Unlike the item from the upcoming Robert Edwards Auction that I featured last week (The 1927 Wilcy Moore Road uniform), there is no great mystery about this jersey…a 1953 Stan Musial St. Louis Cardinals Road Jersey. It seems fitting that this jersey is a model of consistency with respect to what you should expect to see in a Musial road jersey from 1953. How do I know? I compared it to a 1953 Musial jersey currently on display at the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum. I also compared it other period Rawlings products including a 1951 St. Louis Browns Road Jersey (for Talon Zipper style) and a 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers Road Jersey (for year manufacturers tagging style and laundry instruction tagging).
This Musial jersey is perfect in every respect, from the hometown Rawlings tagging to the fully functional Talon zipper. Hometown of St. Louis and fully functional do more than describe this jersey…They describe Stan Musial. 1953 was the midpoint of his 22 year career…all spent with St. Louis…after 11 seasons in the major leagues, Stan was still able to hit .337 (something he would only approach once more in 1958) and lead the league in on base percentage (.437) and doubles (53). As a kid growing up in a National League city, I got used to seeing road gray jerseys and have always preferred them for teams not wearing pinstripes such as the Cubs. When ever I would talk about how great of a hitter I thought my hometown hero Pete Rose was, I was quickly reminded by my dad that I had not seen Musial play.
It has only been through time and a greater appreciation for the game, the players, and their artifacts that I can now begin to see this jersey for all that it is; an honest reflection of the man who wore it. I mentioned above the word consistency…Musial finished his career with 3,630 base hits…in picking this apart you will see that 1815 of them were at home and 1815 of them were on the road….consistency. The fabric of this jersey shows even and consistent wear throughout and you have to look at it very closely to appreciate its age. The glue on the back of the numeral “6” shows just the perfect signs of aging and cracking….much the same as Musial probably did at the midpoint of his career. Musial appeared in 157 games that year, the single season most of his career…yet nothing short of amazing…just like this jersey.
Unlike the Wilcy Moore uniform, Rob Lifson sent me this one just to look at and consider it for an article if I thought it was worth while…Have there been older Musial jerseys on the market….yes there have been…have there been rarer styles or ones from MVP seasons… yes there have been…but what then makes this jersey so special in my opinion? Condition and fully matching and meeting expectations… the exact same things that Stan the Man exhibited in the year he wore this. The colors of the yellow embroidery in the bat and red soutache piping are as vibrant and striking as Musial must have been as he logged his final 200 hit season in 1953.
If you read “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story” as told to Bob Broeg, you’ll find out some other very special things about Musial, St. Louis and baseball on the road in 1953…The Cardinals were very nearly headed for Milwaukee and it was not until February 20th of 1953 that Anheuser-Busch paid $3,750,000 for the Cardinals, their nine farm clubs, five minor league parks and a two story office building (p.155 Musial/Broeg).
This is a jersey that almost never was. 1953 was the last year of two major league clubs in St. Louis as the Browns would be off the Baltimore the next year.
Another thing I took away from reading about Musial and Cardinals in 1953 was the soft undertones of a career in closing…Musial’s power numbers were down in 1952 from the 1951 effort and he got off to a terrible start in 1953 hitting just .251 by June 17th. There is a wonderful article in the May 20th 1953 edition of the Albuquerque Journal titled “Who’s Greater? Mantle or Musial.” A sub headline in this column by Sports Editor J.D. Kailer reads “One is Coming Up, Other Going Down” and Kailer goes on to state that “We’ve seen Musial in his prime (1946-47-1948) and that Musial is “slowing down.” The May 7th 1953 edition of the Nevada State Journal highlights “Stan the Man Not In Grove in Hitting Yet” and “Musial Shrugs Off Slipping Charges.” What happened? Supportive and positive cards and letters from Musial fans poured in; “Stan the Man” found his grove and ended the season at .337 (.385 in the last 101 games).
Looking at the 1953 campaign against the backdrop of “his prime” as eluded to J.D. Kailer:
1953: Games played 157. More than any year from the “prime period”.
1953: Batting average .337. Batting average for the “prime period” was .351.
1953: Home Runs 30. Average home runs per season for the “prime period” was 25.
1953: Base hits 200. Average base hits per season for the “prime period” was 214.
1953: RBIs 113. Average RBIs per season for the “prime period” was 110.
You may be asking why my focus has been to a large degree on Musial in 1953 and not the 1953 jersey. The jersey really “is what it is”… But in my opinion, 1953 was the greatest season of Musial’s Hall of Fame career, and if you look at just the numbers, actually was his peak as player. I say greatest, not based on sterile numbers alone, but what he did in order to achieve them and finish the way that he did. It was a critical time and place for the organization, the city of St. Louis and their baseball fans….
If the Cardinals could be for sale and the Browns actually moved, what could St. Louis baseball fan’s count on and hang their hopes on…? Stan Musial in 1953. This jersey will certainly do well for the consigner because “it is what it is,” but my hope is that the new owner will see it and appreciate it for all it is and all it represents. Don’t just put it behind glass and think about value in terms of dollars and cents… but think about and appreciate the value of the player to the game and the city of St. Louis in 1953…
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.