Brief History of the Boston Bee Jerseys & caps from 1936-1940
As authenticators, we have been privileged to have access to thousands of game worn jerseys. Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, and the team’s associated with the greats of the game routinely cross my desk at the MEARS headquarters. After a while the designs and logo become familiar and easily recognizable, but on very rare occasion, a unique mix of design and color catches my eye and causes a moment of pause. Recently we were asked to examine a truly rare item. For Mastro Auction April 2006 sale, MEARS was asked to examine the 1939 Boston Bees jersey and cap which came direct from the estate of former pitcher Jim Turner. Detailed photos and a summary of the jersey are the topic of this article. Also we examined an original 1940 Bees cap being offered in the April sale by Robert Edward Auctions. These items were the first ever examined by MEARS.
Starting out as the Red Caps in 1876, Boston has enjoyed a long history with many colorful nicknames. Name predating the Bees included:
Boston Red Caps (1876-1882)
Boston Beaneaters (1883-1906)
Boston Doves (1907-1910)
Boston Rustlers (1911-1911)
Boston Braves (1912-1935)
Boston Bees 1936-1940
This brief history of the Bees is recording in the Baseball Almanac as…
“November 26, 1935, The National League takes over the bankrupt, last-place Boston Braves franchise after several failed attempts to buy the club. The league takes over only temporarily, until matters can be straightened out.”
“January 30, 1936: The new owners of the Boston Braves ask newspapermen to pick a new nickname for the team from suggestions made by fans. They choose the Bees, but the name will not catch on, and it will be scrapped after the 1940 season.”
The Bees never finished higher than 5th, but never last.
1936 Boston Bees finished 6th, 71-83
1937 Boston Bees finished 5th, 79-73
1938 Boston Bees finished 5th, 77-75
1939 Boston Bees finished 7th, 63-88
1940 Boston Bees finished 7th, 65-87
Back Ground of the 1939 Boston Bees Jersey
In recent months, game used items from the Boston Bees have entered the market place. In honor of these rare items, MEARS is highlighting some of the items we have been asked to examine.
On April 21st, 2006, the first documented sale of an all-original 1939 Boston Bees with direct player provenance took place. It came directly from the estate of former player Jim Turner.
Background history of Jim Turner (ML career 1937-45)
Born on August 6, 1903 in Antioch, TN as James Riley Turner and nicknamed “Milkman Jim” due to his off-season profession as dairy farmer. Standard biographic information:
Weight: 185 lbs.
Jim Turner made his major league debut on April 30th, 1937 and pitched his final game on September 13, 1945.
According to www.baseballlibrary.com,
“In 1937, 33-year-old rookie Jim Turner and 30-year-old rookie Lou Fette each won 20 games for the fifth-place Boston Bees (Braves). Turner’s 2.38 ERA and 24 complete games led the NL. At one point he threw 31 consecutive scoreless innings; he and Fette tied for the league lead with five shutouts. Relying on control and a low curveball, he remained in Boston’s rotation through 1939, then went 14-7 for the 1940 World Champion Reds. He relieved for the Yankees until he was forty-two, saving a league-high ten games in his final season, 1945. “He knows all there is to know about pitching,” said skipper Joe McCarthy. After managing in the minors for three years, he served as a pitching coach for the Yankees (1949-59, 1966-73) and Reds (1961-65). He was credited with developing Vic Raschi into a winner and convincing Ed Lopat that his inability to win in the spring was 100% mental. In all, he spent over a half century in a pro baseball uniform.”
Jim was a selected to the 1938 All-Star game. On December 6th, 1939 Jim was traded to the Cincinnati Reds where he played until 1942. During that season he was traded to the American League Yankees where he finished his career.
Jim Turner passed away on November 29th, 1998 and the jersey remained in the care of his family. Recently the family chose Mastro Auctions to handle the auction and the first complete 1939 Boston Bees jersey with provenance entered the hobby.
