John Ryan of Passaic, New Jersey was just trying to outfit a church softball team during the late 1930s.
Long before baseball jerseys worn by Yankees became collectors items, Ryan had little trouble securing the purchase of a hoard of game-used home jerseys from the 1938 season. The price? $9 each.
Although the cost was not insignificant at the time, Ryan bought the complete roster of 1938 New York Yankees home jerseys just after the club had played in the World Series.
The Gehrig shirt was not distributed to those amateur softballers, however. It was retained by Ryan in case any of the other jerseys became torn. If they had, the Gehrig jersey would have been cut up for patches. Luckily for the sake of history and the Ryan family name, that didn’t happen.
“The church league played for one year,” Ken Neubert of Vacaville, CA, Ryan’s greatful great-grandson, told the New York Post. “They got a new pastor or deacon and decided not to have a softball team anymore, so everybody kept the jerseys.”
22 years ago, Ryan gave the Gehrig jersey to Neubert, age 12, who has kept it in pristine condition ever since.
The left sleeve of the jersey displays shadowing of its original 1939 World’s Fair patch depicting the Trylon, Perisphere, and “1939” dating which was removed in the period. The jersey remains in completely original condition with no restoration or repairs of any type.
Now 34, with a child on the way, he’s consigned it to Hunt Auctions, which will sell it at the annual Louisville Slugger Auction November 10th. The estimated sale price is between $250,000 and $300,000.
“To be honest with you, it’s really priceless,” Neubert told the newspaper. “But I would like to see it conserved and be well taken care of. I hadn’t thought of the monetary value of it.”