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Did Frank Howard Wear Mickey Lolich’s Uniform in a Game?

Sometimes things come in bunches.

Yesterday I wrote about how two Cleveland ballplayers, Rico Carty and Bill Gogolewski, may have worn the same uni number in the same 1974 game, and how Carty might even have worn Gogolewski’s jersey. I’d never come across a situation like that before.

A few hours after that post went up, reader Jeff Sak alerted me to a tweet that a Tigers-centric Twitter-er had just posted:

There’s a lot to unpack here. For starters, I have never seen that photo before or heard that story about Hondo wearing Lolich’s jersey. Also, the guy who posted the tweet yesterday had no idea that I had just published that blog post about the two Cleveland ballplayers. What a weird coincidence that two such similar stories would float across the internet in the span of a few hours! Even better, when Jeff Sak showed me the tweet, I said, “Wow, that’s really something, especially considering this morning’s blog post.” But it turned out that Jeff hadn’t even seen that blog post when he showed me the tweet! When he went back and read it, his head exploded a little.

Coincidences and exploding crania notwithstanding, the photo in that tweet presents us with another history mystery to unravel. It’s clearly a pregame photo, so here are our two big questions:

  1. Did Frank Howard wear Mickey Lolich’s uniform in an actual ballgame? Or was it strictly a pregame thing and then they provided him with something else to wear in time for the first pitch? Or maybe he wore Lolich’s uniform in the dugout but never got into the actual game?
  2. If Howard did indeed wear Lolich’s uniform in a game, did Lolich also appear in that game?

Let’s start with this: Howard was traded from the Rangers to the Tigers on Aug. 31, 1972. The Tigers were opening a three-game series in Oakland on Friday, Sept. 1, so Howard headed to Oakland to join the Tigers there — that’s apparently when he suited up in the extra Lolich uni for pregame activities.

Did Howard end up playing in that game on Sept. 1? Yes — he played the entire game, going 1-for-3 with a walk, and also making an error in the field. Having worn Lolich’s uniform prior to the game, did he keep wearing it during the game?

I went to to find out. First, I found several papers that published the same pregame photo shown in the tweet. It was an AP photo, and the various papers all ran their own version of the caption. The captions all said pretty much the same thing as the tweet — i.e., that that the Tigers didn’t have a big enough uni for Hondo, so he was forced to wear Lolich’s uni — but none of the captions mentioned anything about him wearing Lolich’s uni in the game.

I also found the AP and UPI game recaps. They both mentioned that it was Howard’s first game with the Tigers but said nothing about his uniform:

I also found a Detroit Free Press item that began, “The big news Friday for the Tigers was the arrival of Frank Howard,” but it too said nothing about his uniform:

With all of this in mind, I’m inclined to believe that Hondo did not wear Lolich’s uniform in the game. It strains credulity to think that so many writers covering the game would fail to mention something like this. And wouldn’t the AP shutterbug who took the pregame photo also have gotten a shot of Hondo in the “wrong” uni during the game? Moreover, wouldn’t this be a famous uni incident that we all would’ve heard about by now, especially since it involved two fairly high-profile players? I’m thinking it was just a pregame thing, and then they found a proper (or at least non-Lolich) uni for Hondo to wear in time for the game itself.

Meanwhile: Lolich did not pitch in that game. He did pitch in the next day’s game, however, and Howard played in that game as well. But that all seems moot: Even if Howard wore the Lolich uni on Sept. 1 (which I doubt), they certainly would’ve gotten him a proper uni by the following day.

Frank Howard is now 86. This seems like something he might remember, especially since we have the pregame photo to jog his memory. I’ll see if I can track him down. Meanwhile, the pregame photo is an instant classic — can’t believe I’d never seen it until now!

(Big thanks to Jeff Sak for letting me know about that tweet and sending me down this latest rabbit hole.)


ITEM! New Bulletin Article

This week’s Bulletin article is a lengthy interview with L.A. Kings equipment assistant Bob Halfacre. Longtime readers may remember him as the guy who designed the Mets’ black uniforms (yes, I like him anyway), but he also has his own uniform company and has been working for the Kings for over 30 years. He has a lot to say about hockey uniforms, jersey sizes, how to avoid that locker room smell, and — as you can guess from the photo shown above — his time with the Stanley Cup. It’s a really fun interview!

My Premium Subscribers can read the article here. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you now have three ways to get on board:

Incidentally, next week’s Bulletin piece will be my annual NHL Season Preview, and the NBA Preview will follow the week after that. Busy times!


