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Thursday, April 7, 2005
Updated: August 19, 4:43 PM ET
The man behind the uniforms

By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

When a team comes out with a new uniform or identity design, we all say things like, "They did a nice job with that," or "I don't like what they did there." But who exactly are "they"? Who are the actual people creating the imagery we see on the field?

Often, it's Todd Radom, a graphic designer who's emerged as one of the sports world's foremost logo and uniform designers. Those new Washington Nationals uniforms are his work, and so are the current Angels unis. He's also created the looks for the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones and the mid-1990s Milwaukee Brewers, as well as a slew of jersey patches, including the logos for Super Bowl XXXVIII, the 2003 World Series, the American League's 100th anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut, and the patches being worn this year by the Twins and Cardinals.

Radom toils in an odd sort of anonymity. Millions of fans are intimately familiar with his work, often to the point where they may feel an intense emotional connection with his designs. But except for a small cadre of hard-core nerds, most fans have never heard of him. If a flashy-looking team of high-priced athletes presents a spectacle akin to the Wizard of Oz, then Radom is the man behind the curtain.

Whatever you think of Radom's work (Uni Watch loves his Angels design and most of his patches but, truth be told, never liked his Brewers design and has mixed feelings about the Nationals), you've got to respect his background. In an era when more and more decisions regarding sports are made by uptight corporate marketing types and battalions of attorneys, Radom is at the other end of the cultural spectrum. A lifelong sports fan who doodled logos on his scorecard as a kid and did a baseball-themed senior project for his art school thesis, he still gets tingly about how lucky he is to work in the sports world. Plus he's a serious historian of sports aesthetics, with a massive database of vintage graphics and enough esoteric uniform and logo knowledge to run rings around Uni Watch.

Radom is also a swell guy, as Uni Watch discovered during a recent visit to his Hudson Valley studio. Dressed in a Red Sox sweatshirt and jeans, he was just another fan, except he gets to determine what the rest of us fans see when we watch a game. Unfortunately, he couldn't divulge the finer points of how some of his designs were developed, because one of his clients is rather paranoid about that kinda thing (hint: rhymes with "Major League Baseball"), but you can learn more about how he became a uni designer, and what he thinks about the current state of the genre, by checking out the full transcript of our interview, which is available here.

Something Up Their Sleeve
Uni Watch wrote last week about how teams that formerly had the Russell Athletic "R" logo on their left sleeves are now wearing the Majestic "M" instead. What Uni Watch didn't realize until Opening Day, however, is that teams wearing vests are now wearing the Majestic logo shoulders.

It is impossible to overstate how insidious this is, or how ridiculous it looks. And remember, this is not a fait accompli or one of those sad but inevitable aspects of modern sports – if the Yankees can keep their sleeves logo-free, so can everyone else. It's time to stop this fungus before it spreads any further: E-mail your local GM and tell him the only logo you want to see on your team's uni is the team's logo. Demand an end to the menace of sportswear manufacturer logo creep!

In a less alarming sleeve-related development, the Blue Jays have unveiled a new patch in honor of original Jay Doug Ault, broadcaster John Cerutti, and former manager Bobby Mattick, all of whom passed away over the winter (which, as reader Chris Creamer notes, may make this the first ever triple-memorial patch). The design reportedly features all three men's initials and the line "Teammates Forever." Uni Watch has been unable to find a clear photo of it, but you can at least get a vague sense of it here.

And speaking of sleeves, Pedro Martinez doesn't like to be confined by them. Early on in his stint with the Red Sox, he cut slits in his sleeves, to make them less constricting. When the league office put the kibosh on that, he switched to extra-roomy sleeves. And now that he's with the Mets, he appears to have had mesh inserts sewn into his sleeves.

"Yup, it's a little gray piece of mesh that we sewed in along his underarm," says Russ Gompers, who does all the Mets' stitching and embroidery. "And here's something you probably didn't know: We also sewed some Velcro into the bottom of his pants, to keep them attached to his shoes. I can tell you, that's the first time I've had to do anything like that!"

Pedro probably started doing the Velcro thing late last season, when his pants/shoes intersection changed from this to this (both of which, of course, look totally bogus compared to this). As for his obsession with roomy sleeves, don't be surprised if the Mets unveil a vest during Pedro's tenure with the team.

And in yet another sleeve-related item, reader Bruce Rosengrant notes that John Smoltz was wearing a long undersleeve on his pitching arm and a short undersleeve on his left arm during spring training. Uni Watch was curious to see if this would carry over into the regular season, but the warm weather in Florida – 78 degrees at gametime – led Smoltz to wear short sleeves on both arms during his 2005 regular-season debut.

More Name-Dropping
Readers were quick to respond to Uni Watch's call for additional examples of teams that have worn their player surnames below their uni numbers, rather than above. For starters, it turns out that the Oakland basketball team, whose uniforms prompted the discussion of this topic in last week's column, isn't the only name-dropped team in the Mid-Continent Conference. As reader Aaron Leavitt points out, there's also Chicago State. So it was a veritable name-dropping carnival when the two schools played each other last month for the conference championship.

