Tuesday, February 28, 2023

I like the cartoons! They make me laugh!

A long time ago, long before memes or YouTube videos with thumbnails featuring shocked faces, emojis and arrows, athletes and sporting events were regularly portrayed in newspaper cartoons. (For those reading in 2053, this is what a newspaper was.) Papers big and small supplemented their articles, box scores and photos with illustrations of everyone from Joe DiMaggio to high school swimmers. They added a welcome dimension to the sports pages, and unfortunately the concept seemed to die with the '60s.

New England college football was no stranger to the cartoonists' pen and ink, so let's look at some vintage 'toons, shall we?

Perhaps New England's most famous sports cartoonist is Phil Bissell, who designed the New England (nee Boston) Patriots logo in 1960 and was recently revived for a couple of throwback games. Bissell drew for a number of newspapers from 1949-87, including the Boston Globe from 1953-65. His work also illustrated classic American Football League programs and media guides for Boston University and the University of New Hampshire.

The three cartoons above served the preview the weekend's college action. The first and third illustrations are from 1954; the second is from '55. About 4-5 games were typically highlighted, with the secondary games (Bridgeport-Brandeis?!?) written at the bottom on something resembling a royal scroll. The mascots and their natural habitats often made for easy subject matter. (Some, like Dartmouth and UMass's long-discarded Native American mascots, wouldn't fly today.) Boston University's terrier lives in a dog house, Princeton's tiger resides in the jungle, Boston College's eagle hangs out in a nest ... you get the idea.

After the game, a cartoon naturally wrapped up the weekend's action, often focusing on one game. Case in point, this Boston College win over Miami from 1958. (BTW, 6-2 wasn't BC's record, it was the final score. Old-time football, baby!) A cartoon would try to give a summary of the game for those who couldn't bothered to read the game story or watch the highlights on the nightly news, not that game highlights were a common thing in '58. Anyway, Bissell manages to squeeze in six key points in just a few columns of space, no small feat.

During the week, cartoons might focus on one or two players. This example from 1954 focuses on BC's Tom Magnarelli, who won the O'Melia Trophy for the MVP of the annual Boston College-Holy Cross game (once one of the highlights of the New England sporting year).

Let's take a gander at some other cartoonists. Frank Lanning was a longtime illustrator for the Providence Journal whose artwork for Brown and Rhode Island football (and their opponents) graced the paper's pages for decades.

This one highlights a Rhody win over Boston University in 1945. Eight key moments are shoehorned into one cartoon, anchored by Sal Vento, the "scatback from Saugatcuk."

Lanning goes off the board for this cartoon, which previews the 1965 Maine-East Carolina Tangerine Bowl. Linebacker John Huard, a two-time Little All-America, is generally considered the G.O.A.T. of Black Bear football players. 

Hubert Bushey's illustrations of University of Vermont sports appeared in the Burlington Free Press for years, and he even designed the old Charlie Catamount mascot (since replaced by Rally Cat). His most famous work might be from 1974, when the school pulled the plug on football after 77 seasons. The "30" was old-time newspaper jargon marking the end of a story, and, well, the Catamounts got hit with the "30" on the gridiron. (Baseball, which got the ax in 1971, was revived in 1978 and canceled again in 2009.)

From somewhat happier times, this cartoon previews UVM's '69 season. Bob Clifford, the head coach, resigned after a 3-6 season and threats of a player revolt.

And now, some miscellaneous cartoons:

This one is actually from Dartmouth's 1942 media guide. Dartmouth's "hometown" paper, the Valley News (where I worked for many years), wasn't born until 1952 and I don't think they ever did any Big Green cartoons.

Not sure where this one came from, but it illustrates Dartmouth's legendary "Fifth Down" game against Cornell in 1940. (Long story short: Cornell trailed 3-0 late in the game and threatened near the Dartmouth goal line, got an inadvertent fifth down from the refs and scored a walk-off TD to win 6-3. The Big Red "forfeited" the game a couple days later after reviewing the film, expecting Dartmouth to decline the forfeit. Of course the Big Green accepted and was declared a 3-0 winner.)

Not sure who drew this, but it highlights 1960s UMass stars Milt Morin and Bob Meers; Morin later was a star tight end for the Cleveland Browns. 

