Understanding Manufacturers and Team Variations

There seems to be a growing sentiment in the hobby that a jersey or uniform is “no good because it’s not like mine.” While I have been probably one of the hobby’s earliest and strongest supporters of data collection and subsequent trend analysis, I am also a realist in that I also know that variations do exist. The things I have always asked myself when I see things for the first time in terms of irregularities center around these questions:

1. What is the nature and degree of the irregularity?
2. Who is the player involved?
3. What is the period of the piece?
4. Who is offering the item and what if any provenance supports the item?

Nature and Degree of the Irregularity. I learned a long time ago that contrary to what we would to like to believe, it is seldom wise to deal in absolutes based a single data point. By this I mean I am not willing to automatically discard an item because say the font size on say a numeral or number is off by ¼ or ½ inch. I also take issue with the positions that something like a name plate looks like it has been applied “ a bit too high or a bit too low.” I know of instances where player road jerseys will feature slight variations as the equipment manager, who routinely traveled with blank stock jerseys, would have to have one made up, sewn or replaced on the road to accommodate a stolen jersey of a star player or facilitate a trade or late call up. The other thing to consider is that anything made by human hands is subject to the issue of inconsistency. While it does not happen with great frequency, errors are made. In April 2005, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aaron Harang went to the mound wearing a jersey with the city name of CNCINNATI on it. (Talk about not having an “I” for detail).

The Player Involved. I am always a bit more skeptical when I see these variations in star player jerseys, but then you have to balance this against the fact especially in modern times, star player will at times have more jerseys as they market them for their own financial gains. On the flip side of this, I would invite folks to look at the Brooklyn Dodgers from mid 1950s. While Rawlings is the dominate manufacturer of the home jerseys from the period of say 1952 through the rest of the decade, you will find examples of the star players wearing jerseys manufactured by Wilson in 1954. These players include Robinson, Campenella, Snider, and Hodges. These jerseys are easy to identify by the much more narrow numeral font.

The Period of the Piece. This in some respects ties back to the first point as older pieces where constructed in different manners with different manufacturing technologies and capabilities. I have heard of people say they where calling “fake” on late 1960s Rawlings and Spalding flannels jerseys because the player and year stitching were not done in consistent color thread. Most of these gripes came from “team collectors”…these jerseys where of common players and if they had bothered to look at manufacturer characteristics outside of their “special team” they would have seen the variations for themselves.
The other thing to consider when addressing the period of the piece is to consider the larger context in which it was offered. Recently on E-Bay there was offered a 1978 Ted Kluszewski Cincinnati Reds Road uniform. While most folks will tell you that Rawlings manufactured the home uniforms and Wilson the road uniforms for the Reds in the 1970s ( and they would be correct), they may not be aware that the uniforms, both home and road, worn by the Reds in their post season 1978 Tour of Japan where both manufactured by Rawlings. In fact, unlike the regular season issues, the pants featured the “R” Rawlings trademark logo on the outside and this was the case with this uniform.

The Source: I guess I am still wedded to a guiding principle in the Intel businesses, always consider anything you are presented with an evaluation on the reliability of the source. This does not mean that a good source can make anything good, but simply another factor to consider. The other thing to consider is the source of the contrary opinion. By that when the person “pooh-poohing” the piece states “I have sold dozens like this and have never seen one or they are not like mine,” they may at least on a sub-conscious level be trying to validate what they have sold and already placed out there on the market. Sad to say, I have also seen instances where individuals will publicly bash a piece in order to drive away prospective bidders as well based on some sort of variation, only to later find that they where in fact bidding on it..

I don’t have any magic formula or metric that says I will accept or reject a jersey based on three or four or these factors alone, and neither should you. I would suggest that you evaluate the piece based on the totality of the circumstances and then begin to consider what it is you know and what you think you know, and then decide if the jersey more or less likely to be what it is represented to be.

The hard part in all of this comes when you have found the piece you have been looking for some time. It is very hard to talk yourself out of jumping on the item. This is where places like MEARS On-line can come in very handy. Think about:

1. Looking at the tagging database.
2. Search the Photo reference section for books that might help.
3. Look in the jersey census and see if we have done a similar shirt. If we have, contact us and ask about it. Once the letters are on line (coming soon) this too will be easier.
4. Post a question on the board and see if others can help.

Take some time to look through the images of the examples I have provided in this piece. While they may not be the specific team or player you are looking for, they do prove that just because “it’s not like mine” doesn’t mean you don’t want it to be yours.

Bats: The Labeling Theory: Bats are probably one of the best researched and documented items we have in the game used arena. The difference between a single year can change the value of bat by thousands of dollars. Consider the image of Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Johnny Bench from page 153 of The Royal Reds by Hal McCoy (Published 1977). You will notice that the bat Bench is holding has a model # on the barrel and NO Liberty Bell Logo. By all commonly accepted and published information, this is a 1977-79 labeling period. The photo is from 1976 as evidence of the NL Bi-Centennial Patch. It is not a spring training picture from 1977 as the playing field is Riverfront Stadium. The Reds did not wear this patch after the NLCS vs the Phillies in 1976. While I am by no means suggesting the hobby discount all of the great work done by the likes Dave Bushing, Troy Kinunen, Mike Specht, and Vince Malta, I am asking that you never stop looking at things in detail.

The Font of All Knowledge: We have all seen folks kill an item because the “font is all wrong…I have one from that year and it’s not like mine.” Consider the photo provided of the Purple People Eaters and the Minnesota Vikings. Notice the variation in the “8” ‘s worn by Carl Eller and Alan Page. Shots like this are great because they rule out the possibility the examples are from different games or years.

A Lightening Bolt from the Blue: Consider the phrase…”It’s not even a good fake, the guy who did this could not even get the pattern right.” Now look at the Chargers photo paying close attention to the pattern of the Lightening bolt…Who’s wearing the “fake”…Jack Kemp #15 or Ron Mix #74? Obviously neither one is.

Three Stripes and You’re Out (or at least aqua blue ones): “There is no way the jersey is from this game or that season…I have one from that year and they had changed that style by then”. At times you will find images that look like different styles, but this may be do to a jersey having that portion of the uniform trimmed. Not the case in the Dolphins photo. Look at the lineman and the proximity of the striping to the numerals. The material on the Bob Griese jersey extends way below where that pattern would have picked up had it simply been cut off.

The Canadian Exchange Rate: Something about the Canadian’s jersey construction changed between the 1958-1959 and 1959-1960 seasons. The crest for the 1958-1959 jerseys extends out through the upper and lower white border stripe. The crest from 1959-1960 is contained within the stripes in most cases. I use this example to highlight the value of doing side by side imagery analysis.

This is far from being an exclusive sample of variations. This article would be of little value to you and would reflect poorly on me as a researcher if they were not offered and my only justification was that they are or are not good simply because; “It’s not like mine.”



LTC MEARS Auth, LLC can be reached for comment about this topic or others by dropping him a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.