GETTING IT RIGHT VIA GETTY IMAGES:
As often happens in conjunction with my research duties for MEARS, I peruse auctions, eBay, and other sources for pictures of game-used wearables to incorporate into the ever-growing MEARS database. In scanning for these activities, one item caught my eye…a New England Patriots home jersey authenticated as Curtis Martin’s rookie season jersey.
The description from the seller stated that it was determined to be a rookie season (in this case, 1995) jersey based on the placement of the Starter manufacturer logo on the jersey sleeves. The statement indicated that the logo (stylish “S” and a star, henceforth described as “S*”), was located below the sleeve number until the 1996 (actually 1997) Super Bowl when the Pats played Green Bay, at which time it was moved to above the numbers to satisfy an NFL dictum to move the S* logo for greater TV exposure. The Martin “rookie” jersey had the S* logo below the digits.
Given the nature of Patriots game garb in the current marketplace…tough to find, and in demand due to the Pats’ recent and sustained success…I chose to research the matter further to see if the jersey was dated accurately or not, so a proper entry could be made in the database.
With that in mind, I turned to Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com). The Getty Images website is not foolproof…many older images are dated either vaguely or incorrectly, and availabilty of soime year/team combinations are sparse or nonexistent. However, for the last 15 years or so, Getty Iamges provieds ample photos that are largely accurate in the time frame indicated.
I started by puttting “1995 Patriots” in the search engine. Nine pages of photos were available, and, on the second of those 9 screens, image #53291470 shows LB Willie McGinest in a December 3, 1995 game. Clearly, the S* emblem was ABOVE, not below, the numbers on the visible sleeve.
Next up, a November 26 road game in Buffalo (the McGinest photo was a home contest) that showed RB Dave Meggett. Again, the S* logo was above the number where clearly visible. The same goes for image#227057, with a great right side view of QB Drew Bledsoe. Ditto image #298578, a November 5th road game with Martin himself in a jersey, albeit a road white, with the S* insignia above the numbers. And, for good measure, image #278621, from a September HOME game with Martin in the blue jersey, with the S* designation above his sleeve-located “28”.
In fact, the whole run of 1995 photos produced only two exceptions to the rule, neither of which satisfied the statement in the auction. Image #230863 showed lineman Michael Brandon, in a lineman’s cut game shirt, with the S* logo to the RIGHT of his sleeve number 78, a positioning that seemed consistent with the shorter-sleeved lineman-style game jerseys.
The other was image #294294, an August preseason shot of TE Ben Coates, rendered irrelevant to this discussion by virtue of being a jersey with the sleeve supplier’s logo of Apex, the Patriots’ 1994 uniform supplier.
Next up, a review of 1996 Patriots game photos. Eight pages of game action photos awaited, and I eagerly dug in. Image #346720 led off the display, and depicts lineman Ferric Collins in a December road game. The lineman’s cut variation of the S* logo being on the right of the number on the right sleeve (the sleeve visible in the 1995 Brandon photo), and to the LEFT of the number on the LEFT sleeve, indicated the continuance of this variation of location on the lineman-style gamers.
Then…image #351056 showed the man whose jersey was featured in the auction, Curtis Martin, in a blue jersey during a December 15 game in Dallas (the Cowboys buck the standard NFL trend and wear their white jerseys at home and on the road, whenever they can get away with it). The S* logo’s location, you ask? BELOW the numbers, the same as the “rookie” jersey, although, of course, this would be Martin’s SECOND season.
More images were studied: #356731 (Bledsoe, road white); #346997 (WR Terry Glenn, home blue); #51747757 (Bledsoe, home blue); #346707 (Meggett, home blue); #257248 (DB Vernon Lewis, home blue); #214131 (Martin, road white)…The only exceptions I could find were another couple of lineman’s cut/side-of-the-numbers shots, and a handful of photos of linebackers Willie McGinest and Todd Collins that had the S* ABOVE the numbers, 1995-style (older jersey shells, maybe?).
On to 1997 Patriots searching…this comes up with 32 pages, inflated by the wealth of pictures from the early-year Super Bowl tilt with the Packers. Starting at year’s end, and working back, we have image #300693, a late December home game shot of Terry Glenn…and, lo and behold, the S* emblem is once again ABOVE the sleeve digits. Same for #246710 (same game, WR Shawn Jefferson), and for #305879 (12/13 home blue, Coates) as well as #53291418 (12/7, Bledsoe, road white)…and as I wind back through December, then November, and back, examining multiple players, both home and road (including shots of RB Martin in both jerseys), the only exceptions found are the consistent lineman/linebacker placement on several photos of OL/DL/LB players, and a couple of below number locations during an early (August 17) preseason game, during which the 1996 jerseys may well have been used.
Finally…gobs of photos from SB XXXI itself. First off, image #52887297 shows two Patriots players standing on the sidelines, left sleeves on both clearly visible…and the S* logo is ABOVE the numbers. The same goes for #52884230 (Bledsoe), #52884161 (unidentified player wearing #15), #348170 (DB Otis Smith), #353304 (Coates), #353124 (Martin himself)…all ABOVE the numbers (the auction’s description did get that correct), with the only notable exceptions (mostly side, one below the digits) all involving linemen and linebackers…none related to skill positions like running back, quarterback, receiver, etc. The only 1997 photos with the S* logo consistently below the number were the AFC playoff games New England was involved in, which would have been in 1996-issued jerseys.
As for 1998, the final season the Pats wore Starter (they switched to Adidas for 1999), same ol’, same ol’…every applicable photo showed the S* logo (some of which had the company name added in full underneath) above the sleeve numbers, with exceptions again limited to certain linemen and linebackers.
Given all of the above research and the resulting findings, my conclusion (and the one entered into the captions of the jersey on our database) was the Curtis Martin home Patriots jersey being a 1996 jersey, not the 1995 rookie edition the auction and it’s authenticator presented it as.