The lot description as it appears in the catalog read:
“After logging a combined 34 mound triumphs over his first two seasons, late bloomer (by baseball standards, anyway), Jim Turner—as well as his Boston Bees hive-mates—saw things go awry in 1939. In sole possession of the Senior Circuit’s top spot as late as May 6, The Bees endured an 8-18 May swoon, relegating the team as an also-ran early in the season. While Turner was to only win four of 15 pitching decisions that year, he did collect 13 hits—tops among Boston hurlers—including his lone career home run. Offered here is an incredibly well-kept Boston Bees complete game worn home ensemble donned by Turner during the 1939 season—his last before departing for greener pastures in Cincinnati. This is a double diamond rarity in that it was the last home uniform of any Major League team to sport the city’s full name and, more importantly, this particular style was employed for just one season. Cream-colored flannel, the button-down jersey features “BOSTON” arched across the chest in red-on-blue felt characters and Turner’s number “23” applied to the back in identical fashion. The original 3-1/2″ x 5″ “1839 – 1939 Baseball Centennial” patch adorns the left sleeve and, situated within the collar, a “Horace Partridge Co.” local manufacturer’s label is accompanied by a felt strip tag with “Turner” embroidered in red cursive. Red and blue trim comprises the sleeve endings, and there are six holes (as made) under each arm to facilitate ventilation. Graded A-8.5 by MEARS. The pants have a four-button fly, six (faded) blue-colored belt hoops, two cotton-lined back pockets (each with a button) and red-white-and-blue piping lining the outer portion of each leg. A felt strip tag within the cotton-lined waistline’s interior reads “Turner”—which is chain stitched in red cursive. Included, as well, are Turner’s right-handed, signature model fielder’s glove, a pair of wool stirrups (with red and blue stripes) and a pair of black leather shoes with six metal cleats affixed to the bottom of each. Turner’s wool Bees cap sports a white top, a red brim and a red-on-blue felt “B” in the appropriate spot. Within is a leather sweatband, a felt strip tag with an embroidered notation of “Turner” and a vintage, thick plastic crown support which preserves the cap’s shape. (An early example of a stylized interior batting helmet). The elements of the uniform show moderate wear, with no signs of repair or alteration. Two of the buttons on the jersey have been replaced, and one of the buttons on the pants is cracked.
Tbe lot description addressed the historical and physical attributes of the jersey and according to the MEARS jersey database compiled by MEARS, 2 other Boston Bee jerseys have been sold via auctions. This was the first Bees jersey examined and graded by MEARS with no other Boston Bees jerseys found in the MEARS jersey index (population report). Neither of the two additional jerseys were complete or in the same immaculate condition.
Other jerseys auctioned:
Lelands, May, 2002 sold Boston Bees, Horace Partridge, 1938 Home, Mike Balas
Mastro Net, March, 2000, sold Boston Bees, Horace Partridge, 1940 Home Al Javery
This helped serve as trend analysis to establish Horace Partridge as a manufacturer of Boston Bees jerseys. Also the styles were confirmed by the website, Dressed to the Nines, a history of the baseball uniform.
Physical Description of Jim Turners 1939 Boston Bees uniform and cap
Jim Turner’s 1939 Boston Bees home jersey was manufactured by the Horace Partridge Co. Braves jerseys have been found in the hobby manufactured by this company spanning the years 1924-54. The home jersey was issued in the traditional 6 button down style. 3 original tan buttons were found with three replacements.
The period Horace Partridge tag is found in the collar. No size tag or chain stitching is found. The player I.D. is found as “TURNER” chainstitched to a strip tag and sewn into the collar. No year tag is present, but the original and hard to find 1939 centennial patch is present on left sleeve.
A very unique font style of “BOSTON” is applied in 3 3/8” red on blue felt across the front of the white jersey. The sleeves are trimmed Red White and Blue and along with the original 1939 centennial sleeve patch, makes for a very visual patriotic jersey style.
Jim Turner’s number 23 appears on the reverse in 7 ¼” red on blue felt numbering.
The jersey is complete with pants manufactured by the Horace Partridge Co., cleats, stirrups, and glove.
