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By Dave Grob

May 25, 2012

Microscopic analysis of Ruth's name stitched in the jersey's collar was a key to Grob's authentication process.

Much has been asked in recent days about the process of evaluating Babe Ruth’s 1920 New York Yankees road uniform that was sold last weekend by Sports Cards Plus for $4.4 million.   On Monday, the MEARS office received a call from New York radio station WFAN asking if we would consent to an interview about my authentication of the garment.  While on the air I was able to describe the evaluation process without the listeners having the ability to view the supporting images and other evidence found in the report I issued for SCP Auctions.  The purpose of this article is to present some of the imagery analysis found in that report and to shed some further light on what I looked for and how it was done.

To begin with, even before I took possession of the uniform, I asked that I be provided with images of the artifact. I did this so I could begin to gather references and information to support the larger effort. One of the first things I wanted to do was to try to establish when the uniform was from.
In looking at the images, I saw that the jersey was without any sort of supplemental tagging or identification used to denote the year of issuance. This is not atypical or unusual for uniforms of the period that I have researched and evaluated in the past. A combination of factors permitted a very general and initial time frame to be established and that was the period of 1920-1926.

(PLATE I)

Babe Ruth Yankees: 1920-1934
New York Front: 1920-1926; 1931-1934
Numbers on Back of Yankee Uniforms: 1929-1934 (No number on the back of this jersey)
Style of Spalding Manufacturers Tag: c 1915-1928

In looking at Yankee road uniforms that feature “NEW YORK” across the front chest, you will find the lettering placement (when viewed in relation to the button line/placket) is fairly consistent from year to year. This is not something unique or particular to the period in question. This uniform features the “Y” in “YORK” placed on the placket itself. In order to better approximate the date of this jersey, a survey of period images was conducted using a variety of photographic references that included but was not limited to:

Photographic References

Print; Team/Subject Specific
-New York Aces: The First 75 Years by Mark Rucker
-New York Yankees: The First 25 Years by Luisi
-New York Sluggers: The First 75 Years by Mark Rucker
-New York Yankees Seasons of Glory by Hageman & Wilbert
-The Babe: The Game that Ruth Built by Ritter & Rucker
-The New York Yankees: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-The New York Yankees 1901-1961 (from the sports pages collection of the Caren Archive)
-The Yankees: An Illustrated History by Sullivan & Powers
-Yankees Baseball: The Golden Age by Bak

Print; General:
-The Image of Their Greatness (An Illustrated History of Baseball from 1900-Present) by Ritter and Honig
-The Lively Ball: Baseball in the Roaring Twenties by Cox
-Baseball: The Illustrated History of America’s Game by Donald Honig
-The American League: An Illustrated History by Donald Honig
-The American league: A History by Zoss & Bowman
-The Story of Baseball: A Completely Illustrated and Exciting History of America’s National Game (Revised) by Rosenberg
-The Pictorial History of Baseball by Bowman & Zoss
-The Chronicle of Baseball: A Century of Major League Action by Mehno
-Baseball: A Celebration by Buckley & Gigliotti
-Baseball 100 Years of the Modern Era (1901-2000) by The Sporting News
-Baseball: An Illustrated History by Voight

Film:
BASEBALL by Ken Burns
Greatest Sports Legends: Babe Ruth

On-Line:
Getty Images
Corbis Images
Photographs of the Chicago Daily News (1902-1933)
Boston Public Library

Although Ruth was not acquired by the Yankees until January 3, 1920, I wanted to account for the possibility (in images) that Ruth could be found in a jersey carried over from a previous season. I did not suspect this offered jersey was a carryover from an earlier season (although this alignment is common to the 1918-1919 period as well) since Ruth’s name is found embroidered in the jersey. What is possible though is that photos of Ruth in 1920 may depict him a jersey produced in 1919 for another player. What I found is this alignment is most closely associated with the uniforms produced and worn during the 1920 season as it relates to this uniform. After 1920, the “Y” in “YORK” appears to be affixed to the left of the placket in various places and distances. (PLATES II-XXVII)

