Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Uniform Oddities: 1970-1975 Los Angeles Rams Uniforms

By John Turney
As folks who followed uniforms quite closely and as someone who is a fan of Gridiron Uniform Database and UniWatch a little new information was found that piqued my interest. Here is the background:

In 1972 Baltimore Colt owner Carroll Rosenbloom and Los Angeles Rams owners Robert Irsay (who recently purchased the team from the estate of HOF owner Dan Reeves) swapped franchises with Rosenbloom taking ownership of the Rams and Irsay took control the Colts, plus some of Rosenbloom's cash.

That season, as a new owner, not knowing the ins and outs of his team yet, Rosenbloom and new Rams General Manager Don Klosterman simply observed the team, not making changes, learning more about their new asset. However, 1973 was to be different, the Rams were going in a new direction with a new coach, new quarterback, new running back, new star receiver, etc. a number of trades were made. In addition, they were to don new uniforms.

Rosenbloom and Klosterman incorporated the Rams past history by adding gold to the uniform and making several changes. At the end of the 1972 Los Angeles Rams highlight film, prototypes, I suppose they would be called, were shown and that is what caught my eye.

Here are screenshots from that film:

The uniform the Rams ended up wearing in 1973 was very similar, in fact exact, except that the trim around the numbers was removed from both versions. Around that time NFL rules on uniforms stated that white numerals could have color trim, but any other color could not unless there was a dark break in the trim, which the San Diego Chargers employed in 1974:
There is a blue outline around the gold, then white trim, which Rams uniform lacked, make this one okay. 
In the 1973 Rams preseason, in games played in Los Angeles, the Rams used the uniforms with the white trim around the yellow numbers but were told by the NFL that the white trim had to be removed, per league rules according to equipment manager Todd Hewitt, who was the son of the Rams equipment manager Don Hewitt. Also, as per Hewitt, the numbers were difficult to see from the stands and press box. Here is an example of those uniforms with the trim:
1973 Rams versus Cleveland, white trim is around numbers.
We do wonder if the rule about the outline didn't come about a year later, with the Chargers the following season. It is a subject we will continue to research.

In any event, by the time the first Rams regular-season games rolled around, the white trim was removed as seen here:
1973 regular season, all yellow numbers.
The white jerseys were actually made and the yellow trim was removed before they were worn in a preseason game in Berkely, CA, versus the Oakland Raiders and the numbers on the uniforms were sans the yellow trim. They altered the same time as the blue jerseys? This was confirmed by Todd Hewitt who still owns one of the original 1973 white jerseys.

Recently, we found this jersey online, which at first glance looks authentic, though not game-used authentic. It suggests that the jersey was at least manufactured in the proper era.

Figure 1
Figure 2
The nameplate is interesting because beginning in 1973 Jack Youngblood's full name appeared on his jersey, as did Jim Youngblood. But, when this was made, if authentic, it would not have been a certainty that Jim Youngblood, a second-round pick would make the team, so it's possible that this predated the time when the Youngbloods were wearing a full name nameplate.

Jack Youngblood told me that when it was apparent that Jim Youngblood was going on make the roster, GM Don Klosterman came up to him and asked, "How'd you like the have your full name on the back of the jersey?". Youngblood told Klosterman he was "fine with it" and told me that his thoughts were that it was cool, but he was not sure why Klosterman would ask him such a thing as if he would have had any control one way or the other. Regardless, if this were authentic the missing first name would not be a deal-breaker.

So, the above jersey has the correct tag, properly sized numbers that match regular-season numbers, minus the yellow trim, but has the wrong style numbers. see the "5"?
Our opinion is that the #85 jersey in Figure 1 and Figure 2 was the "plan" for 1973 but when the white trim from the home jersey was removed, it is possible that the yellow trim from the road jersey was removed and therefore, never worn in an NFL game. But it is also our view that the #85 jersey in Figure 1 and Figure 2 is not from 1973 since the style of the "5" is not the same as the 5s used on the Rams jerseys that season and is therefore not an authentic Rams jersey.
Two other dubious 1973 "authentics"

This is not authentic in our view. Harris wore #11 in 1973 and the numbers are not the proper size. There are better uniform experts than myself, however. Long sleeves are interesting, however.

Unfortunately, it came with a letter of authenticity. We have covered the name of the evaluator but we strongly disagree with his opinion on the authenticity of this jersey.

