When Notre Dame and Green Bay Packer gridiron great Paul Hornung’s circa 1954-1955 Fighting Irish football jersey comes up for auction on April 23 as part of Heritage Auction Galleries’ Signature® Sports Memorabilia Auction, it will represent the culmination of collector John Shaw’s simple hunch that turned into one of the football finds of a lifetime, one that is estimated to bring between $30,000-$50,000. “The thought of a long shot is exactly what collectors all over use to motivate themselves,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Heritage Sports Collectibles, “just like John Shaw did when he took a detour during a cross-country trip to an old Kentucky sports bar he frequented during his days working as a racing stable employee at the famed Churchill Downs racetrack.”
It was years later, and as a sports fan and budding jersey collector Shaw remembered the nostalgic establishment as a magical place, one that displayed some of the most impressive pieces he remembered from his early adult years. Acting on the strength of that memory, Shaw wasn’t exactly sure what – if anything – he would find in his old hang out.
Arriving at the bar, which had indeed since gone out of business, he still found the owner. Never in a million years did Shaw imagine, however, as the owner returned from the back room with a deep emerald green jersey, that he would walk out with possibly the finest game worn college football jersey in existence. It was indeed Hornung’s circa 1954-55 Notre Dame gamer.
“We all dream of exactly this scenario,” said Ivy. “It turned out that Hornung, a Louisville native, also once frequented the popular watering hole, and according to our consignor, built a solid relationship with the family of the bar owner. One day, presumably after the season, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame running back presented the bar with this jersey.”
Virtually every important aspect of this shirt has been confirmed through extensive imagery analysis. From the gorgeous 1950s-style Fighting Irish dark green Durene fabric – the perfect canvas for the white sewn-on tackle twill numerals, confirmed with numerous images of the “Golden Boy” from the era of his memorable sophomore or junior seasons, affixed on the front and back – to the numerous additional photo-matched characteristics throughout, there can be no doubt that this indeed Hornung’s famous jersey.
“This jersey will turn the heads of many different collecting groups,” said Ivy. “The large hobby bases of Notre Dame and Green Bay Packers, top collectors who covet memorabilia representing the elite fraternity of Heisman Trophy winners, and high-end football collectors who simply recognize a singular piece of gridiron history when they see it.”
Hornung was easily one of the greatest athletes ever to take any field, and his prowess showed early. Hornung lettered at Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget High School in Louisville all four years in football, basketball and baseball. In addition, during his final year at Notre Dame – the same season this jersey is thought to date to – he led his team offensively in passing, rushing, scoring, kickoff and punt returns and punting. As a pro, Hornung led the Green Bay Packers as an All-Pro half back and, for several seasons, as a field goal kicker. In 1960, the last season with just 12 games, he set an all-time NFL record by scoring 176 points.
Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.