It may not be quite as famous as the “Greatest Game Ever Played” that had taken place 12 months earlier, but the Baltimore Colts’ 1959 NFL championship was also one for the ages.
Trailing 9-7 on their own Memorial Stadium turf heading into the fourth quarter, the Colts outscored the New York Giants 24-9 over the final 15 minutes to capture their second straight NFL title. Now, Heritage Auctions says it will offer the jersey worn by quarterback Johnny Unitas in that contest. The company calls it “one of the most significant football offerings that Heritage has introduced to the collecting hobby.”
Presented by Unitas to a business associate, the blue durene jersey—complete with bloodstain and team repairs—carries a pre-sale estimate of $80,000 or more in an auction set to begin early next month.
Unitas completed 18 of 29 passes that day for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored a rushing touchdown.
According to Heritage, “Unitas gave the jersey and a pair of what are likely practice-used pants to a business acquaintance turned friend who owned a Sharp electronics distributorship in Baltimore that featured top Baltimore sports figures like Unitas, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer as celebrity endorsers. The sales executive likewise frequented Unitas’ Baltimore restaurant, ’The Golden Arm’.”
The jersey and pants come with a letter of provenance from the son of the uniform’s recipient and a copy of a photograph of Unitas with the consignor and his young son.
The jersey shows multiple signs of game use including the rear numeral “9” that has two sizeable vintage team repairs and another sewn repair at the collar. Heritage says there is also a small spatter of blood on the white twill of the front numeral “1.”
There have also been repairs to the shoulder numerals and the MacGregor tagging on the lower left front tail is also worn. Heritage officials say the matching white pants were sourced from Unitas at the same time of the jersey’s presentation, but carry no physical attribution to Unitas or any other player, no name or number. Since the Colts wore striped pants and the pants are a solid white, it’s believed they may have been practice-used.
The auction will begin February 2 and close February 24-25.