From The New Hampshire student paper, 1947 Glass Bowl coach Biff Glassford is profiled. I presume Vern Hall is the author.

think this is from Daily Princetonian, but it illustrates Princeton's 14-0 win over Brown in 1964, when the Tigers went 9-0 and outscored their foes 216-53.

And last but not least, this piece of irreverence from the Yale Daily News in 1985, when Yale and Dartmouth played to a 17-17 tie. Alas, the Big Green's iconic Keggy was a long ways away. 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Cornell Big Red (1945)

OK, it's been a while since the last post. Let's rectify that, shall we?

One of my favorite "unheralded" football books is the Quarterback Abstract (2009), which attempts to grade more than 360 quarterbacks from the throughout the long history of pro football. While the usual legends are covered in depth, the real gems are the more obscure passers. While thumbing through the book recently, I came upon an entry for one Al Dekdebrun of Cornell University, who was a journeyman's journeyman in the NFL and AAFC before finding a home in Canadian football, where he won a Grey Cup for the Toronto Argonauts. 

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But check out these nuggets from the QB Abstract: 

* Dekdebrun led the nation in passing yards as a junior in 1945 (1,227 yards!), "but was declared ineligible for his senior season because he had played four minutes in a game for Columbia in 1942 although (he) never enrolled there a student." And you thought the tramp athlete went the way of the flying wedge and mass interference plays.

* In four pro seasons between the NFL and AAFC, Dekdebrun threw for 1,224 yards, or three fewer than in his final year with the Big Red.

* In Canada, Dekdebrun led Toronto to the 1950 Grey Cup title in what became known as the "Mud Bowl." From the Abstract: "Using his Ivy League education, he taped thumbtacks to his fingers to improve his grip on the slippery ball and scored the only touchdown of the game." Sounds more like a tactic from a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.

After football, Dekdebrun was either mayor or town supervisor of Amherst, New York (depending on your source) and was inducted into the Cornell Hall of Fame in 1982.

I've touched upon Cornell's unis from this era before, but the big thing to take away is the inconsistency in regard to the helmets; at least four patterns were used, including a Princeton/Michigan-esque winged design and a Dartmouth-looking lid with multiple stripes around the crown. With the dust still settling from World War II, teams may not have wanted to spring money on new helmets for everyone; if they were close enough, that was A-OK. (If the internet or social media were around in 1945, can you imagine the outrage?)

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Boston College, UConn, UMass (2022)

We close out our look at the uniforms of 2022 with New England's three FBS schools. The results on the field vary, but I think these teams have some of the classiest unis around.

Tradition-minded Boston College didn't change a darn thing from 2021, other than the return of the dark red pants. The Eagles may not win much, but at least they look good while losing. 

Speaking of teams that used to look good while losing, UConn now looks good while winning; I apologized for my Husky-bashing here. First-year coach Jim Mora didn't change much from 2021 beyond a few helmet tweaks: A red-white-and-blue "C" logo (the only time the Randy Edsall-era big C was used) and a unique cancer ribbon helmet worn for a few October games. The example above is pink, but the Huskies made a dozen ribbon colors available, to "give players a chance to bring awareness to the specific form of cancer that has affected their lives and loved ones," according to a UConn media release.

UMass also had a new coach in 2022 (actually, new old coach: Don Brown was the head man when the Minutemen  reached the 2006 FCS title game), but changed zippo from '21, except for the 1990s-era logo seeing playing time on the maroon helmet for the first time. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Colgate, Holy Cross (2022)

OK, enough procrastinating. Let's take care of a couple more teams as we look back at the uniforms on 2022. This time around, it's a pair of Patriot League schools.

Colgate added a home jersey to match the road version that debuted in 2021, and the Raiders eliminated those odd stripes that wrapped around the front of the pants. I still prefer the 'gate' logo on the helmets to the generic "C."

Holy Cross didn't make any changes from 2021, but did revive the black jersey last worn in 2019, and even retains the college football 150th anniversary patch! The Crusaders wore a blue NCAA patch for their FCS tournament games.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island (2022)

 The review of 2022 uniforms rambles on with the four Colonial Athletic Association teams covered on the little ol' blog.

Delaware made some minor changes to the road jerseys and the pants, otherwise the Blue Hens stood pat. The new pants have a good-sized hen logo about halfway down the right leg. and the white jerseys continue college football's recent trend of returning to traditional stripes. Delaware (and UNH) also wore blue NCAA patches for their FCS tournament games. 

