I figured I would start my monthly article off with a big one; Godzilla. This month the most interesting piece, at least to me, that came into MEARS via submission was a Hideki Matsui jersey from his days in Japan with the Yomiuri Giants. As part of job as a research intern, I had the opportunity to examine this jersey and needless to say it brought both a peeking interest and challenge to the research process. This is a modern jersey, my interest lies more in current major leaguers, and as foreign jersey, added to the interest, challenge and difficulty.
The first thing that came to mind was to try and find out who exactly the Tokyo Giants were. After a brief search into the history of Japanese baseball, I discovered that the Tokyo Giants were more commonly known as the Yomiuri Giants of the Central League in Nippon Professional Baseball, Major League Baseball of Japan. After digging a little further into Japanese baseball, I found that the Yomiuri Giants were named after their corporate owner, the Yomiuri Group, instead of the city in which they were based in, Tokyo. However, the Yomiuri Group decided that in the interest of attracting international media, mainly the United States, they would wear Tokyo on their jerseys as it was more recognizable than Yomiuri. The Yomiuri Giants kept the practice until recent years when they have switched to wearing Yomiuri on their road jerseys instead of Tokyo.
The next part that peeked my interest on this jersey was the patch present on the left sleeve of the jersey. The left sleeve of the jersey has 6 individual patches about an inch in height spelling out Giants. This part of the jersey was particularly interesting to me because it had individual patches instead of a large patch with all the letters embroidered on it, which is exhibited on most modern MLB jerseys. Additionally, when searching for images I discovered that the lettering present on the left sleeve would change from Giants to Tokyo on home jersey and Giants would be stitched across the chest instead of Tokyo.
The third major part to this jersey was trying to obtain a style match of the jersey number font. I filed through both Getty Images and Corbis Images, but came up with no usable pictures during Godzilla’s tenure with the Giants. I then turned to something that some collectors, including myself, collected prior or along with game used equipment, sports cards. This, however, was a little more daunting of a task as I had no previous knowledge of Japanese sports cards, just the normal product knowledge of the US card companies such as Topps, Upper Deck, and Donruss. After some time I found several cards such as 1999 BBM Japan Diamond Heroes, 1999 Calbee Japan, and even a single US release of Japanese cards, 2000 Upper Deck Ovation Japan. These three cards of Matsui were perfect for style matching the jersey numbers founded on this jersey.
The last item that really ended up being the most frustrating and rewarding part of the evaluation process for this jersey was attempting to translate what exactly the additional tag under the Descente tag stood for. For this process, I used my knowledge of Japanese symbols, which I had obtained after searching extensively for information on both Matsui and the Yomiuri Giants. The symbol, which looks similar to an English E, was the symbol found on many sites, which was being used for ‘Giants’. The triangle that is found directly right of the E –like symbol, was present on a number of sites so I assume it meant either Yomiuri or something in reference to the team, At this point, I had exhausted most of my knowledge of Japanese symbols, however, I felt comfortable dating this jersey to the 1998 season for two reasons: 1. The 98 present on the additional tag. And 2. There were some slight differences in apparent in the font that dated it to the later year of Matsui’s tenure with the Giants. The number 55 on the tag seemed self-explanatory standing for Matsui’s jersey number, 55. Since my job as an intern at MEARS is to research and not guess, as that is not part of the MEARS corporate culture, I sent my information around for an initial review. Turns out I was right. MEARS Auth, LLC’s daughter Mary speaks Japanese and is majoring in International Affairs/East Asian studies at the College of William and Mary. Mary took the image with her on her lap top to class and this was verified as well by Professor Kato. However, from the tag I was unable to get the jersey size, which is one of the most important factors when evaluating any jersey.
For this last major step in the evaluation process, I took the chest and torso measurements and checked them against Matsui jerseys that were previously within the MEARS database. The chest and torso measurements of the Giants jersey were 26” by 30 ¾”. These measurements fell ½” larger in chest measurement and 1 ¼” shorter in torso measurement, falling within an acceptable range.
All in all this was a fun jersey to examine and research as it had many fine qualities such as foreign tagging, a large autograph across the back of the jersey, and some moderate amounts of use present. This jersey was definitely a joy to work on and will surely fit in great as part of any Modern-era, New York Yankees, or Japanese player collection. However, I’ve still not passed over to the pinstripes side, so GO SOX!