Thirteen tidbits of tantalizing trivia pertaining to game-used sports memorabilia:
1) The first MLB club to go across the ocean for team uniforms was the 1977 Pittsburgh Pirates. Two of their 3 styles, the pinstriped home whites and the solid black knit and mesh alternates, were manufactured by Japanese supplier Descente.
2) Although Super Bowl commemorative patches have existed for all 39 Super Bowls, no team wore the patch on their SB game jerseys until the 1986 New York Giants in SB XXI.
3) The NBA is the only one of the three major sports leagues to have used three different exclusive uniform suppliers in three exclusive deals: MacGregor-Sandknit (1986-87 through 1989-90), Champion (1990-91 through 1996-97) and Reebok (2004-2005). Before their exclusive arrangement with Reebok began in 2002, the NFL teams used multiple suppliers, official or otherwise. In MLB, Majestic became the first totally exclusive uniform source in 2005. Previous deals with Rawlings (1987-91) and Russell (1992-99) found a few teams in each instance ordering unies from non-official suppliers of the era, such as Wilson, Goodman and AIS.
4) While the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings of the NBA spent the 1980’s with the odd arrangement of NOB’s under the numbers on their jersey backs, the concept originated in the mid-1960’s with baseball’s Cincinnati Reds.
5) Most uniform supplier sleeve/chest/neck logos have several years’ worth of staying power, but Wilson, one of the NFL suppliers for 1995, used a unique red and black shield logo with a WS notation included for that single season.
6) In 1977, as his career neared an end, slugger Dick Allen not only donned the decidedly un-slugger like uniform number 60 for the Oakland Athletics, but, in lieu of ALLEN as the NOB, carried the inscription WAMPUM instead (for his hometown of that name in Pennsylvania).
7) While many collectors of MLB double-knits are aware that the first Turn Back the Clock game featuring players in retro uniforms was in 1990 (White Sox hosting Milwaukee), what most may not be aware of regarding the birth of this genre would include the fact that two sets of jerseys were made, but only one was worn…the team got one for auction, and the player had the option of keeping the other, meaning that some of the examples on the market may well not have been worn (though certainly are team issued). Also, the whole promotion was planned on the fly, and was NOT part of the original 1990 promotional plan, as the Sox had an early season rainout against the Brew Crew in Chi-Town, and the TBTC promotion was announced after the makeup of the rainout…scheduled for the open date after the 1990 All-Star Game…was pinned down to that particular day.
8) While the White Sox and Astros, and the MLB umpires all wore 2005 WS patches during the recent Fall Classic, the umps’ tops were additionally adorned with a “CW” patch, a memoriam for recently deceased arbiter Charlie Williams.
9) That, although all the NFL teams wore their league’s 75th Anniversary patch on their jerseys in 1994, the Green Bay Packers…a charter member of the league…wore their TEAM 75-year logo on their unies in 1993.
10) While sleeve logos of suppliers are common now in baseball and the NFL, the earliest examples of these “TV logos” can actually be found on some of the 1983-84 USFL shirts made for the defunct and short-lived pro gridiron league by Champion.
11) In the space of one decade, Reebok has gone from being a marginal NFL uniform supplier to the only game uniform source for the NFL, NBA and, now, the NHL.
12) Ever hear of Alpha, Red Fox, and Tiernan? All three are locally based suppliers of the past for major sports league teams in the Big Three. Alpha was a Bay Area company that made early-mid 1980’s BP jerseys for the Giants and A’s, as well as the Giants’ 1981 black mesh game threads. Red Fox supplied a handful of pro football teams in the 1960’s and ’70’s, ranging from mid-1970’s Chicago Wind WFL garb to early 1960’s Packer duds. Tiernan was the place to go for the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire game unies until the 1986-87 season saw the league giving all of their business to Sand-Knit.
13) Russell didn’t get their money’s worth to supply Major League Baseball with game uniforms in 1992. In addition to several teams and players junking their Russell garb in whole or part during the schedule, the pinnacle of the MLB year, the World Series, found its two participants…the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays…clad exclusively in their season-long choice of Wilson apparel for the Series’ duration.
MORE TAGGED, BUT NOT TEAM-ISSUED: NBA COMMEMORATIVE COLLECTION
The rise of popularity of the NBA resulted in a limited number of tagged retail jerseys being issued for 1992-93. Centering around major stars of the era, many, but not all, have been identified, both in terms of what players were issued in the NBACC promotion, as well as how to differentiate between true team-issued pieces and these tagged retail items. The rest of the article will detail what is known at this time, and information regarding any players not mentioned is welcomed at email@example.com, as well as at MEARS online.
BULLS ROAD: Among the easiest to detect are the road red NBACC jerseys of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. While both are sized correctly for the players/era (46 + 3″), the key is the font of the NOB on each. True game-used/game-issued MJ and Pip jerseys have serif-bearing NOBs, as well as the customary drop in terms of location. The drop doesn’t exist on NBACC versions, and the NOB font is sans-serif…the color scheme matches the genuine thing, but the design of the letters resembles the NOB lettering on earlier, screened-on Bulls jerseys, such as 1990-91 and ’91-’92 Champion examples as well as 1980’s Sand-Knit issues.
CELTICS ROAD: Larry Bird…easy here, due to the fact that Bird was retired in 1992-93.
LAKERS HOME: Magic Johnson…see Bird above.
SUNS HOME: Charles Barkley…A toughie, but discernable by the location of the “Jerry West” logo. The real Suns jerseys are among the few of the era to carry the NBA emblem on the right shoulder strap…NBACC issues show it on the left shoulder strap.
KNICKS ROAD: For Patrick Ewing, extra length specs are the key…Ewing’s true gamers are plus 6 inches, while the NBACC types are only a plus 4.
TRAILBLAZERS ROAD: Clyde Drexler’s NBACC jerseys are detectable in like manner as Ewing’s…extra length being shorter (+2″) on the NBACC versions instead of the correct +3″ on gamers.
JAZZ HOME: The numeric font on Karl Malone’s NBACC home shirts is not consistent with those on actual Jazz gamers…despite this, at least 2 examples of retail Malone’s with the improper numeral design have been “authenticated” by other LOA composers (not MEARS) in the last year.
As a side note, 1994-95 Commemorative Collection jerseys exist on numerous NBA stars, but tagging differences would require major doctoring to pass one of these off as a gamer. Three tags exist on this edition of NBACC jerseys, the third designating them as such, while the exclusive tag on these versions bear a notation indicating how many were made, ranging from 50 to 200 each. To forge these, an underhanded type would have to first remove the NBACC tag, and then likewise remove the numbered exclusive tag and replace it with an exclusive tag bearing the correct extra length notations, leaving stitch holes in the edge of the resewn tag.