Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Hutson Jersey Resurfaces

The 1940s Don Hutson jersey which sold for $60,000 in 2009 is back on the market.

It's part of the same upcoming Heritage Auction which will showcase Fuzzy Thurston's Super Bowl II ring.

From the auction listing:

Heritage Auctions
1937-45 Don Hutson Game Worn Green Bay Packers Jersey. One of the most influential players in the development of the modern game, Hutson was the first star wide receiver in NFL history, credited with authoring many of the pass routes still utilized today. His utter dominance of NFL flight paths during his eleven-season tenure comes into focus when considering the many records he continues to hold six and a half decades after his retirement. No other player has led the NFL more seasons than Hutson in receptions (8), passing yards gained (7), receiving touchdowns (5) or overall scoring (5). In the famous 1999 ranking of the 100 Greatest Football Players by The Sporting News, Hutson earned the number six spot, the highest position of any Green Bay Packers veteran.

This distinctive jersey style is the one most commonly associated with the pioneering pass catcher, utilized by the Packers franchise from 1937 through 1948. Hutson's retirement at the close of the 1945 season accounts for the possible range of this specific jersey's potential vintage, though the included letter of provenance would suggest the later years of that span. The handwritten page from the son of Packers equipment manager John Proski states, in part, "The enclosed Don Hutson jersey #14 Green Bay Packers jersey along with picture has been with me and my family since 1944 or ? It was given to me by Don on my 5th or 6th birthday when my dad would invite Packer players over for my birthday party."
Heritage Auctions
This dating presents the exciting possibility that Hutson may have worn this jersey in the historic 1944 NFL Championship game victory over the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium, where the Packers did indeed don these gold-shouldered navy blue beauties. The jersey exhibits solid use throughout with five team repairs clearly dating to Hutson's ownership, though we must note that the young Proski's letter admits some of the wear may be due to some of his own childhood backyard games. This later use may also account for the loss of the manufacturer's label on the amputated crotchpiece, though MEARS was able to match the material, style and collar to a Ken Keuper jersey which was supplied by the Shea Knitting Mills Co. of Chicago, IL. MEARS deducts three points for the loss of the tagging and the unrepaired holes, accounting for the final A7 rating.

The opportunity to own a genuine gamer from one of the great stars of the pre-war NFL might surface on two or three occasions in a hobby lifetime, and this is unquestionably the most important example to reach the public auction block in recent memory. In the football-mad town of Green Bay, where devotion to the team borders on religious zealotry, the jersey would be considered one of the franchise's most sacred artifacts. Letter of provenance from Joe Proski. LOA from MEARS, A7. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
The auction listing includes this photo of Hutson with fellow Packer legend Tony Canadeo.

Heritage Auctions

The closeup comes from the Packers' 1943 team photo:

I love this number style. There's something both solid and elegant about the straight block, maximizing the right angles in Hutson's famous #14.

Hutson is pictured wearing a jersey like this on the cover of the NFL's 1943 press book.

Looking at the auction listing, while "Hutson may have worn this jersey in the historic 1944 NFL Championship game victory over the New York Giants" (emphasis mine), I'm not sure I'd be willing to say that it's very likely that he did. I think the straight number font was phased out after the 1943 season. 1944 team photos clearly show a different number font, much more like the ones the Packers still wear today.

Unfortunately, decent photos of the 1944 Championship Game are rare, and surviving films are inconclusive. While it's not impossible that Hutson trotted out onto the field of the Polo Grounds for the biggest game of the year wearing an old jersey, the likelihood seems remote. Just one month before, as the Packers were preparing for their November 19 game against the Giants at the Polo Grounds, Hutson is seen wearing the new-for-'44 notched numbers.

I think it's far more likely that this jersey dates no later than 1943. Would make sense if it was in fact given to Joe Proski in 1944.

Regardless, it's a gorgeous-looking jersey, an example of the Packers' Lambeau-era iconic look.

2 comments:

Tom said...

Chance, it amuses me to blow up that last photo and to be able to clearly make out some editor's pencil (or grease pen) "enhancement" of the Hutson portion of the photo.

Anonymous said...

Good thing it sold to someone from GB that will keep it forever....in attribute to his newborn son that was named after Don...Noah Hutson Farr.

We missed it 2 years earlier, before we knew Noah was coming, but have it now.

Don is my fvorite player of all time, which is extreme designation in a club with this type of unmatched history!

Paul