Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Documenting the history of pro football uniform designs

While my primary focus in this blog is historical sports broadcasting, I also appreciate research efforts covering any aspect of sports history. So I am choosing to publicize the impressive work being done at the Gridiron Uniform Database. This fabulous site catalogs the design and color of the uniforms and helmets worn by professional football teams each year. The database contains template images for each NFL team/season going back to the 1920s including the AFL (1960-69) and AAFC (1946-49). This is an ongoing research project especially for the early years of pro football.

Click on a team such as the San Diego Chargers and see its uniform designs year-by-year. Click on a year and view the uniforms for each team that season - for example the 75th anniversary season of 1994 when several teams introduced throwback uniforms. This database even illustrates the infamous vertically striped socks of the early-1960s Denver Broncos.

The site also provides week-by-week portrayals of the uniform matchups for the most recent seasons. For other years, you can click on the "Who Wore What When" (WWWW) links to see a chart of game-by-game jersey and pants colors worn by each team.

I recommend listening to one of the site contributors, Tim Brulia, as he discusses this intriguing research project on a recent Gridiron Greats podcast. The Gridiron Uniform Database site also has a companion blog and a Twitter feed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on Naismith rules of basketball

The next installment of the ESPN 30 for 30 series chronicles an interesting quest to return the original rules of basketball document to the University of Kansas where the rules creator Dr. James Naismith had coached. The famous rules document fetched $4.3 million at auction in 2010. Based on the preview clip, this appears to be another "must-DVR" episode in this great ESPN film series.

The 70-minute documentary titled There's No Place Like Home debuts on Tue 10/16 at 8 pm ET and ESPN plans several re-airings.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Keith Jackson and ABC conflicts with college FB and MLB playoffs (1976-1986)

Keith Jackson became the #1 college football announcer on ABC in 1974. Starting in 1976, ABC also held a share of the baseball TV package and used Jackson on its postseason MLB coverage. This resulted in some interesting scenarios on October Saturdays which featured both playoff baseball and college football on ABC. And there was no consistent pattern in the way ABC juggled these assignments. Here is a summary of how ABC and Jackson handled these conflicts year-by-year:

1976: ABC assigned Keith to the ALCS (along with Reggie Jackson and Howard Cosell) and that series opened on Sat 10/9. However, that day Keith instead called the Oklahoma-Texas football game while Bob Uecker substituted on play-by-play for game 1 of the ALCS in Kansas City. Keith called the remainder of the ALCS.

1977: Jackson was part of the ABC World Series crew with Tom Seaver and Cosell. On Sat 10/15, Jackson called World Series game 4. Earlier that afternoon, Chris Schenkel filled in for Keith on football and called the Texas-Arkansas game with Ara Parseghian.

1978: ABC and Jackson pulled an interesting stunt. ABC put Keith on the ALCS and he worked the first three games (with Jim Palmer and Cosell). Things got interesting on Sat 10/7. That day, Keith called Oklahoma-Texas (which started at 12:30 pm ET) with Frank Broyles. After the football game, he flew from Dallas to New York on a Lear jet that ABC had hired. ABC arranged for a police escort for Jackson from the Cotton Bowl to the Dallas airport and an ambulance to take him to Yankee Stadium (as ABC was unable to line up another police escort). Jackson arrived just in time to call ALCS game 4 (which started at 8 pm ET) that night.

1979: ABC used Jackson and Al Michaels as co-#1 announcers on the World Series (with Don Drysdale and Cosell), Jackson called games 1,2,6, and 7 in Baltimore while Michaels handled the middle three games over the weekend in Pittsburgh. This arrangement allowed Keith to call Oklahoma-Texas on Sat 10/13 with Broyles.

1980: Jackson again pulled a form of double-duty. ABC assigned Jackson to the NLCS with Drysdale and Cosell. On Sat 10/11, Jackson called Oklahoma-Texas with Broyles (which started at 12:30 pm ET). He then hopped a flight from Dallas to Houston and reached the Astrodome while NLCS game 4 (which started at 4 pm ET) was in progress. Drysdale called play-by-play for the first several innings. Keith joined the telecast about halfway through and called the action for the remainder of the game with Drysdale shifting back to an analyst role.

1981: ABC assigned Jackson to the AL East division series with Drysdale and Cosell. However, on Sat 10/10, Keith called Oklahoma-Texas with Broyles instead of game 4 of the MLB series. The duo of Drysdale and Cosell worked the baseball game with Don handling the play-by-play in Keith's absence. Jackson returned to New York for game 5 the next day. ABC also had the World Series this season and used the same arrangement as in 1979 with Jackson calling weekday games and Michaels handling the weekend. This allowed Keith to call Nebraska-Missouri on Sat 10/24.

1982: ABC put Keith on the ALCS with Palmer and Earl Weaver. This time baseball won the Sat 10/9 conflict as Jackson called ALCS game 4 in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Curt Gowdy filled in to announce the California-Washington football game that afternoon with Broyles.

1983-1985: ABC did not use Jackson on baseball.

1986: Jackson worked the NLCS for ABC with Tim McCarver. On Sat 10/11, Keith called game 3 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium instead of college football. This was the last season that ABC used Keith on the MLB postseason. Jackson remained a fixture on the ABC college football scene through the 2005 season.

So, for the years that ABC used Jackson on both sports, we have a total of 9 Saturday conflicts (two in 1981). The final tally:
  • Jackson skips a game of a baseball postseason series to call football - 2 times
  • Jackson misses football to call baseball - 3 times
  • Jackson calls both football and baseball on the same day - 2 times
  • ABC removes a conflict via the Jackson/Michaels World Series rotation - 2 times

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NFL Network documentary on the Fearsome Foursome of the LA Rams

The great NFL Network series A Football Life continues with Fearsome Foursome which profiles the 1960s defensive line of the Los Angeles Rams (Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier, and Lamar Lundy). This one-hour NFL Films production premieres on Wed 10/10 at 8 pm ET and NFLN has scheduled several re-airings. The list of interview subjects includes Dick Enberg who was the Rams radio broadcaster early in his career and later worked with Olsen on the top NBC telecast crew calling NFL games for many years.

You can see a preview clip of this documentary on the NFL Films site.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on 1988 Olympic 100m dash

The next episode of the tremendous ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary series focuses on the 100 meter track finals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Ben Johnson recorded the fastest ever time in this event, but tested positive for steroids afterwards and was stripped of the gold medal. This episode titled 9.79* premieres on Tue 10/9 at 8 pm ET with multiple re-airings planned.

I remember watching as NBC televised this race live around midnight ET. Here is how Charlie Jones and Frank Shorter called the action: (the race starts around the 7:40 mark).

Earlier this week, ESPN launched the new season of this series with Broke which featured athletes who have encountered financial problems for various reasons. If you missed this fascinating documentary, check out the replay schedule.