This, too, in our opinion, is not authentic. Numbers too big and all jerseys had white trim removed. Also, the nameplate has a yellow letter. Rams name-on-back was white.

This one, too, came with a letter of authenticity, which was attached to the auction. Their view greatly differs from ours 

The lesson? Caveat emptor, I suppose. I hope the winning bidder for the above two didn't pay too much. Even with a COA, the buyer does have to beware.

Now, Two 1973 Authentic Jerseys for Comparison:  

The first game-used is a #58 Isiah Robertson road jersey.
This #58 jersey has proper typeface for numerals, size, and is a 1973 authentic, in my opinion.

The second authentic game-used is a Bill Nelson #67 home jersey

This, too, is an authentic 1973 LA Rams home jersey. Numbers proper, as is the nameplate and tags.

One other Rams jersey oddity. From 1970-75 The Rams wore a different white jersey every season. From 1970-72 the design was the same, but the fabric changed each year.

From 1973-75 the fabric and design was the same, but the numbers changed every year.

1970: Sand-Knit brand Durene cotton with Sewn-on tackle twill numerals. First-year jersey with name on back

1971: Rawlings Brand double knit jersey, iron-on Vinflex numerals, Ram players hated these as they absorbed too much sweat and go heavy.

1972 Medalist Sand-Knit mesh jersey, iron-on numerals. A one-year style as Rams changed uniforms in 1973.

1973: Medalist-Sand Knit, mesh jersey Sewn-on tackle twill numerals
 1973 front

1974: Medalist Sand-Knit, mesh with enlarged sewn-on tackle twill numerals.

1975: Medalist Sand-Knit. Mesh with Iron-on synthetic/plastic numbers. Could also be 1976 as they were the same as they were in 1975. They remained the same through, essentially, 1999, though manufacturers changed in the 1990s.

For Completeness Sake, here are the Blue Jerseys the Rams wore from 1970-75 to compare.

1970-1971: Durene (with cotton and polyester blended into them.) with tackle twill numerals. Rams rarely wore this, so in 1971 when the team went to Rawlings for white jerseys, they wore the old Durene from previous years. 
These were Russell Southern, who Rams used often in the 1960s

1972 Medalist Sand-Knit mesh jersey, iron-on synthetic numerals. First year for Rams to wear mesh jerseys.

1973: Medalist Sand-Knit thin, sewn-on tackle-twill numbers

We have not found an authentic 1974 Home jersey for the Rams

1975: Medalist Sand-Knit with Iron-on synthetic numbers


  1. Replies
    1. They were shiny. But I prefer tackle twill, but to each his own.

  2. a few examples of the "white trim" jerseys




    1. thanks, here are anothers http://caimages.collectors.com/psaimages/1842/15006695/1976ToppsFB3101.jpg






  3. When was the rule in effect that forced teams to have a dark break between the numeral and outline on a dark uniform if the number wasn't white. From 1967-1969, the Saints had old gold numbers with a white outline and according to the data base, the Lions wore silver numbers with a white outline between 1972-1980.

    1. The rule appeared in a mid-1970s official rulebook, it was post-1973 because it had the new rules for numbers for receivers, linebackers, etc. There was also a rule that a team could not wear the same color pants and jersey, unless that color was white.

      The rulebook I saw was in the library at the Hall of fame, if possible I will try and get a copy of it and scan the rules

      As far as the Lions, it is possible that they were grandfathered in in 1972. The rulebook I mention was post 1973, so perhaps the NFL didn't enforce it by making a current uniform change. Rams equipment manager Don Hewitt and his staff had to cut off all the white backing, then send them to the tailor to get the smaller numbers sewn back on sans white trim. It was Hewitt who first told me the story in the late 1990s.

    2. That was definitely a weird rule!

    3. I am working on getting the rulebook, but when teams went with colored numbers after that it was with the "San Diego" numbers, the Cleveland Browns in 1984 did it in preseason, but no one could read them, so they switched.

    4. Additionally, the reason for the rule was because without the dark border, the numbers could be hard to see.

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  6. Thank you John Turney for all of your NFL research. You are a huge credit to NFL trivia and doing a lot of research myself (a fan since mid-70s) I find that about all of your claims are spot on. As a kid collecting football cards my first near-set was 1974 (pics of 1973 season) and I always wondered about the white trim until finding out years later. Now I see you have even more notes from Hewitt. Again excellent work.

  7. The rams white 1969 set which they wore for every game that year were the best