your hyperlink at the end merged with “they hadn’t…”

    Regarding the salutation in the letter, it reminds me of an elderly woman I exchanged emails with for my job (I work in the alumni office at a university). Rather than “Dear Adam,” she would write “Adam dear,”

    I found it so charming!

    In hindsight I should have used a haiku to ask my question:

    scrolling through the site
    I saw there was no haiku
    so I asked about it

    For the record, the Raiders did play the Vikings during the 1977 regular season (on December 11, week 13 of the NFL’s last 14-week schedule), but it was in Oakland so they almost certainly wore black.

    That said, no need to be obnoxious about the photo being of a different 1977 game.

    Mildly interesting about the Celtic item: they Photoshopped one image in the article (link), but not the other.

    For the UVa logos, compare the A and the R in the wordmark at the side of the picture I took to the font of “We Cavaliers” at the end of the video, and look for a glimpse in the video of what looks like the jagged handles of the swords (the handles are not currently jagged).

    i think part of the reason why that people are ridiculing Gettleman over the mask is they showed him a few times and each time he appeared to be struggling to figure out how to put it on until finally he could be seen like he was in your linked photo. he would look at the mask.. try to put it on for a second.. look defeated then put it down.. this went on for at least two more times

    Not sure which Rams jersey the prospects received, but I imagine there was the need to send them one. While the Rams didn’t start the night with a first-round pick, they certainly could’ve traded their way into the first round.

    Giants GM Dave Gettlemann was ridiculed last night for wearing a mask while conducting the team’s draft activities from his home

    People really make me mad sometimes. Even if he didn’t have an IT professional sitting next to him, there are many reasons why he would wear a mask.

    Maybe he has a vulnerable individual at home. Maybe he is self-quarantining from his family. Maybe he just wanted to lend his public exposure in a show of solidarity with medical professionals. Maybe he just wanted to remind people to stay home.

    Why on earth would you mock somebody for wearing a mask during a pandemic?

    i never click the comments anymore, but i did today just to see if this topic bothered anybody else. and i second everything you said chance Q terrific. but may i add…

    i see 10%(at best) of people in chicago wearing masks. and joggers who woosh up on you without them?! forget about it, they never have one. or the yuppies with their dogs and strollers walking side by side taking up the entire sidewalk as their snotty handed kids free range(all sans masks) it. drives. me. nuts.

    besides, and i emphasize this part…you don’t really wear the mask for you, you wear it for OTHER people, get with the program. how are we supposed to get things moving towards work, if we can’t even do that? can we please think we instead of me? i don’t know you or your butt to hand hygiene habits, but my social clues give me a reckon i figure. so your upper middle class stroller germs, or your healthy young jogging germs kill people as quickly as icky soiled homeless germs. dig this maskless clowns, to everybody else on the planet YOU are THE most disgusting individual on the planet, as am i, as am i. if we all realize this, that would be great, m’kay?

    love and publicly overwear your mask,

    you don’t really wear the mask for you, you wear it for OTHER people, get with the program.

    YES, YES, YES.

    FWIW, my little slice of Brooklyn is pretty heavily invested in mask-wearing. I take my dog to off-leash in Prospect Park every morning, and everyone I see on my way there and back wears a mask.

    I’m missing something obvious I’m sure, but isn’t the helmet on Lynn’s displaying the royal blue color rush helmet?

    This is an organization that paid $650 million to move into a saturated sports market where they barely have any fans and are at best the 4th most popular football team in town.
    Don’t be surprised when they screw things up.

    Virginia alum here … overall I agree it’s a cartoonish and bulky downgrade. But a few words in support:
    – I put the simplicity and symmetry of the V-Sabres logo up there with the very best in sports, and I’m relieved that they didn’t scrap it.
    – Bevels never look good, but sabres are in fact beveled!
    – The Cavalier with his head down is kind of goofy, but two positives: 1) gets them out of the “cocky white guy” mascot club — inclusivity is the main point of the new look, and 2) the scoreboard crew should already be shooting hype videos where notable Wahoos take turns lifting their heads to reveal themselves as the Cavalier.
    – Bronco Mendenhall, the football coach, makes the point in a video you can find at the link below that whenever you saw a collection of all the ACC logos, the UVa logo with its fine lines and whitespace was nearly invisible. I always thought that was fairly elegant, but this altered one certainly is a bolder look.

    Looks like a coding error in today’s lede. It seems “dropped the yellow and started transitioning to green” is supposed to be a link, but it’s not working.

    Steelers had no first round pick either. However, wouldn’t they have all that stuff ready in case either team traded back into the first round?

    As I’ve noted in another thread, I already covered this link. Team spox told me that there was essentially zero chance that the Rams would trade up. That’s one reason they never planned to unveil before the draft.

    Both organizations made statements previously that they weren’t interested in trading up into the first round. I know plans can change so it’s likely they had all 32 hats just in case, but the likelihood of the Steelers trading up was slim, but the likelihood of the Rams trading up was near impossible: as a previous comment up top basically stated – the Rams couldn’t really afford a 1st round pick with their cap space even if they wanted to trade up into it.

    OK, sorry, didn’t know that Paul covered this prior. There are a lot of smoke screens thrown out pre-draft, that was all I was getting at. Didn’t realize how bad the (salary) cap situation was for LA!

    I cannot disagree more strenuously with the notion that the Capitals-Islanders color-on-color game was a “good look.” Contrast is a good thing. That game looked like a muddled mess.

