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Child’s Play: More Awesome Uni-Themed Building Blocks

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A year ago — almost to the day — we had a guest post from reader Loren Southard, who told us about the completely awesome DIY uni-themed building blocks that he created for his newborn son.

That post made a big impression on reader Eric Wall, who followed up with his own DIY blocks project. I’ll hand the mic over to him now — take it away, Eric.

My Building Block Project
By Eric Wall

When I saw Loren Southard’s piece about his DIY building blocks, I loved the idea and bookmarked that entry for whenever my wife and I became pregnant with our first child. Sure enough, 2020 came and we are now expecting our first child (a girl). I used Loren’s step-by-step guide to create my own set of blocks for our daughter, but I wanted to put my own spin on it.

Like most people, I have a favorite team in every sport — the Red Sox, Eagles, Celtics, Bruins, Army (I work in the athletics department at West Point), and several soccer teams — so I wanted to use those teams’ number fonts for the numerals 0 through 9. In addition, my wife is an avid Yankees fan, so I also created a Yankees-font number set. Here’s a breakdown of which player and team I honored for each number, along with some photos of the resulting blocks:

For the letters of the alphabet, I wanted to incorporate my love of letter-based logos. So each letter from A through Z is represented by its own block, and the six sides of each letter block have six different sport teams’ logos — six different Cs, six different Ns, and so on. (I included pro, college, high school, and semi-pro teams.) was a great resource for finding the letter logos. As you might expect, the letters Q, X, and Z were the hardest — they took a fair amount of time and they weren’t perfect. But I went through as many leagues and organizations as I could, which led me to teams like the Quebec Bulldogs. Collegiate summer baseball leagues came in handy a few times as well.

I expanded the search by googling “colleges that start with the letter …” That led me to some schools like Quincy University. Eventually that ran dry, so I turned my attention to high schools by googling town names that started with a particular letter. I also came across a mascot database site, which was helpful.

Some of the things I came up with were stretches, and in a few cases I had to use multiple logos from the same team, something I had hoped to avoid. Here’s how it all ended up:

At the end of the project, I had one extra block left, so I put some animal logos that matched the theme of our daughter’s nursery:

Overall, I felt like this would be a fun way to pass on my affinity for logos and uniforms to my child, and also a fun way for her to learn the alphabet and numbers.


Paul here. Is that fantastic or what? Such a sensational project!

Eric wrote all of that for me on Dec. 2. I’m happy to report that his daughter was born eight days later, on Dec. 10, and the entire family is doing well. Say hello to Abby Jean Wall:

But wait, there’s more: Since Eric’s project was inspired by Loren Southard’s blocks from last year, I shared Eric’s story and photos with Loren. Here’s his response:

This made my day! So great to hear that Eric was inspired by that idea, and his blocks are amazing.

My son is now 22 months old and has really started to build with his blocks — it’s fun to watch. I’m sure Eric will feel the same way with his daughter.

Earlier this year, before everything shut down, I worked on another project that’s based on these blocks. I saw something called Olliblocks, which swapped out letters and numbers for people. So I took that same approach to make some of my favorite L.A. athletes. My son loves these but mostly because he can stack them up and then run them over with his cars:

Oh, man — so amazing! I can’t even begin to express how inspiring all of this is. Please join me in thanking Loren and Eric for sharing their fabulous work. Their kids are lucky to have them as parents!

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Real glimpse of virtual uniforms: This season’s Pro Bowl has been cancelled. Instead, there will be a virtual Pro Bowl played in Madden NFL 21. With the Pro Bowl rosters announced yesterday, we’re now seeing what are, apparently, the virtual uniforms.

And guess what: They don’t totally suck! At least not as much as most Pro Bowl uniforms. Here’s a bit of video:

Yeah, the gradient side panels are pretty embarrassing, and of course the whole “It’s the Pro Bowl so we have to go mono” thing is annoying. But still, this could be (and usually has been!) a lot worse. Too bad it won’t actually appear on a real-world field.

(Thanks to @risingfan123 and our own Alex Hider for spotting these.)

