We had an ice storm and I was looking for something to do. I should have learned long ago never complain to “the mom” that I was bored. Michelle, rather politely, suggested that I clean up my “working file” of references and notes for articles I have in the works. Yes, it has become a pile and no longer a file by now. Over the past few months I have found more ideas and topics than I can convert into articles. As such, the size of the pile shows and grows. For everything that I think would make an interesting story, my time is consumed with larger projects (Kren bats) or evaluations I do for MEARS.
As I was sorting through these nuggets, I came across a simple program/foldout poster from the September 20th, 1986 Equitable Old-Timers Game at Riverfront Stadium. For a minute, I was curious why this was in the “working pile.” Then I found a post-it note on the back with the words “odd jerseys that turn up.” I really did have to scratch my head for a few minutes figuring out why I saved it and with the note reading as it did. A while later, I came across the file (yes Michelle these were in an actual file) that contained related newspaper articles…then the light went off; knit uniforms that show up for a player long after he has retired.
These surface every now and then and usually without much history or documentation. Typically they come with a story and little else. What I saw then is what I see again today, that being, with a little research, a collector can find out if a story about a player wearing one of these jerseys makes sense given what they were told.
The February 11th 1986 New York Times reported that The Equitable Old Timer’s Series would begin on May 17th in Boston and finish up in Cincinnati on the 20th of September. The Times goes on the mention that there “will be games almost every weekend and games in two cities on some weekends”.
According to an article in the September 2nd 1986 edition of the Casa Grande, AZ Dispatch, the series was sponsored by The Equitable Financial Services (TEFS). It was part of a program designed to help raise money for pre-pension baseball players. This program was run in conjunction with Major League Baseball and the TEFS pledged some $260,000 or $10,000 for each of the 26 game scheduled as part of the effort. This bit of information gives us some idea as to both the number of games and a rough time frame as they appear to have been played in both 1986 and 1987. These of course by no means were the only Old-Timers Games played, but it gives collectors a named event or series of events on which to focus there efforts.
Sports Illustrated (Oct 19th 1987) covered this series, but only just around the concept level. The SI article mentions that there was some work involved in getting all 26 clubs to agree to host a game since many teams already had established Old Timer’s programs. It also states that the games were two-four inning affairs.
The New York Times as late as July 9th 2004, had these interesting bits of information:
“Each player, Tymon (identified earlier in the article as Debbie Tymon, VP of Yankees Marketing) said, is asked for his clothing size, so that a new uniform is in his locker when he arrives at the Stadium. All players get to keep their spiffy new pinstriped togs, which means that perennial invitees like Whitey Ford and Moose Skowron may be harboring years’ worth of golden years uniforms. Why a new one each year? ”I don’t want to hear at 12:30 that day that someone has forgotten their uniforms,” said Tymon, who has organized the days for 10 years.
Additionally, “Well before that, Marty Appel ran the Old-Timers’ Days for the Yankees from 1968 to 1977. They were not sponsored, and the Yankees always played another team. ”I remember calling the Braves and saying, ‘We’re having Lew Burdette, can we borrow a No. 33 uniform?”’ Appel, a public relations executive, said yesterday.”
Knowing all of this, a couple of questions obviously come to mind. What players took part in these event, when were they held and what did they wear?”
The Reds program I mentioned is from the 26th of September 1986.
Reds Old Timers:
The Equitable Old Timers
Saturday May 24th 1986 Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis
Cardinal Old Timers
The Equitable Old Timers
The information on this game in St. Louis can be found in the May 26th edition of The Telegraph.
Friday June 27th 1986 Game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh
Pirates Old Timers
Bobby Del Greco
The Equitable Old Timers
Johnny Mize (Coach)
The information on this game in Pittsburgh cane from the June 27th 1986 edition of The Valley Independent. The article also mentions that other Equitable Old Timers will be playing the Angels the next day in Anaheim, but no names were mentioned. Post game notes can be found in the June 28th, 1986 edition of the Titusville PA Herald and provides an image of what Bobby Thomson and Bill Mazeroski were wearing.
Saturday May 23rd 1987 Game at Fenway Park
Information comes from the Sunday May 23rd 1987 edition of the Syracuse Herald. No complete rosters are listed, but images are provided for Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Joe Amalfitano. Red Sox players cited in the article include Ted Williams and Jimmy Piersall. The Equitable Old Timers included Willie Mays, Bob Feller, Mark Fidrych, Hoyt Wilhelm, Al Bumbry, Orlando Cepeda, and Jack Fisher.
Saturday June 21st 1987 Game at Houston
Not much is offered from the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise other than a photo of Jimmy Wynn.
August 16th 1987 Game at Candlestick Park
Only a brief mention in the August 7th 1987 edition of the Mountain Democrat that the game will be held pitting the 1962 Giants Old Timers vs the 1962 Yankess Old Timers. The game is mentioned as being part of the Equitable Series that is expected to include Willie Mays, Manny Mota, and Willie McCovey.
What are the “take-aways” for collectors reading this as passing along something somewhat useful helps me justify the “working pile” to Michelle:
1. If offered a uniform from one of these games, make sure the story matches when the game was said to have been held and the player actually was there. You may have to contact a local library in the city the game was played if you can’t get to the newspapers yourself.
2. Realize that the players may have worn any number of things and any number of uniforms. In this small sample provided you can see that both Smokey Burgess and Jerry Lynch played for both the Reds and Pirates Old Timers.
3. Unless the uniform shows signs that it had been reissued and possibly sewn for the player, don’t expect it show a lot of use or wear since, well these were older guys and the games were short in duration.
This article is by no means the definitive history of this series or anything remotely close to one. To do so would turn it into one of those larger projects, and Michelle and now you know my dark secret.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect. According to Michelle it seems I enjoy collecting piles of information that it takes me forever to get around to using.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com