Friday, October 30, 2009

Auction Gold - 1950s Jim Ringo jersey

The rumors were true. A late 1950s beauty has come up for auction, giving us an extremely rare look at the Packers' pre-Lombardi uniforms:

LOT: 3 Jim Ringo 1957-61 Packers Game Worn Dureen, Rare Midnight Green, Stylematched, Team Repairs

Jim Ringo was a professional American football player, a Hall of Fame center and coach. He was a ten time Pro Bowler during his career. When coach Vince Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959, Jim was the only already-established All Pro on the roster. Lombardi built his offense around Ringo. The Packers drafted him in the seventh round of the 1953 NFL Draft out of Syracuse University. Ringo was considered vastly undersized at 211 pounds. He was not, however, unfit for the role, using his outstanding quickness and excellent technique to build a 15-year NFL career, including 11 seasons with the Packers, as one of the game's best centers. Ringo was a member of the Packers' NFL Championship teams of 1961 and 1962, but was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1964. He is best known as a coach for creating the dominant Bills offensive line of the early-mid '70s, called the Electric Company, in support of running back O.J. Simpson. He returned to Buffalo as the Bills offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 1985. He held the positions until his retirement after the 1988 season. He was a 10 time Pro Bowler from 1957-1965 and in 1967. Ringo was named to the NFL 1960’s All Decade Team. He was also a 6 time 1st Team All Pro and a 3 time 2nd Team All Pro. Ringo was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. Ringo is considered one of the best to play the game at the Center position.

Offered here is a VERY RARE long sleeve blue-green style Packers jersey of HOFer Jim Ringo. There are only 3 known Packers blue-green durene style jerseys known, let alone from a HOFer. Sewn on the left front tail is the “Sand Knit Athletic Knitwear” tag with a size “46” flag tag and the “DENIS SPORT SHOP” local distributor tag. Sewn on the front, back and both sleeves is the player number #51 done in gold tackle twill. The long sleeves contain the Packers traditional gold sleeve stripes. The durene jersey is hammered with use. It contains 12+ team repairs. This IS THE ONLY RINGO of this style. It was obtained directly through the Ringo family. The jersey has been style matched to his 1958 Topps football card (#103).
Here's the 1958 card to which they've style-matched this jersey:

With the exception of puttering about on their message boards, I'm not very familiar with Game Used Universe. I presume that they have some documentation from the Ringo family.

I really like the design. It's simple and clean, with a distinctive color palette. The Northwestern stripes, named for the university which invented the thin/thick/thin stripe design in 1928, give it a dash of style. The "TV numbers" on the upper sleeves were a relatively recent uniform innovation, having been first adopted by the Packers in 1956, the year before this design made its debut.

And just look at these repairs:

"Hammered with use" is an apt description - this jersey is stitched together like Frankenstein's Monster.

It also gives us a good look at the Sand-Knit tagging. Denis Sport Shop is still in business in Ashwaubenon, not two miles south of Lambeau Field.

Unfortunately, we cannot infer much about the jersey's color from these pictures. That's a shame, because the distinctive blue-green color of the Lisle Blackbourn era is much-discussed but infrequently seen. Most of the photos from this period are either black and white or hand-tinted and not much help for our purposes.

Perhaps the eventual winner will be able to help us out with better photos.

I do have to take issue with one element of the item description - I'm not sure why the auction house has designated this "1957-61". This jersey couldn't have been worn any later than 1958, as the following season would be the first for both new coach Vince Lombardi and his signature uniform design. Still, it's a beautiful exemplar of an unusual style, and if the provenance is as good as we are led to believe it should fetch a significant price.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dress for Success

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 1959 Green Bay Packers!

This is the first team photo of the Lombardi era. It's also very rare in that it's one of the few in which Vince Lombardi and his coaches actually appear. For the rest of Lombardi's tenure in Green Bay, team photos were for players.

I also love the travel blazers the men are wearing. Dress like professionals, play like professionals.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The future is (Almost) Now

Breaking news - we have a leaked photo of the NFL's design team working on the 2010 uniform template:

No, the NFL isn't becoming Rollerball.

At least, not yet.

But the new skintight uniforms have been cropping up all around the League, including in Arizona:

That's Anquan Boldin on the left, modeling the newfangled version, and Leinart on the right in last century's technology. The most obvious difference is the material, but Leinart's relatively loose sleeves will be cropped and capped the same as Boldin's once he gets issued his new shirt.

