Sunday, March 25, 2012

Auction Gold - 1946-48 Tony Canadeo Jersey

The folks over at MEARS, who run some amazing Packer-related auctions, have a stunning find in their current offering.

This is one of the most amazing game-used Packers jerseys I've ever seen; a Lambeau-era beauty worn by the Gray Ghost himself, Tony Canadeo.

From the auction catalogue:
Lot #590: 1946-48 Tony Canadeo Green Bay Packers Game Worn Home Jersey (MEARS A10) The Gonzaga Ghost’s Drug Store Jersey –"Only Example in Private Hands"
It is with great excitement we offer the following lot. Nicknamed the “Gray Ghost of Gonzaga” due to the grey hair he was sporting in college, Tony Canadeo epitomized what it was to be a Green Bay Packer. Versatile, hardworking, cagy, and willing to do whatever was needed to help the team, Canadeo set a solid example of what it was to be a Green Bay Packer football player.

Canadeo did not enter the league with a great amount of fanfare. We was selected in the 9th round, the 77th pick overall. But through hard work and determination, under coach Curly Lambeau he continued to build himself into a Green Bay Packer legend.
An all purpose passer, runner, receiver, and defensive back, he led the Packers in rushing five times (1943, 1946-49). For the seasons 1946-48, he would have been wearing this very jersey for parts of all of that time span. He gained 4,197 yards rushing in his Packers career, and at the time of his retirement, was the team’s all time leader.

Versatility was Canadeo’s middle name, becoming the only player in franchise history to have amassed more that 500 yards in each of these five categories: passing, rushing, receiving and the returning of punts and kickoffs

During the years this jersey was issued (1946-48), Canadeo’s productivity kept the team competitive. It is most likely that several documented touchdowns were recorded wearing this very jersey, although there is no concrete evidence to document this possibility. Highlights include:

10-12-47 vs the Cardinals, Canadeo scores to move the team within a touchdown

11-30-47 vs the Rams, Canadeo scores to give the team a 20 point lead and insure a victory

10-31-48 at Detroit, Canadeo scores to give the Packers the lead

12-28-48 at Rams, Canadeo scores to tie the game

Many of the hit marks and team repairs may have been the direct result of the above offensive contributions.

When his playing career was over, keeping with the tradition of supporting the team, Canadeo played a small yet pivotal role in re-assuring his paisan Vince Lombardi that coming to Green Bay from the Giants was the right move.

Shortly after his retirement, Canadeo routinely frequented a local drug store that also featured a soda fountain. It is summarized that his penchant for root beer floats kept him coming back. As a token of his appreciation, this jersey was gifted to the store’s owner. Propped in the corner of the soda fountain counter as a make shift shrine, the jersey was displayed as the local fans discussed Sunday’s results of the Packers game. For the next 50 years, the jersey remained property of the drug store. During 2003 the owner died, and the gifted jersey was sold via an estate auction. The history was revealed at that sale and documented for this lot description.

Style: Issued as a full sleeve length jersey with original crotch piece, the jersey style features the blue body shell with golden shoulder yokes and crew neck trim. Although the basic style was worn from 1940-48, the larger style numeric font was adopted in 1944, thus more accurately dating this jersey from 1944-48. The blue body shell is cotton, with a knitted yoke and crew neck. An additional construction feature is the built in crotch piece cut. The jersey was specifically manufactured to have a crotch piece, and photographic images support the fact that Canadeo used this style. Analysis of the images reveal the jersey remains tightly pulled into the game pants, a direct result of the presence of the crotch piece being utilized by Canadeo. The crotch piece is designed with 2 rows of 3 buttons, and on the attaching piece, two rows of button holes, allowing for player adjustment.

Issuance to Canadeo: The intersection of Canadeo’s playing career (1946-51) during this stage of his career (after injury and military career) and the style of the jersey, 1944-48, allows us to accurately date this jersey as 1946-48 per the data intersection. This is also supported by accompanying photographic evidence.

Manufacturer: Issued by the Sand Knit company, this version of the tag, “SAND KNIT, ATHLETIC KNIT WEAR, SAND KNITTING MILLS CO, CHICAGO” is the version of the tag commonly found on 1940s football jerseys. The next generation of Sand Knit tagging found the size included as part of the Sand Knit design.

Distributor: To the left of the Sand Knit tag is the “Gordon Bent, Green Bay Sporting Goods tag”. With the addition of this city tag, the jersey is supported as being a Green Bay supplied shirt.
Size 42: The size 42 tag is found directly under the distributors tag.

Numbering (3): Canadeo’s retired uniform number is factory zig zag stitched on both the front and reverse of the jersey and is machine cut from a golden satin tackle twill material. This style of numeric font was adopted in 1944.

Game Wear: Jersey exhibits heavy game wear evenly distributed throughout the body shell of the jersey. A vintage team repair can be found on the underarm of the right sleeve. Several deep stresses that have slightly penetrated the side seams are present. Deep wear can be seen on both shoulders, with heavy wear found on Canadeo’s right shoulder. The numerals both show abrasions and severe puckering. All anchor stitching shows fraying from use and wash. Solid wear is clearly present, yet the jersey displays in excellent condition.
The jersey has also been signed on the front numeral in near mint blue sharpie. Signature appears to have signed in the past 10-15 years.

Imagery Analysis: Several images accompany this lot description. Comparisons of jersey to the accompanying photos verify:

Correct sleeve length

Correct style for the era

Proper numeric font style

Correct crew neckline

Verifies fact Canadeo used a crotch piece

Correct number for player

To finish our evaluation, the jersey was submitted to black light, magnified light, and a light table. MEARS examined the jersey for original numbering & tagging, originality of the tagging, and signs of foreign substances introduced to the jersey. Our examination revealed the jersey is all original with no alterations.

An rare opportunity to own one of the finest pieces of Packers memorabilia extant. Final Grade: MEARS A10. LOA Troy R. Kinunen/MEARS
Canadeo himself should need no introduction; for decades he was the prematurely-gray face of the franchise for half a century. Drafted in 1941, he played for the club through 1952 (missing most of the 1944 season and all of 1945 due to a stint in the Army). Upon his retirement, Canadeo's #3 was retired and he joined fellow legend Don Hutson as only the second player to be so honored.

Canadeo stayed in Green Bay, going into business and joining the Packers' Board of Directors in 1958. He was instrumental in bringing then-Giants assistance coach Vince Lombardi to Green Bay, and as a fellow Italian-American quickly became one of Lombardi's best friends in Green Bay.

Canadeo sat on the Executive Committee until 1993, also working for the team as a broadcaster. He remained a director emeritus until his death ten years later. When he passed away, the Packers remembered him with a black helmet decal, the second time (after Commissioner Pete Rozelle in Super Bowl XXXI) that the Packers had done so.

Few people will ever have as long an association with the Green Bay Packers as long and as glorious as Tony Canadeo. That alone makes this jersey beyond compare, and the backstory only makes it better. Seriously, a soda fountain?

I especially love the tagging; we've seen the Sand-Knit tag before, on jerseys from the 1940s through the 1960s, but this is the first time I've seen the "Gordon Bent Green Bay Sporting Goods" tag.

Bidding on this jersey started at $500. Within minutes it had hit $20,000, and after a half-hour it was over $44,000, where it sits now. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime find from one of the greatest Packers to ever pull on the blue and gold.

MEARS Auction #36 ends March 31st, 2012, 9:00 CST with a 15-minute rule. Bid early, bid often.

(photo credit: MEARS)

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