1978 Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds Tour of Japan Signed Road Uniform (Jersey and Pants) with Photo Match!

Published by Robert Lifson on Tagged Uncategorized

Rare, specially produced, Reds road uniform (jersey and pants) worn by Pete Rose during the club’s goodwill tour of Japan in the fall of 1978. In the opinion of Robert Edward Auctions, this is one of the finest Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds uniforms in existence. According to the accompanying letter of provenance (and we have tracked down the original owner as will be discussed later), it was originally obtained directly from the Reds. Perhaps most important, however, is the fact that it is accompanied by photographs of Rose from the 1978 tour of Japan in which he is wearing this very uniform! Extensive photo gallery is provided. All the more amazing: It is rare enough to be able to photo-match a jersey; in this case, with enlarged photos, the anomalies related to the construction of the pants allow us (with certainty, in our opinion) to photo-match the pants as well.

According to conventional wisdom, one of the distinguishing features of the Cincinnati Reds 1978 tour of Japan uniforms is that they were manufactured by Rawlings, not Wilson, which produced the club’s regular season uniforms. In addition, the Reds tour pants were designed with a special circular patch on the right thigh displaying the Rawlings logo. The gray knit jersey is lettered “Cincinnati” on the front and features the number “14″ on the reverse. “Rose” is lettered on the reverse directly above the number. All letters and numerals are appliquéd in red tackle twill. A “Rawlings 44″ label is located on the interior front tail. Rose has signed the jersey in vintage blue ink (grading “5/6″) on the left front breast. The matching gray pants display the special Rawlings patch on the right thigh. A “Rawlings 32″ label appears in the waistband. Also located in the waistband, adjacent to the manufacturer’s label is a white strip tag that features the uniform number, waist size, inseam measurement, and year, chain-stitched in red (”14 32 24 78″). An adjacent flag tag reads “Set 2.” Both the jersey and pants are original as issued, with no alterations, and display light wear.

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 Above: Images of jersey  and detail images. Click to enlarge.

This was a particularly interesting uniform to process because when this uniform was sent to MEARS for evaluation and grading, it was returned to us as “Unable to Authenticate.” In fact, the confusion of our communications with MEARS regarding the grade (we were first told it was “Unable to Authenticate”; we were then emailed it was an “A10″, and then told it was “Unable to Authenticate” again), is solely responsible for the fact the uniform is not in the printed catalog. In all fairness, we must acknowledge that MEARS has written to us to clarify that “Unable To Authenticate” DOES NOT mean that they are saying an item is not authentic. It simply means they are unable to authenticate it. Fortunately, in this case, we believe that the information and photos readily available in support of authenticity will prove overwhelming to any potential buyer. We believe this so much that, in light of the accompanying MEARS “Unable To Authenticate” letter and worksheet (which interestingly is not even signed by the MEARS “authenticator” who filled it out, and who we initially erroneously presumed was Dave Grob, who has since informed us that it was not him and that even he does not know whose work this is), REA will offer a lifetime guarantee that if this jersey should ever be found to be not authentic, a full refund of the original purchase price in this auction will be provided. This is unprecedented for REA, but that is how much we believe in this uniform. 

Despite the fact that MEARS was “Unable to Authenticate” this jersey (for reasons which will be fully explained), Robert Edward Auctions believes we have conclusively photo matched the offered uniform (both jersey and pants) to a uniform worn by Rose during the Reds’ 1978 tour of Japan. So bidders can fully judge for themselves, we have posted all of the Rose tour photos (that allow any jersey detail to be shown), as well as additional related photos mentioned here, online for viewing.

To fully understand the differing opinions regarding the authenticity of this jersey, we will relate the full story of the authentication process conducted by REA that has resulted in its being offered at this time (pulled from the printed catalog by REA due to learning at the last minute the MEARS grade was “Unable to Authenticate” as opposed to a perfect A10, but not too late for the Internet-only section of the auction).

