Exactly how it wound up in the family is a bit of a mystery, but a 1927 Chicago Cubs uniform that resided on a northern Wisconsin farm for decades has been consigned to the current MEARS online auction.
The jersey’s tail carries the stitched name of Sparky Adams, a Cubs’ versatile infielder who enjoyed a long Major League career. The pants show the last name of Howard Freigau, another Cubs player from the era. Both flannels are remarkably well-preserved, but it is the jersey that will draw the attention of collectors as a previously undiscovered treasure.
The uniform was consigned by a Wisconsin family hoping to save their long-running dairy farm, beset by financial trouble after four years of drought conditions.
“My dad passed away 1996 at age 85 but I can remember him telling stories,” said John Croft, whose great uncle Harry Croft enjoyed a Moonlight Graham-like professional baseball career at the turn of the 20th century and the man who will turn the uniform over to the highest bidder. “I wish I could remember them all.”
While specific details have been lost to time, it would seem likely that Harry Croft may have had a connection to Adams while the families each lived in Chicago.
The $2500 minimum bid on the jersey was made after the auction opened Saturday, but it could sell for ten times that amount–or more.
It’s money that would be a godsend to John Croft, who needs money to buy feed for his 200 diary cattle.
Croft isn’t a collector, but he’s a baseball fan and former high school athlete who always appreciated his family owning a little piece of baseball history. With financial need putting the farm’s future in some jeopardy, however, Croft’s 98-year-old mother added her blessing to the idea of putting the uniform up for sale.
It was then that the benefits of living in a close-knit community paid off. It turns out Croft’s fiance’ knew MEARS’ Troy Kinunen who grew up nearby and recalled his interest in baseball memorabilia. Ecstatic to hear of the find, Kinunen immediately made the trek from his current home base in Milwaukee to examine the jersey.
“The irony is I have been collecting since 1981 and here a 1927 Cubs jersey was located in the very small town of Crivitz, Wisconsin, just miles from my teenage stomping grounds,” Kinunen told Sports Collectors Daily. “In my youth, I drove past their house thousands of times.”
“It’s been covered in plastic and hanging on a rack inside a closet,” Croft said. “We always thought it was from around 1901 (during Harry Croft’s playing days), but we asked Troy about it. He came up to said it was from 1927.”
Croft’s grandfather was a doctor in Chicago and the family used to vacation in northern Wisconsin. Was the jersey given by Adams to the Croft family as a thank you for medical considerations that kept Adams healthy enough to keep his job as the Cubs’ reliable lead-off man? A gift to a young relative of Harry Croft? They’re questions that will likely go unanswered but Adams’ career isn’t a secret.
His name is lost to history for all but the most ardent baseball fans, but Adams was one of the premier table-setters of the 1920s. He was barely 5-feet-5 inches tall, but there was no questioning his durability and toughness. From 1925-27, Adams led the National League in at-bats with over 600 each year and was always among the leaders in stolen bases.
After the 1927 season, he was traded to Pittsburgh, then moved on to St. Louis and Cincinnati before retiring after the 1935 season. He died in 1989 at the age of 94–the last remaining member of the Cardinals’ 1931 World Series champs.
1927 marked the debut of the bear cub and bat logo jersey top the team adopted. MEARS has performed a painstaking analysis of the jersey, detailed on the company’s website listing.
The auction closes Thursday, April 29.