Being “earth friendly” is everywhere and I guess that’s a good thing. My large black coffee at Starbucks (still haven’t broken on the code on the whole “Grande/Venti thing) comes in a cup that is made with 10% post-consumer recycled fibers. With that being said, the idea of making use of something longer or simply re-using it until it wears out is certainly nothing new when it comes to baseball uniforms…and yes this too is a blinding flash of the obvious. However, in countless auction description after auction description you will find text and verbiage describing a number change or other alteration as having occurred “because the jersey was sent down to the minors.” While this may be true in some instances, it has unfortunately become a staple of the “cookie cutter” authentication/research work (or lack thereof) that has and continues to plague this hobby/industry.
As I have written about before and have alluded to in some of my published evaluations and previous articles, major league teams have been retaining and making extended use of uniforms at the big league organizational level for decades. This is just not a theory, but something that can be confirmed by a survey of images that are now being brought to market courtesy of the John Rogers Photo Archive (JRPA). MEARS is very excited about the strategic partnership that exists between the JRPA and MEARS Auctions, and while we would like nothing better for collectors to buy their photographs through MEARS Auctions, we also realize that everyone needs or can afford a Type I Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb image. Many collectors (including myself) are always on the hunt to find and acquire images of obscure players or images that don’t contain a marque named player to support or own collections/research. If you’re like me in this respect, consider spending some time browsing through and buying from one of the JRPA on-line retail outlets via e-Bay; in particular Historicimages store. Over the weekend I found and purchased a photograph (around $10) that documents a variation on jersey of a 1970s super star player I bought a few years back at a very affordable price. By spending some time a little extra cash, I have certainly made the jersey I bought worth far more and much easier to sell based on what I can now show about it.
O.K…let’s get back on track since this article is about not wasting stuff. What I have for you today is a collection of images (sourced from Historicimages) that detail the fact that major league clubs held onto jerseys for their own use either during the regular season or in subsequent spring training sessions.
The New York Yankees have a long history of retaining at least one set of uniforms to augment the current year’s inventory. What is interesting to see and note is that this continued into at least the mid 1970’s. We know this and can see this by looking at how Cincinnati native Ed Brinkman was initially outfitted by the club in June of 1975. 1975 is an interesting year for Yankee uniforms in that they had their road jerseys supplied by Rawlings as opposed to Wilson. One of the easiest ways to see this in period images is that the Rawlings jersey’s feature a Set-In sleeve vs a Raglan one found in the Wilson products. In looking at this picture of Brinkman from 20 June 1975, he appears none too happy. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that it looks like the Yankees issued him a 1973 Horace Clarke Wilson product to wear upon his arrival. Here we have a uniform being retained and reused at the major league level during the regular season over a period of three seasons.
After seeing this, I decided to spend a few hours poring through various other images just to see what I could see. What I saw was that in some instances, uniforms were retained for extended organizational use and wear up to and including 5 years after the style had changed. I found this as exciting as it was depressing since the styles of uniforms worn by both the Detroit Tiger (Larry Porter) and Cincinnati Red (Art Shamsky) players are tough styles to find. Knowing now that these uniforms were kept in inventory for extended organizational use leads me to conclude the reason we don’t see them that often is that they were probably used until it just became unpractical to keep them any longer and they may have been simply discarded.
So there you have it…major league baseball was “earth friendly” before it was chic. Contrast that today where the rest of world is pushing for “use less”, yet the players are not only bigger (more material), are provided more uniforms, and they wouldn’t think of wearing something that is “so last year…” Go Figure…
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.