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A Murderer's Row-era treasure from the fabled Iron Horse1927-28 Lou Gehrig Game Worn New York Yankees Jersey. He may have spent the bulk of his baseball career in the shadow of the sport's most celebrated figure, but after the two million fan ballots were calculated to determine the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999, it was Lou Gehrig who took top honors, claiming 1,207,992 votes to Babe Ruth's second-place 1,158,044. While the Babe's career stats may be slightly more garish, and his public persona undoubtedly so, Gehrig's electoral victory here should be considered neither unexpected nor unmerited. As baseball is the most thoroughly American sport, so should the calculus for baseball greatness be informed in part by those traits that represent the best of our national character: bravery, reliability and quiet strength. And no ballplayer in history held these attributes in greater supply than Lou Gehrig.
From June 1, 1925 through May 2, 1939, the stout son of German immigrants unfailingly answered the Yankee bell, through broken bones and concussions, all manner of strains and sprains, surrendering the reins to his fabled streak only for the greater good of the team as his namesake illness tightened its grip. It has recently been postulated that Gehrig's resilience may have been his undoing, and that rather than ALS, it was insufficient rest after multiple brain traumas that precipitated his decline and death. And so self-sacrifice can be added to the long list of the Hall of Fame first baseman's noble virtues.
Gehrig's character and brilliance, both essential in the New York Yankees' elevation to the pinnacle of baseball's hierarchy, have properly fueled intense demand for mementos of his career, while his modesty and untimely passing have served to thwart supply. Of residents in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, only the autograph of manager Miller Huggins, likewise felled by sudden illness, is a greater challenge to collectors. And despite his staggering attendance record, game used material from Gehrig's career eludes all but a small, elite brotherhood of collectors. Fewer than ten jerseys from his seventeen seasons of service are known to exist today.
Here we present one of the very finest from that endangered species, a relic nearly as compelling for its rare departure from stylistic tradition as it is for its regal heritage. The heavy road grey flannel announces "Yankees" in three-inch block across the chest, a deviation from the standard "New York" utilized during only four seasons in the century since the club officially adopted the nickname upon its move to the Polo Grounds from Hilltop Park in 1913. We are able to assign this particular specimen to the first half of that span by the absence of a rear numeral (or any indication of removal), as the club would debut digits for the 1929 season. As such, World Championship vintage for the offered garment is assured.
Each of these seasons is enormously historic, of course, both for the Yankees as a team and for Gehrig personally. The 1927 Yankees are the most common resident at the top of experts' lists of greatest teams in history, and their young first baseman earned the American League Most Valuable Player Award for his contributions to that assignation. The following season culminated in another World Series sweep at the close of second consecutive 100+ victory campaign. In each, Gehrig's thunderous bat led all Junior Circuit run producers, driving home a total of 317 in 309 regular season contests. In short, there was no more threatening sight to host clubs and fans than this grey roadster. "Those fellows not only beat you," Senators first baseman Joe Judge lamented after being outscored thirty-three to two in a brutal Yankee doubleheader, "they tear your hearts out."
In the lengthy letter of examination from leading uniform authentication service MEARS, the experts consider 1928 to be the more likely vintage of this Cooperstown-quality garment, basing this theory on the discovery of a trunk containing a number of 1920's Yankees jerseys packed at the direction of the team's famed equipment manager Pete Sheehy. Following the assumption that all jerseys dated to the same season, MEARS concluded that season was 1927, the only one in which all represented players appeared together on the Yankee roster. Since the embroidered surnames in the collars were joined by a first name initial, they then concluded that all 1927 Yankees jerseys were similarly executed. This stands in contrast to the offered jersey, which provides only the surname "Gehrig" in the palest pink (faded from red) thread at interior collar, beside the proper "Spalding" manufacturer's tag.
We must mention, however, that Heritage was fortunate enough to offer this rare "Yankees" road style once before--the jersey of back-up second baseman Ray Morehart (May 2012, Lot 81467), whose single season of Yankee service was that storied 1927 campaign. In both the jersey and the accompanying pants, simply "Morehart" is embroidered, sans first initial. To be clear, MEARS is explicit in stating that their "Circa 1928" attribution is no more than a supposition, writing, "On a macro level, the offered jersey dates to the period of 1927-1928 based on a combination of factors including the presence of YANKEES across the front and the absence of a rear numeral (or any signs or indications that one was ever applied)."
On this theme, it's important to note that the jersey arrives on our auction block in fully original and unaltered condition, a key consideration for those collectors with an eye to investment outlook. We must report that an earlier owner attempted to counteract the dye loss of the navy "Yankees" lettering on the chest, but this restoration was later reversed, returning the faded text to its authentic state. MEARS deducts two points for this issue. A half-point each for the missing top button and the general heavy wear conclude the deductions, resulting in the solid A7 final grade. The minor damage to the rear tail, resultant of the removal of the "fat strap," is a common Gehrig uniform trait dating to his ownership, and thus excused.
In the rare instances that a Lou Gehrig game used jersey or bat has twice appeared on the hobby's auction block, we can think of no instance in which the latter result did not significantly exceed the former. It's as fitting a tribute to Lou Gehrig as any. As the game we love suffers through steroid cheats and millionaire prima donnas, is it any wonder that our heart grows fonder for those absent traits he so fully embodied? Fine collectibles remind us, and, at their best, inspire us. LOA from MEARS, A7.
1927-28 Lou Gehrig Game Worn New York Yankees Jersey.
*A donation of $100 to the American Red Cross is required to attend the Live auction.
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