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1975 Catfish Hunter Signed New York Yankees Game-Used Road Jersey
Starting Bid - $2,000.00, Sold For - $8,812.50
Baseball jerseys were always prominently featured in any story about the Barry Halper Collection, and rightly so, for Barry’s jersey collection at one time numbered over 1,000. Offered here is one of the most significant jerseys in Barry’s collection: a 1975 New York Yankees road jersey worn by Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter in his first season with the club. The jersey also bears the further distinction of having been graded A10 by MEARS. This jersey, aside from its having been worn by a player of Hunter’s stature, is also extremely historically important due to the circumstances of Hunter’s arrival in New York. In the fall of 1974, Catfish Hunter, who had just led the Oakland A’s to their third consecutive World Championship, claimed that his contract with the club should be declared void due to a default in payment by the team. The stakes in the matter were high, for the voiding of his contract would make Hunter a free agent. The A’s, of course, challenged Hunter’s claim and the matter was brought to arbitration. On December 13, 1974, arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled in Hunter’s behalf and the modern era of free agency was born. The bidding war for Hunter began immediately and quickly escalated out of control. When the process was over, the New York Yankees emerged as the victor. Hunter, who had been making $100,000 a year in Oakland, signed a new five-year deal worth $3.75 million, including a $1 million signing bonus. The amount, at the time, was unheard of and sent shock waves through the sports world. White Sox owner Arthur Allyn was quoted at the time as stating that the money “…could ruin Hunter as a pitcher, rob him of his desire.” He further stated: “No pitcher is worth that kind of money.” George Steinbrenner, owner of the Yankees, disagreed with Allyn on that point. Hunter won a League high twenty-three games with the Yankees in 1975 and later helped lead the club to three pennants and two World Championships during his five-year tenure in New York. While Hunter’s victory in arbitration did not technically involve the reserve clause, it opened the door for Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally the following winter in their case against the owners. That case centered upon the interpretation of the standard one-year contract renewal upon which the reserve clause is based. That case was also heard in arbitration and Seitz once again ruled in favor of the players, thus effectively abolishing the reserve clause forever.
The gray knit jersey is lettered “New York” across the front and features the number “29” on the reverse. All letters and numbers are appliquéd in navy on white tackle twill. The name “Hunter” is chain-stitched in navy upon a gray strip tag in the collar. Situated on the left front tail is a “Rawlings 46” label, adjacent to which is a flag tag that reads “Set 1 #8P 1975.” Hunter has signed the jersey “Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter” in blue Sharpie (grading “9/10”) in the collar. The jersey, which is completely original and unaltered, displays light wear throughout. It is interesting to note that 1975 was the only season in which Rawlings supplied the Yankees with double-knit road jerseys. Catfish Hunter led the League in wins with twenty-three in 1975, marking his fifth straight season of twenty or more wins. He also led the League in games started (30) and innings pitched (328), while recording an ERA of 2.49. Hunter retired after the 1979 season with 224 wins and his individual accomplishments include both a perfect game (in 1968) and a Cy Young Award (1974). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. Unfortunately, in 1998 Hunter was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the same disease that took the life of Lou Gehrig, and he passed away one year later at the age of fifty-three. Because of his great appreciation for this particular jersey and its special historical significance, Barry decided to keep this jersey rather than part with it during the initial offering of his collection in 1999. Graded a perfect A10 by MEARS. To date, this is only the third Catfish Hunter jersey ever evaluated by MEARS (the other two are both Oakland jerseys) and the only example to warrant a grade of A10. An extraordinary jersey in all respects and quite possibly the finest Catfish Hunter jersey in existence. From the Barry Halper Collection. LOAs from Dave Bushing & Troy Kinunen/MEARS and James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $8,812.50
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