Lone Star Dietz Designed Redskins’ Uniforms

A little bit of research made crystal clear that The Boston Globe writer hadn’t bothered to research the 1932-1933 Braves-Redskins uniform issue at all when he wrote, “It appears the name change was nothing other than a cheap, pragmatic way for the Redskins to play under a new name at a new venue with uniforms that were but a year old.”

The Boston Herald coverage for the 1933 Redskins first home game announced, “Furthermore, they have a new coach, Lone Star Dietz; have new uniforms and some new players.” Grainy black and white period newspaper photos don’t show off the new uniforms very well, so football trading cards will have to suffice. Turk Edwards’ card shows the front pretty well where Cliff Battles gives a side view. The colors are similar to those of Carlisle Indian School, which were red and old gold. A multi-color Indian head adorns the front of the jersey and stripes are placed at the wrists. (Carlisle’s stripes were just below the elbow.) Now that we know what the Redskins wore in 1933 and later, let’s find out what the Braves wore in 1932.

The September 19, 1932 edition of The Boston Herald reported that the Braves didn’t look like a well-polished professional team when they easily defeated the Quincy Trojans in a practice game at Fore River Field on September 18, 1932. One reason was the long off-season lay-off. The other was sartorial. Because their new uniforms hadn’t arrived, they wore plain blue jerseys without numbers. Fortunately, their dark blue jerseys with gold numerals arrived before their first home game. Although the black and white photos that accompany the article aren’t in color, they clearly show numerals on the front of the 1932 jerseys in the place where the Indian heads appear in 1933. This is further evidence, again easily found, that George Preston Marshall didn’t select Redskins for the team name as an economy move.

This uniform information brought to mind something that came up when researching Lone Star Dietz’s life. A Lafayette, Louisiana attorney I interviewed had represented the One Star family pro bono some years earlier in an attempt to receive compensation from a previous owner for the artwork Dietz created for the team in 1933. The statute of limitations had expired decades earlier so the family got nothing. Unable to find physical evidence that Dietz had designed the uniforms, such as sketches he had made, I didn’t include the topic in his biography. Now, I think it’s quite likely that Lone Star designed the 1933 Redskins uniforms. The team name changed months after he was hired. The Redskins’ new colors were similar to Carlisle’s. Dietz clearly had the artistic ability to design the Indian head for the jerseys. He had a long history of making art for teams and schools and participating in artistic endeavors seldom done by football coaches. And it wouldn’t have cost Marshall anything.

1932 Boston Braves

1932 Boston Braves

Cliff Battles chicklet Turk Edwards national chicle card

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2 Responses to “Lone Star Dietz Designed Redskins’ Uniforms”

  1. Phil Wood Says:

    I have been a radio & TV sportscaster in the Washington-Baltimore market since the mid-1970’s. In 1979 I interviewed Cliff Battles on my show on WTOP Radio and asked him about the name change in 1933 from Braves to Redskins. He said, and he was quite sure about this, that the change was due to the team moving from Braves Field to Fenway Park, and Marshall was concerned that fans might be confused as to which stadium to attend. Changing to “Red Skins” (it was two words originally) would reinforce that they were playing in the home of the Red Sox now. That explanation makes the most sense of any, and I think the whole Dietz story is convenient PR by both the ballclub and the NFL.

    “Braves” would have been a far more complimentary moniker; in the Cowboy movies of the 1930’s, “Redskins” was how the more combative Native Americans were referenced. There was no sense that any tribute was being paid when that word was used in popular culture.

    Using the nickname of the baseball tenant of the stadiums NFL teams played in was common practice: that’s a well-established fact. Brooklyn Dodgers, NY Giants, NY Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, and Washington Senators are all names you’ll find in the NFL record book. Keeping the name “Redskins” once the club moved to DC likely has more to do with the economy of changing a name than any perceived tribute to the race itself.

    • tombenjey Says:

      Phil,

      A Boston Herald account of the name change published when it happened in July 1933 stated, “The explanation is that the change was made to avoid confusion with the Braves baseball team and that the team is to be coached by an Indian, Lone Star Dietz, with several Indian players.” One assumes it was George Preston Marshall or one of his lackeys who gave this explanation. Few doubt that the field changed provided the impetus for changing the team’s name.

      It has been my experience reading people’s remembrances or interviewing them about things that happened decades earlier that memories often fail them causing them to remember incorrectly. That’s why, as you probably noticed, I try to find contemporaneous accounts of things whenever possible. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible. One must also consider the source of the information. Cliff Battles was most definitely a star player, but would he have been involved with or privy to Marshall’s decision making? Was he even in the same town as Marshall when the decision was made? I don’t know where Marshall was in July 1933–Washington, DC running his laundries or Boston negotiating statium contracts seem the most likely. Where was Battles?

      Battles claim that the name was originally two words, Red Skins, is the first time I’ve seen that one. So, I did a quick search of newspapers available to me to search for 1933 and only found one article the had the name as Red Skins and it was in a Spanish language newspaper. All the rest–and they were numerous–had it as one word, hyphenated at times to fit in the available space. While my research is far from exhaustive, I feel safe in saying Battles’ claim is incorrect. It has always been Redskins, or at least was when it was first released to newspapers.

      Carlisle students and players sometimes referred to themselves as redskins. One year the second team, which was coached by an Indian player or assistant and played freshman or JV teams at other schools, nicknamed themselves the “Red Peril.” I will email you a piece I wrote in response to a recent Boston Globe hit piece on the Redskins. Among other things, it discusses the origin of the term.

      Of course keeping the team name when they moved to Washington had economic implications. That name already had value, though a tiny fraction of what it has today. Changing it would have been foolish, especially at a time when pro football was a hand-to-mouth business.

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