(Written by Dave Grob, Senior Jersey Authenticator, MEARS) – I recently came across and purchased a wire-photo of Bucky Walters dated to July 1948. The uniform that Walters is wearing is clearly not the conventional road gray flannel jersey provided to the Cincinnati Reds by MacGregor-Goldsmith. To date, the Cincinnati Reds have not been included in various uniform references as being a ball club that made use of satin uniforms. I believe there is now more than ample evidence to establish as a matter of record, that the Cincinnati Reds made use of satin uniforms both on the road and at home at least for portions of the 1948 season. To my knowledge, no example of these uniforms has surfaced in any public or private collection.
The actual existence of these satin uniforms is substantiated by a combination of both imagery analysis and contemporary accounts from period publications. The earliest reference I have found of these comes from the Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune from 4 May 1948. That article makes mention of the Cincinnati Reds “new satin uniforms” in game against the Giants. A check of the 1948 Cincinnati Reds schedule will confirm that the Reds played the New York Giants at home (Crosley Field) on 3 and 5 May. I also found a reference contained in the 21 July 1948 edition of the Sporting News that chronicles how the Cincinnati Reds opted not to wear their “jockey satin night-game uniforms” in St. Louis because of the heat. The article makes note that the Reds player’s had in fact worn them the night before.
For comparative analysis, I have included an image of Bucky Walters from 1948 in a conventional road gray flannel uniform. What you will notice when you view both garments are differences in the surface texture of the fabric of the body of the uniforms as well as the surface texture of the material used for the lettering of the name CINCINNATI. You will also notice a difference in the button color between the satin garment and its wool flannel counterpart.
While actual surviving examples of satin uniforms are very rare, what we now know is that in 1948, they were worn by half the clubs in the National League; the others being the Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, and the St. Louis Cardinals. The MEARS Museum collection includes a 1945 Brooklyn Dodgers road and a 1948 Boston Braves home satin. To the best of my knowledge, the only surviving Cardinals satin jersey is that of Nippy Jones and it resides in the St. Louis Cardinals Museum collection.
What appears even rarer than the 1948 Nippy Jones Cardinals satin, would be one of the all red satin uniforms ordered by the Cardinals in 1946 (The Sporting News: 26 June 1946 in an article titled Article titled “Cards Sell Satin Suits”). This little hidden gem of an article conveys that “Red satin suits purchased by the Cardinals for night games on the road will be worn instead by the North Side Teen Town Team of the St. Louis Muny League. Manager Eddie Dyer felt the uniforms were too fancy for the present day successors of the old Gas House Gang. The uniforms were purchased from the Redbirds by Fred C. Steffens, a St. Louis Sportsman who donated them to the Teen Town players.”
I have always taken pride in the fact that the MEARS name includes the provision for Research (Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services). Over the past year, the bulk of my time has been devoted to servicing our ever growing number retail clients on historic items such as the record setting $4.4M 1920 Babe Ruth New York Yankees road jersey. More than a fair amount of my time has also been devoted to obtaining artifacts and curating displays for the MEARS Museum. My hope in the future is to get back to researching in earnest in order to find and share information on baseball uniforms that you won’t find anyplace else but at MEARS.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.