Getting an e-mail from MEARS Office Manger Andrew Tilley informing me that an early 20th century Hall of Fame flannel was enroute brought great excitement. Sad to say, the excitement did not last long after the jersey was received, but you can decide for yourself as you read through all of this. If you wish to look into all of this this in some greater detail on your own, I would offer these print references as being recommend for relevant images. With the exception of the Sporting Life, which I viewed on line, all of these books are part of my reference library and I found them to be particularly helpful with this evaluation:
-The Sporting Life (1904-1907)
– Images of Baseball: The Boston Red Sox from Cy to the Kid by Mark Rucker and Bernard M. Corbet.
– The Boston Red Sox: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig.
– The Red Sox Encyclopedia by Robert Redmount.
– The American League: An Illustrated History (Revised Edition) Donald Honig.
-Baseball Memories 1900-1909: An Illustrated Chronicle of the Big Leagues’ First Decade by Mark Okkonen.
– The Encyclopedia of Baseball Managers: 1901 to the Present Day by Thomas Aylesworth and Benton Minks.
– Sotheby’s: The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia (The Early Years).
The player in question was Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins (Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945). This jersey appears to be the same one offered in the Barry Halper collection as lot # 307 on page 161 of Volume I. Pictured with this jersey is an image of Jimmy Collins as well. For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.
With all that being said, let’s begin.
SUBJECT: 1901-1907 Jimmy Collins Boston American’s Home Jersey
For the purpose of evaluation and description, this jersey is referred to as a 1901-1907 Jimmy Collins Boston Americans home jersey. After a detailed visual inspection and evaluation of this jersey using lighted magnification, a light table, a digital microscope, UV light and various references, I offer the following noted observations:
1. Dating the jersey. The jersey features a full collar with lace up neck closure and gothic font “B” “A” on the chest. In very general terms this places the jersey to the period of roughly 1902-1908. While early 20th Century uniform styles can be found in years other than depicted in references such as “Dressed to the Nines” uniform database of the National Baseball Hall Fame, this style has been referenced to both 1902 and 1908 for the Boston Americans. The jersey is attributed to Jimmy Collins as indicated by the stitched name “Collins” in the collar. Jimmy Collins was the only player with this sir name playing for the Boston American League ball club during this general period.
Jimmy Collins played for the Boston American League team from 1901 through 7 June 1907 when he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics for John Knight. As such, the jersey is not likely a 1908 offering ordered for his subsequent use.
2. Confirming the style: I was unable to confirm this style with respect fundamental basics of construction of font as a function of type and placement:
a. PLATES I-III show that the placement of the gothic “B” and “A” are lower than what period images show, including one for Jimmy Collins.
b. PLATE IV highlights the font inconsistencies of the letter “B”.
c. PLATE V highlights the font inconsistencies with the letter “A”.
d. PLATES VI and VII show that while there are known variations of both font style and placement (as well as some jerseys found with button closures as opposed to draw strings), this offered jersey can not be identified as one of those variations through combination of both font style and placement.
3. Manufacturer: The manufacturer of this jersey is the Wright & Ditson (W&D) Company of Boston, MA. Although W&D was acquired by the Spalding company in 1891, they continued to provide uniforms to the major leagues under their own label. Examples can be found in the collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame including:
a. Trousers; W&D, 1898, Cleveland Spiders
b. Trousers; W&D, 1907, Boston Red Sox
c. Trousers; W&D, 1911, Cleveland Indians
d. Trousers; W&D, 1912-1913, Boston Red Sox
This style of manufacturer’s label is the same type that can be found in the 1898 Cleveland Spiders trousers. (PLATE VIII). Given the cited examples and the co-location of W&D Sporting Goods with the ball club in Boston, I have no objections with accepting W&D as a likely supplier of uniforms to the Boston American League ball club during this time frame.
4. Size. The jersey is without any tagged or recorded size and this is typical for jerseys from this time frame. The measured size of the jersey is approximately a size 50 as the shirt measures some 25” across the chest. Jimmy Collins is listed as being 5’ 9” and 178 lbs. As such, it would appear that this jersey is a quite a bit larger than what I would have expected to see. The images provided of Jimmy Collins from this same time frame do appear to show him wearing jerseys that appear disproportional with respect to his frame or build.
5. Construction. The jersey is constructed with early 20th Century characteristics including the Western style collar and shoulder construction. The shirt features ¾ length sleeves with button openings to facilitate the attachment of sleeve extensions. These are all consistent with what you would expect to find in an early 20th century offering. However, the fabric used for the body of the jersey is atypical. Under UV lighting, the entirety of the body gives off a fluorescent glow, something I would not expect to see if the jersey was constructed with non-synthetic fibers of the period. In addition, the white thread used to affix the Wright & Ditson manufacturers label in the collar presents the same problem. Additionally, there is an open line of seam holes in the rear of the collar area. (PLATE IX) This is problematic when you consider the W&D manufacturers label and the player identification of Collins is only sewn through the first fold in the collar. The jersey does feature seven (7) eyelets in the neck area to accommodate the drawstring. This number is appropriate for the period as indicated by the provided images. The closing stitching of the jersey where separate portions of fabric are joined is rough in appearance with respect to both cut and stitching. This is also atypical from what I would have expected to find. The W&D manufacturer’s tag, while correct for the period, does feature open seam holes as well when the tag is rolled back (PLATE X).
6. Use and Wear: With the exception of some fabric bleed from the felt “B” and “A” to the inside of the jersey, the jersey shows no real signs of use, wear or aging. There is one small 1 ½” fabric repair in the lower left front of the jersey (this same feature can be found in the image of the Halper offering). There is also some slight fabric bleed around the stitching of the “Collins” in the near of the collar. UV lighting also shows pinkish/red blotches throughout the rear tail of the jersey. There is also a blue pen like stain just below the right bottom drawstring eyelet. Of note is the fact that it appears two different colors of thread may have been used to construct these eyelets based on how those fabrics have faded. Finally, UV lighting shows no signs of other stains or soiling that one might typically expect to see in a jersey of this age and vintage.
OPINION: Based on the inconsistencies cited with respect to font style and placement, jersey size, fabric used for the body and the manner the garment was finished, as well as what may likely have been the collar opened up to accommodate the adding of the W&D manufacturers tag and Collins, I am Unable to Authenticate this jersey as one that would have been issued to and worn by Hal of Famer Jimmy Collins while playing/managing for the Boston American League baseball club from 1901-1907.
MEARS Auth, LLC
Enclosures: PLATES I-X