“1966 MIAMI DOLPHINS PROTOTYPE HELMET... EXCEPT IT ISN'T!"
By Dr. Ken
Some individuals are blessed with artistic ability, others with imagination, and many possess both. The HELMET HUT staff will admit to knowing how to work diligently and tirelessly to bring interesting and accurate information to our readers but some are “nuts-and-bolts” plodders, content to gather facts and figures and present them in what we trust is an interesting manner. We have through the years received requests to manufacture or feature helmets that may have existed, could have existed, perhaps at one time existed, makes sense that they existed but alas, never existed. It is standard policy to “play it straight” and provide our interested public what did in fact exist despite the unfounded claims of some. “The Cleveland Browns exhibition season helmet had a decal and…” , and certainly, it would have made for an attractive addition to the Browns helmet history but careful examination of film and photograph of every Cleveland game played in the pre-season or regular schedule between 1963 and 1966 just does not support this notion.
We have fielded questions related to “the orange helmet that the Dolphins were going to wear in 1966” and one that would have been visually outstanding relative to the already colorful Dolphins helmet worn since the team’s inception but for the fact that the Dolphins have never displayed an orange helmet shell in any capacity in their entire history. Some teams did in fact produce true prototypes that for one reason or another, never became part of the official uniform with a well-known photo of Cincinnati Bengals founder Paul Brown considering a number of these possibilities prior to his team’s inaugural season of 1968 [see HELMET HUT
http://www.helmethut.com/Features/Prototypes/Begnalproto.html ]. The New England Patriots flirted with a new helmet design that was put to a fan “cheer and applause” vote at one of their 1979 home games [see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/Features/Prototypes/Patsproto.html ], and both the Cowboys [ see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/Features/Prototypes/Cowboyproto.html ] and Oilers [http://www.helmethut.com/Oilers/Prototype.html ] had prototypes that were left in “second or third place” behind others, or utilized only for publicity purposes. Despite the hopes of a number of Miami Dolphins fans, football uniform experts, and graphic artists whose designs have filled the Internet with creative and expressive helmet renderings, the very classic white helmet shell, aqua-marine and orange trim, and a form of the identifying dolphin decal with some variation of the dolphin or its position within the overall decal is in fact, the only official game, camp, or prototype helmet the team has worn from its inception.
Defensive tackle Charley Diamond played at the University Of Miami, in the CFL, and with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs 1960 – 1963 before retiring. Like a number of south Florida former players, he was lured out of retirement to the Dolphins first training camp. He did not make the final cut but displays both the team’s white helmet shell and Dungard mask while in camp
Miami had been burdened with a professional football franchise in the form of the Seahawks of the 1946 All American Football Conference. The team was undermined by the racial policies that dictated travel and lodging in the southern states and their relative lack of financing. The AAFC approved a Miami franchise on December 8, 1944 and announced on December 10th that Atlanta restaurateur Harvey Hester and former Georgia Tech stand-out Doug Wycoff would be the principal owners. Hester’s flamboyant style and early announcements should have made it clear that ownership was underfinanced and predictably, the team attired in green declared bankruptcy prior to the finale of their inaugural season, leaving the league to take over and move it to Baltimore. The Dolphins were Miami’s AFL team but the initial proposal by prospective owner Joe Robbie, a Minnesota attorney who had a long-standing relationship with AFL Commissioner Joe Foss, was to expand the league to Philadelphia. Robbie countered with the idea of a New Orleans franchise but Foss explained that the NFL already had an expansion franchise ready to enter that market. After Foss dismissed these ideas, he suggested that Robbie instead consider Miami as a site. Robbie agreed and the investment and active involvement of popular actor and producer Danny Thomas sealed the deal. On August 16, 1965 Miami was awarded the first AFL expansion franchise and in December after the close of the NFL season, former Detroit Lions head coach George Wilson who had spent the ’65 season as the end coach of the Redskins, was named their inaugural head coach. The official name of the team came a bit earlier, on October 9th. Of the 19,843 entries submitted to the new AFL entry’s “name the team” contest, there were 2,103 different suggested names with 622 fans choosing “Dolphins.” It was decided that a singular winner would be chosen based upon the prediction of the score of the November 27th football game between hometown University Of Miami and Notre Dame to be played at the Orange Bowl. Marjorie Swanson, by virtue of her improbable 0 – 0 tie prediction was declared the winner. A lifetime pass granting free entry and a seat for Dolphin home games was her reward while the team was awarded with its official name. The official team colors of aquamarine, orange, and white were announced on January 23, 1966 and the hiring of former Denver Broncos equipment manager Chuck Ziober assured the new entity that they would be properly attired. Ziober in fact was an early proponent of the Dungard masks, outfitting a surprising number of Dolphins players with these in their inaugural season.