There's a bit of confusion regarding Golden State's classic "The City" jerseys. As several readers have noted, the team's current throwback tops feature the name-dropped style. But Uni Watch isn't so sure that the team actually wore this name/number format back in the day – most photos simply show the old jerseys being nameless. This merits further investigation – stay tuned.

Over on the ice, Alex Belsky explains that the reason the NHL used dropped names for the World team in the 2000 and 2001 All-Star Games is that "many of the European leagues use the drop-name format, so the NHL translated that to the All-Star jerseys to further differentiate the North American team from the World team." Fair enough, although Uni Watch feels compelled to point out that the Euro leagues have some strange ideas about uniform design.

As usual, Uni Watch's near-total ignorance of soccer provided an opportunity for readers to provide helpful tutorials. As Matthew Jaffe explains, "The trend of putting last names below the numbers has been alive and well in world soccer for years. Two of the world's most popular teams, Bayern Munich of Germany and Boca Juniors of Argentina, continue to do this to this day, although Bayern resorts to the traditional name and number alignment on their black Champions League jerseys, but not in their regular home jerseys."

And here's the situation in Japanese soccer, courtesy of Jeremy Brahm: "When the J-League was first created, players only used a number on the back of the jersey, no names. Teams eventually decided to put sponsorship logos on the back of the uniform, usually across the top of the back, from left shoulder to right shoulder. So when the league decided to put player names on the uniform, the names were placed at the bottom of the back," as can be seen here and here.

Then there are the uniforms that feature the team name (or city, or school) beneath the number on the front of the jersey. These teams, all from the world of basketball, have included Marquette, Jacksonville, the Knicks, the Sixers, and the New Jersey Gems, from the short-lived Women's Basketball League.

Big thanks to everyone else who contributed info and images, especially Drake Chan, Doug Brei, Sam Thomas, Dany Lafontaine, and Raymond Neal.

Uni 'Tards
Just to show that Uni Watch isn't completely soccer-clueless, it's worth noting that Cameroon's controversial one-piece uniform (sorry, Uni Watch just can't call it a "kit" without wincing), which has previously resulted in a penalty and a lawsuit, has been vindicated, at least for now. Earlier this week, a German judge ruled in favor of Puma, the uni's manufacturer, in its lawsuit against FIFA, soccer's ruling body.

The FIFA folks are obviously out of their minds, but Uni Watch doesn't have much sympathy for Cameroon and Puma either. If they really wanted to be modern and progressive and all that, why did they design their one-piece uni to mimic the look of a jersey and shorts? Why not go for a true unitard look, like the Brazilian and Austrialian women's basketball teams? Uni Watch suggests that all parties involved be forced to watch a Rockies-Diamondbacks game, or maybe footage of a Bengals-Seahawks matchup – that should put things in some useful perspective.

Suited Up
Readers also came up with some inspired nominations for which baseball managers should trade in their uniforms for business suits. Here are some of the more insightful missives:

  • From Ryan Sifferman: "Lou Pinella. Maybe with the clothes makeover he might not look so hung over, as he usually does when he doesn't shave and his hat is . Half the time it looks like he's heading to after the game, especially if you hear his post game news conferences." Piniella was named by many other readers, including Berth Layers, who argues, rather convincingly, "I dare you to tell me Lou wouldn't look hilarious in a tweed suit during one of his famous tirades."

  • From Gregg Barkley: "I think Lee Mazzilli, whose cell phone at one point had the theme from "The Godfather" as its ringer, would be improved greatly with a charcoal gray or black pinstripe suit (but not those wide stripes you see in cheesy movies).I think he could probably get more than a few bad calls thrown out if he looked like he was about to give an ump the kiss of death."

  • Bradley C. Bliven is apparently thinking along similar lines: "I say Joe Torre could pull off a pinstriped three-piece. He would need to add a '20s-style fedora, with feather, and possibly a gold pocketwatch on a gold chain. Perfect for New York and the Yankees' gangland mentality of crushing the opponent at any, I mean any, cost."

  • Berth Layers again: "I have a feeling I am not the first, nor the last, to suggest that Felipe Alou should start wearing a Jedi's cloak. People might start taking his wise mumblings more seriously if he had the right clothes. The small knotted branch/cane is optional."

  • Although Don Zimmer is a coach, not a manager, many readers are practically ready to drive him to the menswear shop themselves. Jared Paventi astutely points out, however, that "Zimmer might be like my wife's grandfather – wearing suits he bought in the '60s and '70s." Paventi also offers the truly sublime suggestion that beleaguered ex-Royals coach Tom Gamboa might have benefited from business attire, because "really, unless you are drunk and at a wedding, you never see a guy in a suit getting jumped."

  • Meanwhile, Brick Barrientos informs Uni Watch that Art Howe actually wore civvies, la Connie Mack, while managing the A's in a throwback game in 2000. News accounts back this up, but Uni Watch has been unable to find a photo. Little help?

    Paul Lukas would like to see umpires go back to wearing neckties but worries that today's umps might ruin the effect by wearing clip-ons. Archives of his pre-Page 2 "Uni Watch" columns are available here and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list? Contact him here.