One of the greatest Easter eggs from Broncos history is a helmet design that lasted just five games before being left behind for a color change. Photos of the existence of the Broncos' short-lived blue logo helmets from 1962 are extremely difficult to find, but a local Broncos fan/historian has uncovered rare photographs from that very brief period.
The story of the blue logo
As Jim Saccomano, our residential team historian of sorts, has mentioned in previous columns, the Broncos left behind their not-so-popular brown-and-yellow uniforms with those unique vertical-striped socks in 1962. Prior to the beginning of the season that year, the team announced a change in color scheme to orange, blue and white, complete with a new Broncos logo to go on each side of the helmets.
There is a story behind the logo too, of course. The design was by a local sportswriter, Bob Bowie of The Denver Post. Back in the day, at the turn of the century (no, the OTHER century), photos had not become common in newspaper use, and many writers also drew their own cartoons to illustrate stories. Bowie was a real veteran of journalism by the 1960s and the Broncos were not above currying favor with the local press.
However, the logo on the helmet was blue, which looked less like a recognizable logo and more like a mud splotch when broadcast on black-and-white television.
So, without announcing any change, the Broncos quietly replaced the blue logo with a white one to make it stand out from the rest of the helmet.
Over the years, the story of the blue logo had become harder and harder to verify. There were also rumblings that the logo on the side of the helmet might have been brown, as a nod to the team's previous colors. Photographs could have proved once and for all what color the logo was during that span, but because of the era, color photographs were rare and those that might have been more easily accessible may not have made the digital transition.
The man with the rare photographs
As mentioned earlier, photos of the blue logo from that season are exceedingly rare, especially color photos. In a cursory search through our digital archive, the only photos I could find from the 1962 season were with the white-logo helmets. So I contacted Lukas, who got me in touch with Tom Jacobsen.
Jacobsen is something of a Broncos historian. As a child, he grew up watching the Broncos after his parents got season tickets beginning in 1965, and in the years since, Jacobsen has carefully cultivated a collection of Broncos memorabilia. His collection includes game-worn jerseys and helmets dating back to 1960, and it even includes a pair of those yellow-and-brown vertically striped socks. So rare finds are something Jacobsen is quite familiar with.
As for these photos, the four you can see in Lukas' album are just a small sample of Jacobsen's collection. He has 28 negatives that he recently converted to digital files, including one of quarterback Frank Tripucka holding for fellow Ring of Famer Gene Mingo as he kicked an extra point. Jacobsen was kind enough to take some time out of his Friday to shed some light on his rare collection for us:
DenverBroncos.com: Perhaps you've come across the long-standing discussion of whether the logo was originally blue or brown. How fascinating do you find it that in this age of the internet, it took this long for conclusive evidence to finally surface?
Tom Jacobsen: Oh, yeah! I have to admit, I had fallen to the 'brown side' back in the day but had come around the last decade to the blue. I had tried for years to get a definitive answer, interviewing players who were on that 1962 team with some saying they thought it was brown, some saying blue and most saying "Why do you care!?" Ha!
The brown story was borne out of [thinking] that, first of all, the logo looked brown in the black-and-white photos, and someone at some point had said they were brown as a way for the team to honor the original brown-and-yellow color scheme when they made the big uniform change in 1962. But now we know the horse was blue!
I think it's amazing! In a day and age when you can find anything and everything in a few seconds, to have it take this long – and lots of searching! – to find definitive proof is just wild.
DB: How did you hear about this fairly little-known trivia?
TJ: I know for most fans it's something they have never heard about, but in world of fans who really love the AFL era, the blue vs. brown debate is like the Hatfields & McCoys! Ha! I first became aware of the debate about 15 years ago when I met a good friend, Pat Scoggin of Endzone Sports Charities, who has put a ton of time and energy into researching the intricacies of the Broncos uniform changes throughout the years.
DB: And how did you find these photos?
TJ: I'm always looking for old photos of the team to match with the jerseys in my collection so I've made a lot of connections over the years while looking for photos and one of them came across these negatives and let me know about them.
When I saw what they were, I couldn't believe it, to me they were the 'Holy Grail' of Broncos photos because I'd been aware of the blue vs. brown debate for years and years and knew it had never been fully resolved because all the photos folks could find from back then were black and white.
So there you have it: 54 years after the blue-logo helmets' first use and their subsequent, quick discontinuation, Tom Jacobsen has put to rest one of the hardest-to-verify rumors dating back to the Broncos' early AFL days.