The matching cap was manufactured also by the Horace Partridge Co.. The design of the cap is consistent with the color scheme of the jersey. The base color is white with red brim trimmed in red and blue piping with red top button. The front field is adorned with the red on blue felt “B”. Turner is chain stitched in red thread on a white strip tag. In Turner’s own hand, 1937 JT is written in blue ink. A large Partridge label is found inside the cap. To further chronicle his career, 20-victory game used baseballs were also included in the auction.
20 victory balls spanning from 1937-39 were saved by Jim Turner. The Mastro Auction writers said it best when the described the lot,
“Perhaps Jim Turner’s 1940 departure took the sting out of the Boston Bees—who coincidentally changed their name back to the Boston Braves (as it had been prior to 1936) and who finished in seventh place in ’40, ’41 and ’42. Turner, who debuted at 33 and won 38 games over three seasons in Beantown, was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he won 20 games over two-plus seasons. Offered here is collection of reminders that could only hail from a treasure as mountainous as the keepsake arrangement amassed by Turner, himself. Here are ONL (Frick) baseballs actually used in 19 of Turner’s 20 triumphs with the Queen City franchise. Each is carefully detailed with the hurler’s handwritten notations of the particular game’s date, score and opponent—as well as an indication of Turner’s running win total. The 1940 spheres include inscribed balls from each of “The Milkman’s” 14 triumphs, including what was likely a satisfying reminder of a victory over his former employer (inscribed, “#9 August 4 vs. Boston, 12-9 – worked last 5-2/3 innings”). The ’41 assortment includes baseballs employed in wins numbered “2” through “6”—which included three victories over Philadelphia and two more at the expense of Boston. The balls show expected game soiling, and each bears a uniform coat of shellac.”
The hobby owes Mr. Jim Turner a great deal of gratitude as his practice of saving momentos from his career served as a time capsule to chronicle a portion of the history of the short lived Boston Bees franchise.
Robert Edward Auctions 1936 Boston Bees game used cap
Ending April 29th, 2006, Robert Edward Auctions is offering an all original 1936 Boston Bees game worn cap from the collection of Ray Meuller (lot 1033). The Horace Partridge Co. manufactured the cap. The deep blue color with the navy on gold front “B” makes for a visually impressive design. Coupled with its extraordinary condition, this first year cap is both a rarity and a staple for advanced game worn cap
collectors. Few examples exist and another example may not enter the hobby soon.
1940-41 Boston Bees jersey
Mastro Auction offered this circa 1940-41 jersey in their August, 2006 sale.
Per their catalog description, “dubbed “Lief” after the Icelandic explorer
with a similar surname, pitcher Dick Errickson toiled for five seasons for
skipper Casey Stengel’s Boston National League squad. The New York-Penn
League’s 1937 ERA champion (2.43), Errickson was summoned from the Scranton
Miners—a team which, incidentally, ceased operations following that season.
Presented here is a Boston Bees or Braves home uniform worn by the hurler
during the 1940 or 1941 season. Over five seasons with the Bees , Errickson
logged a 35-46 mark for some less-than-stellar teams. The offered garments
include: 1) Game Worn Jersey – a cream-colored flannel, button-down jersey
with an Olde English, “B” sewn to the chest in navy-blue felt, and
Errickson’s number “19” applied to the back in like fashion. Within the
collar, a “Horace Partridge” local manufacturer’s label is accompanied by a
strip tag with “Errickson” embroidered in red cursive. There are six holes
(as made) under each arm to facilitate ventilation. Moderate wear. Graded
A-9 by MEARS”
Babe Ruth jerseys will always garner auction catalog covers and capture the most media hype. But, items from forgotten franchises like the Boston Bees are very important to help collectors remember the teams and the players which formed the foundation that the game was built and fostered the environment which allowed the game to prosper and grow. And, to a few lucky collectors, they will own a one of a kind jersey or cap, which captures the true essence of collecting.
Troy R. Kinunen