This jersey was originally consigned to REA on November 30, 2010 and was accompanied by a letter of provenance from the original owner of the piece, John Zerges.

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In the letter, John Zerges  stated that his grandmother obtained the jersey directly from the Reds via a special lottery-type drawing. In full:  “To: Sports Investments. In 1978, the Cincinnati Reds held a lottery type drawing when the Reds returned from the Tour of Japan for all of the road uniforms used by the players in Japan. My grandmother, Madeline Zerges, won the Pete Rose Japan game-used jersey and pants. The jersey is a Rawlings size 44 and the pants are road Rawlings with label 14, 32, 24, 78 - set 2. My grandmother gave me the uniform in 1997 when I turned 18. John Zerges [signed].” Zerges’ letter was written to Sports Investments Inc., of Cincinnati, who purchased the jersey from him on July 28, 2008. Sports Investments Inc., then sold the jersey to Mike Heffner of Lelands. The uniform first appeared at public auction as Lot 533 in Leland’s May 31, 2009 sale, where it was purchased by our consignor for $6,188.19. It has remained in our consignor’s personal collection since that time.

Since we knew that 1978 Reds tour of Japan uniforms (at least some uniforms identified as such) were offered in special lottery drawing by the Cincinnati Reds, the provenance accompanying the piece seemed highly credible. That, plus the fact that the uniform was manufactured by Rawlings and featured an authentic Rose signature on the jersey, made us especially confident in its authenticity. In addition, Steve Wolter of Sports Investments is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on Cincinnati Reds uniforms and memorabilia. (He’s been doing this for over thirty years, specializing in Reds jerseys and memorabilia. Whenever we have a question about Reds items, we ask Steve Wolter. He usually has the answer!)  Not to get sidetracked, but Steve became aware of the uniform when it was on display at the official Reds museum. Owner John Zerges had lent the family  keepsake to the Reds Hall of Fame strictly for a display in a special exhibit relating to Pete Rose. When Steve Wolter saw it on display, he contacted the owner to see if maybe he would consider selling it. Eventually they made a deal.

Upon receipt , REA  sent the uniform and a copy of the accompanying LOA to MEARS, where it was evaluated by Dave Grob. On January 1, 2011 we received the uniform back from MEARS with Dave Grob’s accompanying LOO in which he writes: “The offered jersey has been deemed Unable to Authenticate. We have found the tagging on the offered jersey with hologram #311399, and pants with hologram #311400, to be inconsistent with exemplars found in the MEARS database and from available color plates. The jersey and pants had been compared with exemplars of Alex Grammas and Ray Knight.”

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  above images: MEARS letter and worksheet 

We were puzzled as we had two photos of Rose taken during the Reds 1978 tour of Japan which appeared to picture him wearing the offered jersey. Comparing the photos to the offered jersey (which had just been returned) it was obvious to us that both the jersey and pants could each be positively photo matched to images we had.

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above image: 1978 Tour of Japan photo with Rose wearing John Zerges Family Rose Tour Jersey

The best photo we have is one of Rose posing together with George Foster, Johnny Bench, and two Japanese players. As can be clearly seen in an enlargement of the photo, the pants are an exact match as noted by the unique placement of the front three buttons, the alignment of the stripes, even the unique creasing of the material that is related to its design and manufacture. The offered jersey is also very unusual and unique in its placement of the front numerals with respect to the lettering. It should be noted that the placement of the front number on the left breast on each of the Reds jerseys in the photo is extremely inconsistent. They are all very different with regard to where the number is placed relative to the front lettering. On the offered jersey, the right side of the “1″ in the number “14″ appears almost directly in line with the interior side of the first linear portion of the “A” in “Cincinnati.” That exact same unusual symmetry is seen on the jersey Rose is wearing in the photo. Based upon the photo evidence (and that of additional photos as well), Robert Edward Auctions believes that the offered uniform is unquestionably the very one worn by Rose in the accompanying photo.

