A Nod to Uni Watch: Top 10 Posters Featuring Rare Sports Uniforms
One of the best sports blogs out there is Paul Lukas’ Uni Watch, a true sport-lover’s paradise that “deconstructs the finer points of sports uniforms in obsessive and excruciating detail.” Trust me when I tell you: if you’ve ever spent time with your friends discussing the best and worst of sports uniforms and logos, this is a site that will grab you and never let go!
Since many of our customers here at SportsPosterWarehouse.com are also obsessive about the minute details of sports, I thought I’d post our first-ever “crossover episode” here at the blog, and document our top-10 rare-uni posters, featuring players donning unique game wear that they may have worn on as little as a single occurrence in their career. (Most of these posters are still available for sale at a very reasonable price.)
10. Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell “Post Up” (1965-66) – Check out Wilt in the long-forgotten “PHILA” uniform, abandoned after a single NBA season – forgotten, that is, until it was revived for the 2003-04 Hardoood Classics nights.
9. Wayne Gretzky “Greatness” (1997) – How much cooler would this one have been if they had waited one more year, and used a shot of Wayne in the impossibly-rare white version of this “Liberty” 3rd jersey? The Great One wore this navy-blue New York Rangers alternate uniform for approximately 20 games combined from 1996-1998 (they switched to the white version for one season, Wayne’s final NHL season of 1998-99, then went back to this version until the uni was retired in 2005).
8. Lance Armstrong “Team Discovery” (2005 Tour de France, Stage 4) – It was a rare moment indeed, during his seven-year reign as Tour de France Champion, that Lance Armstrong was photographed in a jersey colored something other than yellow. It was even more rare that the jersey would be colored Discovery Channel powder-blue! After winning his first six Tours with the USPS as his team sponsor, Lance went to work for Discovery in his final year – and after trailing the field for the first three stages, he led his team to domination in the Stage 4 Team Time Trial – and never relinquished the maillot jaune again.
7. Emmitt Smith “Throwback” (1994) – Damn, did Emmitt look good in the “Double Star” Cowboys gear, which debuted during the NFL’s 75th Anniversary season. After appearing on Thanksgiving Day that year, the kit made a surprise reappearance for the Cowboys’ two playoff games (the picture seen below is from the NFC Conference Championship Game at San Francisco in January 1995). The “Double Star” uniform was worn twice more in the 1995 season, once each season from 2001-2003, and then was retired in favor of the authentic 1960-63 throwback used as the alternate jersey since.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo “Blue Striker (2006) – As a protest against American Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of the world’s most popular football club, many Manchester United fans – literally – boycotted this new-for-2005/06 road blue kit designed by Nike. This uni was quickly and quietly dispatched to the dustbin of history, used sparingly in 2006/07 as an alternate 3rd jersey (modified for the new sponsor, AIG), then retired for the 2007/08 season.
5. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim “Freeze Frames” (1996) – This poster features Paul Kariya in one of the most ridiculed, and quickly-forgotten, 3rd jerseys in NHL history. Whoever thought it was a good idea to replace the goofy duck-mask logo with an even goofier cartoon mascot named “Wild Wing” on the front of the shirt should have been fired – or, at the very least, forced to spend a week alone on a North Atlantic cruiser with this guy. Worn on just a couple of occassions during Kariya’s sophomore season of 1995-96, this uni was replaced the following season with a much more conservative alternative jersey design.
4. Pete Maravich “Hawk in Flight” (1971) – The Atlanta Hawks welcomed in the Pistol Pete era with, quite possibly, the ugliest uniform redesign in the history of any sport. The main color can best be described as “regurgitated pea soup”, while the right-side white stip makes the whole getup look vaguely like a toga. The Hawks returned to their traditional red-and-white color scheme for the 1972-73 season, leaving this unloved two-season experiment forgotten to the world…until it was revived 30 years later for a series of Hardwood Classics nights.
3. Michael Jordan “#45” (1995) – Who remembers that the man who made #23 world-famous actually wore #45 for a spell? After returning from his year-and-a-half exile in early 1995, Michael may have known that his game would not be up to its usual standards right away, and decided to come back with a different number. Worn for just 17 regular-season games and five playoff matches, MJ quickly returned to his old number for good to start the 1995-96 season.
2. “Legends of the Black Diamond” (Negro Leagues c.1912-1941) – Color photographs of the old Negro League baseball uniforms are nearly non-existent; however, Cleveland-area artist Jeff Suntala worked the libraries and museums in earnest to research his spectacular re-creations of 11 classic uniforms of the segregated era of the National Pastime – Newark Eagles 1941 home (Ray Dandridge), Homestead Grays 1938 home (Buck Leonard), New York Lincoln Giants 1912 (Pop Lloyd), Chicago American Giants 1936 road (Willie Foster), Chicago American Giants 1919 home (Rube Foster), Trujillo All-Stars 1937 (Satchel Paige), Cuban Stars 1927 (Martin Dihigo), Indianapolis ABC’s 1922 (Oscar Charleston), Pittsburgh Crawfords 1928 home (Josh Gibson), St. Louis Stars 1929 (Cool Papa Bell), and Chicago American Giants 1921 (Christobal Torriente). Truly spectacular gallery-quality art, with real historical significance, completed with the attention to detail of a loving hand.
1. Sidney Crosby “Winter Classic” (2008) – The outdoor hockey game held at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 1, 2008, was pure sporting magic, and a big reason was the star power of hockey’s greatest young talent, and the return of a rare long-lost Pittsburgh Penguins uniform style. Worn from the second to fifth seasons of the franchise (1968-72, an era of low attendance, little television exposure, and terrible hockey), these powder-blue road uniforms were altered significantly for the years 1972-79, then abandoned entirely in January 1980, when the Penguins jumped on the Steelers-inspired yellow-and-black bandwagon.
After scoring the winning goal in a shootout, Crosby gave a shout-out to the awe-struck and appreciative partisan crowd…and the rest is history.
I hope you enjoyed this recap of some great – and not-so-great – rare uniforms in sporting history, through the poster collection of The Sports Poster Warehouse. Order online any time, or call toll-free 1-888-650-3455 to speak to our customer service staff.