In advance of our screening of This is Your Life: Baseball Greats on May 16, Dave Filipi, director of film/video here at the Wex, and Ryan Vesler, founder of Homage Vintage Clothing, chatted about their common passions: sports and sports greats, the days of old, and transferring their passions into full-time jobs. Read on for a Nintendo game code, a tale of mistaken sports-hero identity, and much more. In addition to next week’s screening, make sure to mark your calendar for Aug. 23 and 24, when we present, for the first time, Rare Football Films: The Newsreels.
Dave: If you're like me I assume a lot of your memories as a kid and even teen revolve around playing and following sports. Who were the teams and players that created those really special memories. I grew up loving the Minnesota Twins of Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Roy Smalley, Dave Goltz, Larry Hisle and eventually Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti and that nucleus that finally brought them a title. I also loved the Vikings—Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Carl Eller, Ahmad Rashad, Chuck Foreman, Ron Yary, and Bud Grant, but we're still waiting for a Super Bowl trophy. Four trips with nothing to show for it.
Ryan: The San Francisco 49ers. There was nothing like watching Montana (and later Steve Young) connect with Jerry Rice. I can't tell you how many times I used to play Tecmo Bowl on Nintendo as the 49ers. Their offense had 3 passing plays (out of a possible To this day, I still remember the code to advance deep into the playoffs with the 49ers. Don't believe me? 1FOB9DAE. Try it. I dare you!
Dave: At what point did you think you could transfer your love of sports into the unique business you have created? I've been lucky enough to combine my interests in both film and baseball with my annual Rare Baseball Films program each year and to travel around the country with it.
Ryan: A lot of sports clothing lacks authenticity by failing to tell a story. As someone who wishes to be as close to the original as possible, I realized that a company like HOMAGE could be successful by attempting to elevate the retail shopping experience by focusing on things like graphic design, fit, and messaging. These elements are all extremely critical when it comes to storytelling. What's the fun in buying a regular old sports t-shirt with a generic screen print? Teams, players, cities—these things are sacred. So I think the apparel should match.
Dave: Was there a specific t-shirt from your past that was no longer available that inspired you? I remember a shirt created during the NC State Wolfpack's run to the 1983 NCAA basketball championship that I would love to have again.
Ryan: There is a specific t-shirt, absolutely. Fortunately enough for me, I managed to find it on eBay. It's pretty much the coolest thing I own. It's a 1970s Champion "Blue Bar" Archie Griffin football jersey. It's stained in a few places and has several holes. Even though I was born after Archie played at Ohio State, the thought of him electrifying the 'Shoe as a freshman really inspires me. Woody Hayes said, "He's a better young man than he is football player, and he's the best football player I've ever seen." Owning something like this brings me closer to a moment that I've always imagined. Maybe I'm romanticizing things a bit, but does it matter? Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Archie. It was really special because about four years ago, Archie gave me permission to make this shirt. When I asked Archie to make the shirt, I had just started HOMAGE. I had no body of work to show him. He said, "Do you think it will sell?" I replied, "Absolutely." We shook hands and that was that. Woody was right.
Ryan: What was your favorite baseball memory growing up? I remember being totally captivated by the 1997 World Series between the Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians—the one that went 7 games and had that wild snow-globe game in Cleveland! What a series: Edgar Renteria, Gary Sheffield, Sandy Alomar Jr., David Justice, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Moises Alou, and Orel Hershiser. Man!
Dave: I have a lot of great baseball memories growing up, including playing. Each year between 1975 - 1981 my dad would drive me down for a Twins game at old Metropolitan Stadium and each of those trips are great memories. On one trip, we got to the game REALLY early and somehow got inside the park. We were standing by the third base railing as batting practice was beginning and longtime Twins scout Angelo Guiliani walked by. He looked at us and yelled, "Herb!" My dad and I looked at each other, puzzled, and Angelo walked over. From afar, he thought my dad was Cleveland Indians great Herb Score (they do look a LOT alike). That was pretty cool for a little kid. My best memory, though, is probably when the Twins made the World Series in 1987. Up until then I was accustomed to mediocrity and even futility. I hoped (prayed is probably more accurate) that the Twins would make the series just once in my lifetime (their previous trip, in 1965, was before I was born). So, that October afternoon when they knocked off the favored Detroit Tigers in Tiger Stadium was a very emotional day for me. And of course they went on to beat St. Louis in the World Series and in 1991 they won another against Atlanta so I can now die happy, but just making it that first time was one of the happiest days of my life. Puckett, Hrbek, Viola, Blyleven, Brunansky, Gaetti, Reardon...that was a special group of players.
Ryan: There are a lot of great baseball video games out there. Bo Jackson Baseball, Ken Griffey Jr. Slugfest, and Baseball Stars were all favorites of mine. Did you have any favorites?
Dave: I'm going to show my age here but the video baseball game I spent the most time with was the old Atari 2600 one. And if you played it you know how primitive it was. But, we played it for hours and hours. It was fun to pitch in that game but it pretty much ended there. If memory serves, you had three Space Invaders-like fielders and they could either be spread out or close together. We always played spread out, otherwise hits were next to impossible. I also played an Apple game called Hard Ball or something like that which, again, was fun to pitch in but not much beyond that. The fielders were terrible so you could beat the other player just by bunting each time up to bat. Finally, there was another Apple game (the name escapes me) that was not interactive in the slightest but it allowed you to assemble lineups either of famous teams (the 1927 Yankees, the 1975 Reds, etc.) or all-time greats. You could call for a certain pitch or put a play on like a bunt or hit-and-run but then the computer did all the work. The last two were in the mid-to-late 80s so you can see how much has changed. I'm always amazed when I see the graphics of the sports games—especially football—but I'm afraid I really haven't played any of them that much.