I am writing this article about a 1977 Pete Rose jersey I just bought. If your thinking, Hey Dave, I thought you weren’t collecting Big Red Machine stuff anymore? You would be right. I bought this jersey because I once owned it and the person who had it, but did not buy it from me, thought I may have written a letter on it because I in fact once did. He was also not comfortable with my knowledge and experience with respect to Reds uniforms as compared to what he has seen for himself or the people he has talked to. All of this was based on work I did years ago, and admittedly so is not to the same standard as what I do today. So why did I pay some $2000 more for a shirt than I bought and sold it for and is not really something I currently collect? Because I was accused of “cooking the books” on a letter on a jersey I once owned. For the record, this was never a MEARS item nor was a MEARS letter ever written on it. It was also never owned in part or our outright by anyone at MEARS.
I have no issue with, and actually consider it a healthy thing to have my work questioned. Truth be told, it has forced me to go back and re-look things I have not looked at in detail for years. For that I am thankful as I now have a more demonstrateable opinion. None of this means anyone has to agree with it or me, but given the nature of the basis of this complaint, I don’t want folks to think I am hiding anything or bought the shirt back just to keep this out of the public eye. The other thing is that this information should be shared as an update to something I published almost 10 years ago.
Tagging and Variations: This 1977 Rose road jersey is tagged with a c 1974-1978 Wilson manufacturer’s label. The size annotated on that tag is 44. This is also the true size of the jersey. The Wilson tag is located on the inside front left center seam. It shows no signs of alterations and is considered original to the jersey. On the lower outer left portion of the tail is a grey double knit swatch with “77 1” chain stitched in red thread. This is consistent with a 1977 Dave Concepcion Cincinnati Reds jersey that was offered in the hobby in via E-Bay in November of 1999 ( E-Bay reference provided by Mr. Chuck Lumb). I have also seen two other 1977 Cincinnati Reds road jerseys tagged in this same manner; A Joe Morgan and a Bill Plummer. These were seen by me at the Moeller High School Sports memorabilia show in Cincinnati. While my notes for that day are undated, the notebook they are recorded in was used between 2003-2005.
A look at other period Reds Road jerseys from 1976 though 1983 shows some variations with respect to location of both the manufacturers tag and the year/set identification. In some cases, jerseys can be found with no year/set identification as is the case with both a 1977 Tom Seaver jersey and a 1978/79 Mike LaCoss jersey.
The Seaver jersey deserves some special mention since it is said to also be from 1977 and is tagged in a different manner than this Rose jersey. It is shown from the Mastro June 2001 auction and is said to have been obtained by a long time Reds employee and gifted from Bernie Stowe. I do not doubt this and suspect this is the same jersey that was offered as Lot #267 in the September 1999 Mike Gutierrez Auction of the collection of Ms. Patricia Mulroney. (SCD September 17th, 1999 edition, page 68) While the Gutierrez auction description lists this Seaver jerseys as a Rawlings product, that was a typo which I confirmed with Gutierrez’s auction at the time of its offering. Seaver was not with the Reds at the start of the 1977 season so a jersey would not have been ordered for him with the original team order. Seaver came to Reds as a result of a 15 June 1977 trade with the NY Mets. As an interesting aside, #41 was being worn by Joe Nuxhall at this time as the Reds batting practice pitcher.
I was also told by the most recent owner of the 1977 Rose jersey, that besides the Seaver jersey, he had seen two others not tagged like the Rose jersey. When asked for those references so they could be included in this relook, I was told one was a Doug Capellia jersey that was offered on E-Bay some months ago. No image was captured of this jersey, but it is said to have been from 1977 and had no year set tagging. Like Seaver, Capellia did not begin the season with the Cincinnati. He was traded to the Reds on 15 June 1977 from the St. Louis Cardinals for Rawly Eastwick. The other jersey he was referencing was a 1977 that he said is of Gary Nolan that is on loan from the Cincinnati Reds Museum.
In taking a step backward, I have posted images of two 1976 Reds Road jerseys. A Santo Alcala and a Pat Zachary. The Zachary is mine, and although the back has once been plated over, had that plate removed, and a name restored, it did show signs of having the 1976 NL Centennial patch on the shoulder, which too has been restored. Notice the “2” written on the Alcala and that the tag locations are different on these two jerseys.
For 1978, we have pictured Russ Nixon road jersey, tagged like the Rose, only with the year/set tag in a different location. There is also a 1979 George Foster tagged with only a year tag. Then there is the 1978-79 Mike Lacoss jersey completely devoid of any year tag. LaCoss wore 51 and that number was last worn previously by Tom Carroll in 1974-1975. We have examples this period in the form of the 78 Nixon and 1979 Borbon and Sarmento jerseys that appear to have tagging variations as well. From 1980-1983, the examples all have the Wilson and year/set identification on the outside, but there is some variation as to the placement of these tags in relationship to each other.
As a Recap:
Santo Alcala: Wilson tag on outside tail. No year set tag. Set # written on Wilson tag.
