Unfortunately, one of our more popular columns is our newly created “unable to authenticate” section. While I think it is important to document and record for posterity any questionable items, it is sad that we seem to have a never-ending supply of material for this column. Recently, I was asked to look at a group of Hall of Fame game bats that, turns out, I had rejected as forgeries over three years ago, long before MEARS or SCD AUTHENTIC was even envisioned. Sure enough, there were about twenty of the bats that I had seen and they were as bad as they were the first time I’d seen them. One scary aspect of this hoard was that at least 10 bats were missing from the original load and my guess is that they have found their way into someone’s collection. I have since compiled a list and picture of each bat and will be listing them in this column in the near future. It is a hard place to be in. If a bad item is submitted and an opinion is paid for, we must return said item to the original consignor yet we have added a caveat to our contract, which once signed and submitted, allows us to publish our findings on our site. Hence, once an item is received by MEARS, we have every right to expose the questionable pieces so that readers of this column can avoid getting burned at a later date.
This brings me to this edition of our own HALL OF SHAME jersey of the week. One of the most coveted and valuable collections that one could ever hope to put together would be a collection of game worn jerseys belonging to the 500 Home Run Club members. While it is quite easy to get jersey’s of the more modern players i.e. recent members such as Bonds, Murray, Sosa, Palmeiro, Griffey Jr, or McGwire (some of which, in my opinion, do not belong in any legitimate 500 Home Run Club collection) and with some deep pockets and time, you can even acquire most of the post war members such as Williams, Jackson, Schmidt, Killebrew, Mathews, Aaron, Mantle, or Mays. Of the pre war members, the three toughest and most expensive of all the 500 club members,( Ruth, Ott and Foxx) exist but seldom come up for public sale and when they do, they easily top the six figure mark. And of these three, there are fewer known examples of Foxx jerseys than the other two. To my knowledge, there exists only two known 100% all original Foxx jersey’s in private collections and one has not sold public ally since the Atlanta National auction back in 1992. So it was with great anticipation that we received what was supposed to be a 1938 Jimmy Foxx Boston Red Sox game worn road jersey, A jersey, had it been as represented, would have easily topped the quarter million dollar mark. Alas, when it arrived, the initial excitement turned to disappointment as we began our investigation of the jersey. At a glance, its problems didn’t jump right out at you and with no research material available, would be somewhat difficult to put your fingers on each issue.
Let’s start with a physical description of the jersey in question as it was submitted. It is a grey road flannel of a weight appropriate for the late 1930’s. The maker tag appears in the collar and appears all original. It is a Goldsmith tag correct per MEARS database for the late 1930’s. The left sleeve has a 1939 Centennial patch, which is original as well. In the collar, in red chain stitch, the name J.Foxx appears and the same thread and style stitching appears in the rear tail with the year, 38 for 1938. There is a proper size tag, 46, sewn to the left of the maker tag in collar and written in pen, twice, is 36 (?) on the Goldsmith tag. The front of the jersey has “Boston” in blue felt, the correct style of font for Boston Red Sox jerseys while the back has a number 3 that does not match the color of the front lettering and is much softer yet of a correct font style for the Red Sox as well. That describes the jersey as it came out of the box. Now let’s take it apart piece by piece and determine what is exactly wrong with the jersey.
1. When examining the stitching in the collar, on the upper area where the name Foxx is chained stitched, appears to have been opened and re-sewn. It is the only area in which the consistency of the stitching is irregular.
2. The color, thread, and stitch on both the 38 in tail (year) and Foxx are identical.
3. You can plainly see on a light table that under the Boston was a larger team name that extends to either side, maybe Cincinnati. In addition, the Boston is very sharp on all of the edges like they were newly cut.
4. There appears as if the only number ever on the back was a number 3 but the outline of a larger number three appears under the current number 3. The number currently on the back is very soft and a different color than the Boston front.
5. The MEARS data base lists Spalding as the maker of the Red Sox jerseys we have examined including a 1935 Road, 1939 Road, a 1940 Home, a 1941 Road as well as one 1941 Road McAuliffe. One of the collectors who has a Foxx in his collection has both the Spalding and the McAuliffe tag. The shirt is a 1941 and the tagging on his 1941 Ted Williams also has both the Spalding and McAuliffe tags.
6. The buttons are a two hole convex tan, a style of button not found on any existing Red Sox jerseys nor any of the pictures we have examined. There are some great shots from the late 1930’s in Donald Honig’s book, an illustrated History of the Boston Red Sox.
7. Goldsmith was the maker for Reds shirts in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.
Once you have determined the collar had been opened and that the Foxx and the 38 in the tail was the same thread and neither have any fading or bleeding, you have the most obvious problem. The Boston appears newly made and is placed over some since removed team name (probable Cincinnati). The number 3 on the back appears cut from an original number (not Boston) to resemble the font of a Red Sox shirt but is smaller than the original number 3 that was once on the back of this shirt and is a different color and material. It was a simple matter to pattern the letters and number from either an existing shirt of a common player or from some good photographs. The Boston and the number 3 on the back were also applied with the same thread and stitch, which means they were sewn on the jersey at the same time on the same machine.
Our conclusion is that the shirt is a late 30’s jersey as apparent by the manufacturing tag in the collar and what appears to be an original 1939 sleeve patch that has been on the shirt forever. It is the wrong maker for Red Sox jerseys and was probably a Reds shirt from this era. The Foxx and 38 were stitched in recently both being of the same thread, stitch and color and the neck was obviously opened up to add the name in the collar. The buttons are not Red Sox buttons. The Boston is newly made and was sewn over a much larger team name that was removed but damage from removal and years on the shirt still clearly visible. The number 3 on back is a different material than the Boston and appears old yet was stitched in the same thread and manor as the Boston newly adorned front and the ghost image of the shirts original number 3 is still clearly visible. Had the shirt been left along, possibly as a 1939 Reds road, (Jimmie Wilson, coach, wore number 3 for the Red in 1939) it would have been worth several thousand dollars, as a Foxx Red Sox, several hundred thousand dollars.
Obviously, the base product was available and the apparent upgrade was worth 10-20 times the base product so we need look no further for a motive behind the making of such a shirt and now we know exactly how it was achieved. The shirt was made by someone who had knowledge of Red Sox shirts and fonts and had the means/connections to purchase a shirt of a similar era as a basis for his/her project jersey. Felt was obtained and cut and chain stitching applied and presto, an instant Foxx jersey and a sure fire money maker for someone. This is not unusual, just that it is one of the most valuable shirts out there and as such, offers the greatest possibility to lose money and lots of it. Original shirts from the pre war 500 Home Run Club members are rare and expensive so if you are offered one, do your homework. Buying such a shirt could be catastrophic for some poor buyer and a lot of these type items find their way into some pretty impressive homes. How goes the old adage, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. One has to look no farther than some of the bargain priced side written bats recently sold on Ebay for that motto to be driven home. (Do your homework and buy from reputable and honest dealers that stand behind their products or you too may someday end up with such a shirt) Hence, the search goes on for Foxx shirt number 3, the most elusive of all of the 500 Home Run Club members. And keep tuned for our next caper, the vanishing bat hoard.