Circa 1955 Sandy Koufax Game-Used Brooklyn Dodgers Cap - Rare Style with Extraordinary Provenance

Sold For: $9,400

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1338

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Extraordinarily rare Brooklyn Dodgers "mesh-style" cap, dating from the mid 1950s, worn by Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax. This cap is not only quite possibly the earliest Sandy Koufax cap known (we have never seen an earlier one), but one that also has a remarkable provenance and extremely rare style characteristics that individually and together allow for authentication with a certainty rarely possible with caps. The cap originates directly from the personal collection of former Major League pitcher Karl Drews, and has been consigned directly to this auction by his son, John Drews. In his accompanying one-page notarized letter of provenance (which can be viewed in its entirety on our website), Drews details the hat's history. In part:

My father Karl Drews played professional baseball for 21 years...He pitched in relief for the Yankees in the 1947 season going 6-6 and had two appearances in the 1947 World Series...He had his best season in the majors in 1952, winning 14 games and finishing 5th in the league with a 2.72 ERA. He finished his major league career in 1954 with the Cincinnati Reds. My father continued to play professional baseball with numerous minor league teams, eventually finishing his career in 1960 with the Mexico City Reds. When we were young our father brought home from his spring training site a hat that he said he got from a very young Sandy Koufax. He told us how he was a very young left handed pitcher who everyone had great expectations for and that he too thought would be a truly great pitcher one day. He told us how special this hat would be some day if Koufax had the type of career that the players and coaches envisioned. We kept the hat in our closet with other items from my father's playing days (there were no fancy hat boxes, bat holders, etc back then)...All of this information is true to the best of my memory and recollection and those of my older sister as well. Although I have always treasured the hat, it does not have any real sentimental value to me like the other items that belonged to my father. It is for this reason that I have decided to sell the hat.

This is a most unusual and rarely seen Brooklyn Dodgers pro-model cap in that the body is comprised of a blue mesh material, as opposed to standard solid wool, and the bill is light green. The club's familiar-style "B" is embroidered in white stitching on the top. A McAuliffe label appears in the rear of the headband. Most important, Koufax's uniform number ("32") is written in vintage black marker on the underside of the brim (Koufax wore number "32" during his entire career with the Dodgers). We had never seen this style Dodgers cap before, but MEARS, as it details in its accompanying LOA, had, and was able to conclusively photo match it to one worn by Duke Snider circa 1955. Although John Drews did not recall the exact year his father returned with this cap, given the fact that Koufax debuted with the Dodgers in 1955 and the club's final season in Brooklyn was 1957, this cap can only date to the three-year period 1955-1957 (which is consistent with the date of the Snider photo). Koufax signed with the Dodgers in December, 1954, just before his nineteenth birthday. Because he received a signing bonus of $14,000, league rules at the time required that he remain on the Dodgers official Major League roster for two years. Even though that rule greatly hindered his development, by 1957 he was a bona fide member of the Dodgers staff and therefore attended each of the club's spring training camps from 1955 through 1957.

Sandy Koufax game-used items dating from his brief period of time in Brooklyn are exceedingly rare and this cap, which may very well date from his 1955 rookie season (statistically it has a 33.3 percent chance), is the earliest such item we can ever recall seeing. Caps, by their very nature, are normally very difficult to attribute to a specific player and often require a leap of faith, sometimes large, sometimes small. In this instance, the leap is probably as small as one will ever encounter with regard to a cap, especially one as significant as this. The exceedingly rare style, provenance, and presence of Koufax's vintage uniform number on the underside of the brim not withstanding, the cap also displays heavy wear consistent with former use and casual storage. There are a few small tears to the green cloth on both the side and top of the brim (which has hardened with age), and the metal on the top button is totally exposed. Sweat stains are visible along the both back of the cap and, much lighter, on the underside of the brim. As noted in the letter, this cap has been in the Drews family for over fifty years and has not seen the light of day since the 1950s. It is being offered here for the very first time. This is a remarkable Sandy Koufax Brooklyn Dodgers cap in all respects and is also very likely the earliest Sandy Koufax Brooklyn Dodgers game-worn item of any kind in existence. LOA from Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $9,400

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