Recently, Doug Allen of MastroNet retained MEARS to evaluate a client’s 1952 Mickey Mantle home jersey. It is quite an honor to handle a jersey so closely linked to a major hobby icon. The year 1952 is also directly associated with another item of iconic status, the Topps Mickey Mantle card #311. A recent PSA Population Report lists 655 cards that have been graded. Countless more remain ungraded and absent from the population report. With the general consensus that 2 home jerseys were issued per season, this examined 1952 Mickey Mantle jersey represents a true hobby rarity. Memorabilia and card collectors are usually divided when arguing the merits of cards vs. memorabilia. However, given the choice of a high-grade 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps card versus a game worn jersey, it would be interesting to see the results of their selection.
In 1952 Mickey Mantle played 142 games for the New York Yankees and it was our task to see if the Mick wore this jersey during this stretch. By examining the style, tagging, degree of originality, evidence of alterations and/or changes, and presence of the 50th Anniversary Yankees patch, we were able to determine whether or not this jersey had been issued to be worn by Mickey Mantle during the 1952 season.
Our research began by checking the database compiled by LTC MEARS Auth, LLC in order to compare the examined jersey to other 1950’s Mickey Mantle jerseys that are known in the hobby. Our data concludes that this was the first 1952 Mickey Mantle New York Yankees home jersey that was found in the MEARS database. Other similar Mantle jerseys include:
1951 Spalding Road jersey
1952 Wilson Road jersey
1954 Wilson Road jersey
The 1952 Mantle jersey was similar in the consistency of materials to other examples of Major League jerseys that we have examined. Additional 1952 period Yankee jerseys that are found in the MEARS database include:
1952 Spalding McDonald road jersey
1952 Spalding Mantle road jersey
1952 Wilson Sain home jersey
1952 Wilson Rizzuto road jersey
These examples illustrate that both Spalding and Wilson manufactured 1952 Yankee jerseys.
With the examination of the manufacturer complete and the results verifying Spalding as the issuer, we next referenced the MEARS database for size trends. With respect to the tagged size 44, it was a match with the earliest recorded Mickey Mantle jersey in our database. A previous sale of a 1951 Mickey Mantle road jersey from his rookie season of 1951, (Mastro, November, 1998) and 12 additional Mickey Mantle jerseys that were issued in size 44 were found in the database as follows:
1952 Road Spalding (Size 44)
1954 Road Wilson (Size 44)
1955 Home Spalding (Size 44)
1956 Road Wilson (Size 44)
1958 Road Wilson (Size 44)
1959 Home Wilson (Size 44)
1960 Road Wilson (Size 44)
1961 Home Rawlings (Size 44)
1961 Home Spalding (Size 44)
1961 Road Spalding (Size 44)
1962 Road Spalding (Size 44)
1962 Home Spalding (Size 44)
All credible examples of Mickey Mantle jerseys from 1951-1962 were issued as size 44. These examples were consistent since they referenced periods both before and after this shirt, permitting a size trend analysis. With respect to the measured size of the jersey, it was tagged with a box tag as “44”. The jersey measured 22” across the chest, which was consistent with the tagged size.
Specific Manufacturers Characteristics
After being comfortable with Spalding as the manufacturer and the size of 44, we examined the style of manufacturer’s tag. This particular tag example could be found applied to jerseys circa the 1949 thru 1952 season. The style of tag was replaced during the 1953 season. The tag itself is the stylized script A.G. Spalding & Bros., NEW YORK/CHICAGO (½” x 1 ½”). It is applied with straight stitch through the first collar fold and did not penetrate the reverse of the neck. No alterations or tampering was evident. (For a complete range of Spalding tags, see the Uniform Tagging List in the member’s area.)
The logo ‘NY’ (5 ½”) appeared on the front of the jersey in heavy felt. The ‘NY’ was not original and had been replaced. This was determined since the outline of the original crest was visible upon close inspection. The reason for the removal is unknown, although it can be speculated that that this jersey was intended to be sent down to the Minor Leagues.
Another unique feature found on professional model jerseys is the construction of an under arm air vent system designed to cool the players during games played in the heat of summer. Each underarm was factory designed and sewn with a 6 hole reinforced stitched ventilation system. The holes were manufactured into a diamond-shaped swatch of material, which connected the underarm sleeves to the body of the jersey.
Additional features of this jersey are the convex tail opening, which joined the side seam gusset, and the bottom convex tail, which was hemmed with a reinforced seam.
The key identifier to this jersey was the player name found in the collar. The name “M Mantle 52” was chained stitched in navy thread on a ½” ”x 3 1/2” cream-colored square cloth patch. The square cloth patch was sewn through the inside neck with straight stitched white thread.
Mantle’s uniform number “7” appeared on the reverse in 7” heavy felt numbering. The number was all original and unaltered. The number seven was applied with all original thread and was professionally applied with a zigzag sewing pattern.
Applied on the left sleeve was the 1903-1952 50th Year Yankees patch. The patch was attached with a tight zig zag sewing pattern. No trace of a patch replacement was apparent and the patch appeared to be an original. This was the standard style patch issued on the 1952 New York Yankees home jerseys.
The final part of the examination noted that the “Dry Clean Only, Do Not Wash” tag appeared along the bottom of the inside tail and a Mickey Mantle autograph appeared on the front of the jersey. We offered no opinion on the authenticity of the autograph, as is our standard policy.
Wear was consistent with use from a single Major League season. The jersey did not exhibit excessive use or thinning-of-fabric typically associated with additional season or Minor League use. There was toning of the fabric throughout the jersey and there was spotting along the inside collar and on the bottom of the “7”. Neither the toning nor the spotting detracts from the aesthetics of this jersey. Optimal wear, which was found on this jersey, was paramount to the authentication of this piece. Significant visible wear increased the possibility of game use and lessened the likelihood of the jersey having been used as a backup or salesman’s sample.
Based on my evaluation, I would conclude that this is the earliest home Mickey Mantle jersey inspected at the time of this article. With the exception of the restored ‘NY’, the jersey is all-original and in superb condition. The debate will continue amongst card and memorabilia collectors, but given my choice, I would favor flannel over cardboard.