Of the teams wearing the new jerseys, few are more high-profile than the New York Football Giants. Watching them, we can see one issue with the jerseys - the Reebok logo on the sleeves flakes off during the course of a game, leaving a faint residue in its place:

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been having similar issues with their prototypes:
Personally, I don't consider this "ghosted logo" a design flaw so much as a beneficial side effect. I wouldn't mind a tonal manufacturer's logo at all.

Other "quirks" of the prototypes, however, might be considered more problematic.

So that's what happens when you put stretchy numbers on stretchy fabric. Not pretty.

But while all of this is interesting, what does it mean for the Packers? The short answer: I really don't know. I can provide lots of documentation about the jerseys worn by players on other teams, but the Packers are harder to figure out. Giants equipment director Joe Skiba reports that a handful of Packers are testing the new design in games this season, as opposed to the entire roster of the Jags and Giants.

Not having the Sunday Ticket package, I've had to pour over game photos trying to figure out who's wearing them. The cloest I've been able to find is this photo from last week's game, featuring backup tight end Jermichael Finley:

So is this it? I'm not entirely convinced. The "protruding clavicle" look, created by stretching elastic material over shoulder pads, is usually a pretty good sign. Add to that the tighter-than-normal sleeve caps, and the truncated sleeve stripes which tend to be less horizontal on the current uniforms.

Counter that with the color - the new material is more matte than spandex, resulting in a duller finish and more muted color. The wrinkled numbers, such a dead giveaway on the Giants, don't look all that different from the customized jersey he was wearing in the 2008 season:

If anyone can help me with screengrabs or photos from this season, please let me know in the comments. These new uniforms are scheduled to be implemented in 2010, so expect more testing as the season goes on.

(hat tip: Uni Watch for the screengrabs)

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Ice Bowl" Pennant, 1967


This simple yet effective pennant in green and gold turns up from time to time in Packers collecting. It features a rather generic-looking player wearing what could be a home Packers uniform, save the plain gold helmet (no Braisher stripes).

It was sold at Lambeau Field for one game only - the 1967 NFL Championship Game, commonly known as the Ice Bowl for the frigid gametime conditions. Concessionaires would have had to have braved a wind chill approaching 50 below zero to sell these pennants in the stands.

It isn't surprising, considering the Ice Bowl's hold on football fans' imaginations, that this style of pennant usually fetches a pretty good price at auction.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In the Pink

This past weekend, The NFL followed the lead of other sports leagues in raising cancer awareness through splashes of color.

On October 4th, selected players on each team around the league took the field wearing pink accessories - cleats, gloves and wristbands. The Packers did the same for their Monday Night Football Game.

This is similar to a promotion that Major League Baseball's been doing for the past several seasons:

Above: the Brewers' Bill Hall wears a special wristband and swings a pink bat on May 14, 2006, as part of MLB's annual Mothers' Day breast cancer awareness promotion.
The league also added its special event logo to the back of each helmet, just to the right of the NFL shield.

They're hard to make out in the photo above, so here's a closer look at the decals.

The Packers don't use the NFL's officially-designated Captain patches in the regular season, but those teams that do were sporting pink versions:

The pink extended to the sideline caps, as all teams wore their regular caps adapted with pink bills and the NFL pink ribbon logo seen on the helmets.

(And yes, that's a special customized cap so McCarthy has a place to keep his Sharpie.)

The event wasn't limited to uniforms and sideline gear - the logo made its way onto the field, the goalpost padding and even the kicking ball. See the NFL's gallery of images for details.

I don't know how I feel about the whole idea. It's hard to oppose anything anti-cancer, but on the other hand I don't like the idea of teams using their uniforms to make any kind of political or cultural statement. Not a big fan of showy over-the-top memorials, either. I don't even like it when players scrawl messages on their shoes or eye black. As a one-off, it seems okay. My concern would be if this becomes an annual event - and hey, if it doesn't, then the cancer wins! - or if they follow baseball's lead and add powder blue accessories for prostate cancer. Because you're not pro-prostate cancer, are you?

Baseball is one thing. In a season of 162 games, taking one or three to honor various causes doesn't seriously dilute the teams' visual identity. But football clubs only take the field sixteen times in the regular season. Even a couple "special" games can damage a team's cohesive identity. There's a reason the NFL vetoed Seattle's home-and-road-helmet idea in 2002.

I'm all for raising awareness. Hand out ribbons, do stadium promotions, make public service spots with the players, have the clubs and league donate tons of money. Just be very careful about messing with the uniforms.