Provenance: from the French word, provenir to come forth, originate from. It also relates to history of ownership. Most often collectors confuse this with the story or letter that is provided with a jersey. I would suggest that a jersey and its history, if properly understood and articulated, is far more valuable than any letter. The idea behind the value of provenance is its ability to help trace the uniform back to a time and place when last worn by the player in question. Each time a jersey is sold, the lineage or history of it grows and sometimes changes; often with previous known bits of information becoming lost or obscured over time…this is what this article on a 1958 Willie Mays San Francisco Giants road jersey is all about.
I bought this jersey outright as it went unsold (not drawing a single bid) in the May 2008 Heritage Auction. The Heritage description at the time stated: “We must note here that the identifier on chest has been restored.” There was nothing else mentioned about the history of the jersey. The other note that was made about condition related to some bleaching on the rear numerals. As someone who has been tracking jerseys offered previously in the hobby for some time in order to build a data base, I knew I had seen this jersey before based on the rear numerals.
Back in June of 2002, Grey Flannel offered as Lot # 46, a Willie Mays 1958 San Francisco Giants road jersey, size 42; manufactured by Macgregor. It was tagged Set 2 1958 just like the shirt in Heritage’s Auction. The shirt featured the same bleaching pattern on the rear numerals. At the time Grey Flannel offered the jersey, SAN FRANCISCO had been removed from the front and had been replaced with the name QUINCY. (I’ll come back to this). The description also stated that shirt came with an additional letter from the minor leaguer who wore the shirt. Not that it may matter to you, but I feel that Grey Flannel did their consigner and potential bidders a great service by the manner in which they offered and represented this item. They provided invaluable information as to the origin of the jersey and the reason why SAN FRANCISCO had been replaced by QUINCY. They also left the jersey in the same condition it was offered to them.
About a year later, the same jersey (Set 2, 1958 with same bleaching pattern) was listed in the May 2003 Leland’s auction as Lot # 1042. This time the Leland’s description noted that the SAN FRANCISCO on the front had been restored with original lettering, but made no mention of the previous linage, reason, or origin of the team name change. Then again, in August of 2006, Leland’s offered this shirt as Lot #1133 with the same general description.
Heritage Auctions offered this same jersey last October as lot # 19639. At that time, mention of the restored San Francisco appears to have been added to their original auction description.
Now with the jersey being offered for a fifth time, all mention of the history of the jersey had been erased. In looking at period San Francisco Giants Team Yearbooks from 1958-1961, I was able to see that Giants had a minor league affiliate that played in the Midwest League in 1960-1961 called the Quincy Giants, in Quincy, Illinois. This makes sense on two levels both with respect to time and location. Period images from the 1950s will confirm that teams frequently wore the previous season’s jerseys in spring training the next year. The Giants were one of those clubs as 1951 jerseys with the NL 75th Anniversary can be seen being worn in spring training in 1952. So a jersey worn by Mays in the 1958 season, and then used again in spring training in 1959, would have been available for extended organizational use by a Giants affiliate in the 1960-1961 time frame.
This is important because the Giants minor league affiliate was only in Quincy, Illinois for those two seasons. This can be confirmed by looking at the Abilene Reporter News from 11 November 1961, where in an article titled Quincy Giants, Mets Sign Pact, the announcement is made that starting in 1962, the Mets will provide financial assistance to the Quincy ball club in exchange to claims on their Class D players and that “Quincy was associated with the San Francisco Giants last season.”
Since there was no mention of the minor league use or connection in any auction house description after the Grey Flannel offering, I e-mailed Rich Russek and asked him if he had any record of who this minor league player was after all these years. Within hours, Rich kindly informed me that the minor leaguer was a player named Richard “Dick” Haymore. Rich also recalled that Mr. Haymore may have been part of the Mets organization for some reason as well. Rich said he did not feel comfortable in giving me the contact information of the consigner. I said that was fine and I completely understood as all I was looking for was the name of the ball player. In looking at period minor league newspaper accounts/box scores for Quincy, I was able to find that Dick Haymore did in fact play at Quincy, Ill:
-Waterloo Daily Courier, 17 June 1963: Haymore went 2-5 against Waterloo while playing for Quincy.