Sign of the Times

The Red Wings played their first preseason game of the year two nights ago, which meant it was time for one of my favorite rites of autumn: the annual appearance of the Wings’ straight, block-lettered NOB nameplates. They’ll use this look for their eight preseason games and then switch to their usual direct-sewn vertically arched NOBs when the regular season begins.

The Wings do this because vertically arched lettering is a pain in the ass to produce, so they don’t want to bother with it until after the final roster cuts. It’s worth noting that the other two NHL teams who go vertically arched — the Rangers and Avs — don’t do this during the preseason. By rights, they deserve our praise for going the extra mile; instead, we ignore them and praise the Red Wings for creating a fun little annual ritual, even though it’s really just a way of cutting corners. That’s how life works out sometimes.


Soccer Jersey Reminder

In case you missed it on Monday, I’m collaborating with longtime Uni Watch reader Austin Chen on the first-ever Uni Watch soccer jerseys! We’re now taking pre-orders on them, for delivery around the start of the World Cup. Full details here.


ITEM! I'm in a New Book

Long-memoried readers may recall that about five years ago I contributed a piece to a series of essays about lost objects. (Mine was about a vanilla bean that loomed large in my life.) That series of essays, including mine, has now been compiled into a book, called Lost Objects: 50 Stories About the Things We Miss & Why They Matter.

It’s a really, really good book, filled with short, evocative stories about lost items ranging from the mundane (a pack of crackers) to the evocative (a silicon vagina) to the Uni Watch-ish (a baseball glove), and the writers are an all-star gallery of geniuses: Ben Katchor, Nina Katchadourian, Gary Panter, Lucy Sante, Debbie Millman, and more. I’m super-excited to be part of this project! Here’s my contribution, accompanied by an illustration by Allison Bamcat, an L.A.-based painter:

I have no financial stake in the book (I was paid a flat fee of $50 and two free copies), but it’s a great project and I’d love for it to be as successful as possible. It’s available here, and from now through Christmas you can save 20% by using the checkout code LOSTOBJECTS.

Also, there’ll be a Lost Objects book party in Brooklyn on Oct. 14. I’ll definitely be there, and all Uni Watch readers should consider themselves invited.

• • • • •
We got three Uni Watch Plus sign-ups yesterday (thank you!), bringing our running total to 353. I will continue to send a Uni Watch prize package to a randomly selected enrollee on any day when we receive at least seven new sign-ups.

• • • • •
On a serious note, I’m sure I speak for the whole Uni Watch comm-uni-ty when I say our thoughts are with our readers in Florida. Hope everyone’s okay down there. — Paul

Comments (15)

    Paul, is there any chance to add a login button for UniWatch+ on the front page. My Apple logs me out of websites like it’s her job.

    It might be better to have the login link in the header instead of the sidebar, just to make it easier to find.

    Possible copy editing: I think the aforementioned artificial vagina is probably made of silicone (with a final “e”) instead of silicon. The former is soft, the letter is not.

    As a side note about the Red Wings’ preseason unis, the numbers sit higher than on the regular-season unis since there’s less vertical space occupied by the straight NOB nameplate.

    You could also try to track down Lolich…he would definitely remember someone using his jersey in a game.

    The Sporting News’ Tiger story was about Hindi’s acquisition and it was fairly low as far as the weekly team entries go… no mention of the uniform. AL news blurbs didn’t mention it either

    The other problem with the Tigers story.
    What about the pants?
    It’s apparent from the photo that it was unlikely Lolich’s spare pants would have fit Howard. But if you look more closely, the side stripes on Howard’s pants look different than Lolich’s. Slightly wider. And the stripes are different colors. The stripes on Lolich’s pants appear to be the same color – presumably orange.

    ’72 Rangers waistband was red-over-white-over-blue with blue on the backside…Tigers had blue-over-white-over-orange with orange on the backside.
    And just because Howard borrowed Lolich’s jersey doesn’t necessary mean he worn a pair of his pants too.

    Clarification: Rangers had blue on the back side of the side stripe pattern, Tigers had orange on theirs (and their white center stripe of the waistband was thinner as compared to that of the Rangers)

    I think AP photographers back in those days were not that much interested in players wearing the same uniform number during games as we are. The fact that he had to borrow a team mate’s reserve jersey for a pregame pic was fun enough for the photographer, I think. Also that the newspapers do not mention it is to me another sign that UniWatch would have been a completely alien concept back in the days. Most people did not notice or care about these uniform details. And most still don’t but that should not be of any importance to this community.

Comments are closed.