Maine (2-9? Really?) made a few minor changes, as well. The Black Bears returned their logo to both sides of the helmet after having a number on one side the last couple seasons, and they added a light blue alternate jersey — fitting, since coach Jordan Stevens played at Maine when they had a light blue alternate c. 2010. The alternate uses a different template than the navy or white jerseys, but I like it; I wouldn't mind seeing them worn with the light blue pants in 2023.

As you can see, there's a lot to unpack here with New Hampshire, which wore 11 different styles in 13 games. 

First, the Wildcats introduced a white alternate helmet with the Wildcat logo on each side. 

Second, UNH added a new white jersey and a gray alternate. I like how each shirt has a different wordmark on the front — blue, UNH; white, New Hampshire; gray, Wildcats. 

Third, the white pants now have "WILDCATS" down the side; as I said about Sacred Heart's pants, they resemble something out of pro wrestling. 

Finally, the Wildcats wore a retro uniform for Homecoming, complete with red trim and the vintage "NH" logo on the helmets. It's not exactly like what they wore in days of yore, but it's a start. UNH wore the NCAA patch for for its first-round FCS tourney game, but not the second-round game at Holy Cross.

Rhode Island didn't change anything from 2021, as the Rams continued to mix and match their three jerseys and four pants, including those gray camos. Really, nothing to complain about from this end. (Hey, it's laundry we're discussing, not world affairs, right? 😎)

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Bryant, Central Connecticut, Merrimack, Sacred Heart, Stonehill

Let's continue our look back at the uniforms of 2022 with four Northeast Conference teams, plus one that departed the NEC.

Bryant is the oddball of the bunch, having ditched the NEC for the Big South (well, Bryant is in southern New England, at least); the remainder of its athletic teams left the NEC for the America East Conference. The move is reflected with the addition of the Big South patch on the jerseys. The Bulldogs replaced Adidas with New Balance as their uniform supplier, but as they still used some of the older Adidas gear, they had to cover up the logo. (Look closely at the graphic above, especially the pants; you'll see a faint square where the Adidas logo used to live.) Bryant added a nice-looking gold alternate jersey, but resisted the urge to wear them with the gold pants.

OK, onto the NEC ...

Central Connecticut kept everything very simple this year; I think the three uniform combos are the fewest of any team covered in this little ol' project. The Blue Devils even passed on the breast cancer awareness helmets from last year. When that's the biggest change, you know there's not much going on here. Ah, for a simpler time ...

Merrimack kept things on an even keel as well. The Warriors' white pants and jerseys continued the recent trend of traditional stripes, a welcome return if there ever was one. Sadly, they didn't continue the screaming yellow zonkers look from last year.

Sacred Heart's biggest change was the addition of new pants, which have "PIONEERS" running down the sides. Frankly, they kinda resemble pro wrestling pants to me. Old favorites such as the star-spangled helmet and the all-gray alternate uniform returned for another year.

Finally, we have the new kid on the Division I block, Stonehill. The Skyhawks played only nine games this year (I wonder if that had something to do with their move up from D-II?) and won four, pretty respectable for a first-year D-I program. Stonehill kept its uniform pretty simple, rotating between two jerseys and two sets of pants. The helmets have a logo on one side and a number on the other; I'm not a fan of that look, but let's face it — there are more important things to worry about, right?

Friday, December 9, 2022

The (Somewhat) Complete UConn Uniform History, Part IV

Here we go: the final installment in our four-part series on the history of UConn's uniforms, in honor of the Huskies going from 1-11 to a bowl game in one year. It'll be better than most film franchises that make it to a Part IV ... I think.

Previous chapters: Part I, Part II, Part III.

2000: A new century (well, unless you're one of those ninnies who thinks 2000 belongs in the 20th century), and a new classification, as the Huskies play their first season at the FBS (I-A) level. Although UConn wasn't slated to join the Big East until 2005 (later moved up to 2004 after the team did so well as an independent "transitional" program), the team still added a tiny Big East patch to replace the Atlantic 10 version from '99.

2002: And so we begin another run of year-to-year changes. Red is dumped in favor of silver as a secondary color, a  block "UC" logo is used on the helmets for this year only, and the uniforms get a massive overhaul in favor of a new manufacturer: AEROPOSTALE, makers of fine clothing for mallrats everywhere. (They're still around, although shopping malls are going the way of the wishbone offense.) A small patch on the front celebrates the Huskies' first season at Rentschler Field, since renamed Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, but known to everyone as The Rent.

