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Lot
80950

Early 1950's Milwaukee Braves Game Worn Jacket Attributed to Rookie Hank Aaron....

2011 April Dallas Signature Sports Collectibles Auction #7032

 
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Auction Ended On: Apr 22, 2011
Item Activity: 6 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Heritage Auctions - Design District Annex
1518 Slocum Street
Dallas, TX

Description:
Early 1950's Milwaukee Braves Game Worn Jacket Attributed to Rookie Hank Aaron. In an age when the average Major League salary tops $2 million annually, it's hard to believe that once upon a time even the greatest stars of the game were issued "hand me down" uniform pieces, but this was a well-documented practice. When a player left a club behind, the man taking his place would often assume his uniform if the size was right, and jersey numbers were often assigned based purely upon who fit the jersey upon which it was placed. But there was an added component to the decision of who received what uniform pieces back in this era. Many white ballplayers refused uniforms that had been worn by an African-American, and, as such, we often see the path of jackets such as this one following racial bloodlines. This high-quality letterman style Braves jacket was never intended to be a single season uniform piece--photo documentation shows this same jacket being used for a number of years. This one almost surely dates to the 1953 season. It couldn't be any earlier, as the Braves were in Boston in 1952, at which point they used the Indian head logo. It was only upon their move to Milwaukee in '53 that the tomahawk came into vogue. We can then attribute this jersey to Sam Jethroe, who did not play in 1953, but was still the property of the Braves. His number "5" is found embroidered on a black felt swatch on the inner left tail. It is almost certain that Aaron was issued number "5" in 1954 because he was Jethroe's size, and he would not be bothered by the fact that the former owner of his uniform had dark skin. Uniform authenticator Lou Lampson notes this in his highly detailed letter of authenticity, which traces the probably progression of the jacket from Jethroe to Aaron. The jersey number "5" was not worn by any other Brave until 1956, too late for this jacket to have been originally issued. As such, we can assert with a good amount of confidence that this jacket belonged to Aaron during his rookie season.

As to the specifics of the jersey itself, we need not state just how beautiful it is--our catalog imagery will tell this tale. The black heavyweight satin body offers a wonderful felt script team nickname and tomahawk, which displays only the slightest scattering of pinpoint holes. The neck and sleeve elasticized trim is complete and undamaged, and the zipper operates perfectly. "Wilson [size] 44" tagging appears in the collar, and the number "28" markered below further proves the long life of this piece as it was sent down to the minors after Major League action. The tan chamois leather lining shows fine wear but remains undamaged to this day. In short, this is about as good as it gets for the serious Aaron collector, combining rookie history with tremendous visual appeal. One look and you'll see why the Braves wanted to use these jackets forever. LOA from Heritage Auctions.

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