Recently MEARS was asked to evaluate a 1931 Tour of Japan Jersey attributed to George Kelly.
The jersey was issued MEARS hologram #303999.
The jersey style was a home button down manufactured from period pinstriped flannel. Spalding manufactured this jersey for the touring All Stars. A Spalding tag, correct for the 1931 era, was found factory applied in the neck. Spalding was a known supplier of major league jerseys for the 1931 era.
The style pinpointed the year of issue to 1931 and was verified via additional images and examined jerseys. #14 was issued to Kelly for this 1931 Tour and 7 ½ heavy felt numerals were found on the reverse.
George Kelly finished the 1930 season playing in 90 games for both the Reds and the Cubs. Retirement was the plan for the 1931 season, but Kelly was chosen and did participate on the 1931 U.S. Tour of Japan team. Other notable teammates were Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. George Kelly wore number 14 while playing his final season in 1932 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, a carry over of preference of the issuance of his 1931 Tour jersey number.
Kelly was 6’ 4” tall and weighed 190 pounds. Although no specific size is listed, the 24 ½” chest measurement is consistent with a jersey issued as a size 48 or 50, the appropriate size for Kelly.
The jersey style was correct and can be verified via photographs and compared to the Lou Gehrig 1931 Tour of Japan (sale price $55,000) jersey which can be found in the September 1999 auction catalog featuring the Barry Halper Collection.
The jersey can be compared to another known jersey, 1931 Tour of Japan Al Simmons, which resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.
The jersey entered the hobby and the owner stated it came directly from Lou Gehrig. What is very interesting, is, during the 1999 Halper sale, the Lou Gehrig jersey was listed as originating from the George Kelly family. Therefore, at some point Lou Gehrig and George Kelly must have swapped jerseys after the completion of the 1931 Tour of Japan.
Facts regarding the 1931 Tour of Japan:
According to the 1932 Spalding Official Baseball Guide, 14 major-league baseball players, managed by Herb Hunter and Fred Lieb, traveled to Honolulu and Japan after the 1931 World Series to play in exhibition games against local talent. The team consisted of:
Muddy Ruel, c
Mickey Cochrane, c
Lou Gehrig, 1b
Frankie Frisch, 2b
Rabbit Maranville, ss
Willie Kamm, 3b
Al Simmons, lf
Thomas Oliver, cf
Lefty O’Doul, rf
Lefty Grove, p
Larry French, p
Bruce Cunningham, p
George Kelly, utility
Ralph Shinners, utility
John Reardon, umpire
Dr. Leonard Knowles, trainer
They won all 18 games they played — 17 against teams from Japan, and one against the Hawaii All-Stars. As a team, they batted .346.
The condition of the jersey was unapprovable and was assigned the grade of A10 by MEARS.
Troy R. Kinunen