    Especially when both teams wear the same color breezers.

    Wayne Gretzky said in his Autobiography that one of the reasons he struggled against the Isles was due to the breezers being so similar and he didn’t raise his eyes to see jerseys.

    I was at that color vs. color game in Washington (as an Islanders fan). The reason was that the Capitals had been on a streak where they had gone 7-3-1 in their last 11 road games but just 1-4 in their 5 home games in that same stretch. So they decided to wear their road jerseys for the home game to try to change their luck. The Islanders either were not informed in time to bring their whites, or did not want to. And it didn’t help – the Islanders won.

    And the team whose luck was changed was the Islanders. Going into that color vs. color game they had won just 9 of their first 33 games. Starting with that game in Washington they lost just 4 of their next 25.

    Seahawks GM had the silver ‘Hawks helmet displayed on his bookshelf. Let’s hope this is a move to the future!!

    Wouldn’t that be a move to the past?
    I view the Seahawks and Bengals in the same way…good looking from the neck up.

    The odd thing about the Raiders David Humm and his nameplate is that the Raiders last wore the serif font in 1974. Humm wasn’t on that team to be wearing an ‘old jersey.’

    Speaking of David Humm, his Wikipedia includes this (although it’s unsourced):

    “Humm had an unusual habit of going on to the field with no shoulder pads, which sometimes tipped the opposing team that a fake field goal was unlikely.”

    This is great…
    That year (1981), the game between the Colts and the Dallas Cowboys was the only start in Humm’s NFL career when injuries sidelined Bert Jones and Greg Landry.
    Notably, the opposing quarterback for the Cowboys, Glenn Carano, was also making his first and only NFL start in place of Danny White This is the only time in league history two “one and done” quarterbacks have ever faced off Carano and Humm were the subjects of an NFL Films piece entitled My One and Only, recounting the 1981 game.



    I work for the Chicago Red Stars in a volunteer capacity and on April 30, there will be a virtual jersey launch for the white jersey. Last year’s home jersey was a huge success sales wise and loved by a lot of people.

    I assume that if players had to be reassured in 1935 that playing in the NFL wasn’t detrimental to their future, it wasn’t because of injury or death, it was because college football was then the pinnacle of football, and they needed reassurance that joining a still-struggling professional league (barely out of its barnstorming days) after graduation was a better choice than starting their actual careers.

    According to the wikipedia, Shakespeare went into business and ended up president of the Cincinnati Rubber Company. That seems like a better choice (in 1935) than joining a fledgling pro league.

    I immediately noticed the Charger helmet on Lynn’s desk, because that’s the type of thing I notice now thanks to Uni-Watch. I assume it was a prototype or mock-up that was intended to pair with the Navy Color Rush? Maybe in early stages the Navy Color Rash had Gold Bolts instead of navy bolts?

    Well it won’t be 13. Publicly at least, Tagovailoa has said he “doesn’t care”.
    If I had to guess (I don’t, but will anyways) I’d say probably 3, maybe 5.
    3 would mean Rosen departs Miami, I wouldn’t be surprised about that.


    Gorgeous choice of glassware for your porch beer last night, Paul! Seems a little sacrilegious to put a certain St. Louis-based beer into a Wisconsin-themed pint glass, though, doesn’t it? ;-)

    interesting bit on the Browns new jerseys.. on the color the primary home and away have 1946(year of the browns inception on them.. but what the team calls their alternate(the dont refer to as color rush), says “color rush” on the collar


    “The Merchant of Menace” might be one of the best football nicknames I’ve ever heard.

    There’s clearly a lot to love in today’s lede image – but let’s not allow that to distract us from the glory of “The Merchant of Menace.” That’s some world-class nicknaming right there.

    The letterhead logo is certainly a refreshing change of pace from our age of snarling mascots, but why does it say “National League Football Club”? Never seen that before.

    I assume that if players had to be reassured in 1935 that playing in the NFL wasn’t detrimental to their future, it wasn’t because of injury or death, it was because college football was then the pinnacle of football, and they needed reassurance that joining a still-struggling professional league (barely out of its barnstorming days) after graduation was a better choice than starting their actual careers.

    I was thinking along the same lines, but with a slightly different lens. Sports careers were not seen as high class professions early in the century. For example, my uncle was going to sign as a pitcher for the NY Giants in the early 1950s, but my grandmother thought is was beneath him and he didn’t sign.

    Don’t know if you guys ever saw “Leatherheads,” the movie starring George Clooney and John Krasinski in a movie about pro football players in that era.
    Clooney was a veteran who recruited Krasinski’s character, a college star and All-American boy, to his team.
    Anyway, there’s a scene early in the movie where Krasinski is talking with reporters after his college career has ended, and they’re asking him what he’ll do next. Krasinski says “Well, I can always try professional football.” Everyone’s quiet for a second, and then they all burst out laughing.
    I always think of that scene when realizing that going pro wasn’t the slam-dunk choice back then that it is now.

    You mentioned the Sox link would be cross-listed, but I did not see it in the Soccer section?

    I’m a UVA alum – and think those new logos are awful. The shield looks like a taxidermied deer trophy or a hat rack. And the hat itself looks like a toilet bowl viewed from above, or a bug. And the Cav looking down with arms crossed – is it Puss in Boots? Or Inigo Montoya? My verdict: Stupid

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