Yogi Berra may have won the battle for many of the headlines in New York but the Brooklyn Dodgers dominated the National League from the late 1940s through the mid-1950s, thanks in large part to their own Hall of Fame catcher. There wasn’t much Roy Campanella couldn’t do as his three MVP awards would attest. His career was cut short by the tragic auto accident that paralyzed him after the 1957 season, but he remains one of the franchise’s most popular players.
Few game-used or game-worn Campanella items exist today but one of them is now on the auction block. A 1956 Dodgers game jersey is among the top items in Heritage Auctions’ current catalog, where it could bring $100,000 or more. Not bad considering it was once a lowly hand-me-down.
As was often the case at the time, the Dodgers passed their jerseys down through their minor league system in case they were needed. The year after Campanella had worn it at Ebbets Field, the Size 44 flannel wound up in Kokomo, IN, home to the Dodgers’ Class A affiliate in the Midwest League. Former Dodger Pete Reiser managed the club and one of his players was Lee Ferrerra, an 18-year-old switch-hitting third baseman.
The Kokomo team’s jerseys weren’t quite ready for use but they did have those old Brooklyn button downs. Ferrerra came to the park one day having forgotten his jersey—another hand-me-down from Pee Wee Reese– and a coach flipped him the one Campanella had worn. He relays the tale in a letter of provenance that comes with the jersey.
The jersey had Campanella’s trademark extra short sleeves and has been authenticated with a 9.5 rating from MEARS. Campanella’s last name is embroidered in blue directly to the lower right front tail beneath “Rawlings Hall of Fame Flannel [size] 44” tagging. A flap tag reads “Set 1 1956” and includes washing instructions.