The City's Uniform History (1950-1959)

In our last installment, we looked into the 1940s Cards and witnessed one of the uniforms most-deserving of throwback: the bird-on-the-front. Now, we'll take on the era of Elvis, "Johnny B. Goode," and Sputnik. If the Reds were in the news at this time, they most often did not refer to a baseball team.


Bernard "Peck" Hickman’s 1949-50 Louisville Cardinals went 21-11 (.656 PCT) and, while ranked as high as thirteen in the AP poll, ended the season unranked and out of postseason play.

The University of Louisville library has three images preserved from 1950. Unfortunately, the roster card given by the university does not have numbers. But, that won’t stop the average 'Cloid.



In our first image (above), dated January 11, 1950, we see no. 9, no. 13, and no. 7 (left-to-right) running up the floor for the Cards. The 1950-51 basketball roster suggests that these are Bob Brown (6’3’’ 185 lb. junior guard from Hodgenville, Ky.), Roy Rubin (6’1’’, 195 lb. junior guard from Brooklyn, NY.), and James Edwards (6’5 ½’’ sophomore center from Jamestown, Ky.), respectively. Hey, Ekstrom Library—we solved your image. You’re welcome.

The library suggests that Glenn "Ish" Combs is the player fouling Edgar Diddle , Jr. (son of famous Western coach Edgar Diddle). Let's move on.



Our second image (above) shows nos. 13, 28, 20 (from l to r) and one figure whose number is hidden (we’ll return to him in a moment). Again, based on the 1950-51 roster, this would be Roy Rubin (no. 13) and no. 20 Rob Lochmueller (6’5’’, 195 lb. junior forward from Elberfield, Ind.).

Again, Ekstrom goes for the less obvious player and says it’s Glenn "Ish" Combs. Personally, I think they’re looking for a reason to repeat that nickname.

I mean, it’s the "Ish."

But, what about number 28? Well, that’s the problem—there’s no number 28 on the 1950-51 basketball roster provided by the university.

You win this round, Ekstrom.



Let’s consider a third image (above). Here we see Mark Watkins of London, Ky. Presenting to Glenn "Ish" Combs and Roy "Button" Combs, brothers, watches.

This is a nice close-up of the detail of these 1949-1950 uniforms. Across the chest, again in what appears to be vertically arched lettering (!), is not our ever-familiar "Louisville" but, instead, "U of L" in small caps. The number appears on the front and (presumably) on the back in block lettering.

The shorts, as we see, have a fastened belt in red (or possibly black). The sleeves and neckline of the jersey are piped as well, again in red (or black). The shorts have a double-line piping down the sides. Oddly, there appears to be piping around the back of the leg, but not the front of the leg (see Ish Combs, second image). But, that piping doesn’t appear on all of the shorts (see no. 20, far right, same photo). The players are again wearing white Converse Chuck Taylors with red (or black) socks. Note that it appears a few of the players are either wearing a second white sock over top of the red or the players are wearing white socks pushed down that have red bands at top.

The warm-ups (see third image) were long-sleeved, with pockets, no name or number. Based on the neck, it appears to be a zipped or snapped pullover. The bottom elastic, neck, and sleeves feature a band (presumably) in red with a white "northwestern" stripe.

So, 1949-50—no bird on the pants, no city across the front. Weird.

Oh, and the team lost to Western 84-62.

Hey, Bernard, thoughts?




Also, how awesome does that coaching shirt look? Anyone have any idea what year that was?


The 1950-51 season saw the Cards go 19-7 (.731 PCT), and achieve a ranking as high as fourteenth, but they eventually finished the season unranked. Coach Hickman guided the Cards to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to the University of Kentucky 79-68. And that's just gross.



Images of the 1950-51 team are scarce. I located a photo on ebay (above, link). The roster numbers seem to square with the 1950-51 roster provided by the university. The photo implies the return of the 1940s-era Cardinal on the front. Maybe that’s true—the team posted a .731 Win PCT, higher than the 49-50 total. Also, note the Cardinal-on-the-front on the warmups on those seated. Sweet.

Or, what if it’s something even more noteworthy?

