I am writing this after returning from the Chicago Sun Times show, which was held this weekend of November 16th through 18th. The show provided some new inventory and a wealth of MEARS research materials. It has been my 20th anniversary trip to a Chicago Land show during the month of November. I have passed up chances for Deer Hunting, Thanksgiving holiday weekends, and time off to attend this show. With many chances at leisure, the attraction of the show still ruled my late November weekend. The Sun Times show is popular as many sports icons attend which allows collectors a chance to have items signed in person. As a game used bat collector, I had the chance to speak with the players about the game used items in my collection. I also had a detailed discussion with Tony Gwynn about the “bad” game used bat that was in my collection. More on that to follow:

With my current duties as an evaluator for MEARS and as a buying agent with Dave Bushing for the For Sale site, walking the show now serves dual purposes.

As a buyer, there was very little game used/worn merchandise on the floor. Dave and I did purchase a 1964 Detroit Tigers Road common players flannel jersey. Dave also purchased a 1930’s Rogers Hornsby oversized H&B signature model presentation bat. A few other odds and ends rounded out our buying trip. Although poor in merchandise, the trip was rich in items that could be used by MEARS for evaluation purposes.

1914 Spalding professional model bat info

Long time show favorite Tony Bussineau sold Dave Bushing an oversized b&w photo of 1914 Chicago Cubs player Milo Allison. The image appears to be game action and by the angle Milo is holding the bat, the 1914 era Spalding logo with players name can clearly be seen. The “SPALDING” single line block lettering with the single line block lettering of a player’s name can easily be discerned. Actually, it is the clearest 1910-20 Spalding game used bat photo I have examined. With its discovery, it further cements the usage of Spalding bats by the big leaguers during this era.

1953 & 1956 Green Bay Packers color team photos

Dealer Tom Murphy, owner of Title Town Legends and a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Board of Directors offered for sale two color photographs I have never seen before. The first was a color photo taken from an original negative of the 1953 Packers squad. The photo was dated as 1953 due to the inclusion of Tony Canadeo, his final year in the NFL. (#3, back row) The image allowed me to view the only known color image of this team photo. The use of color allowed me to see the blue and gold color scheme utilized by the Packers during 1953. Their jerseys had consisted of blue and gold combinations since the 1930s and this color sample served as visual documentation. The photo clearly allowed me to see several distinct jersey characteristics, which will be helpful for future Packers jersey identification and evaluation. The visual characteristics of the jersey were:

1953 Packers Jersey visual characteristics

1. crew neck collar
2. use of blue and gold color scheme
3. 2 gold sleeve stripes
4. blue pants
5. blue and gold stirrups
6. black shoes
7. solid blue body shells
8. long sleeves with no numbers
9. gold belts

The second photo provided by Tom Murphy was the 1956 Packers color team photo. This photo was historically important as it was Bart Starr’s rookie photo and found the Packers switching to the first green & gold jersey. Although technically considered “green” the jerseys still had a blue hue, although more green than the 1953 jerseys.

1956 Packers Jersey visual characteristics

1. crew neck collar
2. use of green and gold color scheme
3. 3 sleeve stripes, narrow-wide-narrow
4. gold pants
5. green and gold stirrups
6. black shoes
7. solid green body shells
8. long sleeves with TV numerals on shoulder

Both images will be quite helpful when identifying 1950s Packers jerseys. In addition to the team photos, MEARS also added a great color shot of coach Lombardi wearing his Packers coaches jacket. Lombardi and staff have been photographed wearing this style jacket. With a detailed image, MEARS was able to view the embroidery of the “Green Bay Packers” on the chest, note the snap buttons, identify its nylon materials, and note the elastic cuffs.

Another dealer offered a crystal clear image of Walter Payton. This image hit the trifecta of imagery analysis as it provided an evaluator a detailed close-up image of the Wilson helmet, jersey, and sideline jacket.