-Earlier that year, Haymore was playing minor league ball in Auburn. At that time, Auburn was the A ball Mets affiliate in the NY-Pennsylvania League. This can be confirmed by checking the Citizen-Advertiser (Auburn, NY) for an article on 18 April 1963.
-The Cedar Rapids Gazette posted Midwest League player stats in their 30 June 1963 edition. Dick Haymore, of Quincy, is shown to have been hitting .246.
Richard “Dick” Haymore can also be found on page 45 of the 1963 NY Mets team yearbook in a photograph of the 1962 Auburn Mets, Governor’s Cup Champions of the NY/Penn League.
If by now you may be wondering how does a guy playing in the Mets organization get a Giants uniform? Remember the as detailed above, the Quincy Giants were bought by the NY Mets in 1962. This seems to make sense considering how few uniforms the Mets might have had to make available to all clubs in their organization by 1963. Remember this is a road jersey and what was placed on the front of the jersey was QUINCY and not the team name Giants (1960-1961) or Jets (1962) or Mets (1963).
I have always said that provenance has to be both reasonable and verifiable. Is it reasonable that Dick Haymore could have obtained this jersey as a minor league player? Yes. Is it verifiable that his minor league playing days included playing in Quincy around the same time as the jersey would have been in the club’s inventory? Yes. I don’t know if Haymore ever wore this jersey or if it was simply being discarded by the Quincy ball club at this time. I was concerned with being able to actually identify and trace Haymore to a place and time that made sense and could be verified…once again, reasonable and verifiable.
Some months ago I wrote an article on a 1957 Willie Mays home jersey that was also a MacGregor size 42, close cropped sleeves, same style of flag tag for year and set identification, same type of player identification sewn below the neck stitching of the collar, and same style numeric font As part of that article, I showed how imagery analysis and an understanding of manufacturers characteristics (numeric font and button style) could be used to identify MacGregor as a provider of uniforms to the Giants in 1957. This is probably as good a place as any to talk about numeric font styles. At times you will see the same manufacturer such as MacGregor having different font styles over the same relative period. You will also them vary within the same year. I bring this up to highlight that this why the unique MacGregor style buttons become so very important.As with the 1957 Mays home jersey, I showed just how important this was and lay that out for you with respect to this 1958 jersey in the plates provided.
The other thing this jersey did when comparing it with the 1957 Willie Mays home jersey was to enable me to better understand the transition of the MacGregor manufacturer’s label at this time. I have seen the black style tag in jerseys from around 1953-1958 and the blue style tag from 1957-1961. The tag changes color again to a green variation around 1961 as I have seen both green and blue for that year. So in my mind, the beginning of the black to blue MacGregror tag seems to begin in 1957 and the change from blue to green in 1961. My focus on the tag also centered on how it was affixed to the collar. In this case it was sewn only through the first collar fold and the manner of stitching is consistent with other MacGregor and MacGregor/GoldSmith products. This detail was the subject of an article all its own titled “A 1961 Roberto Clemente Road Jersey (MEARS News Archive 8-30-2006).
Getting back to the 1958 Mays road jersey, based on what I mentioned previously, it is important to be able to show use of MacGregor road jerseys in both 1958 and spring training in 1959 in order to trace the path from through 1958-1961. The pictures from September of 1958 and February 1959 bare this out with respect to numeric font style, player identification, and button style. I also felt that a side by side comparison of the difference in button style would be very worth while since I have talked about this at some length.
The best photograph I have found that shows this actually involves San Francisco road uniforms worn by the DiMaggio brothers. I have created a grouping that also includes actual uniforms (including this one) so that you can the difference in both color and black and white. I have also included a grouping from 2 June 1962. This was done so that you can see that the Rawlings style buttons, like those of Spalding, are not the same as those used by MacGregor. This also highlights again what I have shown about multiple suppliers for a team within a given year. With respect to other known suppliers of uniforms to the Giants, images are also provided for period Wilson and McAuliffe products. The convex, two-hole buttons are a unique Macgregor characteristic that lends itself to imagery analysis and product classification. This is something you will continue to see through the 1960s as well as show in the image of three additional teams that wore MacGregor jerseys later in the 1960s as well.
With respect to other 1958 Willie Mays or San Francisco Giants road jerseys, I was able to find these to use as points of reference:
1958 Road: MacGregor Johnny Antonelli. Hunt’s Auction July 2007, Lot # 219. This jersey features the same manner of player annotation in red on a white felt swatch sewn below the collar seam as well as same style of Set and year identification. The shirt also retained at least three (3) of the original MacGregor style buttons. The front of the jersey had also been stripped off and replaced with the word GIANTS.
