As with most things that are research related, the farther you go back in time, the more difficult or time consuming the process is. One anonymous collector recently asked me “how can you go about looking at items from the early part of the 20th Century when the MEARS jersey census only features less than a dozen major league level uniforms from the period of 1900-1920?”
This is a reasonable question and one that deserves a reasonable answer. First of all, the items listed in the uniform census are not the only ones that I consider. I work from larger data base that includes some early cataloging work I did before coming to SCDA/MEARS that features an additional thirty one (31) uniforms.
Before going any further, let’s put this time frame into some context. During the period we are looking at, the population of major league clubs was one of sixteen (16) teams and roughly a half dozen manufacturers.
The MEARS jersey census contains information on four teams and two manufacturers. My early cataloging work contains information on some nine additional ball clubs and an additional three manufacturers. So for the overall period, I have information on 11 of the 16 clubs and 5 major uniform manufacturers/suppliers. Those being:
* This does not include the early Milwaukee or Baltimore teams
Wright & Ditson
Draper & Maynard
Additionally, back in 2001-2002, I was asked to provide support to a research project sponsored by the Baseball Hall of Fame that looked at identifying the manufacturers of major league uniforms. In addition to the information above, that project yielded information/data on the following teams from this period.
The Brooklyn Dodgers
The Cleveland Naps/Indians
This leaves us with these teams unaccounted for:
The Cincinnati Reds
The Philadelphia Phillies
The St. Louis Browns
Combining this, the MEARS Census, and my information, I now have data on 13 of 16 teams. The Cooperstown information also provides corroborating evidence on the manufacturers with additional images of the manufacturers tagging. What all of this does is provide a template and data that can be used for trend analysis and the basis to support assumptions on the remaining clubs. Taking this a step further, I also consider information contained in period manufacturer’s literature. For example, the 1913 Spalding Baseball Uniform Catalog contains some very insightful information, specifically relevant are these passages:
“The Pittsburgh Team, for instance, when placing their 1912 order, called our attention to the fact that it was the thirteenth consecutive order for the entire team that they had placed with Spalding.”
“Fourteen of the sixteen teams in the in the two big leagues we outfitted complete last year and have outfitted most of them since they were organized.”
In looking back at the various references I have noted so far, I can find examples of both the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Sox having worn non-Spalding offerings in the way of local/regional suppliers Wright & Ditson and Horace Partridge. As such, for at least the period of 1913 and prior, I would consider Spalding to have been a likely supplier of uniforms to the Reds, Phillies, and Browns. For the period just prior to the 1920’s, I would not be surprised to see Goldsmith (a local Cincinnati firm) as a supplier of the Cincinnati Reds as by the early 1920s, Goldsmith advertising literature indicates that they have been a supplier of uniforms to the major and minor leagues.
Wilson also becomes a more visible player in the period just prior to the 1920s. In 1916, Ashland Manufacturing was renamed the Thomas E. Wilson Company and the Hetzinger Knitting Mills was purchased by Wilson to facilitate the manufacture athletic uniforms. This seems to show up in the data I have collected as both White Sox and Cubs uniforms can be found with Wilson manufacturing tags as early as the general period of 1916-1917. The time frame for these uniforms was ascertained by a combination of the players involved and on the style of uniforms. Wilson, like the previous mentioned Gold Smith Company, was home town based for the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago.
At this point, based on a variety of sources, I am able to look at uniforms from the period of 1900-1919 with some informed basis as to both known and likely manufacturers as well as what that period tagging should look like. Next, let’s turn our attention to the uniform itself and what we might expect to see with respect to number issued or available. This is important to understand for this time frame as it helps to explain why so few exist today. For this I have focused my attention on what contemporary information indicates.
Requests by the Base Ball Players Fraternity from Baseball Magazine, January 1914. Eighth: Every club shall furnish each player with two complete uniforms, exclusive of shoes. The player shall make a deposit of $30 therefore, which shall be returned to him at the end of the season or the termination of his contract, upon the surrender of the uniforms by him to the club. The words “complete uniforms” shall be construed to mean two pairs of trousers, two shirts, two belts, two caps, stockings as required, and a coat or sweater.
The response to this request, also seen in Baseball Magazine in March of 1914 reads:
The players were successful in having most of their requests granted. This meant more for the Commission than giving away in principle, for it means that much money will have to be spent to live tip to their part of the agreement. It may be seen how much it will cost the magnates when it is remembered that in such a small matter as that of uniforms the magnates agreed to furnish two uniforms a season to the ball players free of charge. As there are 20 to 25 players on a team, one can figure what it will cost them at $15 a suit. Forty suits is about the smallest number that any club can squeeze along with, which means $600. Every club has for its players a home suit and a road uniform. It was brought out that only the National League had failed to buy the uniforms for the players. This will mean a saving of at least $30 for each player in the National League a season.
I consider this pricing information to be fairly accurate because the 1913 Spalding uniform catalog lists the price for a complete suit of professional quality (Grade O) to be $15.00 or $12.50 when ordering for a complete team. The 1913 catalog is also a valuable tool in that it contains fabric samples that can used for comparison.
Getting back to the uniforms, for this general period, it appears that clubs were on the hook for one home and one road uniform. This changed over time with the number increasing and period information confirms this as well. As such, we should expect to see clubs reusing uniforms or carrying them over from season to season. This too is something that period images will confirm and is corroborated in Dr. Harold Seymour’s “Baseball: The Golden Age. “Poorer clubs like the St. Louis Cardinals might make the same set do for two seasons.” (VOL II, page 128).