I'll say this about the jerseys: They don't really resemble anyone else's design from the era, since UConn eschewed  any of the conventional suppliers of the day (Russell, Nike, Reebok, etc.). I don't think too many other teams were using Machine font for names and numbers, for example. 

2003: Another year, another overhaul. The "UC" on the helmet is replaced by a big "C," or as I call it, the "Randy Edsall C," in honor of the coach who introduced (and later revived) it. The numbers are in a narrower version of the font the Huskies use to this day. Aeropostale remains the supplier, thus the jerseys still look different from everyone else's; check out the "CONNECTICUT" in an arc (almost like a basketball or baseball jersey) and the sleeve striping with the "C" in the middle.

I am the proud owner of a 2003 UConn jersey, and I took a deeper look at it in this post.

2004: This was the year UConn formally joined the Big East, and won its first bowl game to boot. For all the talk of the Huskies' decline (OK, I was one of the talkers), It's amazing how quickly they went from FCS to bowl game while playing in a decent conference. UConn trotted out its fourth design in as many years, this time with Nike as the supplier. The number font and the "CONNECTICUT" wordmark are carried over form Aeropostale design. The most notable changes were in the shoulder and sleeve stripes, and some funky stripes were added to the pants.

2009: After several years of stability, UConn made some changes for '09: Silver pants, player names and the "CONNECTICUT" wordmark were all discarded, and the numbers were fattened to the version the Huskies have used ever since (albeit with many different designs). I always liked this streamlined look, although the striping is pretty dated today.

This also was the uniform UConn wore when it went to the Fiesta Bowl after the 2010 season, the unquestioned high point of its FBS existence.

2013: With Randy Edsall (and the glory years) in the past, UConn makes another overhaul, highlighted by a pair of  very bizarre helmets with a sliver of a husky head on the front, blank sides and a big "UCONN" on the back. Much of the striping from the 2009 uniform remains same, but red returns as a trim color. A "UCONN" wordmark is added to the jersey front, along with the logo for the American Athletic Conference, the successor to the Big East. 

2015: The Huskies change their look again, this time with something a little more conventional. The husky head is moved to the helmet sides and the weird striping is discarded in favor of a diagonal blue-and-white pattern on the sleeves. And speaking of weird, check out the all-gray alternate uniform. 

2018: Randy Edsall returned as coach a year earlier, and his big "C" helmet returns in '18, in both white and blue models. The rest of the uniform remains the same, although the gray alternate is discarded.

2019: The rest of the uniform is redesigned, bearing a passing resemblance to the 2009 version, but with more conventional striping — a pleasant uniform trend nationwide the last few years. Red is retired yet again. The Huskies wear both the "C" and husky head designs on white and blue helmets. This was the last year UConn wore the AAC patch before it went to independent status in 2020.

I'll get to 2022 after the Huskies' bowl game.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Ivy League (2022)

Time to look back at the uniforms of 2022, starting with the Ivy League! Teams are presented in descending order of finish, which means we lead off with the most intriguing bunch, a team as prone to change as much as its baseball brethren in the nearby Bronx  ...

Outright champion Yale, the longtime winner of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) award for its reliable white helmets and plain blue jerseys and white pants, tossed tradition like a penalty flag and embraced it at the same time. First, the Bulldogs switched to big, curved numbers not unlike those the Los Angeles Rams use. Next, they added a special alternate uniform to celebrate 150 years of football at the university: A cream-colored jersey with faux stitches down the middle to simulate a 19th-century jersey, with a navy blue helmet and navy pants. You can read more about this uniform, which has several subtle elements that honor the team's history, here. The blue pants were worn again later in the season, and hopefully they see more game time, along with the blue helmet, in 2023.

Other than some mixing and matching here and there, Penn kept the same playbook from 2021: Two helmets, three jerseys and two pants. This is a good uniform, although I wish the Quakers would bring back the 1970s-style helmet from 2019 in some capacity.

Princeton made some small modifications to the black home jersey and the black pants (the "P" was replaced by a "Princeton Football" logo in Week 2), but nothing much changed from 2021. The upper back of the black shirts has the "old" Ivy League logo, which was phased out in 2019, but I guess refuses to die. I ranted a little about the Ivy logo change here.