Pat Zachary: Wilson tag on inside tail. No year set tag.
Rose: Wilson tag on interior. Year set 77 1
Concepcion: Wilson tag on interior. Year set 77 1
Morgan: Wilson tag on interior. Year set 77 1
Plummer: Wilson tag on interior. Year set 77 1
Seaver: Wilson tag on interior. No year set tag.
Capellia: No year set tag. No mention of location of Wilson tag.
Nolan: No year set tag. No mention of location of Wilson tag.
Nixon: Wilson tag and 78 3 on interior
Mike LaCoss: Wilson tag on outside tail. No set number written on Wilson tag. No year/set identification.
Foster: Wilson and 79 year tag on interior.
Borbon: Wilson tag on exterior, 79 1 on interior.
Sarmeneto: Wilson tag on exterior, 79 1 on interior
Kluszewski: Wilson tag and 80 2 on front exterior tail.
Dunlap: Wilson tag and 81 2 on front exterior tail.
Householder: Wilson tag and 82 2 on front exterior tail.
Bench: Wilson tag and 83 2 on front exterior tail.
For the period of 1977-1983, in all of these years we can find examples of jerseys with an annotation of year and set, although the placement of those tags does vary. I have always felt that 1977 was the first year the Reds began using year set tagging on the Wilson road jerseys because before this time frame, you will still find “set numbers” hand written on the Wilson tags. This sampling includes stars, semi-stars, commons, and coaches.
You will also find variations in the placement of numbers on the front of the jerseys. Included is a picture of Sparky Anderson and Tom Seaver from 17 June 1977. Even with the fold in fabric that Anderson is wearing, you will see that if shown flat, the “1” in Anderson’s 10 would begin under the second “N” in CINCINNATI where as the “4” in Seaver’s “41” does not begin until it is under the third “N” in CINCINNATI.
Variations in 1970s Cincinnati Reds knits are not limited to tagging nor unique or exclusive to the road jerseys. In 1976, National League clubs wore National League Centennial Patch. Reds jerseys from 1976 can be found with this patch on either the right or left sleeve and I have provided photographic examples of these with different players as well as images of Joe Morgan with the patch in both locations.
Product variations also extend to bats and I do not imagine these were limited to the Cincinnati Reds. Consider the provided image of bats from 1976 WITHOUT the Bi-Centennial logo, but WITH the model number on the barrel. I have spent some time discussing variations for the specific and preceding year of 1976 to show that they do occur and should not be seen as unique to one year or style of jersey.
As a final note or variations and exceptions, let’s spend a few minutes talking about shoes. I had a collector recently contact me with a question of “Did the Reds players in the 1970s ever wear shoes that were not all black. I contacted the Reds and they told me that this never would have happened as it was against the team policy?” While true in a general sense given Reds GM Bob Howsam’s policy, you will find players and coaches wearing non-all black shoes in the All Star Game. If you have access to a 1975 or 1976 World Series Program, you will see this in the picture of the NL All Star teams contained in it. Also a good reference for this is Donald Honig’s book The All Star Game: A Pictorial History 1933 to Present.
Page 206, 1976 AS Game (Pete Rose, non black out Puma’s)
Page 209 1977 AS (Joe Morgan, non blacked out Adidas)
Another exception is also worth noting as well. While Wilson supplied the Reds with their road jerseys during the 1970s, the 1978 Tour of Japan uniforms were supplied by Rawlings as Rawlings was a sponsor of the tour. These shirt are tagged like the 1978 home jerseys, but unlike the Wilson road jerseys, these feature set-in vs Raglan sleeves. The Tour of Japan uniforms also feature a Rawlings logo on the pants (red background, white “R”).
Returning the focus to jerseys, there were any number of teams from this same period who also had their jerseys supplied by Wilson, including the Orioles, Phillies, Blue Jays, Cubs, Braves, Giants, Indians, Padres, Royals, Tigers, Twins, and Expos and Yankees. Although how year and set tagging will vary from team to team, I thought it was important to see if this manner of year and set identification was consistent with any other teams from specifically 1977.
Orioles: 1977 Eddie Murray (Orange Alternate). Grey Flannel Lot # 399, May 2006. “77-2” sewn on matching orange double knit swatch on lower left front tail.
Orioles: 1977 Ross Grimsley (Road). MEARS Tagging data base. “77-2” sewn on matching grey double knit swatch on lower left front tail.
Padres: 1977 Gary Sutherland (Home) MEARS Tagging data base. “77” sewn on white swatch in lower left front tail.
Mariners: 1977 Home Spring Training Stock jersey. MEARS tagging data base. “77 1” sewn on matching white swatch on lower left front tail.
Indians: 1977 Rick Manning (Red) Mastro’s Lot # 2040, December 2001. “77” sewn on matching red swatch to lower front left tail.
Indians: 1977 Frank Robinson (Red) Leland’s Lot # 758, December 1996. “77” sewn on matching red swatch to lower front left tail.
