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Today's Tidbit... Two-Tone and Split Jersey Numbers
It may be surprising to feature Cal Tech two days in a row, but they deserve the recognition for exploring player equipment possibilities unlike anyone else. The eyeglass shields discussed in yesterday's story offered a vision of football's future, even if no one else paid attention.
Cal Tech, originally called Throop Polytechnic Institute, played intercollegiate football from 1893 to 1968. They were never a football power, yet for most of their playing days, their home field was the Rose Bowl or its predecessor Tournament Park. Their long-time coach, Fox Stanton, led the Engineers (aka Beavers) from 1921 to 1941 after previously coaching Pomona, Occidental, and the 1917 Camp Lewis team that played in the 1918 Rose Bowl.
It turns out that Cal Tech's teams in the latter half of the 1930s wore uniform numbers unlike any that I've come across before, though they fit with the numerous stripes typical of the ugly uniforms of that decade.
The image below shows the 1935 Techies wearing light-colored jerseys with dark stripes on the sleeves and around the torso. The stripes are not the problem, but the uniform numbers on the back of the jerseys are problematic. Note player #18 on the far right. The bottom half of each digit is white against the dark band, while the top half is dark against the white background.
Another image from the same game shows the front of their jerseys did not have numbers, while the upper-lower number divide is visible on the player attempting the tackle.
The best look at their uniforms is from a photograph taken during the 1937 season. Besides being a great image, we get a clear look at the numbers on the backs of #24 and #29 as they execute a misdirection play.
A final image is another shot from the 1937 season and shows Cal Tech punting from deep in their territory. A portion of the two-colored number is visible on the punter, while the digits on #37, the player lying on the ground, are clear as day.
Two-toned numerals never went anywhere and appear to have died in Pasadena shortly after they appeared. Cal Tech, which has had 79 Nobel Laureates affiliated with the school, including a visiting professor named Einstein, has proven to have had a longer-lasting impact on splitting the atom than splitting jersey numbers.
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