There are few names of career players logging some 15 seasons in the majors who hit below .250 that are as well know outside baseball circles as they are within. One clear exception to this has to be Moe Berg. You can do your own Google or Wikipedia search if like, but I would actually recommend reading “The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg” by Nicholas Dawidoff. The paperback can be found for a few dollars, which is not the same that can be said for the jacket I looked at that will be featured in the Spring 2009 Robert Edwards Auction.
As you have come to hear me say time and time again, the item is what is, but the thought of handling an item that may very well have been worn by Berg was one I found partially exciting given my interest in the history of the or National Pastime and career as an intelligence officer. If it was worn by Berg, which I do not doubt, but would have like to have seen a more clear line of provenance before making any definitive attribution, could very well have been from his earlier days at Princeton given the style of the jacket and the size.
I would personally like to thank Rob Lifson for affording me the chance to look at, study, research, and write about this jacket. Without any further to do…here we go.
Subject: Early to mid 1920s Princeton University Baseball Jacket with possible attribution to Moe Berg
For the purpose of evaluation and description, this jersey is referred to as an early to mid 1920s Princeton University Baseball Jacket with possible attribution to Moe Berg. After a detailed visual inspection and evaluation of this jersey using lighted magnification, a light table, UV light and references, I offer the following noted observations:
-This offered jacket was once part of the Barry Halper Collection. The jacket was not listed in this offering through Sotheby’s because at the time of that auction, no photographic information was found to support the work. In this case, I have used an image from the 1925 Princeton University Yearbook. (PLATE I) The Hapler-Sotheby’s auction featured a number of Moe Berg items, many of which were obtained by Barry Halper from Berg’s brother. I can not confirm that this jacket was obtained in the same manner. One such offering was lot # 1036, listed as a circa 1923 Moe Berg Princeton Jersey manufactured by Spalding with “Berg” written in black in. This offered jacket is also manufactured by Spalding and features the same style of hand written player identification in the collar.
– The above mentioned Berg jersey featured stitched annotations for “4” and for “38”. If the “38” was in fact a size indicator, then this would be consistent with the measured size of the offered jacket which is measured size of 40.
– The image contained in the 1925 Princeton Yearbook shows Berg in a jacket similar to this one. I say similar because there are two different styles of jacket pictured. I will refer to these as Type I and Type II Jackets. (PLATE II)
The Type I jacket (as this is) features a single row of buttons and a rounded or more elongated font style for the letter “P”. (PLATE III)
The Type II jacket (as is the one Berg is wearing in the photograph) features a double row of buttons and an angular cut to the font style for the “P”. (PLATE IV)
– The fabrics of this jacket, when viewed under UV lighting offer no indications that they are more modern ones containing synthetic fibers. There also appear to be no alterations to the garment. The navy blue fabric in the collar does appear to have experienced some stress over time in what appears to be moth holes, the largest of which is on the left collar and measures some 10mm. A portion of the cloth hang strap in the back of the neck has also become separated. The only writing on this jacket at the time of my inspection is what appears to be “Berg” written in black laundry pen in the rear of the grey fabric in the neck area.
There is one issue in all of this that I feel is worth understanding as it relates to both the style of jackets and the date of the photograph. Of the 13 players wearing jackets in the photograph, only two appear to be the Type I jackets. When you see more than one style of item in a photograph, more often than not the minority item is an older variety having been replaced by a more recent order. If the Type I jackets are the older variation, which I believe they are, then this (Type I) is more likely to have been the worn by Berg as player earlier in his career versus the one he is wearing in the photograph (Type II).
Moe Berg last year at Princeton was 1923, yet he appears in a photograph for the 1925 year book listed as the 1923 team. Player caps, as mentioned before feature both 1924 and 1925. There are a couple of possibilities explaining this. First, those year specific caps and jerseys could indicate the class the player was a part of, and as such would explain why they are part of a 1923 photograph. Also, during the period of 1924-1925, Moe Berg was playing in the minor leagues and it is possible he returned to Princeton to help out or workout with the team. At this time I have not been able to find any contemporary accounts supporting this. Much of this has nothing to do with the jacket and jacket style or attribution, but is only offered to shed light on what was considered when looking at all the information contained in the photograph.
Evaluation Findings: Based on a my physical examination of this jersey, supporting data, images, and references , it is my opinion that jacket does posses all the characteristics you would expect to find in a early to mid 1920s Princeton University baseball jacket and I would categorize it as one of the two known types worn during this period. This is also the same period as when Moe Berg played for Princeton as evident by the yearbook photograph. The jacket does also appear to be consistent in size, manufacturer and player identification with a jersey from the same period that was sourced from the Berg Family to Halper. Although what appears to be “Berg” is written in the collar and the jacket does have a history with the Halper Collection, without knowing that is was sourced from the Berg Family to Halper, any attribution to Moe Berg would have to considered as only possible at this time.
MEARS Auth, LLC
Enclosures PLATES I-IV