Anytime I get the chance to examine and evaluate the jersey of a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, I consider it a treat and privilege. This Joe Gordon New York Yankee’s road jersey was no exception. Previously I wrote about MEARS and our role in establishing the authentication industry from the perspective of meeting the functional definition of the word. This article allows me to follow up on that in a tangible manner.
In my opinion, the dating of this jersey to 1942 and 1942 alone (oh yeah, by the way coincidentally the greatest season in Gordon’s career) was not an entirely defendable position. I suspect this was part of the attraction for this particular offering to interested bidders. It may in fact have been worn by Gordon during that season and that is not something I take issue with. My contention is with how this conclusion was reached. I am off the school of Mr. J.C. Brandburg (Mariemont High School algebra teacher), that being, you don’t get credit for the answer unless you show your work.
This also serves to answer questions that came up as others were looking at this jersey. One individual’s thoughts were “I know the jersey is good, but I can’t find examples of lettering of this size in images.” To that individual, how do you know the size of the letters in the images you were looking at? This relates back to the piece I wrote on the difference between forming an opinion and being able to substantiate one.
In my mind, dating the jersey to only 1942 may in fact have masked some of the real significance of the piece. With the Yankees carrying a jersey over from a previous season, this could have been worn in portions of both 1941 and 1942. 1941 was the season of DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, the passing of Lou Gehrig, and a World Series win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Pretty important events in Yankee history if you ask me.
Finally, this article helps to underscore the value of provenance that is reasonable and verifiable. In this case it had a material impact on being able to date the jersey when considered within the totality of the circumstances it was offered in.
To the winning bidder of this jersey, I say congratulations and thank you for affording me an opportunity that few enjoy.
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com
SUBJECT: 1941-1942 Joe Gordon New York Yankees Road Jersey
For the purpose of evaluation and description, this jersey is referred to as a Joe Gordon 1941-1942 New York Yankees Road Jersey. After a detailed visual inspection and evaluation of this jersey using lighted magnification, a light table, a digital microscope, UV light and various references, I offer the following noted observations:
Size: The offered jersey is tagged as and measures at a size 44. The MEARS data base shows:
1939 Joe Gordon home jersey (MEARS Cert # 308307) size 44
Joe Gordon is listed as being 5’, 180lbs.
As such I would consider a size 44 to be an appropriate size for him.
Manufacturer/Construction/Dating the Jersey: The offered jersey is without any sort of year identification. This is not atypical of products from this period. The jersey is a Wilson product and features a style of manufacturer’s label that can be found in Wilson products from the mid-late 1930s to approximately 1951. The jersey is constructed with set-in sleeves and features a seven button front. The underarm gussets feature six hole ventilation as opposed to an cotton stretch fabric. This too is considered appropriate for the time, team, and manufacturer.
Dating the Jersey: The jersey was dated to the 1942 season by Legendary Auctions based on “The outline of a shield-like patch (which was HEALTH, in patriotic motif) is faintly visible on the left sleeve”. Unfortunately, prior to my evaluation of the jersey, the HEALTH patch was restored by David Bushing. This is somewhat problematic since the “Stars and Stripes” patch worn during the 1943-1945 seasons is also a “shield like patch” of approximately of the same shape and dimensions. The jersey was sourced from the family of Mr. Thomas “Shaky” Kain who was said to have managed in the New York Yankees minor league system from 1939 to 1946. Information on Mr. Kain by way of his obituary in the June 25th 1970 Oxnard, California Press Courier identifies him as a “long time Yankee scout.” The March 24th 1943 edition of the Kingsport (TN) News confirms Kain’s hiring to manage the Nofolk Tars of the Piedmont League, a Yankee affiliate at the time. This article goes on the mention his other previous minor league managerial experience as well. (SEE ENCLOSURES)
As such, considering only this information, I am unable to verify the year of the jersey to being specifically and definitively 1942. By this I mean the jersey could also have been an offering from 1940 or 1941 and the patch was added for use in the minor leagues.
There are no signs that the 1939 Centennial Patch was ever applied to this jersey. Joe Gordon did not play during the 1944 or 1945 seasons. This means that relying solely on a patch outline, the jersey could have only been objectively dated to the 1940-1943 time frame using the patch outline as dating tool.
My previous research in this area indicates that letter placement for New York Yankees road jerseys can be used as an indicator of year offering. Most notable was the work done on a 1932 Babe Ruth road jersey. This work and my work on others since indicate that Yankee road jerseys do vary from year to year, but are relatively consistent within a given year. Significant differences are typically the result of a jersey being brought forward from a previous season on a mix of manufacturers with in a given year.
To see if it is possible to narrow the year using this previous research and methodology, we have to focus our attention on the NEW YORK font size and the spatial relationship with the button line. The letters of NEW YORK are on average 2 ½” in height. This is slightly larger than the space between the buttons on this offered jersey and period Spalding products. (PLATE I) Spalding was selected as it shows up in the MEARS data base as also a know supplier of road jerseys to the New York Yankees during this general time frame as well.
