Description

    1947 Jackie Robinson Game Worn Brooklyn Dodgers Rookie "Color Barrier" Jersey, MEARS A9--Photo Matched with Family Provenance! It was Neil Armstrong who famously declared, as he descended the ladder of Apollo XI to the powdery, white surface below,"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But the sentiment is just as appropriate for the brave first step that Jackie Robinson took across baseball's unjust color line twenty-two years earlier, when racial equality seemed just as distant as the Moon for millions of Americans living beneath the shadow of Jim Crow.

    "They want to see your pride, your dignity" Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey told Robinson as he set him on a course toward his dangerous destiny, "because then they'll see it in themselves." Whereas Babe Ruth had gradually become living folklore through his brilliance on the baseball diamond, Robinson had been thrust into the role from the first moment his spikes dug into the red clay of Ebbets Field, a breathing symbol, an aspirational movement crafted from blood and bone beneath skin that mattered both more than anything, and-he aimed to prove--not at all.

    It has been the subject of religion that has drawn the greatest volume of blood throughout the larger history of the western world. But in the United States it has unquestionably been the matter of race, most painfully in the Civil War that nearly fractured our Union only a half century before Robinson was born into the portion bent upon subjugation. The sharecropper's cabin in Cairo, Georgia where he came into the world in 1919 would have looked entirely familiar to his forebears shackled by slavery, but if toil and struggle had remained a constant in the Robinson family, young Jackie found himself the beneficiary of the one thing those earlier generations never had.

    Hope.

    Today you cannot see the number "42" without feeling that energy of the purest possibility. Whether one encounters it on a house or a license plate, the digits confer a dignity of inverse proportion to what their original intention had been when first worn by Robinson. Check the historical record-the Dodgers had used the number only once before, for a subpar right-hander named George Jeffcoat who limped back to Brooklyn to pitch two innings in 1939 after going six-and-nine for the 1936 and 1937 editions. It was a "throw-away" number, a cut-rate signifier, the exact opposite of the single-digits issued to Pee Wee and the Duke.

    Fifty years later, the baseball world determined that there is no man worthy of "42" anymore. It's quite a redefinition.

    It's an extraordinary experience to witness the number in its original blue felt, affixed to the home white flannel of the 1947 Champions of the National League, as worn by its Rookie of the Year. In the Opening Day photos from 1947, you'll notice that Robinson is the only man wearing a zipper-front jersey, a style abandoned after the 1946 season. Some would argue that was merely a function of his late signing, only two days earlier. Perhaps that is true. However, there is no doubt that many believed "The Noble Experiment" was doomed to fail, and that an obsolete jersey was simply practical economics.

    But this glorious American artifact finds Robinson in the closing hours of that season, resplendent in the latest fashion, awash in validation, in adoration. With the National League pennant--clinched a day earlier with a St. Louis Cardinals loss to the Chicago Cubs-returned to the winds over Flatbush after a six-year absence, the Ebbets Field grandstands rattled with the ovation for their dark-skinned champion on "Jackie Robinson Day," September 23, 1947. It had to have been, unquestionably, the greatest public celebration of a black man in American history to date.

    Three Robinsons take center stage in the famous photograph snapped that day-Jackie, wife Rachel, and Bill "Bojangles," who tests the comfort of the passenger seat of a brand-new Cadillac gifted to the new Dodgers superstar. Later, Bojangles, himself a bold racial pioneer in the entertainment world, would tell sportswriters, "I am sixty-nine years old, but I never thought I would live to see the day when I would stand face to face with Ty Cobb in Technicolor."

    It was at this pinnacle moment of Jackie Robinson's historic rookie season that the offered garment appears, all doubters silenced beneath the thunderous applause. The experts at MEARS, the hobby's foremost uniform authentication service, conclude definitively that the garment and the photograph are a perfect match. Further assurance is provided by the courageous lady who suffered daily with the anguish that an author of one of the hundreds of death threats that the Dodgers mailroom fielded that year would follow through. Jackie's widow Rachel Robinson writes:

    "To Whom It May Concern: This 1947 home uniform was brought home by my husband Jackie Robinson at the end of his first major league season. You can see Jackie wearing this uniform during the Jackie Robinson Day Ceremony at Ebbets Field in 1947. A photo of him wearing the uniform can be seen in the Most Valuable 1949 Player Series Jackie Robinson Book. The jersey has been in the Robinson Family Archives since the end of the 1947 World Series."

    The septuagenarian garment survives in marvelous condition, with MEARS deducting only a single point for the combined effects of some breaking and subsequent reinforcement of the rear numerical stitching and the minor soiling common to ancient flannel. Beyond the few stray anchor threads, the jersey remains in 100% original and unaltered condition, from the classic "Dodgers" script to the immortal number "42" to the "Spalding" manufacturer's tagging at interior collar, with its secondary "42 Regular" size label.

    It was common practice during this golden age of New York City baseball to debut new uniforms for World Series competition, as the standard contingent of two homes and two roads would often appear rather shabby after the better part of 154 games. Clear photography from that second edition of the storied Yankees/Dodgers Fall Classic rivalry is quite limited, but there's every reason to believe that the bulk of the wear evident in this jersey was infused during Games Three through Five.

    Though the Dodgers would fall in seven games to Joe DiMaggio and the mighty Yanks in the World Series, the assignment of a single season's Major League supremacy survives as a mere footnote in the story of that most essential vintage of American sports. "The way I figured it," Robinson wrote shortly before his passing in 1972, "I was even with baseball, and baseball with me. The game had done much for me, and I had done much for it."

    But that wasn't the true balance of the equation. Baseball was just a small part of it.

    LOA from MEARS, A9. Letter of provenance from Rachel Robinson. LOA from Heritage Auctions.





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    Dallas, TX 75219

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