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Willie Mays was on fire in 1965. Entering his 14th season, Willie played in 157 games, amassed 177 hits, belted a career high 52 homeruns, and finished the season batting .317. While being voted to the All Star Game and winning another golden glove, he also racked up some personal milestones. On May 4th, 1965, Willie Mays passed Mel Ott to become the All Time National League Homerun King. Later in the season, on September 13th, 1965, he belted his career high 500th HR. All of these accomplishments attributed to Willie Mays winning his second MVP Award for the 1965 season. Any memorabilia from his 2nd MVP season is quite desirable, but a personal item such as a game worn glove is almost non-existent.
Warren Spahn, off whom Mays hit his first career home run, was his teammate at the time. After hitting his 500th home run, Spahn greeted Mays in the dugout, asking “Was it anything like the same feeling?” Mays replied “It was exactly the same feeling. Same pitch, too.”
The connection between Spahn and Mays is very crucial to the dating of this glove. Warren Spahn was traded to the Giants for the 1965 season. This glove, the Warren Spahn Signature model XPG 3, was endorsed by Spahn and appears in the Rawlings dealer catalogs from 1962-65. It is well documented that professional model gloves that have entered the hobby are often the top of the line catalog model gloves. Per the Rawlings Sporting Goods catalog, the 1965 Warren Spahn XPG 3 model retailed for $39.95. Only the un-endorsed XPGP model sold for more. It is also well documented that players often wore player endorsed gloves not of their own model. During the 1964 season, Mays used a Rawlings XPG 6X model that DID NOT bear his signature.
1965 was the only season that Spahn and Mays played together. Now, it is possible that Mays could have ordered a Warren Spahn XPG 3 signature model glove at any point between 1962-65, but the consignor’s provenance documents the glove was gifted to a family member during the 1965 season.
The letter of provenance reads,
June 27th, 2005
How We Acquired the Willie Mays Glove
My wife’s maternal grandfather, Captain Harry Nelson was a captain in the San Francisco police department. (Candlestick park was in his jurisdiction) at the time the Giants came to San Francisco.
His grandson, Johnny, was about 12 years old in 1965. He idolized Willie Mays. Johnny was sick with pneumonia that year. The ground keeper for Candle Stick Park promised Harry he would get him an autographed ball signed by Willie Mays to help Johnny feel better.
The grounds keeper told Mr. Mays the story, Willie was so moved and generous, that he didn’t give a signed ball, but the glove that Mr. Mays used that season and signed “to John, best wishes, Willie Mays’.
My wife and her family have asked me to handle the selling of the glove.
My business partner is on the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame board with Mario Alioto, who handles SF Giants marketing and has access to Mr. Mays.
The picture enclosed is a picture of Willie examining the glove and verifying that it is his.
Signed, (Our Consignor).
Regarding the physical description of the glove, it is the XPG 3 Rawlings model. The wrist strap reads “Snugger Adjustment”, Inside the palm reads, “Heart of the Hide, Deep Well Pocket, and Warren Spahn facsimile signature.” All of the manufacturer’s traits are consistent with a professional model glove.
To personalize the glove (player traits), Willie Mays personally added the following touches,
“24” appears on the outside pinky and another on the outside thumb, and is applied with vintage, stylistic, worn black market. The style of the 24 has been compared to other documented Willie Mays applied 24’s that have been found on bats, gloves, and caps. It is consistent with other known examples. It my expert opinion, the 24 was applied by Willie Mays himself, as it closely resembles many other 24’s I have examined.
The expert staff of JSA Autograph Authentication has examined the writing on the outside of the glove. “To John, Best Wishes, Willie Mays” was determined to be an authentic Willie Mays signature and inscription.
Regarding game wear, the glove is evenly broken in. The pocket closes with little effort. Examination of the inside portion of the glove reveals a darkening of the tan leather, consistent with contact of a major league baseball to the gloves pocket and interior.
Finally, MEARS compared the glove to Willie May’s 1966 Topps card. It is assumed that a 1966 card would have a photograph supplied during the 1965 season. Examination of the photo on the card reveals,
1. The red, square Rawlings label is present on the wrist strap and is consistent with the Topps Card.
2. The design of the pocket (open) is consistent with the image on the Topps Card.
3. A custom leather pocket strip appears both in the photo and on the examined glove. The leather is darker than the rest of the glove and appears to have been added by the factory. This customization appears on the Topps Card.
4. Placement of the leather ties is consistent with the images on the Topps Card.
It is my professional opinion that there is a very strong resemblance of the examined glove to the Topps card used for comparison.
With the unique connection to Warren Spahn, Rawlings customization, photo support, and first hand provenance, the fact this glove can be dated to the 1965 season makes this one of the most significant Willie Mays gloves ever to come to market. The finest example extant ever handled by MEARS Auctions. Letters of Authenticity from JSA, MEARS, and consignor.