Once I felt comfortable with the dating of the uniform to 1920, I then began to consider what would an appropriate sized garment be for Ruth at this point in his career? The jersey was without any sort of supplemental tagging to denote the size. This too is not atypical or unusual for uniforms of the period that I have researched and evaluated in the past. Static references (those that don’t account for change over time) for Ruth indicate:

Baseball Reference.com: 6’2”; 215 lbs
Baseball Almanac.com: 6’2”; 215 lbs
The Baseball Encyclopedia: 6’2”; 215 lbs
Total Baseball: 6’2”; 215 lbs

Whenever possible, I like to work from sizing data that is taken from period or contemporary references. As for now, my library of Who’s Who in Baseball does not go back past 1927. I found that the superbly written and researched effort by Robert Creamer, Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, offered some valuable insights:

Year specific data for Ruth shows:
1914: 185 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
1917: 194 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
1919: 215 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
Spring Training 1920: 200 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
Post 1920 Season: 245 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
February 1922: 220 lbs (7 February Boston Daily Globe)
Opening Day 1923: 215 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
January 1925: 256 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)
December 1925: 222 lbs (24 December Alton Evening Telegraph)
Spring Training 1926: 212 lbs (Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert Creamer)

Creamer recounts actual measurements for Ruth from the period 1925-1926; most notably a chest measurement of between 43” (normal) and 45” (expanded). Given the cut and fit of uniforms of the period, I should expect to find a jersey worn by Ruth during this period to be in the size 46-48 range.
The jerseys measured out to approximately a size 48 across the chest. This, too, is consistent with a citation in Creamer’s book where Ruth’s top size is identified as a size 48 (page 287).

At this point in time I was comfortable with the dating and the size, but these are only issues or data points that most would consider periphery at best; but what about the garment itself? There are various things I looked for. The first of which was to ensure we were dealing with a major league quality garment. Without getting too far off track, I will spend a bit of time on the issue of fabrics from the period. The typical major league quality garment of the period was constructed of an 8oz. wool flannel. What this weight refers to is the weight of one square yard of fabric. It is possible to determine the quality or grade of the fabric in an unobtrusive manner by examining the weave under a digital microscope and then conducting some comparative analysis of period products in various grades.

I am able to perform this type of analysis because I have invested in period fabric samples that come in form of manufacturers’ fabric sample catalogs and actual period uniforms. The comparative analysis was conducted using a digital microscope that allows me compare the weave. What I saw when performing this examination was that the weave or quality of the fabric was, in fact, consistent with what I would have expected to find in a period Major League offering manufactured by Spalding. (PLATE XXVIII)

Moving forward, this is where the value of the dating and performing imagery analysis come into play. In doing that body of work up front, it provided me with various physical characteristics I should have expected to find in this jersey. Those included but were not limited to:

-A particular orientation and alignment of the lettering of “NEW YORK” across the placket
-Font style used for the lettering.
-The presence of a “sun style” collar.
-The presence of Set-In Sleeve vs Raglan Sleeves
-Sleeve length and whether they were trimmed, and if so, where they left un-hemmed
-Style of buttons
-Style of underarm gusset

In short, what I am doing is creating both a physical and mental template of what “right should look like” and then I can see how the jersey in question stacks up.

What I found was that the jersey was, in fact, constructed of professional grade wool flannel that was consistent with period Major League Spalding exemplars. I also found no discriminators or discrepancies with the previous mentioned physical characteristics. One thing I did notice was that the sleeves had been cut and left un-hemmed. Because of the previous imagery analysis, I knew this was something that could be found for Ruth during the period of 1920-1922. I did not look for this much past 1922 since this was well beyond the dating of the jersey. (PLATES 29-37)