1958 Home: McAulliffe; Willie Mays. Hunt’s Auction July 2007, Lot # 221. This jersey is also a size 42, but the numeric font style and button style is not the same as that on the MacGregor jersey.
1958 Home: Wilson; Marv Grissom. Hunt’s Auction Nov 2007, Lot # 453. No image of the back is provided, so numeric font style can not be assessed. Button style is different from MacGregor style buttons.
What looking at these three uniforms suggests is that the Giants had multiple suppliers of uniforms in 1958 and through a combination of manufacturer’s characteristics, Macgregor jerseys can be found and identified as such. The fact that the fronts of the home jerseys have not been restored is not surprising. Had they been sent down for use at the minor league level, the name GIANTS would have in all likelihood been appropriate, as seen on the Antonelli jersey. SAN FRANCISCO is only relevant for shirts worn in that city. This concept of the Giants farming out uniforms can be further seen in another Willie Mays road jersey. This one was offered by Leland’s as Lot # 77 in their February 1993 auction. This road jersey was manufactured by Rawlings, size 42 with the following as part of the lot description. “ Only SAN FRANCISCO on the front has been restored. Game worn jersey was sent to Springfield and appropriated by scout Tony Rabish.” There is a Tony Ravish listed in period San Francisco Giants yearbooks as a scout in the New England area and Springfield is listed as a minor league affiliate from 1957-1965.
The good thing for me in all of this, is that this 1958 Willie Mays road jersey did not draw a single bid in the Heritage Auction and thus, was available at what I considered a great price. This is the only 1958 Mays road jersey I have seen enter or move throughout the hobby in a public manner. The city name change did not bother me because it appears to have been very well done and may in fact have involved vintage lettering based on the material and condition. By being able to track the jersey’s movement through the hobby, I knew what the basis and apparent time frame of the removal of the original SAN FRANCISCO was and was able to confirm this made sense by both time frame and location.
I have been collecting long enough to know that there will always be someone with more money than I have to spend on items. I also know the days of cheap flannels, much less of those belonging to a Hall of Famer are long gone. What I have tired to do as a collector is invest my time and money, so that when the chance of a lifetime surfaced, I would be ready. The only reason I can see for a shirt like this to have gotten no bids was because of doubt…doubt in the product and doubt in the process.
Along the way, it appears that someone had doubts about the value of the shirt’s provenance… provenir to come forth, originate from. It also relates to history of ownership. As I have always said, provenance can not make a shirt something it is not…but if you know what it is and understand it, it can make something make sense. In this case I feel it had a direct impact on dollars and cents. Although no provenance or history came with shirt and the Lou Lampson LOA when I got it from Heritage’s Auction, it made little difference to me, since thanks to Grey Flannel back in 2003 and Rich Russek most recently, the shirt has been able to speak for itself and thus, is what it is. I hope you have been able to follow and see that for yourself as that is really what any Letter of Opinion or Letter of Authenticity should do.
There was some risk in all of this because all of the work that I did and my decision to purchase the jersey was done without actually inspecting the jersey ahead of time. Now that I have the jersey in my possession, and having inspected it on a light table, with UV light and under lit magnification as well, I am more than happy with this purchase. This was also the first time I had occasion to see the LOA on this jersey provided by Mr. Lou Lampson. Tied to this article and of particular note was the statement of “Inspection of this jersey suggests with high probability that it was taken out of circulation after a season of major league use, or perhaps the following season, but not beyond.” Obviously I don’t agree with this statement nor does the jerseys history as articulated above seem to support this statement.
To be very honest, I bought this shirt to resell it…It is more shirt than I need as I already have this style from this period. But now that I have it, I am trying to convince myself that it goes with my Home Run Derby theme. 1958 was Mays first year in San Francisco and I know of only three early Mays jerseys. 1958 saw Mays lead the NL in runs scored (131) and he hit a career high .347. It was also the only season (surprisingly enough) that he had 200 or more hits (208). He won his second gold glove that season and became the first San Francisco Giant to win one. He hit home run #200 off of fellow future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn in Milwaukee on May 23rd 1958 (wearing a road uniform).
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For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.