Good morning! Today I want to show something really, really cool that reader Steve Stout recently spotted on eBay. The bad news is that I got outbid for it at the last minute — grrrrr. The good news, however, is that the eBay listing included a bunch of photos, so I can still show you this really cool thing, even though I didn’t win the auction.
The auction was for five carbon-copy pages that constituted the Baltimore Orioles’ road and alternate uniform order from Wilson Sporting Goods ahead of the 1978 season. Check this out:
There’s all sorts of faaaascinating stuff here. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit — the request for skipper Earl Weaver’s now-famous inner-jersey cigarette pocket:
I love that additional detail about Weaver’s jerseys having shorter shirttails!
I did a bit of research but am still not sure whether the guy who signed the order, Ray Kolas, was the O’s equipment manager at the time or, more likely, the team’s Wilson sales rep, who would have finalized the order with the team during spring training and then sent the paperwork to the factory. Either way, Ray had some sensational handwriting, right?
Update: Proofreader Jerry Wolper looked up the Orioles’ 1978 media guide (which I should have thought of doing) and confirmed that there was nobody named Ray Kolas on the team’s equipment staff. So Kolas was almost certainly the Wilson sales rep.
Additional update: Reader Alan Kreit has confirmed that Ray Kolas did indeed work for Wilson.
Note that this order was only for the road greys and the orange alternates. Why? Because the O’s, like many teams in those days, had multiple uni manufacturers. In 1978 they were in the midst of a seven-year run of using Rawlings for the home uniforms and Wilson for the road and alternate designs, as spelled out on this page from Bill Henderson’s jersey guide:
The order specified that the orange jerseys should be shipped to the team’s home ballpark in Baltimore, while the road greys were to be shipped to County Stadium in Milwaukee, where the O’s were scheduled to open their season against the Brewers on April 6 (although that game ended up being rained out and played on April 7):
Then there are all the individual player specifications. Here, for example, are the jersey sizes for the various Baltimore players and coaches — uni numbers on the left (well, except for the bat boy), chest sizes on the right:
Also interesting to see that the order form uses the term “Shirt,” not “Jersey”!
As you’d expect, the pants section of the order form included columns for the waist and inseam specs. But there was also a column for “Sz.,” which for some players differed slightly from the waist measurement:
It’s not clear to me what the “Size” measurement represented. Anyone..?
As you can also see in that last photo, most of the players had special tailoring instrux. Here’s a photo that gives us a better view of those details:
Lots to process here, beginning with this: The first five notations are for skipper Weaver and coaches Frank Robinson, Ray Miller, Jim Frey, and Cal Ripken Sr. Note that all of them, including Weaver, got a watch pocket on their pants (as you may recall, I was completely obsessed with that uni detail about a year ago), and all but Weaver also got “large hip pockets” (which I didn’t even know was a customization option!).
It’s also interesting to see that certain players got extra pairs of pants. I haven’t yet gone back and tried to match up which notation went with which player, but I’m pretty sure the extra pants were for starters and/or guys who attempted more stolen bases and would therefore be sliding more often.
Here’s another shot with more customization details:
The most interesting thing there is the last notation — wider sleeve cuffs!
Here’s a shot that makes it a bit easier to see which customizations were for which player. At the bottom of the sheet we can see that the wider sleeves were for pitcher Nelson Briles, who also got “No elastic at bottom of legs, has very heavy thighs” (!):
For reasons that aren’t clear to me, there were also instructions for 11 road uniforms without NOBs, with the team planning to add the NOBs later:
That’s about it. Isn’t it great? What a fun treasure trove! It is killing me — killing me — that I got outbid on this. How fortunate for us that the seller included so many photos in the listing (and that Ray Kolas had such clean, legible handwriting).
(Doubleplusthanks to Steve Stout, who deserves all the credit for this one.)