For me, one of the more enjoyable things about looking at an item and offering an opinion comes in the research required to date an item when obvious dating is not present. This was part of the process on an early 1930’s Lou Gerhig jersey I looked at some months back for SCP/Sothby’s. Below is the text of my letter and the main image is a graphic I created and provided with the letter.
Subject: Letter of Opinion c 1931 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Home Jersey
For the purpose of description and evaluation , this jersey is described as a c 1931 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Home Jersey. The basis for this description includes the jersey style with respect to general construction, player identification by outline of the numeral “4” on back, player name “L. Gehrig” chain stitched in red thread in collar, as well as the period manufacturers’ label (Spalding c 1915-1932). There is no NY logo on this home jersey.
1.Size: The jersey is without any size tag or applied indicator with respect to size. The jersey measures out to be between a size 44 and 46. This would be an appropriate size for a Gehrig jersey from this period. The lack of a size indicator in this period of a NY Yankees Spalding product should not be seen as negative trait as this is how other NY Yankees’ examples from the period can be seen: Specifically:
Grey Flannel Lot # 13, Lou Gehrig c1931 Road Jersey (May 2004)
Grey Flannel Lot # 1, Babe Ruth c 1932 Road Jersey (June 2005)
Richard Wolfers Lot #995, Lou Gehrig c 1934 Home Jersey (November 1993)
As a manufacturers’ characteristic, the lack of size annotation can be see in the following other Spalding products from the same relative frame:
Hunts Lot # 765, “Smith” St. Louis Cardinals 1930 Home Jersey (Feb 1998)
Mastro Lot # 1233, Roy Mahaffey Philadelphia A’s 1930 Home Jersey (Dec 2003)
Lelands Lot #45, Lou Gehrig Tour of Japan 1931 Home Jersey (Feb 1993)
Hunt’s Lot # 997, Jack Burns St. Louis Browns 1931-32 Home Jersey (Feb 2004)
Mastro Lot # 1236, Ed Baecht 1931Chicago Cubs Home Jersey (Dec 2003)
Hunt’s Lot # 992, Rick Ferrell St. Louis Browns 1932 Home Jersey (Feb 2004)
Lelands Lot # 70, John McGraw NY Giants 1932 Home Jersey (Feb 2003)
2. Manufacturer. The jersey is identified as a Spalding jersey by the manufacturers tag with a range of use for the tag variation from approximately 1915-1932. Around 1933 a tag appears in a different variation. Manufacturers tagging, especially with older pieces, should be seen as a guide to help establish a range and not as a matter of absolutes solely based on the tag. Spalding is also a known supplier of NY Yankees’ uniforms, Tour of Japan uniforms and a majority of major league clubs during this period as well.
3.Tagging. As mentioned, the only tagging in this jersey is the period Spalding manufacturer’s label. Supplemental “tagging” or player identification is provided in the form of “L. Gehrig” chain stitched in red thread in the collar. The supplemental tagging by player identification is consistent with other period examples by appliqué with respect to location, collar fold, and type of stitch.
4.Construction. The jersey features blue pinstripes that are approximately 1/8” in width and 1” in separation and their relevance is addressed later under imagery analysis. The size, spacing and manner in which the pinstripe is woven into the fabric is consistent with professional quality grade uniforms from this period. In cases where a players named is chain stitched in the collar, it is important to note the manner of appliqué. Both the Spalding label and player identification are sewn through only the first fold of the collar material. This is appropriate. The entire jersey, with special emphasis to the collar area, was examined in detail using an UV light, light table, and lit magnification in order to confirm that the collar area had not be opened to apply these at later date or included more modern fabrics such as nylon or rayon. My opinion is that these are both original to the jersey. Although there is considerable stress, damage and wear in the neck area as well as signs of attempts to preserve and strengthen this area, this did not influence my findings as the stitching was traced along the entire length of the seams. The sleeves on this jersey are of the Set-In versus Raglan type which is also appropriate for this period as seen in photographs. The sleeves have been cut and left un-hemmed with the right sleeve cut to a length of approximately 8” and the left cut to 8 ¾”. I have provided reference listings where this same thing can be seen in other Gehrig uniforms. The cut of the collar is that of the post sun- collar era and continues as a body of fabric along the button line. The rear panel of the jersey is adjoined to the front with the back as the top layer. Both of these features are appropriate. The sleeve cut, collar construction and back over front can be seen in a photograph provided by SCP that is dated to September 1931. The collar style has some bearing on providing a date or range of dates for this uniform. The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Reference “Dressed to the Nines” indicates that this change occurred in 1931, but I offer this to be an approximation.