After we received the jersey back from MEARS, we contacted Dave Grob and asked him what bearing, if any, the accompanying LOA had on his authentication process. We also emailed him images of the photos (which we thought possibly he did not have) so that we could make sure that an error had not been made and that all the relevant information was available. He replied that he never received the copy of the accompanying LOA and that it might have some bearing. We then emailed him an image of the LOA. A few days later we received an email from Grob. He did not state whether or not he even looked at the images we sent him (we had earlier inquired what, if any, photos he had used during his initial evaluation, but he did not reply to that question), but he did provide an interesting bit of information regarding the LOA accompanying the jersey. Grob had forwarded us an email image of a printed program listing of the names of the winners of each of the thirty Reds tour of Japan uniforms sold by the club. Surprisingly, the name of the winner of the Pete Rose jersey was Gary A. Fisher of Van Wert, Ohio, NOT Madeline Zerges, the name of the woman cited as having won the jersey in the accompanying LOA from her grandson. Grob wrote in his email: “As you can see, their [sic] appears to be a disconnect with the provenance offered with this uniform.”

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Obviously, Grob was correct. There was a discrepancy between the listing of the winners and the accompanying LOA. We were determined to sort it out and, in doing so we discovered even more information which further supports the authenticity of the offered jersey. We began by contacting John Zerges, the gentleman who had written the LOA accompanying the jersey. During our phone conversation, he pointed out (as is noted in his letter) that he was an infant at the time the jersey was obtained by his grandmother, so he could not speak with 100% authority about its origins, and could only repeat family lore and what was told to him. He was certain that it had come from the Reds “580 Gift/News” shop at Riverfront Stadium, and he thought that it was related to a lottery, but he wasn’t there. He could, however, confirm that the jersey had always been in his grandmother’s possession since as long as he could remember, and, as a youngster, he recalls seeing it in his grandmother’s house. John is not a collector, but is a big Reds fan from a family of big Reds fans. This uniform was a big deal in the Zerges family his entire life and was given to him on his eighteenth birthday. Although his recollection is that his grandmother (who is now deceased) said she acquired it in a lottery, he said that maybe she purchased at the Reds gift shop, which at the time sold game-used Reds equipment. Checking with the Reds, we confirmed that it was entirely possible that if there were more than one Tour jersey per player (and we have proven by photos that this is the case), that Reds Tour uniforms could have been sold or distributed in another manner by the Reds “580 Gift/News” shop.

We then contacted Gary A. Fisher, the gentleman listed in the paper at the time as winning the Pete Rose 1978 Reds tour of Japan jersey. (With the investigative resources of the Internet, it took us just a few minutes to locate him). He was really surprised to hear from us! But he was also  delighted. Winning the Rose Jersey in the lottery was a big deal to him and he had very fond memories of the entire event. Fisher confirmed that he did indeed win the jersey, but that in the early 1980s he sold it to a dealer (the famous Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen). We were disappointed to hear that, because we were hoping to compare his jersey with ours, and also to compare his jersey to the photos we had of Rose while in Japan. However, all was not lost. Fisher said he had a photo of himself holding the jersey up (picturing the reverse), standing with Pete Rose at a special on-the-field ceremony relating to the Tour jerseys. He said he would try to find it and he did. He sent it to us.

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Gary Fischer with Pete Rose holding his Rose Tour Jersey

Miraculously, through some investigative work, we were able to track down the present owner of the jersey once owned by Fischer, who then provided us photos of the jersey including the front, which proved crucial in our analysis.

Here is an image of the front of the Gary Fischer Rose Tour Jersey graciously provided by the present owner:

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above image: front of Gary Fischer Rose Tour Jersey 

During the time between the offered jersey having been returned to us from MEARS and the start of our inquiries regarding the jersey’s provenance, we were able to obtain additional photos of Rose in uniform dating from the 1978 tour of Japan. One was a shot of Rose running the bases. This was a very interesting image as it is a perfect photo match to the Gary Fischer Rose Tour Jersey:

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above 1978 Japan Tour photo: Rose wearing Gary Fischer Rose Tour Jersey 

Another photo pictured Rose at bat, which gave us the best image we have of the back of Rose’s jersey.

