One of the things I brought to SCDA and later MEARS was the use of a database for uniforms. I had been working on this for sometime. I set it up so that I could track and analyze the various uniforms I had seen or had been offered in the hobby since the late 1980s. As the database grew, you could start to see certain trends for things like player size or which manufacturers provided uniforms to teams in which years.
Since much of the jersey information was obtained from catalog descriptions, these represented jerseys I had not actually seen. It was important to gather everything in order to then go back and see what made sense given trends and the result of doing imagery analysis. Please note I am not talking about “photo matching.” The point here is that if the data and trends indicate a certain manufacturer provided uniforms to a team during a particular period and then you find a new manufacturer or a gap in the data base, you have to look for manufactures characteristics in photographs and film to see if it makes sense.
This was recently the case with a 1957 Willie Mays NY Giants Home jersey manufactured by MacGregor. In looking at this jersey (tagged size and measured size being both 42) against other Mays uniforms in the database I was able to see:
1951 Road, MacGregor; size 42
1955 Road, McAuliffe, size 42
1958 Road, MacGregor, size 42
1958 Home, McAuliffe, 42
1962 Home, Wilson, size 42
1963 Road, Spalding, size 42
My look at jerseys for the Giants in general from 1950s in the MEARS database also indicated that the vast majority of the jerseys were McAuliffe products. There were currently no NY Giants MacGregor jerseys in the MEARS data base for years 1955-1957. This then created a series of fundamental questions that have to be addressed in order to complete the evaluation of this jersey as a Willie Mays 1957 NY Giant’s home jersey manufactured by MacGregor. They were:
1. Didn’t the NY Giants have a pattern of wearing McAuliffe jerseys during this period? The answer is yes and examples can be found for:
– Leland’s June 1997, Lot # 591, page 92. 1957 Bill Rigney NY Giants home jersey manufactured by McAuliffe.
– Leland’s February 1993, Lot # 76, page 18. 1957 Red Schoendienst NY Giants home jersey manufactured by McAuliffe.
What you will also see is that there are examples of jerseys being supplied by MacGregor during this period as well. The relationship with MacGregor, formerly Goldsmith and MacGregor-Goldsmith, can be found from 1944-1954 and again in starting in1958 by referencing exemplars from the MEARS Database.
2. Since there are gaps in the MEARS data base for years 1955-1957, how is MacGregor confirmed as furnishing jerseys to the NY Giants in any of those years? (REFERENCE A)
The key to being able to answer this question in the affirmative lies in the MacGregor manufacturer’s characteristic of the button style and numeral font style. The MacGregor button style is distinctive in both material and construction. It is visibly darker both for home buttons (not white or clear) and grey road buttons. (These buttons will become darker over time). They also feature a two-hole construction. Although no 1956 home jerseys from the Giants appear in the MEARS database at this time, an example of a MacGregor jersey can be seen in CORBIS Image dated April 16th 1956. The 1956 NY Giants Team Yearbook confirms the Pirates played the Giants in the home opening series from 17-19 April 1956.
3. Are there available images from 1957 of Willie Mays that confirm this numerical font style for home jerseys? (REFERENCE B.)
The answer is yes. This is essential since this font style (without base) is different from that seen wore by Willie Mays (with base) in the 1957 All Star Game in St. Louis, MO (Video, 1957-1958 All Star Games: Rare Sports Films. MEARS Video Reference).
Readily available and verifiable references include:
U1131515| RM| © Bettmann/CORBIS (May 12th, 1957 vs the Brooklyn Dodgers)
U1347836INP| RM| © Bettmann/CORBIS (July 1957 vs the Chicago Cubs)
U1347868INP| RM| © Bettmann/CORBIS (July 1957 vs the Chicago Cubs)
A review of the 1957 NY Giants Yearbook (Back Page) confirms that the Giants did in fact play the Dodgers at home on July 12th 1957 and the Cubs on 14-15 July 1957.
For comparison and references purposes, examples of the numeral “4” for Mays with and without a base can be found in Baseball’s Great Dynasties: The Giants by Jim Kaplin.
Page 47 (with base).This image is from the 1954 World Series.
Page 50 (without base). This image is from 1958 by the caption.
Probably the best image available to highlight the fact that two numeral font styles can be found for 1957 NY Giants home jerseys is found on pages 104-105 of The National League: A History by Joel Zoss and John S. Brown. The image is of the NY Giants leaving the field at the Polo Grounds in September 1957 in their final home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 1957 NY Giants Team Yearbook confirms that the final home game was in fact against the Pirates.
It is very easy to distinguish the Pirates from the Giants since the Pirates are wearing a vest style uniform. You can see that Giant’s like Bill Rigney (#18) show a numeral with a base (the “1” in “18”) and Mays can be seen with numerals without the base.
What this does is visibly and objectively demonstrate that the NY Giants may have had more than one manufacturer for home jerseys in 1957and it does not preclude MacGregor from being one of them given the pattern of MacGregor or MacGregor family of products from the 1940s-through the late 1950s as well as the presence of MacGregor style buttons in years not found in the database.
