“Number change when the jersey was sent down to the minors.” That’s a phrase I hate to read in auction decsriptions, but not for the reasons you might think. While I always like to find flannels in all original condition, what upsets me is this standard disclaimer is far overused and largely inaccurate at times. Why do we continue to see it as a descriptive line? It’s because of misinformation and laziness on the part of the authenticator or the person writing the lot description.
What this statement and ones like it fail to acknowledge and account for are these facts:
1. Any number of minor league teams ordered their own uniforms.
2. Any number of minor league teams did not have the same naming convention as the big league club.
3. Major league teams themselves had a need for excess uniforms.
Consider if you will the fact that a number of major league road flannels featured the city name on the front. If the jersey was sent to a minor league team playing in another city, shouldn’t we expect to see the front changed as well? Why then would there be a number change only? For those of you that have been to spring training, the answer is clear. There are dozens of players in camp and they have to be wearing something. A few years ago I purchased a collection of Cincinnati Reds Spring Training Roster/Yearbooks spanning the period from 1941 through the spring of 1951. They were a wonderful find and they provide some valuable information with respect to the topic at hand. While I had expected to see a decline in player numbers during the peak war years and a post war upswing, I did not expect to see it more than double between 1945 and 1946. Once again, the players were in camp and they had to be wearing something. Fast forward to 1965 and you will see that all of this was alive and well by way of period Street & Smith Yearbooks.
To accommodate all of this, the major league team has only a few options at their disposal.
Course of Action A: Order uniforms to outfit the influx of players into spring training.
Course of Action B: Retain and renumber old uniforms for extended organizational use and wear.
I don’t think Course of Action A is supportable as a theory for these reasons:
1. Cost to the major league club.
2. We should then expect to see these jerseys show up in greater quantity (non-roster numbers that have not been changed).
3. We do see a good quantity of jerseys with original fronts and restored backs, especially when the issue of city or naming convention is involved.
This is not to say that major league clubs did not or have not ordered product for spring training use. They have but these are fairly easy to identify as a function of both style and garment quality.
What collectors should be looking for an insisting on is some level of analysis based on observable information that supports a jersey as either being:
1. A jersey that has been changed to support extended organizational use by the major league club.
2. A jersey that has been changed to support use and wear at the minor league level.
3. A jersey that was ordered for spring training use.
“Number change when the jersey was sent down to the minors.” Although I have bought jerseys fitting this description, I’m not buying this as a disclaimer or a substitute for research and evaluation. That’s my take…what’s yours?
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.