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NFL Ref Has His Own Personalized Coin for Pregame Toss

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Every NFL game starts with a coin toss at midfield, and the coins used for those tosses are usually some sort of commemorative edition produced by the NFL, the home team, or a promotional partner. But for last Sunday’s Colts/Titans game in Nashville, referee Ron Torbert used a personalized coin whose design, as you can see above, actually references his uniform!

Torbert’s coin was discovered by longtime Uni Watch reader David Firestone, who spotted a listing for it on the NFL’s auction site. If you search for “coin” on that site, you’ll find listings for a handful of “game-used” coins, but Torbert’s is the only one that’s ref-personalized. David, who’s got a thing for coins, says he’s never seen anything like it before. I’d love to see footage of the toss from that Colts/Titans game, just to hear how Torbert described the head and tail designs.

Torbert, incidentally, reffed the last Super Bowl. According to this article, his biggest concern about the gig was “Don’t screw up the coin toss.”

(Big thanks to David Firestone for bringing this one to my attention.)


 

ITEM! World Series Preview

The World Series starts tonight, which means it’s time for my Uni Watch World Series Preview. Since the Astros are making their fourth Series appearance in six years, I’ve mostly skipped them and done a deeeeep dive on the Phillies. No matter who you’re rooting for in the Series, I can almost guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two from this piece. Hell, I learned a thing or two while working on it! Ideal for amazing/annoying your friends while watching the Fall Classic.

You can read the first few paragraphs of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber to my Premium content on Substack. (Didn’t hear about my move from Bulletin to Substack? Additional details on that, including the “Pay What You Wish” subscription option, can be found here.)

Also, remember that I also published my Uni Watch Power Rankings for the NHL’s new Reverse Retro designs this week. Again, you can read the first few grafs for free, and then I hope you’ll consider subscribing. Thanks!


 

Nolan Ryan Update

A few days ago I wrote about the mystery of a photo that showed Nolan Ryan wearing a Mets uniform with No. 20. After consulting a few experts, the most probable explanation appeared to be that the image was from the 1965 fall instructional league. (One thing I didn’t fully explain: That would have been the Florida Instructional League, not the Arizona Fall League, which didn’t come into existence until 1992.)

Somewhat amazingly, reader Steve Presser has a 1965 Florida Instructional League program. When he read that blog post earlier this week, he pulled the program off the shelf and looked up Ryan, expecting to see him listed as wearing No. 20. But instead:

That’s right — Ryan wore No. 45 in the 1965 Florida Instrux League. Not 30, not 34, not 20, but 45! (Also: I love that there was a coach named Bunky Warren.)

So what about Ryan wearing No. 20? Presser did a little digging and came up with this:

That’s clearly Ryan wearing No. 20. And when is this photo from? Presser says it’s from the 1967 Florida Instrux League. So that’s when he wore that number.

Now we just need to get a shot of him wearing No. 45 in 1965.


 

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Comments (15)

    Paul-
    Re: 1967 Mets Florida Instrux League photo…
    Please tell me that #21 (pretty sure that’s Steve Renko) has a front pants pocket!

    Hypothesis, based both on military/civil challenge coin customs and on NFL regulations: The ref’s coin is given as a souvenir, such as to team captains, not used for the coin flip. Even by the standards of challenge coin design, the heads/tails distinction on the ref’s coin is very very ambiguous.

    Well, the auction does say “game-used,” which certainly implies (but, I’ll grant, does not explicitly specify) the coin toss.

    “The auction description says” is not evidence one way or the other. I can claim that I saw bigfoot, but biologists are gonna want some physical evidence before they add a new genus to the primate order. Plus, “The ref used the officially required coin for the toss and then handed his personal challenge coin to each player captain at the end of the ceremony,” probably counts as “game used” by some memorabilia auction standards. Regardless, I’d love to know if there is evidence of a personal ref coin being used as the toss coin in an NFL game. Outside of playoff games or the Super Bowl, I don’t recall seeing the coin toss broadcast in a way that would make the coin itself visible, though admittedly I haven’t watched a regular season NFL game attentively more than a couple of times in the last decade.

    Actually, I didn’t claim that the auction description was “evidence”; I said that it *implied* that the coin was used in the coin toss. Basically using the “reasonable person” standard (but, as already stated, am also granting that it’s not definitive).

    It feels very clear to me…NFL logo as heads (Logo is on a referee cap/head) and the number 62 as tails (obviously the back of a referee jersey). But it being tied to officials and all the pregame pomp, it would likely be botched up somehow!

    “Even by the standards of challenge coin design, the heads/tails distinction on the ref’s coin is very very ambiguous.”
    Most commemorative coins have that issue. You’ll notice during many big games when they actually show the toss, the ref will tell them which is heads and which is tails, occasionally they’ll actually describe what is on the coin to the viewing public also.
    This coin doesn’t seem particularly ambiguous compared to others (shield on one side, SB logo, or something else on the other). I would be under the assumption that the shield is the heads.

    This coin doesn’t seem particularly ambiguous compared to others (shield on one side, SB logo, or something else on the other). I would be under the assumption that the shield is the heads.

    Moreover, the other side shows the *back* of the ref’s jersey. Back = tails.

    Love this!
    And I think I see three other Mets pitchers in that pic wearing odd numbers before they hit the bigs:
    Jon Matlack wearing 36 instead of 32
    Jerry Koosman wearing 26 instead of 36
    Jim McAndrew wearing 34 instead of 43

    Oh man! All the coaches’ names, and even the trainer’s name, all sound so baseball-y to my ears. But yeah, Bunky Warren is the best of the lot. Weird how some names can conjure an image. Bunky Warren screams baseball coach/manager.

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