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NBA Season Preview reminder: In case you missed it on Monday, the annual Uni Watch NBA Season Preview, with everything you need to know about this season’s new uniforms, logos, courts, and more (including the Nets’ new tie-dye throwback, the Hawks’ new uni set, and the Suns’ new City alternate, all shown above), is available now on InsideHook. Enjoy!

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Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

Welcome to the three-days-until-Christmas edition of Collector’s Corner! We’re going with a bit of a different format today, as we’ll be taking a look at some of my favorite toys that Santa Claus brought for me back in the mid- to late 1960s. I had all this stuff — I swear we had stock in Mattel back then.

We’re starting off with one of the two biggest presents: the Matt Mason Space Station. (That auction listing is over but it has a nice series of photos.) Here I am with it, Christmas 1968. You could play with it in its standard modular two-deck style, or detach one level and put it next door. The Space Crawler (sold separately!) could be attached on top as a winch, a flashing beacon on the top could recess and then light the interior, and fold-down “solar panels” protected Matt and his friends. Just incredibly well-designed (although I do remember being a bit distressed that “Santa” had somehow managed to put the control panel stickers on wrong — it was already assembled by the tree!).

The other big present back then was this Fireball XL5 spaceship by MPC. (Got a spare $20,000? You can get one here.)

Quick story here: When I was about five years old, our family went over to see my grandma a few weeks prior to Christmas. My mom went to talk to her in the back bedroom. They took forever, and I got tired of waiting, so I went back to get them moving. They had forgotten to lock the door — a critical error on their part. I open the door, and there’s the very same Fireball you see below, sitting on the bed. I go bananas. They gave me the nose cone section to placate me.

(I did buy this very nice die-cast version about 15 years ago, which remains on my desk to this day.) 

Now let’s see what else was in Santa’s sleigh way back when:

 • Got some more Matt Mason stuff here, and yes sir, I had it all — the Firebolt Space Cannon, the Uni-Tred Space Hauler and Space Bubble, and Matt’s friend Captain Lazer:

 • Captain Action was a lot of fun. This guy was the same size as your standard G.I. Joe. By himself, he looks like a rather bland, boring guy. But! You could outfit him like Captain America, Superman, Batman, the Lone Ranger (outfits sold separately), and many other superheroes of the period. You could even switch his hair and face with a two-piece accessory. With all these uniforms, ol’ Cap surely Got It™:

• Hot Wheels was another big one for me back then. Check out this lineup: the Picture Maker Car Designer Set (my wife tells me she had a “Barbie” version); the Car Carrier Showcase Plaque; the Action City Playset; the Super Charger Grand Prix Race Set; the Wipe-Out Race Game; and the Sizzlers Juice Machine

 • I remember this Remco Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Seaview sub quite well. (This auction has ended, but the listing still has nice pictures.) I loved this sub but always wondered why they did it in yellow and blue — I kept thinking, “This isn’t yellow on TV!” I thought that blue plastic thing at the nose was clunky, too. And I removed the stickers. Admiral Nelson’s Seaview didn’t have stickers, so why should mine?

 • I had this G.I. Joe Space Capsule, too. I think this came out before I went all-in on Major Matt Mason. Joe fit into this capsule quite well, but it was really hard to get him into that astronaut suit:

 • In the early 1970s, Mattel came out with a line of really cool die-cast airplanes — a companion line to Hot Wheels, I suppose — called, obviously, Hot Birds. This is their “On Target” flying set, complete with “Flight Deck” hand controller.

 • And finally: Danger, Will Robinson! Who can forget the Remco Lost in Space robot? Here was another case where toy designers messed up — the TV robot was silver, but the toy was blue and red:

Ah, good memories. Have a Merry Christmas! 

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Raffle reminder: In case you missed it on Friday, our annual Uni Watch Year-End Raffle, in which I give away all the freebies I’ve received over the course of the year, is now under way. Full details here.

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Ready for winter: Now that winter has officially begun, I figured I should give my new Uni Watch Toque a test-drive. Truthfully, I almost never wear this type of hat — I think it tends to look better on people with round-ish faces, not long faces like mine — but I have to say, I think this one looks pretty great! I’ll definitely be wearing it this season.

