MAJOR LEAGUE JERSEYS, MINOR LEAGUE MEMORIAMS, MYTHS AND MYSTERIES
Until the late 1980s, the practice of sending MLB game jerseys to a team’s corresponding minor league affiliates for additional use was a fairly common practice. These recycled jerseys have often found their way into the hobby, with most recycling practices, such as logo or script changes, readily explainable. In a few instances, however, other aspects of the minor league history of such jerseys (in this case, memoriam armbands) create mysteries and even myths for the collectors who happen upon them. Two such mourning band mysteries will be revealed in this edition of The Shirt.
1972-74 Braves knits:
The Richmond Braves were secondary users of these Atlanta unies in 1975, and the ’72-’74 Braves gamers weren’t script or logo-altered in Richmond…but they often did have a black band added to the left sleeve.
Such jerseys with the band still intact were ones worn at Richmond in 1975, and were added to eulogize former Major League catcher Clint Courtney. The bespectacled former MLB backstop, known to many as “Scrap Iron”, was the Richmond manager in 1975, and succumbed to a fatal heart attack during a road trip to Rochester to play the Red Wings.
Mid-1980s Cubs and others.
Being a low Class A minor league, several teams’ 1982-85 major league gamers were passed on to Midwest League outposts, and any such jerseys worn in 1986 had one of two black memoriam band styles added to the left sleeve. Some were solid black, while others had a white “WKW” printed on them.
The myth behind these stems from the fact that the most prevalent examples of this genre come from the Cubs, who fielded a team in Peoria then (as now). Clueless “experts” have declared the bands to be a major league entry for “William K. Wrigley”, despite the fact that the Wrigleys didn’t own the Cubs at that time (Tribune Co. did).
No, the real memoriam honoree was one William K. Walters, the longtime president of the Midwest League who died after the 1985 season. If your MLB jersey has a band, is from the early-mid 1980s, and was an organization who fielded a club in the Midwest League at the time, chances are this is what the band represents, especially if it has the white WKW notation thereon.
And, while we’re at it…
Another misconception fueled by an “expert” with more recognition than knowledge centers on the old Chicago Cubs stadium flag. Until the 1980s, when it was replaced by retired number flags and N.L. East title pennants, the Cubs flew a large red, white, and blue flag from both foul poles. The flag was blue with the team name printed above and below a white diamond with a red C inside. Sixteen red stars are scattered inside the blue field, with two blue stars located one on each side of the red C inside the white diamond.
The myth has been propagated that this is exclusively a 1940s era flag, and that the blue stars represent team employees killed in World War 2, with the red stars counting team employees injured in the service. Nice-sounding…but 100% WRONG.
The flag, which could date as late as the 1980s, has nothing to do with team casualties nor injuries in WW2. The two blue stars represent World Series Championships (1907-08), with the sixteen red stars signifying the team’s National League championships, including those won before the advent of the World Series. A look at any 1960s/early ’70s Cubs media guide (such as the 1969 edition I have beside me as I write this) will provide the correct information.