Friday, October 30, 2009

Auction Gold - 1950s Jim Ringo jersey

The rumors were true. A late 1950s beauty has come up for auction, giving us an extremely rare look at the Packers' pre-Lombardi uniforms:

LOT: 3 Jim Ringo 1957-61 Packers Game Worn Dureen, Rare Midnight Green, Stylematched, Team Repairs

Jim Ringo was a professional American football player, a Hall of Fame center and coach. He was a ten time Pro Bowler during his career. When coach Vince Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959, Jim was the only already-established All Pro on the roster. Lombardi built his offense around Ringo. The Packers drafted him in the seventh round of the 1953 NFL Draft out of Syracuse University. Ringo was considered vastly undersized at 211 pounds. He was not, however, unfit for the role, using his outstanding quickness and excellent technique to build a 15-year NFL career, including 11 seasons with the Packers, as one of the game's best centers. Ringo was a member of the Packers' NFL Championship teams of 1961 and 1962, but was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1964. He is best known as a coach for creating the dominant Bills offensive line of the early-mid '70s, called the Electric Company, in support of running back O.J. Simpson. He returned to Buffalo as the Bills offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 1985. He held the positions until his retirement after the 1988 season. He was a 10 time Pro Bowler from 1957-1965 and in 1967. Ringo was named to the NFL 1960’s All Decade Team. He was also a 6 time 1st Team All Pro and a 3 time 2nd Team All Pro. Ringo was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. Ringo is considered one of the best to play the game at the Center position.

Offered here is a VERY RARE long sleeve blue-green style Packers jersey of HOFer Jim Ringo. There are only 3 known Packers blue-green durene style jerseys known, let alone from a HOFer. Sewn on the left front tail is the “Sand Knit Athletic Knitwear” tag with a size “46” flag tag and the “DENIS SPORT SHOP” local distributor tag. Sewn on the front, back and both sleeves is the player number #51 done in gold tackle twill. The long sleeves contain the Packers traditional gold sleeve stripes. The durene jersey is hammered with use. It contains 12+ team repairs. This IS THE ONLY RINGO of this style. It was obtained directly through the Ringo family. The jersey has been style matched to his 1958 Topps football card (#103).
Here's the 1958 card to which they've style-matched this jersey:

With the exception of puttering about on their message boards, I'm not very familiar with Game Used Universe. I presume that they have some documentation from the Ringo family.

I really like the design. It's simple and clean, with a distinctive color palette. The Northwestern stripes, named for the university which invented the thin/thick/thin stripe design in 1928, give it a dash of style. The "TV numbers" on the upper sleeves were a relatively recent uniform innovation, having been first adopted by the Packers in 1956, the year before this design made its debut.

And just look at these repairs:

"Hammered with use" is an apt description - this jersey is stitched together like Frankenstein's Monster.

It also gives us a good look at the Sand-Knit tagging. Denis Sport Shop is still in business in Ashwaubenon, not two miles south of Lambeau Field.

Unfortunately, we cannot infer much about the jersey's color from these pictures. That's a shame, because the distinctive blue-green color of the Lisle Blackbourn era is much-discussed but infrequently seen. Most of the photos from this period are either black and white or hand-tinted and not much help for our purposes.

Perhaps the eventual winner will be able to help us out with better photos.

I do have to take issue with one element of the item description - I'm not sure why the auction house has designated this "1957-61". This jersey couldn't have been worn any later than 1958, as the following season would be the first for both new coach Vince Lombardi and his signature uniform design. Still, it's a beautiful exemplar of an unusual style, and if the provenance is as good as we are led to believe it should fetch a significant price.

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