1938 Lou Gehrig road jersey (Spalding): 2 ¾” lettering size
1942 Tommy Heinrich road jersey (Spalding): 2 ¾” lettering size
For this offered jersey, the Y measures some 62mm in height and the distance from the bottom of the second button to the top of the third button is some 50mm. As such, I should expect to find photographic evidence of the Yankees wearing road jerseys with a 4 hole button, aligning the second button with the “Y” as in the offered jersey and that the size of the letter “Y” being slightly larger than the space between the buttons. It should be noted that there does appear to be some shrinkage associated with this offered jersey and it has some effect on the current shape and contour of the letters in NEW YORK.
The ratio on the offered jersey is such that the letter “Y” is some 1.2% greater than the space between the buttons. For the period of 1940-1943 I found:
Spring 1940: Button and “Y” alignment preclude it from being compared favorably. (PLATE II)
29 April 1940: Although the button and “Y” alignment is consistent, the letter “Y” is smaller than the space between the second and third button. (PLATE III)
18 July 1941: Button and “Y” alignment is consistent. Proportionality of the size of the “Y” to the space between the buttons is also consistent. (PLATE IV)
1941 picture of Johnny Strum (only year with the Yankees): Button and “Y” alignment is consistent. Proportionality of the size of the “Y” to the space between the buttons is also consistent. PLATE V)
6 July 1942 picture of Joe Gordon: Button and “Y” alignment appears consistent, but angle of photo and fabric folds are an issue. Proportionality of the size of the “Y” to the space between the buttons is also consistent. (PLATE VI)
1942 World Series: Two different “Y” alignments. DiMaggio is not consistent, but for Charlie Keller, button and “Y” alignment is consistent. Proportionality of the size of the “Y” to the space between the buttons is also consistent. (PLATE VII)
1943 World Series: Button and “Y” alignment preclude it from being compared favorably. (PLATE VIII)
At this point the jersey compares most favorably with the images found for 1941 and 1942 and this is the year range I assign to it.
The numeric font style for the numeral “6” on the back of the jersey is consistent with what you would expect to find in period Yankees jerseys from this time frame as well, both home and road. (PLATE IX)
The manner of manufacturers tag, size tag and supplemental player identification is also consistent with other Yankees Wilson products from the 1940s. (PLATE X)
The fabric used in the construction of the jersey body is considered period correct and of major league quality. An on-hand comparison was made, to include looking at the fabric weave under a digital microscope with:
1939 Goldsmith fabric catalog: grey ML quality fabric sample
1942-1943 Cleveland Indians road jersey: Wilson (un-issued)
1942 New York Giants road jersey: Spalding
1943 St. Louis Cardinals road jersey: Rawlings
The jersey was also examined in its entirety using UV lighting and no signs of synthetic fibers where found. This is also period correct.
Use and Wear: The use and wear on this offered jersey would be considered medium to heavy. There does appear to be some shrinkage to the jersey. I would likely attribute this to the jersey having been laundered as opposed to dry cleaned at some point in time. The joining stitching of the jersey sections remains strong throughout, with the exception being a small portion of the inside left underarm gusset. This does not affect the structural integrity of the area or the appearance of the jersey. The rear of the neck/collar area features mild soiling and staining. This same mild soiling/staining can also be seen the internal under arm gusset areas and is more pronounced when viewed under UV lighting. The wool felt fabric of the rear numeral “6” has pulled away from the straight stitch appliqué in two locations, on the left center border (15mm) and at the top (40mm). Neither of these effect the visual display of the jersey or the structural integrity to any significant degree.
Provenance/History: A letter dated 22 October 2009 was provided by Mr. Larry Kain, son of Mr. Thomas “Shaky” Kain stating that his father acquired the uniform (offered jersey and un-attributed pants and stirrups) during the early 1940s. I have found this provenance to be both reasonable and verifiable as indicated above. The pants are in similar condition, with the exception of two fabric tears on the left year pocket and one on the right year pocket. The pants do however feature a different style of Wilson tag that I have seen as early as 1943. So all of this consistent with the when the uniform could have and was thought to have been obtained.
Evaluation Findings: Based on my physical examination of this jersey and supporting data, it is my opinion that this jersey posses all of the characteristics you would expect to find in a 1941-1942 New York Yankees road jersey manufactured by Wilson for use by Joe Gordon. For Pre-1987 jerseys, the MEARS grading metric begins at base grade of 10 with five (5) major categories for consideration when looking to codify deductions. I found these reasons to deduct points for this offered jersey:
.5 Patch replacement (Category I)
.5 minor soiling/staining (Category V)
.5 Broken anchoring stitching on rear numeral (Category V)
.5 Shrinkage of the jersey, lettering, numbering (Category V)
As such the final grade for this jersey with MEARS hologram number 310785 is A 8.
MEARS Auth, LLC
Enclosures: PLATES I-X
Newspapers used to verify provenance