Want one for yourself? It’s available here.

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The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball News: The Oakland Coliseum has yet another new corporate-advertised name. It’s the sixth name the stadium has had in its history (from Timmy Donahue). … Friend of the site and honcho Chris Creamer shared this photo of himself serving as a Blue Jays usher in 2003. “Yes, we wore uniform shirts with the old logo on it, and yes I brought it up with my superiors,” he said.

NFL News: The Bears’ official 2020 team photo is actually an illustration, as the team didn’t want to get everyone together for fear of spreading the coronavirus (from Mike Chamernik). … Nate Burleson was on NFL Network yesterday and mentioned that he’d recently gotten a “new” Browns helmet from the team. While the helmet did have the matte finish they wear now, Bulreson’s helmet had an old grey facemask and an old wordmark on the front bumper (from @ChiefMacDawg). … Rams OL Joe Scibelli, who played in the 1960s and ’70s, at one point had a plate attached to the side of his helmet. “As a teenager, I wrote to the Rams, asking what purpose it served,” says Wayne Krantz. “The reply was that it was protection for a fractured orbit.” … @sonicsean89 found an NFL mug that dates back between 1970 and 1976 — “After the merge but before the Bucs and Seahawks joined,” he said.

College Football News: Western Illinois will have new home uniforms when they take the field in their pandemic-delayed 2020-21 season this spring (from Tom Pachuta).

Hockey News: Several teams unveiled their sweaters for the upcoming 2021 World Juniors Championship (from @mayorNHL). … New uniforms for the Watertown (N.Y.) Wolves of the Federal Prospects Hockey League (from Kary Klismet).

Basketball News: The FIBA Foundation — that’s FIBA’s charitable arm — has a new logo (from Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: A behind-the-scenes look at the design and production process of NBA championship rings. … Check out these scenes from an old episode of Miami Vice featuring former NBA star Bernard King wearing a fictitious team’s uniform (from @retro_70s). … NBA commish Adam Silver said yesterday that the league may soon add some new teams, and used the unfortunate metaphor of comparing NBA expansion to “manifest destiny.”

College Hoops: New basketball floor for Highland Community College in Illinois (from Kary Klismet). … Gonzaga wore new alternates with near-illegible chest lettering last night against Northwestern State.

Soccer News: There are reports that Chicago Fire is getting a new crest for the 2022 season, and it may have already leaked (from Kary Klismet). … New kits for Japanese sides Sanfreece Hiroshima and V-Varen Nagasaki (both from Sy Hart).

Grab Bag: Couple of notes from Kary Klismet: New uniforms for the Reno (Kan.) County Sheriff’s Office; Afghanistan has approved a new stadium in Kabul for its national cricket team. … The Army now has body armor plates designed to fit a woman’s physique (from Timmy Donahue).

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Comments (33)

    Understandable that the Bears’ official 2020 team photo is an illustration, since they don’t want to possibly spread the coronavirus. Funny that this illustration has the players wearing masks, since I’m pretty sure these illustrated players can’t spread the virus.

    I was quite pleased that the illustrator added the masks. It’s not only socially responsible action for now, but allows future generations to understand the time and place of the team. I don’t think it’s any different than a black armband or a helmet decal in that regard.

    Paul, as a long time reader I can honestly say those two may be the greatest DIY projects you’ve highlighted. Absolutely LOVE the letters (I immediately recognized the old Memphis Xplorers af2 logo). To both gentlemen: you’re going to be great fathers! Happy Holidays.

    Thanks, Butch. I agree that these projects are very, very Special, and I’m super-excited to have shared them here on the site. Big kudos to Eric and Loren, who definitely seem like they’re going to be great parents.

    Paul the toque looks great! How do we all get our fellow Americans to use the word toque to describe a winter hat like that? I much prefer it to “beanie.”

    I’d actually never heard the term “toque” before Paul used it (and I own several of this style of hat). Yeah, “beanie” isn’t a great term, but it’s all I’ve ever known.

