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Lot # 1199 (of 1560)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Circa 1923 Princeton University Baseball Jacket Attributed to Moe Berg

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $2,644

The title of this description notes that the offered circa 1923 Princeton University baseball team jacket is "Attributed to Moe Berg" because it is impossible for MEARS to prove that this is Moe Berg's jacket that he used when playing at Princeton. It is marked "Berg" in the collar in black marker (as opposed to stitched, as made) and is not accompanied by direct first-hand provenance from Moe Berg. It is, however, accompanied by second-hand provenance that we believe would satisfy anyone. Additional research may provide a photo match of Moe Berg wearing this very jacket. The question of whether or not a particular player wore a jersey or used a particular piece of equipment has always been of great importance to collectors, and rightly so. Whenever an item is formally identified as "Attributed," all we can do is state the facts and let the collector himself be the judge. The details regarding this particular piece, a circa 1920s Princeton University baseball jacket attributed to Moe Berg, are particularly compelling and powerful. Robert Edward Auctions was involved in the original acquisition of this jacket and therefore can speak much more authoritatively on the history of this particular item then we otherwise would. Famed collector Barry Halper purchased this jacket, along with an extraordinarily large number of other items once belonging to Moe Berg, directly from the family representative of Moe Berg’s brother, Sam. We know this to be the case because Robert Lifson, president of Robert Edward Auctions, acted as Barry Halper’s agent in the transaction and personally received all of the material, including this baseball jacket, from Sam Berg's agent (a gentleman by the name of Charlie Owen, who was well known for many years as a close friend of the Berg family, and a true scholar of Moe Berg's life story). All of the items Halper received were once the property of Sam Berg's brother Moe, and for virtually all of the pieces there was no doubt that Moe had owned them due to the nature of the items. Included in the collection, along with this jacket, were all of Moe Berg’s passports, his 1934 Tour of Japan souvenirs, his personal correspondence, his handwritten high school and college notebooks, his Princeton jersey (auctioned in the 1999 Halper Sotheby's auction, and identified in the collar in black marker exactly as this Princeton team jacket), and voluminous personal materials as well as spy-related documents, including even his OSS (the predecessor of the CIA) photo ID card. This Princeton baseball jacket has never left the Halper Collection and is being consigned directly by his estate. We have no doubt that this is Moe Berg's jacket. As a matter of due diligence, and as we do with all game-worn jerseys, garments, and equipment, we submitted the jacket to MEARS for independent, third-party evaluation. MEARS conducted exhaustive research on the jacket, and its elaborate findings are conveyed in a special two-page LOA, which can be viewed on our website. To summarize, MEARS’ conclusions were based primarily upon the physical characteristics of the jacket itself. Also of great note was photo evidence obtained from a 1925 Princeton yearbook (courtesy of the Princeton library), which pictures members of the 1923 baseball team, Berg included, posing together wearing their team jackets. The grey-flannel jacket features a blue-felt “P” on the breast pocket. A blue-felt trim adorns the collar, the tops of the breast pocket and two side pockets, and the cuffs. A single row of three buttons runs down the front. A “Spalding” label appears in the collar, as does what appears to be the name “Berg” written in black laundry marker. The offered jacket matches up exactly to one of the two styles worn by some of the players in the 1923 team photo. However, Berg is pictured wearing the second jacket style (featuring two rows of buttons on the front and a different style font to the “P” on the breast pocket). The jacket displays significant wear, including a few holes in the collar and a tear to the cloth hang strap, which is also located in the collar. Based upon the evidence presented (and without reference to provenance), MEARS has verified with certainty that the jacket is an authentic 1920s Princeton University baseball jacket, with attribution to Moe Berg. Although we have conveyed the information regarding the jacket’s provenance to MEARS, for MEARS to give weight to provenance tracing the jacket with certainty directly to Berg, it would require a letter from the Berg family, and not just our oral testimony. This is as it should be. That said, Robert Edward Auctions believes, quite strongly, that all of the evidence, taken together, leads to only one conclusion: that this garment is exactly what it has always been purported to be, a baseball jacket worn by Moe Berg during his years at Princeton, which was saved by the family, purchased by Barry Halper in the 1980s, and offered here for the first time ever.

Moe Berg was one of the most interesting figures in the history of baseball. Berg was a journeyman Major League catcher who played a total of fifteen seasons between the years 1923 and 1939, but it is not his baseball career that has intrigued present-day historians. Unbeknownst to all at the time, Berg was also working as a spy for the U.S. Government and was later recruited by the OSS, the forerunner to today's CIA. After his playing career, Berg traveled throughout Europe gathering information on Germany's nuclear capabilities. Following World War II he worked briefly for he CIA in an attempt to obtain Soviet atomic information. Always mysterious in his actions, the last two decades of his life were spent as a nomad. He held no real job and lived first with his brother Sam, and then later with his sister Ethel, until his death in 1972. LOA from Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $1,000+. SOLD FOR $2,644

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