For me, I still excited each and every time I come home from work to find a FEDEX package from Milwaukee waiting for me. I was contacted by an individual with some questions about a Clemente jersey and was asked if I could take a look at it. Over the phone, the shirt sounded wonderful. This does not mean we have changed our position on giving verbal opinions, but rather where in regards to my questions asked so that I could begin to gather reference and background information before the jersey arrived. In all cases, for anything I look at or am being asked an opinion on, it all goes through the MEARS home office in Milwaukee for any number of reasons. They include:
1. Ensuring they are tracked and documented in the various data bases we have established.
2. That any final letter produced is done in the same manner as other submissions.
3. Ensuring that other individual’s at MEARS have a chance to examine the item as well.
This jersey is what I would refer to as a “picture perfect shirt.” By that I mean that if all you had to go by was photos that often are seen in auction catalogs or on E-Bay, you might be very pleased with what you saw. This underscores once again why we don’t give “verbals” on items we have not actually examined. What I felt very good about in the end, was providing a letter and associated references back to the individual that both showed my work as well as gave him what I feel is a solid point of departure to base further purchase considerations of off.
My hope is that this article will offer some insights on what to look for and more importantly, what questions to ask or things to think about when you are looking at that “picture perfect jersey” on E-Bay or in an auction.
Below is the content I sent back on the jersey. The submitter’s name has been edited out.
SUBJECT: Summary Statement and Observations to be Used and Recorded with Final MEARS Letter for the 1961 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates Road jersey submitted by XXXX XXXXXXXX.
This jersey is identified for the purpose of discussion as a 1961 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates Road jersey. This is due to a combination of factors involving the manufacturer and the jersey style. The jersey is identified as a MacGregor jersey by the 1961-1967 green manufacturers tag in the collar. MacGregor is a correct manufacturer for Pittsburgh Pirates road jerseys from the mid 1950s through 1967. The green tag variation appears in 1961. You will also find examples of the blue MacGregor tag as well in 1961 as this is a transition year. This jersey is also without any front numeral as those where not added by the Pirates until 1962. This combination places the jersey to 1961 for discussion and evaluation purposes.
With this as a point of departure, there are a number of things you would and would not expect to see in a 1961 Pittsburgh Pirates road jersey manufactured in 1961 for issuance and wear by Roberto Clemente. In the course of examination using photographic references for style, photographic references of other Pirates jerseys from 1961 and the surrounding years, other jerseys manufactured by MacGregor in 1961 and the surrounding years, I noticed these inconsistencies:
1. The Macgregor manufacture’s tag, while the correct style for the period, has been sewn through both collar folds and sewn with only single over and back stitching. Both of which are problematic. To help illustrate the stitching pattern issue, I have provided a full color to scale copy of the following jerseys in order from top to bottom:
1952 NY Giants Road
1951 Pittsburgh Pirates Home
1961 Cincinnati Reds Road
The Clemente Jersey
1965 Washington Senators Home
1965 Detroit Tigers Road
This sampling of manufacturers characteristics spans two decades, five teams, and includes both home and road jerseys. In addition, you should expect to see that this manufacturer’s label was sewn only through the first collar fold. This is the case with these sample jerseys and other period MacGregor jerseys I have seen or owned. The tag on the Clemente jersey has been sewn through both collar folds. This point is further amplified by noting the 1951 Pirates jersey example above. Since the manufacturer’s label on that jersey is only sewn through the first collar fold, yet the collar stitching runs through the tag, this proves the tag was applied before the collar was completed and closed.
2. The Clemente jersey is without a year/set tag. You should expect to find a single Flag tag reading Set 1 or Set 2 1961 in the lower front tail. There are no signs of open seams in the areas it should be found leading me to believe it may never have been present.
3. There are laundry instructions when there should not be any. The one in this jersey is what you would expect to see around 1963 for MacGregor, Spalding and Rawlings jerseys. For MacGregor jerseys of this later time frame, while it would have featured the same green MacGregor manufacturers tag, would have also included a larger combined Set/year tag that features the word MacGregor.
4. The buttons appear to be the correct MacGregor cream/darker color two hole style, but there are only six buttons and six button holes when there should be seven when compared to other Pirates and MacGregor jerseys from this period.
5. Size. A size 42 jersey would be considered appropriate for Roberto Clemente in 1961. Other examples in the MEARS data base show:
1960 Clemente Pirates Road 42
1962 Clemente Pirates Home 42
1967 Clemente Pirates Home 42
1967 Clemente Pirates Road 42
However, even accounting for the trim cut of vest style jerseys, this jersey appears much more narrow at the lower chest than the tagged size 42 would indicate. This can be seen by laying the jersey over another MacGregor jersey that is a size 40 from the same period as I did. I would estimate this jersey to be closer in actual size to a size 38-40. What you should expect to see is that even though the upper portion of the vest style jersey is in fact much narrower, the lower portion of the chest area (below the arm hole) will begin to take on the taper of a full body jersey. This characteristic is not readily apparent in small sized vest jerseys as the variance in overall width is not that dramatic. This can better be seen by looking at vests that size 44 and larger.
Exceptions to this will be found in those styles of vest that have had an almost durene fabric used as a center side panel such as those of the Cleveland Indians in the late 1960s. In cases where the application of the manufacturer’s size tag appears to be other than what you would expect to see, comparative sizing with other manufacturers products from the same period as was the case here, will often bear out problematic sizing issues.
This all has bearing and ties back to the importance of how the manufactures tag is applied to the neck area. If a manufacturer’s tag has been reapplied to jersey, as I suspect it has in the case, the reasons are because the original may not have been the correct manufacturer or the size for the player the jersey is being represented to have been issued to. To apply this manufacturers tag to collar in the manner you would expect to see (sewn through only collar fold), this tag would have to have been applied before the neck/collar area was closed.
To recreate this effect, that area would have had to been opened up, the tag applied, and then resewn. This is very difficult to do without leaving signs that this was done.
6. The back numbers appear to be of slightly different fabrics in that the “1” is some what stiffer material/backing than the numeral “2”. While this is subjective as I am without the means to do actual fabric/material analysis, it should also be noted objectively that the thread used to join the black felt on the “1” to the gold felt is a different shade than the thread used to make the same layering on the numeral “2”. This can best be seen by folding the fabric between the numeral and having the numeral actually side by side. In addition, the numeral “2” is 7 1/4 and the numeral “1” is 7 1/2. While slight variations in numeral size are not unheard of, they are mentioned here
These observations with respect to this shirt as compared to other examples of Clemente jerseys, Pirates jerseys from the same period and other MacGregor jerseys from this period as well with respect to manufacturers characteristics would render me unable to authenticate this jersey as a Roberto Clemente 1961 Pittsburgh Pirates road jersey. This jersey was submitted without any photographic references, documentation, exemplars, or provenance to be used in the evaluation process.
Should information exist in the form of the previously mentioned examples and can be used to explain these issues that I consider problematic, I will gladly re-evaluate this jersey with that information at no additional cost.
It should be noted that Mr. XXXXXX submitted this jersey for evaluation as a prospective buyer and, is to my knowledge, not the owner of this jersey at this time or anytime in the past.
MEARS Auth, LLC
Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services