Description1966 Jerry Armstrong Game Worn Texas Western Miners Jersey from "Glory Road" Team. Only one year earlier, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights for the African-American populace was repelled with tear gas, whips and clubs as Jim Crow fought violently against its impending demise. And yet here, on college basketball's greatest stage, five young black ballplayers were taking the court to meet the all-white powerhouse University of Kentucky Wildcats. Those forty minutes of basketball would generate 40,000 pieces of hate mail for Texas Western coach Don Haskins, and more than a dozen threats upon his life. It would also immortalize the team from a cash-strapped school in El Paso, Texas, and continue the work of Jesse Owens, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson in reshaping the way the world viewed the black athlete.
Jerry Armstrong was the biggest white player on the racially-integrated team, both in physical stature and ability, a defensive specialist favored by Haskins as muscle to counter physical post play. But the team that stood between the Miners and a National Championship on March 16, 1966 was one built for speed, a heavily-favored Kentucky squad playfully nicknamed "Rupp's Runts" for the diminutive size of the players fielded by Hall of Fame coach Adolph Rupp. Haskins would later insist, as would the members of his team, that the decision to field an entirely African-American was due entirely to those players' ability to run with the Runts, with no thought whatsoever to the historical implications of the strategy.
Heritage Auctions proudly presents the home jersey worn by Armstrong during that fateful season. "Texas 52 Western" is applied to the white durene shell on front in single-color orange tackle twill with black anchor stitching, while the reverse supplies a simple number "52." Orange and black checkerboard trim travels the neckline and shoulder yokes, the garment's most eye-catching aesthetic feature. Applied in the tail is a "Sand Knit" local distributor manufacturer's label, which anchors a size "42" flap tag.
The team donned their road jerseys for the confrontation with Kentucky in the title game, and Armstrong was not active for that contest. But the historical context elevates the garment to the pinnacle of desirability. Those Heritage bidders who were active in 2006 will recall our offering of star sophomore guard Willie Worsley's jersey, and the research undertaken by our cataloging team that included an interview with student trainer Fred Schwake and sports information director Eddie Mullens at our world headquarters here in Dallas.
Schwake was with the team from 1963 through 1967, and Mullens from 1962 through 1971, and each confirmed that this underfunded club had just one white and one orange jersey for that Championship season. And furthermore, they assured us that these single jerseys were recycled for use each of the years that they were there. The team never got new models.
The offered jersey is offered with a signed letter from Willie Cager which further states: "My name is Willie Cager and I was a player on the 1966 Texas Western Miners NCAA Championship Team. Jerry Armstrong's 1966 Home Jersey. I took this jersey from our locker room as a match for the jersey worn in the championship game. It is white in color and bears #52. It has been in my possession since 1966. I guarantee the originality and the authenticity of the jersey." An inspiring relic that reminds us of the great force for justice that American sports has been, and can continue to be. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
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