ON A FIRST NAME BASIS
While names on backs (NOBs) have, since their 1960 inception, primarily employed player last names, the occasional first name, nickname, or other ID has popped up over the years. The Shirt examines many of them now.
FIRST NAMES: Vida Blue, whose career took of in 1971 with Oakland, decided a couple of years later to go with VIDA instead of BLUE on his jerseys. The practice continued during his later stints with the Giants and Royals.
Also, his Oakland teammate, Billy Conigliaro, wore 1973 jerseys identifying him as BILLY C., a photo of which can be found on his 1974 Topps card.
NICKNAME: The Cleveland Indians had Ken “Hawk” Harrelson in their employ from a few weeks into the 1969 season through 1971. The ’69 season was the final year that the Tribe wore vest flannels, and Harrelson employed a NOB of HAWK on his.
HOMETOWN: The pride and joy of Wampum, Pennsylvania, Dick Allen, played for the A’s in 1977, and, in addition to wearing the unorthodox number 60, placed WAMPUM on the back of his McAuliffe gamers.
TEAM TRENDS: The 1963 A’s ordered a set of odd vests that were forerunners of the 1970s doubleknits from Wilson, and put player first names and nicknames on the backs of these gold gamers. Pitcher Bill Fischer, for example, was FISH, and infielder Sammy Esposito was SAMMY. This genre also produced one of the most misrepresented baseball jerseys the hobby has ever seen. Pitcher Ed Rakow wore #21 in 1963, with his NOB being ROCK. This jersey has been offered numerous times, however, as a Rocky Colavito gamer, despite the fact that Colavito played for Kansas City in 1964, not ’63, and the fact that he wore #7 (see 1964 Auravision record photo) with the A’s, not #21.
Also in this genre were the briefly used 1976 Atlanta Braves home NOB jerseys. The red pinstriped home pullovers, made by Wilson, carried first names (MAX for pitcher Maximino Leon) and nicknames (CANNON for outfielder Jim Wynn). The jerseys were banned, however, by humorless Commissioner Bowie Kuhn after Ted Turner, the Braves’ owner, decided to push the envelope a bit too much. Acquiring pitcher Andy Messersmith from the Dodgers a few weeks into the season, Turner added the NOB of CHANNEL to Messersmith’s #17 jersey…a subtle advertisement for one of his TV stations. Kuhn put the hammer down, and the jerseys were pulled and/or stripped of their NOBs.
With a tip of the New Era cap to Murf Denny, we have news of memoriam patches being worn in 2009 by Cleveland and Toronto. The Indians have a patch for Herb Score, bearing his old uniform number (27) with a microphone representing his broadcasting career separating the two digits. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have a TED patch for their late owner, Ted Rogers.
EYEFULS FROM EBAY
Three jerseys recently offered a look at items that were misidentified as to player, team, and overall authenticity.
Very shortly after the death of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, a Tigers home knit of the late pitcher was up for bids on the ‘Bay. It did draw at least one bid, despite the fact that (a) it was the wrong supplier (jersey was Rawlings, Tigers homes in that era were made by Wilson), (b) no tagging existed of the type used by either of the above companies, and (c) the number font was totally off for the back numerals. Someone thinks they won the Bird, but instead got a phony for the birds.
Not only are minor league-issued Orioles jerseys being offered in some quarters as MLB Orioles BP jerseys, but the same misrepresentation is now being seen increasingly with minor league Padres tops. The jerseys have no NOBs, a feature used on Major League Pads pregame shirts since the mid-1980s. On top of that, the navy blue (post-1989) jerseys, in addition to being bereft of NOB, also have been made by Rawlings, last seen as a Padres source in 1991. The improperly attributed attire dates to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Padres BP duds were supplied by Russell and Majestic, not Rawlings.
Finally, a longtime excellent dealer of cards who is unfortunately out of his element in the jersey market acquired a load of Red Sox game and BP jerseys from the Fenway Park sale earlier this year. With home jerseys not bearing NOBs nor any name tagging, the seller recently placed a #12 2002 Red Sox home gamer up for bids. The seller evidently consulted a regular season roster, which shows Cliff Floyd as #12. Problem is, the jersey is a size 44. Floyd is 6-4 and 230 pounds…he wouldn’t have fit into that jersey after Junior High! A look at the team’s 2001 roster shows #12 as Chris Stynes, 5-9 and 170, and the proper size for a size 44 of today. Floyd has been in jerseys as large as a size 56 over the last few seasons. My belief is that the jersey was made for Stynes, but not worn by him, as his 2002 season was spent with the Cubs.
Ed Blake, a pitcher with short stints with Cincinnati (1951-53) and Kansas City (1957) died April 15. He was 83. Blake’s biggest MLB memory came before his pro career, as, having just graduated from high school, he was tapped to throw BP for the 1943 Cardinals during the World Series.
Gene Handley, a member of the 1946-47 Philadelphia A’s, died at age 94 on April 12.
Glen Gondrezick, and NBA [layer of the Dr. J era, died from complications from a heart transplant April 27, Age 53 at time of death, he played for the Knicks and Nuggets from 1977-83, and preceded his NBA career with a roster spot on the 1977 UNLV Final Four team.
Finally, Jack “Lucky” Lohrke, nicknamed as such due to several occasions of cheating serious injury and/or death before he made the Show, died April 29 at age 85. His MLB career was with the Giants and Phillies from 1947-53. Before that, however, he had narrow escapes from tragedy in World War 2, surviving while fellow soldiers close to him were killed; and also in 1946, when a phone call at a lunch stop telling him to report to San Diego took him off the ill-fated bus carrying the Spokane team which would later crash, claiming 9 victims.
BULLS-CELTICS…THE NBA DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT!