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1981 Cal Ripken Jr. Rochester Redwings Game-Used Road Jersey and Pants - Final Minor League Season!
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $10,575
Rare and historically significant 1981 Rochester Red Wings road jersey worn by Cal Ripken Jr. during his final season in the minor leagues. Graded A10 by MEARS. While we cannot be certain, we believe this may be the earliest surviving Cal Ripken Jr. professional baseball jersey known to exist, as we have never seen or heard of an earlier example. If it's not, it's close! (Ripken only played four years in the minor leagues.) This jersey originates from a gentleman named Phil Tellgren, a longtime employee of the Rochester Red Wings, who was the team's visiting clubhouse manager in 1981. Accompanying the jersey is a letter from Tellgren detailing the jersey's history, as well as a separate one-page letter from the Rochester Red Wings, typed on official team stationery and signed by Wendy Morrissette, Director of Merchandising, confirming the fact that Tellgren "purchased an authentic Cal Ripken Rochester Red Wings Jersey during the 1981 season." In addition to the two letters, Tellgren has provided numerous other materials, including team photos, media guides, and copies of his league and press passes that corroborate his years of employment with the Red Wings.
The gray knit jersey is lettered "Rochester" across the front and features the number "5" (Ripken's uniform number while with Rochester) on both the left breast and the reverse. All letters and numbers are appliquéd in blue on white tackle twill. Both a "Wilson 42" label and a "Jim Dalberth Sporting Goods" tag (local Rochester retailer) appear in the collar. The jersey is all original, with no alterations, and, as stated by MEARS in its accompanying letter, "exhibits optimal, perfect game wear." Furthermore, MEARS states that the jersey style has been photo matched to a 1981 minor-league baseball card of Cal Ripken Jr. picturing him as a member of the Rochester Red Wings. Included with the jersey are a pair of matching gray knit pants that were also obtained (at a later date) from Tellgren, and which are accompanied by a separate notarized letter from him. Located in the waistband of the pants are a "79" year tag, a "Wilson 34" label and a "Jim Dalberth Sporting Goods" tag. As noted in Tellgren's letter, these pants were issued in 1979, but as is the practice in the minor leagues, the pants were also used in subsequent seasons. Written in black laundry pen on the interior pocket is "Rip 5" along with two other crossed out numbers (jersey numbers of players who previously wore the pants; supporting the fact that these pants were worn by different players over the course of several seasons). The pants are all original, with no alterations, and display moderate wear, including light soiling on both legs. Tellgren states in his letter that players normally received three pairs of pants during the season, two for game use and one for batting practice. The batting practice pants were always the oldest and were normally heavily worn with many team repairs. The fact the offered pants are in good condition indicates that they were almost certainly a pair of Ripken's gamers during the 1981 season.
1981 was Ripken's only season with the Rochester Red Wings, Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate. Although he was just three years removed from high school, Ripken was the Orioles' number-one prospect and it did not take him long to impress Red Wings manager Doc Edwards. On April 21, following a game in which Ripken hit three home runs, Edwards returned to his office and sent a note to the Orioles brass. It simply read "Can't miss." Edwards obviously knew talent, as Ripken led the team in nearly every offensive category that summer including batting average (.288), home runs (23), and RBI (75). In a foreshadowing of things to come, Ripken also played in all 114 games for the Red Wings before being called up to the Orioles on August 8th. The memory of that day remains one of Ripken's most vivid memories. As he later recalled, "It was 2 a.m., and we'd just gotten off the bus from a game in Syracuse. Doc called me into his office and said, 'You're going up.' I said, See you later.'" When asked about that moment, years later, Edwards remembered it exactly as Ripken had, adding, "I knew he wouldn't be back." Edwards, of course, was right, as Ripken embarked on one of the greatest Major League careers in baseball history. A perennial All-Star for twenty-one seasons with the Orioles, Ripken is best remembered today for breaking in 1995 Lou Gehrig's long-standing record of consecutive games played. He is also one of only 27 players to have reached the 3,000 hit plateau and his 431 lifetime home runs ranks him among the top 50 all-time. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007 in his first year of eligibility. The jersey is graded A10 by MEARS. This is the only Cal Ripken Jr. minor league jersey and one of only ten gradable Cal Ripken Jr. jerseys listed in the MEARS census. It is also one of only four to merit a grade of A10. This is both an exceptional and extremely historic jersey dating from Ripken's final minor league season. LOA from Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $10,575
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