What if the team alternated the bird-on-the-front and "U of L" for home and away games? One possible hole in the theory is the image of Ish Combs and his brother receiving watches for what the caption suggests was some sort of senior day festivities (or, you know, a celebration of all things Ish). It’s a working hypothesis people, tear it apart in the comments below.




This eBay seller sold a 1951-52 college card for Al Russak as part of the "Louisville’s Finest" series (those were fun to collect, by the way).

It squares with the roster, which puts Russak (pronounced, according to the card, Rue-SACK) on the freshman team with no. 19. The figure in the image is covering his number, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The 1951-52 team went 20-6, .769 PCT under Coach Hickman. They finished 17th in the AP Poll and were an NIT participant (losing to WKU in 62-59 in the opening round).

C’mon Bernard, beat the Tops for once, will ya?


There are no images of these uniforms that I’ve found. The ’52-’53 Cards went 22-6, .768 PCT under Coach Hickman. The team was ranked as high as 14th, but finished the season unranked. They did, however, receive an invite to the NIT where they defeated Georgetown 92-79 (Saxa that Hoyas), but lost to Manhattan in the quarterfinals (79-66).

We didn’t play Western that year. BUT WE BEAT PURDUE.

GO LOUISVILLE, BEAT PURUDE. (If you don't get it, ask a friend.)


No uniform images found yet. The team went 22-7, .759 PCT under Coach Hickman. We were ranked as high as 20. We fell to St. Francis, NY, 60-55 in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

This year was notable because it was Charlie Tyra’s freshman year. He was 6’8’’, played in 13 games, had a 44% FG average, 6.5 ppg, 34% FT shooting, and 6.5 rebounds per game.

We lost to Western.

(flips keyboard)

(overturns desk)

But we beat Marquette.


Also, eat that Crean, etc.


Zippo uniformo photoso. That’s not Latin kids.

The Cards went 19-8, .704 PCT, under Coach Hickman. Finished the year unranked, but were ranked as high as 12. We defeated Manhattan in the opening round of the NIT, 91-86, no doubt avenging their "Spree of ’53." We lost to Duquesne in the quarterfinals 74-66, as they completed their drive to ’55 and the NIT title.

That just sounds fifties, doesn’t it? Spree of ’53? Drive of ’55? I’ll be here all decade.

Tyra’s sophomore campaign saw him play in 27 games, shoot 39% from the field, 63% from the stripe, he averaged a double-double: 13.6 rebounds and 14.7 points per game.

Tyra’s closing comments for the season?

"You know nothing, Chane Behanan."

Dude was a psychic. Eerie.


No photos--maybe. This was an important year for us. The team went 26-3, .892 PCT under Coach Hickman. We were ranked as high as third during the season.

Oh, right, and we won the NIT Championship by defeating "first round bye," then Duquesne in the Elite 8 (84-72, avenging the Drive to ’55), St. Joseph’s in the Final Four (89-79), and Dayton in the Championship (93-80).

Beat Memphis St. (85-75).

But we still lost to Western.

C’mon Bernard.


Freedom Hall’s first year was 1956. I’ve no idea if that was for the 1955-56 season or 1956-57 season. We finished 21-5 under Coach Hickman, .808 PCT and we finished the season ranked sixth , but were as high as third.

For some reason, there was no postseason that year.

We beat Marquette. (Heh, Diener.)

We beat Notre Dame. (Heh, Digger.)

We beat Dayton. (Heh, Dayton.)

We beat DePaul (Awww, Depaul. Adorable)

We lost to flippin’ Memphis State.


During that year, Charlie Tyra completed his dominance of all things college basketball and was a consensus All-American. He completed his career that season—recording 1,617 rebounds, owning multiple university records, with his eventual drafting by the Detroit Pistons in 1957 (there first year in the NBA after moving from Fort Wayne Indiana where they were named … the Pistons). Tyra, however, would play most of his career with the New York Knicks.

And Charlie is a huge resource for our uniform queries.

Charlie Tyra (big thanks to wscii for this)

There are multiple photos for Charlie Tyra online, but it is difficult to tell the year on many of them. So we have a range of years, but we don’t have specifics.