Further supporting this use of manufacturer’s characteristics for comparative purposes as it relates to imagery analysis is a 1958 Willie Mays home jersey offered by Hunts Auctions in July 2007. Lot # 221, page 80 of the auction catalog shows a Mays home McAuliffe style jersey. Note the difference in the style of button and the font style. All of this indicates that the darker style buttons and numeric font style found on this MacGregor Mays jersey sets it apart from being visually confused as a McAuliffe product when looking at Giants images from this period.
4. Does this jersey have any customizations or characteristics that compare with photographic examples of Mays jerseys from this period and support an association with it being a MacGregor product? (REFERENCE C)
One of the more visibly striking physical and externally observable characteristics of this jersey is the very short sleeves. They measure out to be approximately 94mm or 3 ¾ inches. This is approximately the same measurement of the letter “S” in GIANTS on this jersey when the letter “S” is measured from top to bottom along the longest axis (93mm). Thus for scale, the sleeve we are looking for should be roughly the same size of the letter “S” as measured from the longest vertical axis and we should expect to find it on a MacGregor product.
In looking at a vintage scrapbook photograph of Mays from around the 1956-57 period (based on the styles of uniforms from other teams in the same scrapbook as well as the caption refers to it being a “hectic five years for Mays) you will notice that the sleeve length is approximately 18mm and the letters “S”, when measured along the same axis as the one on this jersey is also 18mm. This shows both the jersey in the scrapbook image and the jersey on hand share this distinctive characteristic with respect to proportionality. An additional observation to note in the scrapbook image, are the darker style MacGregor buttons on both the jersey and the pants. I would not consider or suggest that these jerseys are one in the same given the fact that the jersey on hand has been constructed having the front panel sewn over the back panel and the image in the scrapbook shows the back panel being sewn over the front.
The other thing to note is that the sleeves in the images of Mays in a home jersey from 1957 that were shown in Reference A, do not appear to be as short as these or the scrapbook image. The purpose of Reference C and study of proportionality was not to identify any specific example as being this Mays jersey, but to evaluate this jersey against others from the same period as a MacGregor product.
5. What Does All This Mean?
The combination of the above references and examples have been focused on and nested within the initial question about Macgregor as a manufacturer when the trend points to McAuliffe based on the known samples recorded. Use of a database supports trend analysis, but is not definitive in its own right. Although in this case, the data does support the possibility of MacGregor as a manufacturer given the fact that examples show up in years before and after the gap of 1955-1957. To close the gap and to include or exclude a particular manufacturer, it is necessary to look for manufacturers’ characteristics that can be observed in period images. The MacGregor button and font style seem to do that in this case for years 1956 and 1957. Further supporting this is the example of Mays from the same period in what appears to be a MacGregor product (Reference C) with very short sleeves.
It is in working in this fashion we are now permitted to reexamine the decade of the 1950s with respect to what we see and what we likely know about those manufacturers who supplied jerseys to the New York and later San Francisco Giants.
We now have these observable points of reference for the NY/SF Giants for the 1950s:
1950-1953: MacGregor-Goldsmith/MacGregor NY Giants jerseys recorded in the MEARS database
1954: McAuliffe and MacGregor NY Giants jerseys recorded in the MEARS database.
1955: McAuliffe jerseys recorded in the MEARS data base.
1956: McAuliffe jerseys recorded in the MEARS data base. MacGregor style buttons on NY Giants jerseys. (Shorter sleeves as seen on this jersey on a MacGregor Mays product c 1956-1957)
1957: McAuliffe jerseys recorded in MEARS data base. MacGregor style font on NY Giants jerseys. (Shorter sleeves as seen on this jersey on a MacGregor Mays product c 1956-1957)
1958: McAuliffe and MacGregor NY Giants jerseys recorded in the MEARS database.
1959: McAuliffe and Wilson jerseys recorded in MEARS database.
Evaluation Findings: Based on a my physical examination of this jersey, supporting data, images, and References A-C, it is my opinion that this jersey possessed all of the characturics you would expect to find in a 1957 New York Giants home jersey manufactured by MacGregor for use by Willie Mays. The tagging and supplemental player/year identification on this jersey appears to be correct and original to this jersey and is consistent with other MacGregor products from the same period. I also feel that based on the photographic evidence of the existence of Macgregor manufacturers characteristics and the fact that MacGregor jerseys can be found in the database before and after 1957, that MacGregor should be considered a likely manufacturer for NY Giants home jerseys in 1957.
The takeaways from this article when working with databases are:
1. Gather as much information as possible and anticipate that there are going to be gaps.
2. Look in detail at what the data suggests for the time frame both before and after the gap.
3. Look for ways to identify manufacturer’s characteristics and leverage this when doing imagery analysis.
4. Continue to invest in photographic and film references.
In the end, this enables you to close gaps in the database and provides for a more objectively substantiated opinion. As a collector and researcher, these are two things I place a premium on and can be used by you to place a premium on your items.
MEARS Auth, LLC