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1908 Fred Tenney New York Giants Game-Used Road Jersey with Family Provenance
Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $29,375
New York Giants road jersey worn by standout first baseman Fred Tenney during the historic 1908 season. Graded A5.5 by MEARS (all original, all point deductions are simply related to condition). This jersey holds many distinctions, including that of being the earliest player-identified Major League baseball jersey (i.e., name stitched in the garment) recorded in the entire MEARS census. The next earliest example is a 1911 Boston Red Sox road jersey worn by Jack Killilay, which, coincidentally, is also included in this auction. Jerseys dating from the dead-ball era are exceedingly rare, with literally only a handful of examples known. To put its rarity into proper perspective it should be noted that this is one of only nine pre-1920 jerseys ever graded by MEARS. It also ranks among the finest prewar baseball jerseys we have ever handled, both with regard to its extraordinary provenance and historical importance. The jersey, along with a number of other Fred Tenney personal items (which appear as separate lots elsewhere in this auction), has been consigned to this auction directly by Fred Tenney's great-granddaughter and is accompanied by a two-page signed letter from her in which she attests to its provenance. Its historical significance is equally compelling.
This jersey dates to the 1908 season, which was the year in which the Giants lost the pennant to the Cubs as a result of "Merkle's Boner." (Incredibly, and again by sheer coincidence, the very ball used to record the final out of the fabled "Merkle's Boner" game is featured as one of the great highlights in this auction.) Tenney, who was the club's starting first baseman, actually played a major role in that controversial game by not playing. Tenney woke up the morning of September 23rd with a sore back and was scratched from the lineup. Enter Fred Merkle, a nineteen-year old rookie who had yet to start a game with the Giants but was now thrust into a key contest against the arch rival Cubs. Merkle's tragic failure to touch second base on what appeared to be the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning not only cost the Giants the victory, but ultimately the pennant. Merkle's mistake notwithstanding, the Giants obviously would have been better off with Tenney at first base in such an important game, as he was a seasoned veteran with fifteen seasons of Major League experience behind him. Although he only batted .256 in 1908, Tenney led the league in runs scored (101) and his 149 hits ranked ninth overall. A graduate of Brown, Tenney was one of the few college-educated players in baseball when he broke into the Major Leagues with Boston as a left-handed catcher in 1894. In 1897 he moved to first base and stayed in that position for the rest of his playing days. With the exception of a brief two-year stint with the Giants (1908-1909), Tenney played his entire career with the Boston Nationals, retiring in 1911 with 2,231 hits and a lifetime .294 average. Many baseball scholars feel his impressive lifetime statistics over seventeen seasons make him worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame. At the very least, Fred Tenney was one of the best players of that era and clearly a star. He also managed the Braves from 1905 through 1907, and again in 1911. Following his playing career he joined the staff of the The New York Times as a contributing baseball columnist. He passed away in 1952.
The gray flannel jersey features the club's interlocking "NY" logo embroidered on the left sleeve, which is the only team identifier on the garment. The name "Tenney" is straight-stitched in white in the collar. Neither a year identifier, nor a manufacturer's label are present. As noted in the accompanying MEARS letter of opinion, the date of the jersey was derived by an examination of the player records (Tenney only played with the Giants in 1908 and 1909) and comparative photo analysis. When looking at player photos from 1908 and 1909, differences can be observed in the style of the "NY" logo on the left sleeve, with the style on the offered jersey matching that seen in the 1908 photos, definitively dating it to that historic season. Even though the jersey dates to 1908, MEARS further adds that "this does not mean that the offered jersey may not have been worn in 1909 as well, as period images show the Giants did carry over jerseys from one [year] to the next." Although there no manufacturer's label (nor any visible evidence of a label having been removed), MEARS believes, based upon comparison of many factors to other period uniforms, that the jersey was most likely produced by Spalding. The jersey is completely original, with no alterations, and displays heavy use throughout (MEARS notes that the amount of use displayed is consistent with a jersey worn for more than one season, either at the Major or minor-league level). The collar construction has separated at the crown and there is a tear at the top of the button line. There is also a six-inch tear in the elbow area of the left sleeve. Only two original buttons (out of five) remain. A number of minor stains and small tears are visible on both the front and reverse. Graded A5.5 by MEARS (base grade of 10, with 2.5 points deducted for the small tears, 1.5 points deducted for the three missing buttons, and a half point deducted for the minor staining). Despite its technically accurate grade, the jersey is in remarkable condition given its age and displays exceptionally well. This is the only Fred Tenney jersey listed in the MEARS census. It is also the third oldest baseball jersey ever authenticated by the company, preceded only by a circa 1870s/1880s "bib-front" jersey and a 1905 Christy Mathewson Giants jersey (attribution to Mathewson based solely on provenance; Mathewson's name is not stitched in the garment). It is an honor to document and present this extremely significant early baseball jersey, all the more so as it is consigned directly from the Tenney family. Accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance from Fred Tenny's great-granddaughter. LOA from Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).
SOLD FOR $29,375
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