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Nate Steffenhagen via Portfolio52

This Was Once the Fifth Playing Card Suit

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Nate Steffenhagen via Portfolio52

While the Middle Ages treated playing cards as objects of sorcery and the more reasonable French introduced the four main suits that are still used today (hearts, clubs, spades, diamonds), a more recent development almost changed everything we thought we knew about a full house. There was once a fifth suit.

In the late 1930s, the United States Playing Card Company was one of several manufacturers to introduce a 65-card deck. In addition to the four established suits, the packages contained a fifth: the eagle. (In England, companies sometimes used a royal symbol of crowns depicted in blue.) The cards were green instead of red or black and were intended for use in bridge games. Hoyle’s Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games makes a passing reference to the suit in its index; collectors who have gotten the deck have noted it contained instructions for playing a five-suit version of poker, where Five of a Kind was a possibility and terms that now seem strange to the tongue and ear (“Queen of Eagles”) were commonplace.

Nate Steffenhagen via Portfolio52

But where did the notion come from? Though other mentions of four-plus decks appear in playing card retrospectives, playing card historian Andrew Ward attributes the idea for five-suit bridge to Walter Marseille, a Viennese psychologist who thought the added cards made the games more complex and interesting. While bridge players seemed intrigued by the variation—decks routed to New York for retail sale were snapped up immediately—it posed a formidable concentration challenge. According to media coverage of the era, most people had enough trouble focusing on 52 cards, let alone 65. “The brain cells of average bridge fans are sorely taxed by the strain of 52 cards and four suits through the complex sequence of play,” Life magazine wrote in 1938. “To players with durable memories the new game offers a challenge, to others a high hurdle.” One journalist sniped that “four-goal football” might be next.

The naysayers were correct. While popular in Europe for a time, five-suit games never really caught on. By the end of World War II, the eagle was nowhere to be found, and Marseille's contribution was largely forgotten.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Mattel
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This Just In
Mattel Unveils New Uno Edition for Colorblind Players
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Mattel

On the heels of International Colorblind Awareness Day, Mattel, which owns Uno, announced it would be unveiling a colorblind-friendly edition of the 46-year-old card game.

The updated deck is a collaboration with ColorADD, a global organization for colorblind accessibility and education. In place of its original color-dependent design, this new Uno will feature a small symbol next to each card's number that corresponds with its intended primary color.

As The Verge points out, Mattel is not actually the first to invent a card game for those with colorblindness. But this inclusive move is still pivotal: According to Fast Co. Design, Uno is currently the most popular noncollectible card game in the world. And with access being extended to the 350 million people globally and 13 million Americans who are colorblind, the game's popularity is sure to grow.

Mattel unveils color-friendly Uno deck
Mattel

[h/t: The Verge

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