Examination of the battle scarred helmet allowed us to observe the following:

Payton Helmet visual characteristics

1. type of Wilson shell
2. placement of rivets in accordance with the helmet logo, facemask, Wilson helmet pad, and chin strap
3. style of chin strap
4. style of face cage
5. type of mask clips and screws
6. type of ear pads

Jersey visual characteristics

1. sleeve stripes
2. mesh vs. durene
3. number font

Jacket visual characteristics

1. inclusion of zipper vs. button
2. knit materials
3. font on sleeves

Therefore, one image provided MEARS with 15 visual references, which will be permanently archived and made available to our evaluators.
The final event of the show came on Sunday when I went through the autograph line to have my bat signed by Tony Gwynn. I purchased the bat from Dave Bushing many years ago. When Dave offered it to me, it was love at first site. At the time, it was the earliest game used signature model bat I had seen of Tony Gwynn, and it was factory recorded. Per the H&B records, the bat was listed as,

“7/15/82 K55C, Natural Finish, 34 inches, 32 ounces, 12 pcs shipped, Hawaii Islanders”

In addition, the bat had #19 written on both ends, the bat had phenomenal use, ball marks, stitch marks, pinetar etc. Underneath the handle #19, appeared to be the uniform #12. (I have not be able to confirm, but my guess Gwynn was issued #12 with the Islanders or when he was first called up by the Padres)

Armed with a copy of the factory records, I waited for my turn in line with Gwynn. After handing the attendant the ticket, Tony grabbed the bat and began eyeballing it with suspicion. I placed the factory records carefully in front him, exposing the above line which was carefully highlighted in yellow to separate this bat’s orders from the others. Tony did not rush. He held the bat, examined the knob, handle, barrel stampings, and #19 on barrel end. He carefully inspected the length and without a ruler he correctly guessed its 34” length. He finally examined the Tony Gwynn facsimile barrel stampings. After what I felt was a serious evaluation of the bat, not rushed, he confidentially exclaimed,

“This is not my bat!” Huh. In a fatherly tone, he stated he did not order 34” bats, he never used a K55 model, and he did not have his signature on the bat during this timeframe. He told me he only used block letter bats during this season. This now became a classic case of player’s memory vs. factory records.

I attempted to begin to plead my case, but I could see that Mr. Gwynn’s mind had been made and damn the factory records. Although not what I expected, I did not want to press this man. The entire time Mr. Gwynn was calm, apologetic, thorough, and I believe genuine with his recollections. He sincerely and politely believed the bat wasn’t his, even in spite of factory records and documented player and use traits. But, in this evaluator’s opinion, he was wrong.

Player vs. H&B Factory records

When examining the H&B computer printed records, here is what is recorded for bats being sent to Tony Gwynn during this timeframe:

Gwynn: “ I did not order 34” bats”: Examination of the H&B factory records show that from April 16, 1982 through October 27th, 1982, Tony Gwynn placed 4 orders of 34” bats totally 30 bats.

Score: H&B shipping records 1, Player 0

Gwynn: “I never used a K55 model bat”: Additional examination of the H&B factory records indicate that the follow orders of bats were placed by Tony Gwynn as a K55 model:

10-26-81 K55
3-4-82 K55
4-16-82 K55
4-21-82 K55
5-26-82 K55
7-15-82 K55C
8-25-82 K55
9-24-82 K55
12-9-82 K55
2-9-83 K55
7-8-83 K55
8-12-83 K55C

During the same 1980-83 label period, H&B records show he was sent a total of 121 K55 model bats. It should be noted that only two of the orders were for K55C, the same as my bat. Tony is behind in the accuracy count.

Score: H&B shipping records 2, Player 0

Gwynn: “I never had my signature on Louisville Slugger bats until later in my career”: According to the book, “A Complete Reference Guide Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats” by Vince Malta, the records show:

First Signature Model: K55, shipped 3-4-82.

This supports both Tony Gwynn having a signature model during this timeframe and the ordering of the K55 model.

Final Score

H&B shipping records: 3, Player:0

After presenting my case, I had Tony Gwynn simply sign my bat with his signature. This was a very unique event as factory records were clearly in my favor, but the memory of the player was quite different. With the bat being a K55C measuring 34”, it matches the order 7-15-82 which was sent to the Islanders. Tony Gwynn made his major league debut on 7-19-82. Therefore, I feel this bat had a very strong possibility of being one of the very first bats used by Tony Gwynn in the big leagues. I ruled out the 34”, K55C order from 8-12-83 due to its flame treated finish, my bat was natural finish as per the July order. If any collectors have any knowledge of Gwynn and the association with #12, either Islanders or early Padres, please drop me a line at troy@mearsonline.com. After all the chaos, think I should demand my money back from Bushing?


Troy R. Kinunen