Athletes often deliver comments about their views on the authenticity of jerseys, bats, and the like that are presented to them by collectors for autographing or viewing. And, while one would think that a ballplayer would be able to identify one of their old shirts or other game wearables, the fact is that sometimes they can, and sometimes they can’t…and sometimes they even dance around giving a person the straight scoop for whatever agenda they have. The Shirt will cover some of the highs and lows of pro athlete memory and recognizance here.
ON THE GOOD SIDE:
Some athletes know intricate details of what they’ve worn in the past. Take Duke Snider, for example. The Dodger star and Hall of Famer spent his final season in the Bigs (1964) with the Giants, and, due to an at-that-time unofficial retirement of his normal #4, his season-beginning arrival in ‘Frisco found him in an unusual situation regarding his ’64 Giants jerseys, according to longtime collector Delbert Mickel of Arkansas. Mickel had Snider autograph his ’64 Giants road flannel, and Snider’s recollection of how he got it was precise, even in the 25 years or so that had elapsed since.
Apparently, Snider was offered numerous jerseys of players who didn’t go north with the team to try on, and decide on what one was best. Snider chose a #28 top, and rememebered not only the number, but whose unused jersey he was issued. It was a bonus baby pitcher, Bob Garibaldi, who did make it up with the Giants a couple of years later, but whose career, in comparison to the Duke’s, was eminently forgettable.
ON THE BAD SIDE:
Then there’s Bruce Bochte, a first baseman who played for 4 American league teams over 13 seasons and had a decent career to show for it. Unfortunately, his prowess at recalling what he wore was far less reliable than his on-field baseball skills.
Bochte was approached by a longtime Chicago area autograph hound, Dennis Long, who had a mid-1970s home Angels knit of Bochte’s to have signed. Bochte took one look at the jersey, and declared it to be a fake, stating that “I wore buttondown shirts when I was with the Angels” (this meeting took place in the 1980s). Problem is, the Angels went to pullovers (such as the jersey Long had) in 1973. Bochte didn’t join thr Angels until 1974, and the Halos wore pullovers until after Bochte’s ENTIRE MLB career was over! (Bochte retired after the 1986 season, and was with the Angels from his rookie season until a midseason trade to Cleveland in 1977). No photographic memory here, that’s for sure.
You sometimes get players who almost seem to have an agenda intended to confuse and frustrate collectors. Wade Boggs was such a player in the 1980s and 1990s. When asked to sign a jersey, he would quickly quiz the collector as to what year the jersey was from, often without actually seeeing the jersey. When the collector responded, Boggs’ response was consistent: “That can’t be real. I have all my jerseys from that year”. It didn’t matter if it was 1983, ’86. ’89. or whatever…if you had the jersey, Boggs would immediately declare that everything he wore in the year you mentioned was in his possession. Boggs even went to the step of adding the inscription “NR” (for “not real”) to items he autographed that he deemed weren’t his.
More recently, two pitchers who I am acquainted with and like overall…retired fireman Randy Myers and current Met Steve Trachsel…have played this game, even with me, who both players recognize and know by name. Myers once told me that a 1995 Cubs BP jersey I had of his wasn’t real because according to him, the BP tops used numbered sizes, not the lettered (XXL) size this one had. This despite the fact that the jersey was purchased from the Cubs, AND despite the fact that two Cub pitchers of the same time frame…Bob Patterson and Kent Bottenfield…gave me BP jerseys they wore that also had lettered sizes.
In 2004, Myers, at a charity function I used to attend religiously, told the auction coordinator that a Cubs game jersey they asked him to sign for the silent auction was, again, not genuine. The auction boss didn’t buy Myers’ claims, as the jersey was donated by the Cubs. I didn’t take Myers’ statements as gospel, either, won the jersey, and, upon closer examination that evening, found a patch imprint on the right sleeve that not only proved Myers wrong, but showed, from the embroidery outline of the imprint, that it was his 1994 All-Star game shirt!
Trachsel, meanwhile, at least in my experiences with him, has shot down every Cubs jersey I or other collectors have shown him, with the Boggs-like claim of “I have all my stuff from that year”. The only exception was a 1993 home jersey from his September callup that was auctioned by the same charity auction that the Myers All-Star jersey was in, only several years earlier. No word on whether Trax has continued to avoid affirming his duds from the Devil Rays or Mets at this time…anyone who has experienced similar or different responses from Trachsel in the past few years can email me at email@example.com to share their stories.
In any event, while I am willing to accept a player’s word on whether or not something was his in SOME instances, bad memories or hidden agendas can sometimes leave a player’s testimony less valid than that of a schooled hobbyist.
NEXT TIME: Team and charity LOAs…can there be any problems with those? Find out!