    Watertown Wolves story behind a paywall when I tried link. Here is a photo of new jerseys:


    This uniform looking really similar to a long-time look over 2 eras used by the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. Curious if there is a reason why that is:


    Wow. I’m betting that Brinke was the kid on the block to hang out with all those cool toys. My parents (Dad pretty much) did not think a boy should be playing with dolls so GI Joe and the like was out. Hey, it was the 60’s, right? And for the Seaview, I use to use an old dish soap bottle and that was a pretty effective Sub in the bathtub. But I wish I knew about the one Brinke had! Man, what a great lineup of toys there! Great memories of stuff I never had!

    And Hasbro even marketed GI Joe as an “action figure” to try to get around that “doll” stigma! Even though they were in fact copying the play pattern that had made Barbie a success for Mattel.

    Amazing project Eric…and congrats on the arrival of your daughter. And thanks Paul for all you do in making this a community for those of us who “get it”

    Why are the Chicago Fire designers/executives unable to agree on a good logo? Second in a row now that’s going to be hated

    I feel it’s a (small) improvement on the current one, but it can’t compare to the original of course, and I’m guessing stubbornness is preventing them from going back. At this point nothing else will please the fans, and I don’t blame them — it was a poor decision to change in the first place.

    Re: The Miami Vice clip in the basketball ticker section

    Those uniforms are not fictitious – They belong to the Florida International University Sunblazers (now known as the Panthers) and the episode was shot at their gym. You can see FIU on the shorts. The opponents are the Miami-Dade Community College Downtown Campus Barracudas (‘Cudas on the jersey)

    Love the block projects!
    As I was reading the I thought of a Melissa and Doug “sound block matching toy” my kids had about 15 years ago. Basically they were two halves of a picture that when you aligned them in the tray it made a connection & a plays the sound effect (put the head of the dog block with the correct dog body block & it barks, put the cow head with the cow body & it moos). My kids had an animal set & a vehicle set.
    As I’m reading I’m thinking wow this could be done for sports (& how had I never put this together before now). Then low & behold the final response from Loren were matching/stacking blocks along the same lines.
    Next logical step is to create matching games: match the city to the logo, or the sport to the team, or the player to the team, or the most challenging version, NBA city edition, match the absurd alternate jersey to the original team logo!

    I’m totally going to take this idea and run with it…a matching game would be awesome…

    I think my favorite thing about this site is seeing the amazing ways that a love of uniforms can inspire a person’s creativity. These two DIY projects are amazing! Well done, Loren and Eric.

    Those blocks are awesome. Love seeing the Lowell Spinners’ wonderful spindle logo. Rest in peace, Spinners…

    This is the best DIY project I think I’ve ever seen on this site. Kudos to Loren and Eric.

    I assume St. Francis Xavier for “X” means the Canadian university in Antigonish (the blue and white suggests it). Its one of my favourite logos.


    My uncle had Major Matt Mason and Captain Lazer along with that space crawler. We used to play with it all the time when we were kids

    Still have one MMM in perfect condition, right here. Got another Space Station on eBay years ago, but then sold it when I didn’t have space to display it- it’s pretty big!

    Through my Batman-like powers of deduction I have concluded that the NFL mug is a 1972 issue; the Rams have a white horn and the Oilers have a blue helmet.

    Captain Action, in 1967, was one of the greatest gifts I ever received. I also got the Superman costume with it. I also had some Major Matt Mason stuff but I must have gotten that from a friend because it wasn’t from Santa or my parents.

    Today’s DIYs are fantastic!

    Two of my favorite helmets of all time: the ’72-’74 blue Oilers and Major Matt Mason’s. In the same day!

    Fantastic work, Eric and Loren! Absolutely fantastic.

    Pro Bowl unis: best since 2012.

    Love, love, love the blocks projects by Eric and Loren! Well done! Now if only I can figure out how to carve out some time to make some of those for my own son (not to mention develop the creativity and skills to do so out of thin air)…

    Nevada is doing their best imitation of the Dallas Cowboys early 70’s look. Just need some pants stripes

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