A misplaced jersey Ted Williams once used to practice his autograph gave one collector a unique piece of baseball memorabilia.
Eleven years ago, Mike Keane was visiting the Ted Williams Hitters Museum located in Hernando, Florida, timing his visit to witness the annual inductions of players deemed worthy of entering the shrine. An avid collector, Keane stopped into the gift shop, hoping to add something unique to his memorabilia holdings.
There was a group of familiar #9 Williams autographed jerseys inside the shop but Keane noticed one that was much different. "The clerk said he didn’t know anything about it but had never seen one like it before.".
Neither had Keane. He paid the listed price and left the store.
The jersey had four Ted Williams autographs and one of Williams’ son, John Henry. Why anyone, even a Hall of Famer, would sign the same jersey four times was puzzling. Three months later, he still had questions.
"I called the Museum some time later to get some history on the item. I was told that they had been looking for that jersey for some time and it was never meant to be sold."
John Henry Williams was running the Hitters’ Museum while Ted was recovering from a stroke that he suffered in 1994. After the ’94 stroke John-Henry closed the Ted Williams Store he had opened a couple of years earlier in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and moved to Florida to care for his father.
Selling Ted Williams signed memorabilia through the museum ,John Henry used the jersey to show Ted the proper size his signature should be when autographing a jersey to be placed for sale in the shop.
John Henry had signed the jersey on the left front panel, Ted signed his name above and below his sons name. He had also signed on the opposite front panel, and finally on the back under the # 9. The jersey could be the only quadruple-signed Williams shirt that exists.
Keane later spoke to John Henry’s fiancée. "She indicated that they had been looking for the jersey for a while, and John Henry thought that someone in the museum had taken it. She said John Henry would be relieved to know that this was not the case." Keane did offer to take the jersey back to the Museum. "We talked a little about the other items I had in my collection and about the Ted Williams jersey. She thought it would be in good hands in my collection, and she didn’t want it to disappear again."
However, Keane is now planning to sell the unique piece. "I enjoyed going to spring training camp with my girls, meeting the ballplayers, and getting their autographs," he explained. However, his collection had grown to over 500 pieces since 1980, and was taking up a lot of room. "My youngest daughter is going to college next year, and my wife wants to reclaim the closet space."
Keane is now selling off his collection so that others can enjoy what he has accumulated. While discovering the unique jersey was memorable, he is now ready to part with it.
"I decided to start with this piece because its so unusual, and I’m sure a Red Sox or Ted Williams fan would enjoy it as a conversation piece. Being a long time Yankee fan I actually prefer DiMaggio, Mantle, or Berra!"
-Contributed by Keyman Collectibles