The St. Louis Cardinals wore Kirkwood High School baseball caps to pay tribute to victims of a shooting in another part of the Missouri town back on February 7. The caps, after use, were signed and are now being auctioned on the Cardinals team website with a closing date of March 5th. This in line with the White Sox doing the same with the Northern Illinois University caps the team wore this past Wednesday and are to be auctioned on the White Sox team website.

The other team in the Windy City…the internationally loved Cubs…are also entering the NIU Tribute sweepstakes. In addition to a sizeable donation to the school’s fund for the victim’s families, the Cubs will fly a rooftop flag with the NIU logo for all home games in 2008. This will appear on the Wrigley Field rooftops, where now exists retired flag, Cubs greats, and first-place finish flags. You can figure a few of them to fly during the season, with the wear and tear whipping in the wind and other weather-related wear produces. These would look to draw spirited bidding if the Cubs put them up for auction, either at the 2009 Cub Convention or earlier via the Cubs website or

An eBay dealer recently auctioned a pair of college football jerseys that didn’t last long. The Hawaii Warriors, in 2005, wore, for 3 road games, jerseys with silver numbers. After the third usage, the Warriors, being pelted with complaints from press box denizens who couldn’t read the jersey numbers, retired the style.

If it ever seems like there’s a lot of “game-used” Frank Thomas 1B mitts floating around, there’s a reason, and it isn’t one to benefit honest collectors.

Circa 1994, Thomas mitts with evident wear were popping up in unusually large numbers. The majority, however, bore simulated, and not real game use. Two of the guys eventually charged and convicted in Operation Bullpen teamed up for this illicit work. One of them worked for the White Sox at the time as a security guard, and he was making off with Thomas mitts that the team had ordered in quantity for charity auction donations. Once in his auspices, he and his brother would go to the local park and “have a catch” together, with their catch-playing efforts resulting in producing simulated “game-used” gloves, with the Big Hurt never once having actually used them. People with expert level knowledge of fielding gloves, such as Joe Phillips or Denny Esken, could likely provide additional background on this, as gloves are not an area I know much about.

Lance Niekro, who bounced between Triple-A Fresno and the parent Giants, found himself as an offseason free agent, eventually agreeing to a minor league deal with Houston. While his career is somewhat in flux at the moment, his attitude is strong, part of that due to a call from an Astros clubhouse manager who asked him if he wanted to be assigned uniform number 36 for 2008 spring training. The offer elated Niekro, who eagerly accepted. Number 36, of course, was also worn by his father, the late Joe Niekro, who, when all was said and done, put together a decade or so in Astro rainbow threads that have made him recognized as one of the top pitchers in Astros history.

One eBay seller may not be too happy when he sees what he had and how comparatively cheap it went, largely due to an authenticator (not affiliated with MEARS) having been negligent with his research.

The item was advertised as what it was: a pair of 1968 game-worn Red Sox flannel pants. However, no player ID was given in the listing, and the authentication letter offered none…apparently because the internet site they checked did not show a #31 (chain-stitched in the waistband) having been on the roster.

As it turns out, there WAS a number 31 on the ’68 Red Sox, but he was a coach , not a player. A quick search of a roster in that year’s Street & Smith’s Yearbook found who wore #31. Not only was it a coach…it was a guy now in the Hall of Fame for his playing prowess…former Bosox star Bobby Doerr. The 80-some dollars the pants sold for wouldn’t be bad for a normal name, but for a HoFer…even as a coach…it was awful low. Two things to consider from this:

1) It shows the lack of effort a small number of authenticators perform when the answer isn’t a well-known website click away.

2) MEARS Auth, LLC is dead on with his repeated urgings that collectors should attempt to build their own research libraries to keep well-informed (especially when a third-party authenticator can’t apparently be bothered to do so).

Let the games (exhibitions though they may be) begin!!