Harvard, which overhauled its uniforms in 2021, revived the black alternate shirt in the new design. I dunno, I still prefer the classic numbers to the Star Trek font, but then I also pine for the return of the triple option, so what do I know?

Columbia did it again, and I don't mean putting up a winning record for the second straight year, although the Lions did that, too. A year after wearing 10 different designs over 10 games, Columbia pulled off the feat again in 2022. As I did last year, I organized the uniforms by week rather than by home/road/alternate. As for the unis themselves, the Lions added a navy blue helmet, which has a "C" on one side and a number on the other (grrr ...). The white helmet does the same thing, only with a lion in lieu of the "C." A new blue alternate jersey was added; its design was more in line with the black and white jerseys. The light blue alternate shirt also returned.

Cornell made a few minor changes. The Big Red replaced the block numbers on the road jersey with curved versions, kinda like those on the short-lived 2019 alternate, and the white pants now mirror the red versions. For the last game of the season, the iconic (well, iconic to me, at least) "C" was replaced with a tiny script "Cornell." Hopefully, this was just a one-shot experiment. 

Geez, Dartmouth, I didn't expect to find you down here. The Big Green made some minor changes to the pants and the white and black jerseys, which now lack shoulder numbers. (If you've watched the NFL lately, you'll see those "TV numbers" are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.) The new(er) Ivy logo is now on the jersey fronts, as is a patch celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX. (I believe 1972 also was the year women were first admitted to Dartmouth.)

We wrap up with Brown, which made a few changes from last year. The Bears dumped the classy ivy-in-the-B logo for a plain block "B." The brown alternate helmet, which was blank last year, now has a "B" on one side and a bear outline on the other. I still say there either needs to be some red trim on the shirts or ditch red from the helmets and pants entirely; the uniform just looks mismatched otherwise. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The (Somewhat) Complete UConn Uniform History, Part III

The history of UConn uniforms continues! This segment takes us from the late 1960s through the end of the I-AA/FCS era. 

Part I is here, Part II is here.

1968: After years of wild designs, UConn simplifies its look with a rather plain jersey and pants. After decades of using navy blue as their primary color, the Huskies lighten it to something closer to navy blue. The helmet logo changes to a Chicago Bears-style "C" with stitches inside to simulate a football shape, a simple-but-clever logo.

1971: UConn becomes the first Yankee Conference team to wear names on the jerseys. The C-with-stitches logo moves from the helmet to the sleeves, making for a very bland helmet. Red is added as a trim color for the first time.

1973: The names are removed, while the helmet goes from white to light blue. The C-with-stitches logo returns to the helmet.

1977: The Huskies switch to a design that lasts well into the 1990s: A white helmet with a script "UConn" on each side  — the first time the school moniker appears on the helmets — and jerseys with three stripes on each sleeve. 

1982: There's nothing too different from the 1977 design, but check out the socks: There's a tiny "U C O N N" going down each side.

1984: Following a trend throughout I-AA/FCS football, the Huskies add names to the jerseys. By this time, blue facemasks appear on the helmets and the red trim disappears.

1989: UConn returns to navy blue, but the rest of the uniform remains virtually the same.  The "DEGENNARO" is for Matt Degennaro, a record-setting Husky QB of yore.

1994: Under a new coach (Skip Holtz), UConn makes its biggest overhaul since 1977. Navy blue helmets return with an italicized "UCONN" on each side. (A red outline is added in '95.) A husky logo appears on the sleeves and the pants, which come in both white and navy. UConn freely mixes and matches the shirt-pants combos over the next several seasons. Also note the Yankee Conference patch, first used in 1993 under the old design, and the disappearance of names on the back.

1998: In honor of the school's football centennial, a special patch is worn on the left sleeve. Also this season, the Huskies play their first postseason games in program history when they reach the I-AA playoffs. (During the season, UConn openly pondered a move up to I-A/FBS, so perhaps the '98 playoff run clinched the decision?) One year earlier, the Yankee Conference morphed into the Atlantic 10, and the league patch on the front reflects the move.

1999: In their final I-AA/FCS season, the Huskies change their look under new coach Randy Edsall. The taller "UConn" logo resembles the one used on the women's basketball jerseys, while drop-shadow numbers (oh-so-trendy in the late 90s) are added. Also note the alternate vertical striping on the shirts, much like what Boston College and the New England Patriots used around this time. The white pants are put on the bench for now.

Next time: The series concludes with the FBS era!