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Description1951 Willie Mays Game Worn Minneapolis Millers Jersey with Photo Match! "By all odds the most talked about player in the American Association these days is a 19-year-old colored boy named Willie Mays who cavorts in center field for the Minneapolis Millers," wrote Jim Burris of the American Association Service Bureau. "Blessed with tremendous natural ability, Willie can do almost everything just a little better than the next fellow." Presented is perhaps the single most noteworthy artifact to survive from the career of a ballplayer who more than lived up to his early billing, ranking near or at the top of essentially every baseball historian's list of the greatest ever.
The Say Hey Kid earned his immortality in the black and orange of the New York and San Francisco Giants, but his affiliation with the squad began like the common masses in the minor leagues, first with the Class B 1950 Trenton affiliate before his ascension to the AAA Millers for the 1951 campaign. Joining future Hall of Famers Hoyt Wilhelm and Ray Dandridge in the Millers dugout, Mays quickly earned a one-way ticket to the Big Apple, batting .477 in thirty-five games and dazzling spectators with his range and arm in the outfield. By late May, he was a Big Leaguer.
Despite his limited use of this historic home white flannel gamer, the wear is considerable, illustrative of the frugal nature of the day when ballclubs recycled uniforms whenever possible. Clearly Mays had not been the first to wear this jersey, a fact which supplies the most coveted mode of provenance in the form of an ironclad photo match. While every aspect of letter, button and trim placement corresponds exactly to this vintage shot, the deal is sealed by the distinctive, significant repair at the front right sleeve, an unmistakable match between the image and the garment. The supplied letter of examination from SCD Authentic (now MEARS) likewise points to this definitive proof, noting that the repair "does not detract from the overall grade, as it serves to support the validity of the jersey." Demerits are issued only for small holes in right underarm, small team repair on back, and light staining on back tail, a half-point deduction for each for a final grade of 8.5 on a ten point scale.
"Millers" arches gently in the Giants' classic font across the chest, with Mays' proper number "28" similarly applied to verso in black and orange felt. Black and orange trim rings sleeve cuffs and button path/collar. "Wilson [size] 44" label in tail is joined by washing instructions label. Wear is very strong thoughout, but our catalog imagery should properly indicate that the jersey presents very well without any real distractions.
Mays would earn the National League Rookie of the Year Award this season, participate in one of baseball's most famous games (Bobby Thomson's Called Shot contest) and meet fellow rookie Mickey Mantle in the 1951 Fall Classic. This is a key relic from that unforgettable age. For years it served as one of the most popular exhibits at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, properly presenting the garment as a seminal relic in the game's emerging integration. The cultured baseball historian need not be reminded why this jersey rates as one of the most important post-war gamers available in the collecting hobby. LOA from SCD Authentic, 8.5. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
Guide Value or Estimate: $50,000 - up.
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2017 June 29 Premium Sportscard Catalog Auction - Dallas