As we count down to June 24th for the unveiling of new 2011 uniforms for the Buffalo Bills we take a look back at the franchise’s uniform history with anecdotes, stories and recollections from those that experienced the history first hand. Our latest installment features one of the club's first beat reporters, who covered the team for more than 40 years as a reporter and columnist, Larry Felser.
A Bills beat reporter from the time of the team’s inception to his days as a columnist some 40-plus years later, Larry Felser witnessed it all from the very beginning. And as Felser sees it the Bills' first two seasons in Buffalo in 1960 and 1961 featured perhaps the least original look in their uniform’s history.
“Detroit Lions light is what they were,” said Felser of Buffalo’s blue and silver uniforms. “There was a lot of resistance to the original uniforms because Ralph Wilson’s town was Detroit. Those uniforms almost said to fans that Detroit was still Ralph Wilson’s town. Those first uniforms never went over well. The first coach Buster Ramsey was the defensive coach for the Lions so there were too many ties to the Lions for Bills fans to take and as a result those uniforms gave them trouble in terms of establishing their own identity.”
When Lou Saban was hired as Bills head coach in 1962, after an abrupt firing by the Boston Patriots, he petitioned to dress up the Bills appearance a bit with the introduction of scarlet red, similar to that of the Patriots. Felser was perplexed by Saban’s interest in pushing for some changes.
“That was a little surprising because he was a little bitter about being fired in Boston in favor of Mike Holovach,” Felser recalled. “Holovach was a Boston College all-time great and Lou didn’t do a bad job in Boston. He was just getting them started. Lou did add a certain Patriots tinge to Buffalo’s uniform. That only lasted a little while.”
Felser believes the mid-60’s uniforms with the royal blue remains the single most identifiable look in team history save perhaps for the charging buffalo.
“They were sharp new uniforms,” he said. “It was the first time there was a true identity between the Bills and the uniforms. This was the lone stamp that they were Buffalo. The people loved it and thought it was big league.”
When the standing red buffalo on the side of the Bills’ helmet was replaced by its more modern cousin, the charging buffalo in 1974, Felser was surprised by its popularity.
“It was received a lot better than I thought it would be,” he said. “The fans and the people of Buffalo, if they have something they like they seem to want to keep it, but the charging buffalo was a different story. It was high action and I thought it was very well received. It was a modernized version.”
The uniforms of the storied early 90’s Super Bowl teams aren’t given quite as much support as those AFL championship years of more than 40 years ago. Felser has a theory as to why that is the case.
“I am surprised that there isn’t more general support with the Super Bowl era uniforms,” he said. “On the other hand this is a town where there are a lot of older people and that first great uniform still means a lot to a lot of people. Even going to the Super Bowls in the club’s greatest era is trumped by the mid-60’s and it’s due in part to this city having one of the higher median ages in the country.”
As for the newest edition of the Bills uniforms set to be unveiled Friday night, Felser doesn’t see how the franchise can go wrong.
“I think anything that changes the subject from the last 10 years is going to be considered welcome,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”