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Lot # 1118 (of 1512)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1971 Willie Mays San Francisco Giants Game-Used Home Jersey with Direct Player Provenance!

Starting Bid - $10,000, Sold For - $27,000

Exceptional San Francisco Giants home jersey worn by Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays in 1971. Ideally, this jersey comes with direct player provenance in the form of a signed notarized letter from former professional player Jimmy Williams, who wore this very jersey while playing for the AAA Phoenix Giants in 1972. In his one-page typed letter, Williams details the jersey's history:

To Whom It May Concern: My name is Jimmy Williams and I was a professional baseball player 1965-1979. I originally signed with the Baltimore Orioles out of Eastern High School in Washington, DC, and joined the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization in 1969. I was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December 1970, and assigned to their AAA Phoenix Giants affiliate where I played 1971-1972. The Phoenix ball club wore hand-me-down uniforms from San Francisco, and in 1972 we were shipped the major league Giants 1971 home uniforms. At 5'11" and 170 pounds, I was roughly the same size as their legendary center fielder Willie Mays, and it was quite exciting to be assigned his #24, the jersey that this letter accompanies. I took the jersey home with me after that season, and ended up signing to play for the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League in 1973-74. We were league champions in 1974. I returned to North America after that and finished my playing career in 1979. Since then I have coached baseball, and am currently baseball coach at Prince Georges Community College in Largo, MD. I have owned this Willie Mays jersey continuously for more than 40 years. It has been stored away in an equipment bag, out of any direct sunlight, for all of that time. It has never been previously offered for sale. Sincerely, James Williams[signed].

In addition to Williams' letter, the jersey is also accompanied by a letter from noted and universally respected uniform expert Phil Wood. Wood has known Williams for over twenty years, but as he writes, it was only recently, in the summer of 2012, that Williams told him about the Mays jersey he had. When he later met with Williams to look at it, Woods was shocked at how well preserved the garment was. In part: "I've examined several - more than 10 - Mays shirts over the years, and it was clear from the moment he pulled it out that it was the real thing: terrific condition, all original, everything as it should be, and impeccable, ironclad provenance. This shirt went from Willie in the San Francisco clubhouse to Jimmy in the Phoenix clubhouse to Jimmy's home, where its been for the past 40+ years. . . . I can't imagine a nicer Willie Mays home jersey unless Willie was still in it."

We wholeheartedly agree with Wood's sentiments, as this is a most extraordinary Mays jersey, ideal in all respects. What makes it all the more special is that even though it was used in the minors for an additional season, Phoenix retained the "Giants" name (they were, by chance and good fortune, the "Phoenix Giants"), so there have been no alterations whatsoever to the garment. (Uniforms sent down to the minors almost always undergo changes to the team name on the front and/or the number on the reverse.) This jersey looks exactly as it did when Mays turned it in at the end of the 1971 season. The white flannel jersey is lettered "Giants" across the front and features the number "24" on the reverse. All letters and numerals are appliquéd in black felt on orange tackle twill. The name "Mays" is chain-stitched in black upon a white strip tag in the collar. Located on the left front tail are a "Wilson 42" label and a white strip tag bearing the year ("1971") chain-stitched in black. The jersey is original, with no alterations, and displays moderate wear throughout.

This jersey has appeared at public auction once before. Jimmy Williams personally consigned the jersey to REA's May 2013 auction, where it appeared as Lot 1450 and realized $44,437. It has been consigned to this auction directly by the original purchaser. Though it is being offered due to a change in the owner's collecting focus, as opposed to a profit motivation, it would be hard to miss the increasing appreciation in the marketplace for the very best game-used flannel jerseys of Hall of Fame superstars. And this is an extraordinary jersey! As we noted at the time of the original sale, the jersey, in addition to its many attributes (including provenance), is also historically very significant: 1971 marked Willie Mays' final full season with the Giants. Mays batted .271 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI in 1971, while also leading the league in bases on balls (112) and on base percentage (.425). Of Mays' eighteen home runs, eight were hit at Candlestick Park (career numbers 633, 635, 636, 638, 639, 640, 641, and 644), so there is a distinct probability that at least a few of those were accomplished by Mays while wearing this very jersey. This is only the second Willie Mays flannel jersey we have ever offered and the first Giants jersey. (The other Mays flannel we offered [Lot 8 in REA's May 2011 auction] was from the minors: a 1951 Minneapolis Millers jersey.) There are quite a few Mays knits dating from his final seasons but, as advanced collectors are well aware, flannels are far more desirable, and Mays flannels are particularly rare. Mays, of course, is one of the greatest all-around players in baseball history: one of only four players to amass over 500 home runs and 3,000 hits; the 1951 Rookie of the Year Award; two MVP Awards; twelve Gold Gloves; and twenty-four All-Star Game appearances (for four seasons, 1959-1962, there were two All-Star Games per season). He also led the Giants to three pennants and one World Championship during his twenty-one seasons with the club. This is certainly one of the finest Mays jerseys in the collecting universe in all respects, including aesthetics and provenance. LOAs from James Williams and Phil Wood. Reserve $10,000. Estimate $20,000+.

SOLD FOR $27,000

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