One area of the construction of the jersey that deserved special attention was the supplemental player identification of “Ruth G.H.” that was found chain stitched into the rear of the collar. This is the single most important physical characteristic of the garment that ties it to the player in question. The first thing I did was examine the collar area in great detail to ensure the various fabric panels had not been opened up, post manufacturer, to accommodate the application of this embroidery. This was done using UV lighting, a light table, as well as digital microscope and the results of my inspection showed this area to have been free of any alterations or signs of contrived application. The next thing I did was examine the color of the thread used for this player identification. To the naked eye, the thread appears faded to almost a pinkish color. What experience and reliance on period exemplars shows me is that even through the course of legitimate use, wear, and fading, the color of the thread where it enters and exits the body of the garment should remain darker as it has not been exposed to the elements in the same manner as the exposed thread. In the case of this jersey, I found what I should have expected to have found, darker thread and the point of entry and exit. (PLATE 38)

Because the lettering of the “New York” was affixed with a straight stitch, and some of these stitches had popped or pulled free from the wool felt fabric, I was also able to examine the fade of the underside of the felt using a digital microscope. This examination also showed that the color of the unexposed wool felt had retained its original navy blue color as opposed to the faded fabric that had been exposed to the elements. (PLATE 39)

I found all of this to have been consistent with the overall use and wear to the jersey, which was assessed as being heavy. The heavy and consistent use and wear was found in the surface condition of the body of the garment that included soiling and staining as well as a couple of fabric repairs; most notable of these areas of repair included a 25mm area in the right rear of the collar as well as a 20mm by 20mm repair in the lower left front tail. There is also separation in the anchor stitching used to affix the Spalding manufacturers label in the collar as well as a slight tear to tag itself. None of that calls into question the legitimacy of the Spalding tag as it remained firmly affixed otherwise. The interior finishing of the joining of the front and rear panels of the garment appeared very rough in cut and construction. To me, this possibly suggested the jersey may have been taken in at some point in time. This may have occurred during subsequent use by another player or done to facilitate the fluctuations of Ruth’s weight as depicted in Cramer’s work (The index of the book contains eight (8) separate references under the heading of “weight fluctuations” (page 440).

By this point in the process I had conducted imagery analysis, which supported dating and establishing of a template of what I should have expected to find. I had also conducted a detailed physical inspection of the garment that included comparative analysis in order to assess fabric quality. The physical inspection also focused on trying to locate and identify any signs of contrived use, wear, manufacturer, or alterations; of which I found none. It was with this body of work, information, and supporting data that I looked to form an opinion on what I thought this artifact was and why. For me, that resulted in the opinion that the jersey possessed all the characteristics that I would expect to see in a road uniform manufactured by Spalding 1920 for use and wear by Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees.

The final step of the process involved the grading of the jersey. The MEARS worksheet and grading criteria provides for 5 categories for which points may deducted
I found these reasons to deduct points:

Category 1: -.0 for cut/un-hemmed sleeves.
No points deducted for this because images conform Ruth wearing cut sleeves on his uniforms during the period of 1920-1922. As such, this is considered a player characteristic for Ruth during this time frame.
Category 5: -.5 x 2 for repairs to front and collar (total of -1)
-.5 for broken anchor stitching on collar/Spalding tag
-.5 for soiling staining and minor fabric holes

As such, the final grade for this jersey was that of an A8.

With all this information laid out, much has been said about the fact the history or provenance of the jersey has not been traced back to 1920 or even any date in that proximity. While this would have certainly been nice to have, I hope you can see that no story, no matter how compelling would have any appreciable effect on these observations and subsequent analysis. At the end of the day, the artifact is what it is and what I endeavor to do is to objectively research it and then provide a reasoned opinion based on a body of work that someone can consider for themselves. At that point in time they are free to draw their own conclusions as to what it is, or is not, and why they hold the opinion that they do.

As my WFAN interview with Mike Francesa closed, Mike asked me about the cost of the work on this jersey. I declined to provide that exact figure. What I did not get a chance to explain is that the fee charged for this work is set and provided up front. The fee is the same for an opinion that results in showing a jersey as being problematic. There is never any condition or stipulation that paying the fee gets you the opinion you had hoped for. Likewise, there is never any condition or stipulation that provides an incentive or bonus if the jersey sells for a record price as was the case here. In my mind, my loyalties are to the process and the artifact in question.

