Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Rams' helmets, like uniforms, for the ages
By Mike Sando
The late St. Louis Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, astrologically inclined as she was, might have said the planets aligned for this blog entry.
How else to explain such freakish timing?
With ESPN.com's ongoing power rankings series focusing on helmets later Tuesday, I decided to visit the UniWatch blog to see whether those concerned with "the obsessive study of uniform aesthetics" might have anything to say on the matter.
By dumb luck, the blog was currently leading with an interview featuring helmet- and uniform-related reflections from longtime Rams equipment manager Todd Hewitt. The interview, which originally appeared at helmethut.com, is a fascinating read for any Rams fan or anyone interested in football lore.
I'll break out a few highlights below, but please do check out the full transcript. Great stuff. Among the revelations:
Merlin Olsen and the Rams used to sport blue-and-white uniforms since they showed better on black-and-white TV.
The team used only Riddell helmets for years because Hewitt's father knew John Riddell. But Dennis Harrah had other ideas.
At one point, the Rams settled on a certain shade of yellow they liked, but then-owner Dan Reeves forced a change upon learning the color carried a sissified name -- "buttercup" yellow.
The Rams considered 15-20 color combinations when changing uniforms in 2000. Frontiere went with "new century gold" and "millennium blue" because the combination "made cosmic sense" entering the 21st century, even though she thought other colors looked better.
The team favored blue-and-white uniforms, without gold, beginning in the 1960s because the combination reproduced better on black-and-white TV.
Carroll Rosenbloom had an eye toward Hollywood when pushing to incorporate gold after taking over the team in 1972.
The team has never, ever considered removing the iconic horns from its helmets. Hewitt and his father had been the only ones to apply the helmet decals since the team went away from painted horns nearly 40 years ago. That is changing now that Hewitt no longer works for the team.
Former coach Ray Malavasi favored white jerseys at home because he thought they made players look bigger. Comfortable pants were a higher priority for former coach John Robinson. Mike Martz loved white uniform pants, but team exec John Shaw hated them (not that the Rams went through any front-office turmoil during those years).