The idea was to make Bucco Bruce walk the plank. What better way to part with a mascot and logo so reviled that his entire crew turned on him?
It was April 7, 1997, when the mutiny occurred. For the sendoff, the team used the Bounty, a large sailing vessel built for the 1962 remake of the movie, Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Marlon Brando as Captain Bligh. The ship was moored every summer at St. Petersburg’s Pier.
The idea was to literally toss a flag, with the stiletto-chewing, feather-plumed pirate logo, overboard. For 21 years, he and his orange, red and white uniform had served the Bucs since the team’s inception.
The Glazer family would unveil new uniforms and colors the next afternoon at the Tampa Convention Center. But first, a fitting burial at sea.
The team’s first-ever head coach, John McKay, was there to help give the ceremonial first push.
“I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know (Bucco Bruce) was involved in this over the years,” said McKay, who died in 2001. "What do they call him? I didn’t even know his name. I thought it was Errol Flynn all these years. It turned out to be another guy I didn’t even know.
"If he's the guy who was in charge of losing, let's get rid of him."
Except it never happened.
The flag was simply lowered from the mast of the Bounty as four shots were fired from a cannon.
McKay was presented with a framed No. 76 creamsicle jersey.
“I had feelings about the colors. I thought they looked a lot like the local bus station," McKay said. "I kind of liked the orange and white. But I'm sure they've picked colors that stand out more."
McKay was right. The next day, Trent Dilfer, Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks and others modeled the new pewter, red and white uniforms, including a pewter helmet and red flag with the skull and crossbones as the new logo.
The Bucs will reveal the fourth uniform re-design in club history Tuesday.
Given the current social distancing climate, it will be a virtual modeling show.
No details of the unveiling have been released. But receiver Chris Godwin, linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White were given a sneak peek at all three of Tampa Bay’s new uniform combinations a couple weeks ago, and their reaction was posted on the team’s website.
“These are actually, like, really, really, really clean,’’ Godwin said.
“With jersey No. 3? You have to win when you put that color on,’’ White said. “Like, you got to win.’’
The Bucs have done a good job keeping a lid on the redesign, but coach Bruce Arians has seen them and said it’s an ode to the uniforms worn by the Super Bowl 37 champions. At minimum, that means more traditional block letters. The logo and helmet color is not expected to change.
Godwin, David and White will model them on social media sometime Tuesday.
Unfortunately, those images were made before the new captain arrived — former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. If you wanted to peddle the new look, what better way than to have one shipped over to St. Jetersburg and let Tampa Bay’s new first family try them on?
It’s almost a certainty the Bucs will do better than the re-design they debuted in the first year under coach Lovie Smith.
The Bucs released photos of those new Nike uniforms — a red home uniform on defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and a white road uniform on running back Doug Martin — with a new alarm-clock font for numbers and orange trim.
“It really defines the Buccaneer as a modern superhero for the future,” Todd Van Horne, Nike’s creative director for football, said at the time.
But it was more like super zero. The Bucs owned a .354 winning percentage in those dud-est of duds and had no playoff appearances.
Ironically, Bucs fans have clamored for some return to the creamsicle uniforms. They romanticize about those early Bucs teams with Doug Williams, Lee Roy Selmon and Ricky Bell, forgetting that they were the butt of late-night jokes during their 0-26 start as a franchise.
The Bucs wore those uniforms again during a throwback game in 2009 against the Green Bay Packers. It was Josh Freeman’s first NFL start, and he played lights out — throwing for three touchdowns in a 38-28 win over the Packers.
But then the NFL ruled that in the interest of safety, players could not wear more than one helmet during the season. The old helmets were white. The new ones are pewter.
That rule may be relaxed in 2021, but NFL owners will have to approve it.
Until then, let history show that the creamsicle uniforms were not beloved, but bullied.
In fact, there was a real live mutiny in the locker room one day prior to the Bucs’ game against the Packers on Dec. 10, 1995.
By then, the Bucs had added orange pants to their uniform combinations to go with white jerseys.
However, then-coach Sam Wyche was watching a 5-2 start melt with five losses in the next six games. He was warring with Dilfer, his young quarterback. A story in the St. Petersburg Times detailed a rift that had formed between Wyche, his players and even some assistant coaches.
In other words, the buzzards were circling around his coaching career in Tampa Bay.
It was a Sunday night nationally televised game on ESPN, so Wyche decided that the Bucs should wear a color-rush uniform of orange pants and creamsicle jerseys. What can you say? He was a man before his time.
The problem was that the tops didn’t match the pants, creating a watercolor look that few players were buying.
When tackle Paul Gruber arrived to Houlihan’s Stadium that night, he saw the oddball combination hanging from his locker.
He gathered it up, went to Wyche’s office and said simply, “We’re not wearing these."
Wyche was furious, and as the story goes, told Gruber the team could wear whatever the heck they wanted.
The white pants replaced the orange ones, and the Bucs upset the Packers 13-10 in overtime.
Like Bucco Bruce himself, it’s best to look at the original uniforms with one eye closed.
The Bounty sank off the coast of Carolina during a return voyage to St. Petersburg after encountering seas angered by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Bruce wasn’t aboard, and one day, he will return.