My hope is that this article has provided you with some insight into the process used to evaluate this uniform and how I formed my opinion.

Click Here For: Entire Imagery Analysis Report For The Babe Ruth Jersey (39 pages)

Dave Grob
Senior Baseball Uniform Researcher
MEARS


11 Comments

  1. Now, that is what you call “Going Deep Into The Item To Authenicate It “good job Dave.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — May 25, 2012 @ 10:52 am

  2. Seeing how thorough the research is for your evalyation of a game used jersey, I’d have to say I’d feel more comfortable collecting jerseys than I would in collecting autographs.

    Comment by Harry — May 25, 2012 @ 11:40 am

  3. For those that have taken the time to read this, whether die-hard collectors or casual fans/readers, do not think for 1 minute this is typically how the “collecting world” evaulates jerseys. DaveGrob has pioneered a way of truly evaluating an item at every layer, no pun intended. This should be an example of the “standard”

    Comment by Justin Brooks — May 25, 2012 @ 11:42 am

  4. “the artifact is what it is”

    I coulda told you that without doing any research at all. I hate that this phrase has become so common that even a person who does in-depth analysis uses it as part of his conclusion. (Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine–the guy obviously did a lot of great work. But I don’t need to know that anything is what it is. The day something is what it isn’t, let me know. Actually, maybe that could be Barry Halper’s collection’s slogan: It isn’t what it is!)

    Comment by jere — May 25, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  5. Dave Grob is to be commended for his detailed analysis!

    The photo of Babe and Joe Jackson was definitely taken in 1920. We have that photo in the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum. Joe didn’t get to play the last five games in that season because he was indicted to go before the Grand Jury about the 1919 World Series.

    Comment by Arlene Marcley — May 25, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

  6. Incredibly astounding and so very interesting! It is comforting to know that there is a way to telling the good stuff from the fake. It is a shame that it is so needed. This scientific approach makes me feel better than how some of the PSA/DNA companies approach it, 2 out of 3 opinions makes the decision! Good work Dave and keep up the good work Peter!

    Comment by Linda — May 25, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

  7. this is indeed incredible work!
    too bad more work like this is not done for all these auctions, heritage auctions, as well as the other auction houses need people like this for all their priceless ‘treasures’

    Comment by Joseph Weglarz — May 25, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

  8. Seems like the only way someone could even attempt to fake a 1920 ruth road jersey would be to get a hold of an authentic post 1920 ruth jersey and move the felt letters into the same position as the 1920. But in that case grob would be able to tell that they were tampered with. If it was another players post 1920 yankee jersey, then the chaun stitched ruth name wiuld have to be added and it seems like grob would be able to identify that too. Is he the only guy out there doing this sort of work?

    Comment by Joe V. — May 26, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

  9. I’ll take Barry Halper’s stories over any scientific analysis any day!

    Just joking.

    Comment by Marc Rettus — June 25, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

  10. I was wondering if you could answer a question for me? What would the Value of the Real Newspaper clipping on Babe Ruth be worth now a days? I was given a whole box of Newspaper stuff from the years of 1900-1930. I have put them in a safe place and was wondering if you could please help me find out. I would be thankful if you would please replay to this letter as soon as you can.

    Thank You,
    David G. Engledow

    Comment by David G. Engledow — September 29, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

  11. Dave, read your article on spalding bat and the lower collector enthusiasm toward them. Nicely done. do you have any info on (The Spalding Premier #157 with a ribbed grip 33 1/2 inch) I cannot find any thing. Maybe a book or two you read that i can research. Titles would be appreciated.
    Oh yeah, if I ever buy a 4.4 million dollar jersey I want you to authenticate for me.LOL

    Comment by David — November 3, 2013 @ 12:59 am

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