It is always important not only to verify the information contained within a photograph, but it is also equally important to verify the represented date when possible, especially with less chronicled dates or events. One of the photographs offered by SCP with this Lou Gehrig home jersey is identified as being from September 18th 1931 and records Gehrig congratulating Ruth after his 43rd home run. Consulting page 283 (Babe Ruth Home Run Log) in “The Babe: The Game that Babe Ruth Built” by Lawrence S. Ritter and Mark Rucker you will see:
-The Yankees played a home game on this date against the St. Louis Browns.
-Babe Ruth did in fact hit his 43rd home run off of Lefty Stewart.
Other photographic references consulted for style or specific comparisons include but not were not limited to the below listed examples. I have called out by the word NOTE, those references by specific page that might be of most interest:
1. Lou Gehrig by Norman L. Macht (NOTE: page 40 for 1931 home jersey)
2. 1932 NY Yankees Team Photo
3. Video Footage from Baseball Classics: The All Star Game from Ruth to Mays
4. Video Footage from MLB the All Century Team
5. Baseball: A Celebration by James Buckley and Jim Gigliotti (page 174 for 1931 home jersey)
6. The Babe: The Game that Ruth Built by Lawrence Ritter and Mark Rucker
7. The Ultimate Baseball Book: Edited by Daniel Okrent & Harris Lewine
8. One Hundred Years: The New York Yankees-The Official Retrospective (NOTE: on page 132 that the jerseys worn by Ruth and Gehrig are non-sun collars and those worn by Combs and Lazzeri are. Lazzeri can be found wearing sun collars as late as 1936-page 57 of the DiMaggio Albums, Volume I).
9. 150 Years of Baseball by Publications Limited
10. Baseball in the 30s: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig (NOTE: page 58 for image of Gehrig with a trimmed un-hemmed sleeved road jersey).
11. The Greatest First Baseman of All Time by Donald Honig
12. The 100 Greatest Pitchers by Brent Kelly (NOTE: page 85 for NY Yankees player #16, with numeral with a base like the Gehrig)
13. The Power Hitters by Donald Honig (NOTE: page 32, Lou Gehrig, home uniform, non-sun collar, no NY crest and trimmed non-hemmed sleeves)
14. The American League: A History by Joel Zoss/John S. Bowman
15. Low and Outside by William Mead (NOTE: pages 178 for Gehrig 1938 home jersey, trimmed un-hemmed sleeves and 179 for font numeral font style with a base in 1939)
16. Greatest Moments in Baseball by Joel Zoss (NOTE: page 26, Gehrig, home uniform, no NY crest, non-sun collar and what appear to be trimmed non-hemmed cut sleeves)
17. Baseball: A Series by Ken Burns (DVD)
18. The History of Baseball: Simitar Productions
19. The Conlon Collection 1992: The Sporting News
20. Getty Images
21. Corbis Images
22. Pennants & Pinstripes: The New York Yankees from 1903-2002 by Ray Robinson and Christopher Jennison (NOTE: page 48, Gehrig road jersey with non-hemmed cut sleeves)
23. The New York Yankees: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig (NOTE: page 117, Gehrig, home uniform, no apparent NY crest, non-sun collar and trimmed non-hemmed cut sleeves)
24. The American League: An Illustrated History (Revised Edition) by Donald Honig (NOTE: page 142 Gehrig home uniform, no NY crest, non-sun collar and hemmed mid arm sleeves; page 151 Gehrig home uniform, no NY crest, non-sun collar and hemmed full arm sleeves)
5. Use and Wear. The jersey shows signs of extensive use and wear including general and consistent soiling throughout the jersey, severe fabric stress/damage in the upper back. This stress/wear is also present in the front shoulders with a ½ hole on the left shoulder and fabric tears on the left. There is some apparent red staining/fabric bleed in the lower 1/3rd of the jersey. The second button from the top has been replaced, but this appears to be a vintage repair by type of button and thread (non-synthetic fibers that would have likely shown up under UV light). All of this seems indicative of a jersey that was worn for a number of seasons, not all necessarily by Gehrig.