We’re familiar with this jersey (above) by now. Vertically arched "Louisville", bird, number. Year? Unknown, but presumably pre-1957 or sometime around 1953. We'll see why in a moment.



In this shot, Tyra is wearing what appears to be a red Louisville jersey, vertically arched lettering (!) spelling the city’s name across the front. No bird.



AH-HA! This Street & Smith's basketball annual (above) has a yelling Tyra prior to his senior year. How do we know that? The 1957 on the cover! So, we can safely say that the uniform switched by 1957 to the bird-less Louisville. Note—no piping on the jersey. The number is in block-letter font.

If you look really closely along the border of the shorts, you’ll notice two thin black stripes with a white stripe in the center.



And, in this photo (above), we still see the red jersey. The side view of the shorts shows white striping down the leg, dividing along the v-shaped niche on the short leg. No number on the shorts.

Note also the shorts appear to be made of satin. Satin was a popular uniform element in the 40s and 50s. The Brooklyn Dodgers, for example, introduced satin uniforms in the 40s.



No photos.

The ’57-’58 squad went 13-12, .520 PCT under Coach Hickman. They finished the season unranked.

We’ll call it the Tyra hangover.

But, we beat DePaul.


Hickman says, "Fear the P."


The 1958-59 Cardinals rebounded nicely from the Tyra hangover, went 19-12, .613 under Coach Hickman. They were ranked as high as seventeenth, but finished unranked.

That didn’t stop them, however, from making noise in the NCAA tournament.

The team won the Mideast regional semifinal against UK, 76-61. And there’s photographic evidence (brought to us by UK no less)



Note the white satin shorts (and the blue satin worn by UK). We presumably see red vertically arched lettering and block-font numbers. The shorts held by a belt with red stripes are piped in red. Based on the player in the rear, there is a single stripe down the leg, and the leg is wrapped in a stripe as well. White Converse Chuck Taylors with the white and red socks finish out the ensemble. No piping on the jersey.

This is photographic evidence of one of the most important games in the Rivalry. This was the final meeting between the two teams until Louisville and Kentucky met in 1983. We all know who won that game, too.




The library also has images of Louisville players carrying Coach Hickman off the floor (above), presumably after our defeat of Kentucky or perhaps after our defeat of Michigan State, 88-81 in the regional final. Note a few additional uniform elements on the warmups. The numbers were feature on the side of the short-sleeved shooting shirt. The northwestern strip remains on the lower band, but there are two parallel red stripes extending from the neck down. The shirt is button up and has a flip down collar.

The mystery, though, is why the player on the left appears to have a red (or black) undershirt. Odd.

Bonus cheerleader footage in the background. Red sweater, red "L," outlined in white. Looks like an ankle-length skirt. White pom-poms (left).

Also, defeating Michigan State in a regional NCAA game? That’s never happened before, right Coach Izzo?



Geez, Izz, chill. We’ll send Ish after you.

Regardless, it seems like this was a huge celebration. Nets were cut (that’s Dan Goldstein doing the trimming, below). Also, notice the player in the foreground, back to the camera, who is wearing a warmup jacket with a red Louisville on the back.



There were trophies (below).



And a bit of locker room celebration (below). Note in the uniforms the satin shorts, same red and white elements as seen in the later Tyra uniforms. Also note the knee brace.



I think we’re seeing the precursor to the "L" there. Players rocking the "V" and that was for victory—not peace, you hippy.

Louisville lost in the national semifinal to WVU. (Shut up, Huggins.) Couches were probably burnt (real mature, Morgantown). Really, though, Louisville probably ran into the basketball machine that was Jerry West—who was later named the tournament’s most outstanding player.

Louisville also lost in the third-place game to Cincinnati.

But that’s ok, Cincy. Do you like kegs? We’ve got the keg. How about them…kegs?


We closed out the fifties with a dud. The team went 15-11, .577 PCT, ended unranked and didn’t go to any postseason events.

So, with that, we bid adieu to the fifties.Coach Hickman, thoughts?Ajaxhelper_medium


Yep, so long.

But, before we go, bonus Christmas campus footage--from 1949!



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, 'Cloids.

Up next: It’s, like, all about love, man, and peace. And, you know, basketball. It’s the sixties, baby.

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