One of the greatest rewards of this business, besides the fact that you can make a living doing what you love, is that we get to see the bulk of the privately held game used items currently out of circulation and ones that may soon be coming to market. Many good items we see quite frequently, while other, more exceptional items worthy of a museum like the Hall of fame, only exist in private collections. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to see these since they are not on public display. One such spectacular item that we may not normally have the chance to see recently crossed our paths and stands out as a gem within the collecting hobby.
Heritage Galleries has just uncovered what I believe to be the first 1924 Tour uniform ever to surface in the private sector. There is an identical 1924 Tour jersey of Washington Senator Sam Rice resting for eternity in Cooperstown. The soon to be offered Herold Dominic “Muddy” Ruel uniform consists of the Chicago version of both the shirt and matching pants as well as the beautiful sweater. There are two known examples of the Chicago sweater in private hands but the uniform itself is unknown outside of the Hall of Fame. The player, Muddy Ruel, is best known as Walter Johnson’s receiver with the Washington Senators during the Championship years of 1924-25. It was probably a result of Ruel’s performance in the 1924 World Series that earned him his spot on the World Tour team. In this series, Ruel helped Walter Johnson to his first World Series win in the twelfth inning of the final game by hitting a pop foul that was dropped by Giants catcher Hank Gowdy (the first Major League player to enter the Great War). Ruel hit a double in his next at bat which resulted in the winning run. A great player in his own right, he batted over .300 three times to nail an average of .316 in 1923. He was catcher in over 1,400 games, with six seasons as the starting catcher for the Senators (1923-28).
All three pieces of the uniform come directly from the Ruel family and the condition of each piece is almost impeccable. The beautiful red and blue wool button up sweater bearing the Chicago White Sox logo was only worn during the tour and is without any player identification, remaining virtually pristine, as issued, all original condition.
Both the shirt and pant are manufactured by Spalding. The jersey has the standard period black square Spalding patch with embroidered lettering. The tag reads, “Highest Quality, A.G. Spalding & Bros., Made in USA.” The tag is correct for the era and can be verified via the MEARS tagging database found in the member’s section of the website. Both the shirt and pant have a cotton cloth identification panel attached to the Spalding tag on which “Ruel, Chicago, and the size” is printed, both lightly stamped and very fragile so the mere fact that they are present is a testament to the outstanding condition of this uniform. As far as style, the shirt exhibits the patriotic theme of most of the World Tour uniforms, beginning with the flowing embroidered flag patches on both sleeves to the stars embroidered on the old style cadet collar. Chicago is emblazoned on the front (Tour uniform’s from 1924 will exhibit either New York Giants or Chicago White Sox team logos.) Both the shirt and the pants remain in the same stellar condition as the day they were made and could not be improved upon just the same as an unusual style shirt. Given the importance of Ruel that season, even though not a member of the Hall of Fame, the combination of the style and caliber of player make this uniform one of the most exciting to ever come to the open market. It should be of extreme interest to anyone collecting early uniform styles, Chicago or Washington memorabilia, and above all else, collectors of World Tour memorabilia will absolutely have to add this uniform to their collection as it may be a long time before another of this ilk hits the market.
Baseball exhibition tours of U.S. teams have been popular since the late 1800’s when the White Sox went on a tour that included a stop in Egypt and resulted in the now famous photograph of the team posing on the Sphinx. The most famous of all tours as it now relates to our history would have to be the 1934 Tour of Japan in which the infamous Moe Berg, a better scholar than baseball player, used this opportunity to take aerial photographs of Tokyo that were later used by the Air Corp to launch the first bomb attack on enemy soil during the earlier years of the Second World War. Collecting the uniforms and memorabilia related to these tours has become an obsession with some collectors and items can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars. Autographed team balls, photographs, awards, passports, kimonos, all of which have an avid following but nothing evokes more emotion and passion among collectors than the gorgeous uniforms and sweaters of these tours. Patriotic in theme, rare in any condition, the demand for these uniforms keep them in a price level all their own. As a first on the market, this 1924 tour uniform should be a blue chip offering and I’m sure the final price realized will reflect this demand.