Phillies: 1977 Richie Hebner (Road) Mastro’s Lot # 1829, August 2001 “44 77 2” sewn in matching blue swatch to lower front left tail.
Royals: 1977 George Brett (Road) Leland’s Lot # 510, December 1977. “77” sewn on swatch in the collar.
Rangers: 1977 Bert Campanerias (Home) MEARS tagging data base. “19 77 1” sewn in matching swatch in the collar.
Blue Jays: 1977 Jerry Johnson (Home) MEARS LOO # 306211. “77 3” sewn on matching swatch.
Yankees: 1977 Reggie Jackson (Road) MEARS LOO #.306304 “Jackson 77 2” sewn on matching grey swatch in the collar.
Giants: 1977 John Motefuscio (Home and Road) MEARS LOO’s #305289 & 305290. Identification on lower outer tail in matching thread. Archived image does not permit identification of numeral sequence.
Expos: 1977 Tony Perez (Road) Grey Flannel Lot # 799, December 2001. “77 2” sewn on matching powder blue double knit swatch on lower left front tail.
What these examples show is that while tagging does vary from team to team, this style of year set identification by type, construction, and location appears to have been the same as at least two other Wilson supplied club as well, the 1977 Baltimore Orioles and the Montreal Expos.
Use: I would not expect to see a heavily soiled or excessively worn Reds uniform from this period unless it had been recycled for extended organizational use. These are identifiable by the original names having been removed from the back. I attribute this to the personal preference of Reds General Manager Bob Howsam. His stringent policy on meticulous player appearance and uniformity is well chronicled in Big Red Dynasty: How Bob Howsam & Sparky Anderson Built the Big Red Machine by Greg Rhodes and John Eradi (pages 141-143). This Rose jersey shows even and consistent wear in the form of gathering of fabric on the back side of lettering a numbering. Seam wear is also even and consistent throughout the jersey. There is small 1mm, hole from fabric pull below and to the right of the “4” in the front “14”.
History: This jersey was obtained from Mr. A. by Mr. B. in the late 1990s. I purchased this jersey from Mr. B in the late 1990s as well and then sold in back to Mr. B. some time around 2002-2003 for my original purchase price of around $3800. Mr. B. then sold the jersey to Mr. C. around 2003-2004 for $5700. In May of 2008, I paid Mr. C. $5700 for the jersey since his decision to buy this shirt was based on both my letter and reference to this same jersey in my 1970s Cincinnati Reds Uniform Guide. I also repurchased the copy of my Reds Guide from Mr. C. since he also found this lacking. Mr. C. did not feel that I may have been completely objective in the letter I wrote at Mr. B’s request since I had once owned the shirt. Mr. C. was also concerned because I could not produce a photograph of a 1977 Cincinnati Reds road jersey of a common player tagged in this manner. Mr. C. was also concerned that neither the National Baseball Hall of Fame nor the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame had any Reds road jerseys from 1977 tagged in this manner nor had they seen any. When I contacted Mr. Peter Clark (Curator of Collections) at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Chris Eckes (Curator of Collections) at the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, they confirmed they had no 1977 Cincinnati Reds Road jerseys tagged like this 1977 Rose.
To be more specific, neither of these Hall of Fames have any 1977 Cincinnati Road jerseys in their collections. With respect to Reds knits from this period at Cooperstown, per the Curator of Collections, they have a 1973 Rose home and 1983 Bench road on display and a 1978 George Foster road jersey as part traveling “Baseball as America” exhibit which is out at this time. The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame Curator of Collections informed me that they have a 1977 Gary Nolan jersey that is out on loan at this time. It is untagged but is said to be dated to 1977 based on the history of the jersey. Chris Eckes was also kind enough to provide the images of the 1977 Concepcion jersey show here.
Opinion: It was my opinion some years ago and remains the same that this jersey posses all the qualities you would expect to find in a 1977 road jersey manufactured by Wilson for use and wear by Pete Rose. The tagging is consistent with at least three other 1977 Cincinnati Reds jerseys, is consistent with at least two other Wilson provided teams for 1977 and remains within the general profile for Cincinnati Reds road jerseys from 1977-1983, especially given the shown variations. This jersey is the same one that is featured in my 1970s Guide to Cincinnati Reds Game Used Uniforms and equipment, a copy of which is on file at the Giamatti Library at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The jersey is the proper size for Rose at this point in time (44 which is also the measured true size of the jersey) and is also correct in manner of construction with respect to sleeve style, the application of numerals and lettering by font, size, and manner of application. The use and wear on this jersey is evident, even, and consistent with no signs of contrived use or alterations.
MEARS Auth, LLC
POST SCRIPT: The names of the persons involved in the sales history of this jersey, other than mine, have been redacted for print. Should this jersey ever leave my possession, those names and their contact information will be provided. I have provided as much information as I currently have on this jersey and the subject the tagging of Cincinnati road jerseys from this period. As always, collectors are free to and encouraged to form their own opinion on what they feel they should expect to see and why.