by Larry Schmitt
been a while since I’ve written for the blog, and the Gridiron Uniform Database’s
fifth anniversary seemed like a good occasion to come back.
remember the GUD’s debut on Sunday June 11, 2011 when it was featured on the front page of Uniwatch.
been a fan of football history and uniforms since my teens, this was exactly
the kind of site I’d hoped would surface one day. I happily clicked away,
browsed and explored for hours that Sunday morning, savoring every visual
course, much has changed since then.
the site only went back as far as 1933. The years 1920 – 1932 were added
incrementally over the summer of 2012, and many of the templates were empty, as
photos for that era, especially for the small town teams, are scarce.
to the sidebar on Bill’s Update page there have been 1,260 updates to the
database’s content since a running count was initiated in January 2012. While
many were new discoveries, the vast majority represent a collection of
adjustments, refinements, tweaks and in some cases, major overhauls that
resulted from the relentless and continuous research to provide the most
comprehensive and accurate visual library possible.
there may be times the GUD appears dormant, nothing can be further from the
visitors to the GUD are familiar with the names Tim Brulia (historian &
researcher), Rob Holecko (webmaster) and Bill Schaefer (graphic artist &
researcher), the official owners of the GUD. There also is a network of GUD
frequenters who volunteer their time and assist in large-scale projects and/or
forward the occasional historical nugget that might lead to a correction.
visit the GUD Forum where some of this takes place. The Forum goes all the way
back to the GUD’s second day, June 12, 2011. It serves as a quasi-time capsule
to many of the early activities, and you can see some of the source material
for what is now represented in the database.
first contribution to the GUD was offering a color photo of the Giants Charlie
Conerly in 1948, which led to a correction of New York’s leather helmets for
turned out to be the first of many for me. I often spend my free hours perusing
the internet for pro football history, whether it’s statistics, player
biographies or old photos. Whenever I came across something I thought was
interesting I’d forward it to Bill and Tim for their consideration. Over time,
they tutored me on developing a sharper eye for researching, a major part of
which was identifying mis-dated photos (you’d be surprised how many exist in
the Getty and AP catalogs), as well as discerning the subtleties of
interpreting colors from black-and-white photos.
does blue sometimes appear darker than red, and other times red appear darker
than blue? The best answer I can offer is: it depends on who took the picture,
what type of equipment was used, if filters were involved, the type of film and
how it was developed.
March of 2013 I was invited (and possibly may have even been the stimulus for)
my first large scale GUD project, which we termed “The Great Belt Overhaul.”
What simply began as a casual surfing of old Earl Campbell photos during my
lunch hour at work dovetailed into the correction of at least a dozen teams
belt colors, most of which spanned the 1960’s through the 1980’s.
time the GUD commonly showed teams with black belts as a sort of default. While
discovering that the Houston Oilers belts were white with white pants and blue
with blue pants, we noticed that the Pittsburgh Steelers varied yellow and
black belts for a similar period. While researching the Steelers we found
similar evidence for the New Orleans Saints, and while researching the Saints
we found that...well, you get the gist of it. One of our inside saying that we
still use came from this endeavor...”While looking for one thing, I found
also at this time that most of my efforts were transferred to email, rather
than the forum. I do occasionally add to a thread in the General Comments
section of the forum, just for the fun of it. It’s been going for about
three-and-a-half years now.
that time, some of the other large scale projects undertaken have been the addition
of the USFL database in November 2013, the addition of officials’ uniforms in
the May of 2014, 2015’s deep-dive project into newspaper archives that resulted
in the GUD having a nearly complete photographic record of preseason games
dating back to 1950, and the debut of AFL II earlier this year.
also notice that the ongoing endeavor to represent every regular and post
season game on a weekly basis currently goes back to 1937, save for a small
handful of games from the 1940’s where we haven’t discovered a photo yet.
conservative estimation is that the GUD currently displays 14,320 weekly matchups in full
color – where else are you going to find information like that? And you the
reader can be confident that what is displayed is accurate, as no stone had
been left unturned while researching libraries and newspaper archives. If a
photo cannot be found to back it up, then the templates are left blank.
Guesstimations are not good enough.
end, while most of us conduct our research online through newspaper archives
and libraries, Tim has taken several sojourns to the Library of Congress in
Washington DC and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
most enjoy researching the first three decades of pro football – essentially
the leather helmet era – I have one modern era project that I remember fondly.
One weekend morning in April 2014, while casually looking over photos of the
Dan Fouts-era Chargers, I noticed some irregularities in the orientation of San
Diego’s lightning bolts on their pants.
broadened my search to include the 1960’s and found that not only were they
facing multiple directions – they could be forward or backward and upward or
downward – but over the years the bolts themselves changes shape and size.
began saving photos in files broken down by era, and while the bolt placements
was often erratic, I was able to nail down the style of the bolts definitively.
Did you know from 1961-65 the bolts on San Diego’s pants contained eight points
on each side, while all other years through 1987 they had seven?
the only year with uniform bolt orientation was 1984?
sure if Bill recalls this project as fondly as I do. Initially frustrated at
the challenging work, he diligently forged a system - over the course of a full
year - to accurately present what you see in the San Diego database today. His ultimate
balance of persistence and patience paid off in a big way.
himself handled the 1992-present day Chargers bolts research, and along the way
picked up on number font variations.
guarantee you won’t get this attention to detail anywhere else.
what’s next? I don’t want to give away too much, but sometime in the near
future, the weekly matchups are likely to extend back a few seasons further,
and the other AFL’s will ultimately take their rightful place to complete the
presentation of every major professional football league over the past 96 years.
also has been a recent boon in discoveries of missing teams from the 1920’s.
Many of the templates that appear blank today will be replaced by full color
representations of what these pioneers of the game we all love today wore on
the gridiron in near anonymity over 85 years ago.
corrections and enhancements are always taking place. Recently, many teams have had their
catalogues refined with what we call the two-tone effect on their pants (the
result of two differing materials, usually with the front being a shiny,
also has been a recent emphasis on fine-tuning jersey number fonts and sizes as
well as leather helmet styles. Some of these differences can be seen in places
like the weekly matchups as gifs when multiple styles were worn concurrently.
research section also is updated regularly. Among the information readily
available is a log of every instance of and NFL team wearing white at home
since 1957 and what is believed to be the most comprehensive representation of
helmet decals anywhere.
assured, all of these will be updated continually as the 2016 NFL season
this year, Rob gave the GUD itself a face lift. The front page has been reorganized
to better display the content that is available. Several of the pages inside
are now sortable, making navigation easier.
added some new features that highlight historical facts and firsts.
that great information aside, what I appreciate most about the GUD is that it
is a community. Right from the very beginning Tim, Rob and Bill welcomed all
visitors not only to enjoy the content that was presented, but take part in the
collaborative journey that is the GUD. They allowed an obsessive fan like
myself to feel like a part of the group.
I'm looking forward to the next five years and all the discoveries that await us!