Uni Watch’s Friday Flashback: What’s in a nickname?

The nicknames were worn only from May 1 through June 24 — a total of 28 home games, or about one-third of the team’s home schedule. (Home jerseys before and after this period were NNOB.) Why such a short experiment? “Ted Turner was ambivalent in his attitudes about things,” said Hope. “We wanted to do things that would get us attention and get us on the news, but we knew that certain things, like the nicknames, would probably only last for a little while and then we’d go back to being traditional.”

Manager Dave Bristol and his coaching staff wore their surnames, not nicknames.

The nickname jerseys didn’t include the National League centennial patch that all other NL teams wore in 1976. The patch did appear on the Braves’ road jerseys, and on the home jerseys they wore before and after the nickname experiment.

If you can’t recall seeing any of the nickname jerseys in the Hall of Fame or on the game-used memorabilia market, that’s because most of them had the nicknames removed and were then recycled in the team’s minor league system. Too bad.

All in all, a fun promotion. And hey, 40 years later, the Braves once again find themselves sorely in need of some pizzazz to distract fans from the team’s on-field woes, so why not resurrect the idea as a throwback promotion? It would be a great way to add some fun to an otherwise dreary season while also teaching fans about a little-noted chapter in the team’s history.

If you’re thinking you’ve seen other MLB players wearing nicknames, you’re right. Several A’s players did it in the late 1960s (one of team owner Charles Finley’s many promotional gambits), and a few players on other teams have done it here and there as well:

Several A’s wore nicknames on jerseys in late ’60s, including Jim “Catfish” Hunter & Bert “Campy” Campaneris. pic.twitter.com/2LUOFlYHCN

Other MLBers who’ve worn nicknames include Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Tony Conigliaro, and Paul Thormodsgard. pic.twitter.com/RvVFnDiesT

Yes, there are also MLB players who’ve worn their first names, or who’ve used the back of their jersey to make a statement. And yes, there are also players who’ve worn nicknames in the NFL, the AFL, the NBA and ABA (including some very recent examples), college hoops, and, perhaps most famously, the XFL. We’ll take a closer look at some of those nickname jerseys in future editions of the Friday Flashback.

(Special thanks to Braves historians Sam Wallace and Tony Cocchi for their research assistance. Thanks also to Carolyn Serra of the Braves Museum and Hall of Fame for providing most of the photos shown in this article, which were taken by former Braves team photographer Walter Victor and have never been published before.)

Would you like to nominate a uniform to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.

Paul Lukas figures it’s just a matter of time before another MLB team — or maybe every MLB team — tries a nickname promotion. If you liked this column, you’ll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you’ll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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