Thursday, March 30, 2017

Maine Black Bears (1939-46)

This one's a bit of a head-scratcher.

In 1939, Maine introduced a monochrome uniform with white helmets, a look it retained through 1946 (the Black Bears played a minimal schedule during the war years). The jersey and pants were both navy blue ... or were they? Check out this column from the Oct. 7, 1940 Columbia Spectator following the Maine-Columbia game in New York, and I'm not talking about the Wendell Willkie references, either:

Whoa-whoa-whoa ... black uniforms? By a team that's always worn blue? 

The column ends with another reference:

Somehow, I don't think Maine wore black unis, but without color photos or references to black uniforms elsewhere, we'll never know for sure. But I've seen enough black-and-white photos to know that Maine's unis were a few shades darker than what they wore before and after. For now, we'll go with a midnight blue that could easily pass for black from a distance. Hey, the old Prism yearbooks always made references to the "Pale Blue Gridsters" even when they weren't wearing pale blue.

Really, it's little curveballs like this one that make uniform research so much fun.

This rather sobering photo comes from Stuart Haskell's exhaustive, definitive and fascinating tome,
The Maine Book. So many football players from this era went overseas and never came back.
A tip of the helmet to you all.

What can't be questioned is that Maine debuted white jerseys in 1940. From the indispensable University of Maine: A Sports History (1992):
In 1940, Maine wore white game jerseys for the first time ever in a game against Colby. It was an attempt to break a jinx -- Maine had lost four straight games in the fourth period and three of the four winning teams had worn white jerseys. ... It didn't work -- Colby won, 20-0.
Shut out by Colby? Ugh. 

Maine debuts the white jerseys against Colby, 1940.
Every time I see old Colby photos, the Dutch Clark- or Doak Walker-era
Detroit Lions come to mind. This picture is from Colby's Oracle yearbook.

Another oddity of this uniform: The big white waistband that contrasts the rest of the outfit. I don't think I've seen that anywhere else.

Because of World War II, Maine endured numerous coaching and personnel changes, but the uniforms stuck around (I skipped 1943, because I have no photos of the one game Maine played that year), probably because money was needed for more important things than football uniforms ... whether they were black, blue or white.

Ed Barrows (27) was one of those Black Bears who died in World War II.
His father, Lewis Barrows, was the governor of Maine from 1937-41. The State Series trophy, which
was awarded to Maine's top team every year, was dedicated in the younger Barrows' honor.

A close-up of the white jersey, 1942.
These two pictures and the one below are from the Prism yearbook.

Can't bear to be without Black Bear uniforms? Here are some more: 2016201520142011-131997-9919851976-84197519741965more 1965, 1963-641957-591949-501928-29. Rivalry week: Maine-New Hampshire. Inside the jersey: 2010-13.

From 1939. Now THIS is what someone should do for a schedule poster!
Who needs those fancy-schmancy graphics, anyway?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Vermont Catamounts (1958-61)

Well, everyone in the Green Mountain State is abuzz over the Vermont men's basketball team laying everyone in its waste en route to an NCAA Tournament berth, so it's natural we talk about UVM football, right? ... All right, maybe not, but work with me here.

After many years of plain gold (yellow) helmets, the Catamounts shook things up by switching to green lids, with those oh-so-trendy numbers on the side. The green helmets were  eventually replaced by white ones, which were replaced by yellow ones, which were replaced by green ones again (see links below).

Vermont football in action at Centennial Field, 1961.
You may have heard Vermont's pretty in the fall.
These pix are all from the Ariel yearbook.

A nice close-up of the home jersey, 1959.

The most interesting aspect of the uniform is the socks: A yellow base with green tops and a strip of white in between. For the home unis, that's the only white on the entire getup. By '61 the socks appear to have vanished in favor of the traditional white stubs. 

Flying through the air with the greatest of ease ...
Check out the socks with the gold base on No. 22.

Seniors gridders show off their road duds, 1961.
The roads have a completely different pattern from the homes.

One oddity about the team that has nothing to do with the uniforms: Although UVM was a member of the Yankee Conference, the Catamounts played nothing resembling a full conference schedule during this time period, with only five conference games (all losses) TOTAL over this uniform's life span. In fact, only Maine and Rhode Island played a full five-game league slate at any time before 1962, and full round-robin play wasn't instituted until 1966. You would think a small bus league like the YC would have no problem constructing a full league slate, but I guess Vermont was content to play the Middleburys and Rochesters of the world.

Want more uniforms from the ol' 802? Of course you do! 1940-42, 1946-481962-631964-671968-691970-74.

This photo, from an eBay listing, shows a Vermont player
holding the ball for Miss Vermont, 1961. I imagine when you're Miss Vermont,
you can have your pick of football players.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Brown Bears (1959-65)

Somehow, I've gone more than 2 1/2 years without talking about this classic uniform.  Brown's 1959-65 uniform has a decidedly Princeton look and feel to it*, although I believe the Bears wore something similar decades earlier (confession: outside the three NEC teams, I probably have less info on Brown than any other team in this project, at least pre-1950). Brown shirt, white sleeves and brown stripes at home; a perfect mirror image on the road. In 1962, a number was added to the helmet, putting a nice cherry on the top.

A couple Daily Princetonian shots from 1961 of Brown's uniform,
against the team that (possibly) inspired it.

I posted this bizarre picture before with my 1959-60 Yale post,
but I just have to repeat it here for Brown. Although
the player in the photo is wearing the 1958 helmet,
those lids were never worn with the 1959 uni.
The team, alas, was a dud in these duds, as the Bears went 17-51-3 under coach John McLaughry (son of Tuss McLaughry, the great Brown coach and OK Dartmouth coach) from 1959-66. The Ivy League of the era consisted of the haves (Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, Princeton) and the have-nots (Cornell, Brown, Columbia and Penn), and the Bears mustered just one winning record while wearing these unis.

Brown against Princeton again, this time from 1964.

Brown tangles with Rhode Island in 1964.
Note the addition of the number on the helmet. 

More unis from the sons of Bruno: 201620152014, 2012-132004-082001-03, 1997-20001984-891981-8319781975-771973-7419721967-711957-581951-56.

* Somehow, I've also gone this long without discussing the classic Princeton uniform much, other than in the Rivalry Week post with Dartmouth. It's what happens when you spend too much time hunting down the obscurities.