Based on the reference library and evaluation tools I have assembled, which includes UV lighting, a light table, and a digital microscope, I feel I have shown I am capable of providing an informed opinion on jerseys dating as far back as the 1901-1907 time frame (See article titled A 1901-1907 Jimmy Collins Jersey by MEARS, MEARS On Line). This jersey was found to be problematic because of the fabrics used, being physically inconsistent with period images, and signs of alteration. Additionally, in an article titled Imagery Analysis of an Early 20th Century New York Giants Home Jersey, I was able to offer an informed opinion on and date a jersey to the 1903-1905 timeframe. My point being, with these two examples, is not only have I obtained a reasonable amount of information with respect to the manufacturers, but I have also established a solid methodology grounded in a multi-discipline approach to gather, assess, and interpret the information.
With all this being said, “how can you go about looking at items from the early part of the 20th Century when the MEARS jersey census only features less than a dozen major league level uniforms from the period of 1900-1920?” I do this utilizing a multi-disciplined approach, leveraging data and information beyond that contained in the MEARS jersey census, with both a consistent methodology and supporting technology to reach and convey an objective and informed opinion.
You may be wondering why did go through such lengths to answer this question in the form of an article. First because it presented me an opportunity to share what I think is some insightful information on the subject. Secondly, the e-mail was unsigned and from an address I am not familiar with so no direct reply was provided. If you sent this question, this article constitutes my response. I hope you have found it satisfactory. Lastly, because I have once again been asked to evaluate and offer an opinion on such a period piece. This time it is a 1908 Fred Tenny New York Giants road jersey and I have included that evaluation at the conclusion of this article. Over the years, including very recently, I remain amazed and disappointed at the lack of actual work put into evaluating items from this period and presenting those findings to the collecting public. The focus is clearly more on promoting the item and not an objective process that the buyer can follow and consider for themselves.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com
SUBJECT: 1908 Fred Tenney New York Giants Road Jersey
For the purpose of evaluation and description, this jersey is referred to as a 1908 Fred Tenny New York Giants road 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:
Dating the Jersey: The offered jersey is without any sort of year identification nor is there a manufacturer’s label remaining. The name “Tenney” is found sewn through the first fold of the collar in straight stitch embroidery.
Baseball references provide that Fred Tenney played for the New York Giants only in 1908 and 1909 so we have a two year range to begin with. I believe this offered jersey dates originally to the 1908 season based on the style of NY crest embroidered on the left sleeve. This is not a carry over shirt from the 1907 season based on style and the fact that Tenney was with the Boston Braves in 1907. Period images also show the Giants on the road with this style logo in 1908. Year specific attribution can further be made by locating images of players like Joe McGinnity who was with the Giants in 1908, but not 1909. Images of the NY Giants on the road in 1909 show a different style NY on the left sleeve. This does not mean the offered jersey may not have been worn in 1909 as well as period images show the Giants did carry over jerseys from one to the next. (PLATES I-III)
Size: The jersey is without any sort of size identification. I do not have access to any period Giants publications at this time, but more modern references list Fred Tenney at 5’ 9”, 150lbs. The jersey measures and appears to be in size 38-40 range. As such I would consider this jersey to be appropriate for Fred Tenney.
Manufacturer/Construction: The jersey is without any sort of manufacturers label remaining. The wear to the rear of the neck line is such that no signs of remnants can be found. The offered jersey is constructed with set-in sleeves and a sun or raised “V neck collar”. The sleeves are full length and are not the type with detachable extensions. The weave of the fabric when seen under a digital microscope is tight and typical of a high or professional grade fabric from the period. For the purpose of evaluation, the fabric on the offered jersey was compared to the swatch sample from the 1913 Spalding catalog in the same color (103) in the grade of M (minor league). You will notice the weave in the offered jersey is tighter and more defined as should be expected. (PLATE IV)
It is also very likely that Spalding was the manufacturer of the jersey to begin with. This same 1913 Spalding uniform fabric catalog also includes this information:
“Fourteen of the sixteen teams in the in the two big leagues we outfitted complete last year and we have outfitted most of them since they were organized.”
Other period Giants uniforms that can be found to have been manufactured by Spalding include:
1905 George Wiltse Pants
1907 Giants Road jersey
1911 John Murray Road Jersey
1912 Fred Snodgrass Home Jersey
As such, I felt this was fair comparison by manufacturer and product quality.
The NY team logo on the left sleeve is embroidered in navy blue thread directly into the jersey and features a flannel swatch to protect the back side of the embroidery sewn on the inside. All of these materials appear to be original and period correct.
Use and Wear: The general use and wear would fall into the heavy to excessive category. Use of this jersey for more than one season would not be atypical either at the professional or minor league level. The fabric of the body of the jersey shows signs of stress and wear to the body and the anchor stitching. The collar construction has separated at the crown of the collar and there is a tear in the fabric at the top of button line. There is also a 6” tear in the fabric of the left elbow. Only two of the original buttons remain. The shirt features mild spot staining and holes in the fabric (most average about 5mm in width), however the jersey remains in remarkable condition for one that is over one hundred years old.
History/Provenance: No provenance was offered with this jersey at the time of this evaluation.
Evaluation Findings: Based on my physical examination of this jersey and supporting data it is my opinion that this jersey posses all of the characteristics you would expect to find in a 1908 New York Giants road jersey, likely manufactured by Spalding, for use by Fred Tenny. For Pre-1987 jerseys, the MEARS grading metric begins at base grade of 10 with five (5) major categories for consideration when looking to codify deductions. I found these reasons to deduct points for this offered jersey:
– 1.5 (Missing 3 buttons, .5 for each): Category I
– .5 for minor staining: Category V
– 2.5 for holes, tears, or moth holes: Category V. More points were not deducted as these do no affect the display of the jersey (given its age) in any significant manner.
As such the final grade for this jersey with MEARS hologram number 310765 is A 5.5.
MEARS Auth, LLC
Enclosures: PLATES I-IV