6. Anomalies, Variations, and Other Points of Interest: Of particular interest are the both the remnants of the numeral “4” on the back and the outline of what appears to be STANTON on the front of the jersey. The outline of the numeral “4” is done in black small loop chain stitch. This is unusual in that I would have expected to see remnant threads in an in line or “zig-zag” stitch that would have been used to hold the felt numeral in place. Neither of these points have any bearing on attributing the jersey to Gehrig at some point, but are mentioned because of their presence on the uniform. Also of interest is the manner in which this outline of the numeral “4” has been created. You will notice that there is base to the numeral “4”. Although images from the 1932 season indicate that the Gehrig # 4 is without a base, I believe there is sufficient photographic evidence to consider this style of numeral font appropriate for this period of jersey. We know that the NY Yankees began wearing numerals in 1929. Page 58 of Baseball in the 1930s: An Illustrated History by Donald Honing shows a picture of Yankee pitcher Herb Pennock displaying a numeral with a base as with the Gehrig “4”. Pennocks’ last year with the Yankees was 1933 so this image has to be from the period of 1929-1933, the same general period of this jersey.
7. Imagery Analysis: The images I have been provided and have found only permit a comparison on some level and not a definitive statement that this jersey is the same one in the image provided by SCP. Without seeing images of the reverse of the jersey that could be dated to same date as the front, any claim along these lines would not be objectively defendable in my opinion. What I can say is that there are a number of striking similarities between this jersey and the one pictured as dated to September 18th 1931:
Number of pinstripes and general alignment and width.
The cut, non-hemmed sleeves. This point deserves some special mention as it is one of the more clear and distinctive features. I draw your attention to the right sleeve in particular. The pinstripe alignment as the set-in sleeve meets the torso compares very favorably as do those along the shoulder. Also this sleeve measures out to 8”. The width of the spacing between pinstripes is 1”. This means that the sleeve length in 8 times the width of a pinstripe. In evaluating the sleeve in the photograph, it measures out at 24 mm. The spacing between the pinstripes is 3mm. This means, that the cut right sleeves in both the on hand example and the image provided are proportionally the same.
I found nothing in the image provided that excludes the possibility that they could be the same. The relative dating of the jersey was a result of a number of factors as detailed in the time line. It was not the case of making the image provided fit the jersey. None of this however should be construed as an endorsement by me that they are in fact same jersey.
7. Opinion: Based on a detailed physical examination of this jersey and supporting research, it is my opinion that this jersey being offered by SCP/Sotheby’s is in fact a c 1931 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees home jersey (for dating, see enclosed timeline). I believe the player identification and manufacturers tag are original to this uniform. I found no issues with respect to the size or the trimmed un-hemmed sleeves and have addressed and provided references for the numeral font style as well. I have found no references to a minor league or semi-pro affiliate for STANTON, but can not rule that out given the outline of STANTON and the excessive wear and damage to this jersey.
These findings are my own and I have not been provided with the findings of any other member of the MEARS staff. This is done to ensure I can not be accused of having my opinion swayed or influenced by any previous efforts. I have no idea as to the identity of the consigner and was not provided any provenance with respect to the history of this jersey. In the case of any significant differences of opinion between MEARS staff members, the issues will be discussed, but each evaluator is entitled to the position they feel they can support and substantiate.
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