Mike Kelly of Wagner College and # 32 Richie Martha of West Virginia go through drills in the Dolphins’ inaugural camp. Note Dungard mask on Martha’s helmet. The Dolphins and Chiefs were early proponents of these face masks
Photos of the Dolphins in training camp, exhibition games, and in every game of the 1966 season had them wearing white helmet shells. There have been no publicity photos demonstrating anything other than a white helmet shell. While a number of sportswriters noted the possibilities of various color combinations since “the dolphin is an iridescent species,” the announcement of aqua or aquamarine, orange, and white came relatively quickly with aqua the predominant tone. The myth of the “orange Miami Dolphins helmet,” like that of the non-existent Cleveland Browns “CB helmet” however, occasionally but seemingly regularly raises its head and it is perhaps time to put this notion to rest. If there is blame, lay it at the feet of the Orange Products, Inc. company on Passaic Avenue in Chathan, New Jersey. From 1963 through 2002 they produced what were designated as “gumball helmets” in part because these small representations of both NFL and AFL helmets could be purchased from ubiquitous gumball machines that were present in many different types of stores. For our younger HELMET HUT fans, gumball machines were displayed in various types of retail establishments, allowing one to insert a penny and receive distribution of a small ball of flavored gum. These dated to the early twentieth century and were a staple in every city and most towns across the United States. Over time the machines were altered to distribute not only gum but small toys and eventually, the small “gumball helmets.” Although the National Football League under the leadership of Pete Rozelle had an advertising and marketing arm that controlled the licensing of all NFL related products in the early 1960s, it was still not the “legally locked up” business office it would become. The American Football League, especially in its first half dozen seasons, saw each team engaged in its individual negotiations for game film and advertising rights, team product distribution and sales. The Orange Products Inc. company had an agreement with the NFL office and would be provided with direct information on individual team details for the manufacturing of their products. The company however had to procure information related to AFL product specifics from each team on a team-by-team basis. It is doubtful if the public will ever know whom in the Miami Dolphins offices spoke with which representative from Orange Products but when the first batch of 1966 AFL gumball helmets were placed into vending machines and became part of the Miami area International House Of Pancakes and Bonanza Steakhouse giveaways, the set included an orange Miami Dolphins helmet.
The incorrect Orange Products, Inc. gumball rendition of the 1966 Miami Dolphins helmet
Unfortunately, there was never an announcement made that the Dolphins would in fact wear an orange helmet. Absent of proof and/or statements from any of the helmet manufacturers active in 1965 through 1966 there were no full sized prototype helmets produced. None were utilized for publicity purposes as was the oil gushing Houston Oilers helmet that never made it to the field and none were presented as team-wear possibilities as per the many prototypes considered by Paul Brown for his initial Bengals team. “Photoshopping” has muddied the waters too, with computerized depictions of a “possible Dolphins orange helmet” circulated by creative, artistic, but uninformed or incorrectly informed fans. On June 13, 1966 a Sports Illustrated magazine photo shoot was done in St. Petersburg, Florida, one that featured the Dolphins second round draft choice Frank Emanuel.
A hard-hitting All American linebacker from the University Of Tennessee who later was elected to the College Football Hall Of Fame, head coach Wilson intended to build the defense around this 6’3”, 225 pound athlete. Although injuries would limit Emanuel to a five year professional career, the last with the Saints, he was definitely the defensive hope entering the Dolphins first season and definitely a positive choice as the team’s SI cover representative. The August 8th issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands within days of the team’s August 6th pre-season opener against Kansas City. Needless to add, the opening game and magazine coverage were the first national exposures for the Dolphins aqua and white uniforms with orange trim. The cover was popular, Miami team representatives were pleased, and fans in south Florida and beyond were appropriately excited. Both on the field as it had been since the inception of training camp, and on the cover depiction, the Dolphins of course were attired in white helmet shells.
In today’s age of computerized technology, for better or worse, one can “photo shop” which in summary means they can digitally alter photographs, adding, subtracting, distorting, coloring, and generally doing anything they want to a photographic image. Certainly for “cleaning up” a photo this might be very positive but for the alteration of history, truth, and accuracy, like many things in the modern world, perhaps this technique is not so obviously positive. There are and have been a number of images of the same Frank Emanuel photo, and others, depicting the 1966 Dolphins with orange shells and this author will repeat that there is and never has been proof of this full sized, regulation helmet.
Certainly this is suggestive of the orange shell helmet that the University Of Florida switched to for the 1969 season [see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/Florida/UF6970.html ] and while the University Of Miami boasted official colors of orange and green, they never donned an orange shell, the closest compromise to that being what used to be called a Green Bay gold shell for the 1955 – 1963 seasons [ see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/Miami/miamiindex.html ]. As per the “strong recommendation or else…” of a number of 1966 Georgia legislators that insisted that the newly formed NFL Atlanta Falcons add a gold helmet stripe to their red and black uniform that was just a bit too suggestive of the University Of Georgia colors and uniform to suit the Tech grads in government office, one could have expected some dismay and back-room bargaining in city and state government offices to prevent the new pro football entity in Miami from too closely resembling the Gators when taking the field. The summary? The attractive orange shell Miami Dolphins helmet looks great but unfortunately never existed!