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above 1978 Japan Tour photo: Rose wearing John Zerges Family Rose Tour jersey 

It is clearly evident that the jersey Rose is wearing this photo (and, in fact, he is wearing this jersey in all other Japan tour photos we have found) is a different jersey than the Gary Fischer Rose Tour Jersey. There is NO QUESTION that Rose had two jerseys on the tour. The photos do not lie.

All but one photo (the running-the-bases photo above) of Rose on the Japan Tour clearly picture him wearing a jersey that is NOT the jersey originally owned by Gary Fisher. The placement of the letters and numbers on Fisher’s jersey do not match the placement of the letters and numbers on the other photos we have of Rose in Japan. Conversely, (with the exception of the one running-the-bases photo above), the placement of the letters and numbers on Rose’s jersey PERFECTLY MATCH the placement of the letters and numbers on the John Zerges Family jersey. In addition, as we previously mentioned, even the placement of the buttons on the pants (in relation to the stripes along the waist) as seen in the one photo, perfectly match the placement of the buttons seen on the offered pants.

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above 1978 Rose Tour of Japan Photos: Rose is wearing John Zerges Family Rose Tour jersey in the duguot photo. In the Rose Tour Japanese magazine cover photo, while the angle of the photo is not the ideal, it can easily be seen that the relationship between the “E” in “Rose” and the number”4″ on the reverse exclude this jersey from possibly being the Gary Fischer Rose Tour jersey, and is a match to the John Zerges Family Rose Tour jersey. 

What conclusion are we to draw from this? The obvious: The Reds had (at least) two sets of uniforms during the trip to Japan.  This really is not all that surprising. In fact, it would be surprising if they did not! This was not a single game or a weekend trip. This was a month long tour. Logic dictates the Reds wouldn’t embark on a month-long overseas tour with just one set of uniforms. One set worn by Rose was obtained by Gary Fisher in the lottery, while the other, as proven by the analysis of the photos we have, was indeed obtained, somehow, by Zerges’ grandmother. We already know the Reds (or at least Rose, and almost certainly all other players as well) had at least two Tour uniforms. So what happened to the other set? Perhaps the Reds did later sell the second set in some other manner. Perhaps they were even sold to other lottery entrants. It is also possible that the two sets of uniforms used during the tour had slight variations in the tagging, which is what Dave Grob was viewing when he compared the offered jersey to two other exemplars. In addition, we are not ruling out the possibility that the offered Rose jersey was also used as a regular-season road jersey that was then also used during the tour. It has long been assumed that the 1978 Reds regular-season uniforms were made exclusively by Wilson. That belief is certainly held by Dave Grob who, in his The Unofficial Guide to Cincinnati Reds Game Used Bats, Uniforms and Equipment 1970-1979 writes “Tour of Japan Uniform: Rawlings Sporting Goods sponsored a 17 game Tour of Japan from 28 Oct-21 Nov 1978. The uniform is exactly the same as the regular season uniform, with two notable exceptions. The pants have a half-dollar size patch on the right thigh featuring the Rawlings “R” emblem. The road uniforms are manufactured by Rawlings not Wilson.” However, we know of a 1978 Johnny Bench Cincinnati Reds home jersey, which was donated directly by the Reds to a charity event and which was graded and authenticated by MEARS (cert #258350) that was made by Rawlings not Wilson. That would suggest that either the Bench jersey was in fact used during the tour of Japan and misidentified by MEARS, or that Rawlings did indeed manufacture Reds home jerseys in 1978. If Rawlings did manufacture Reds home jerseys in 1978, then the offered jersey may possibly also have been used during the regular season. The pants, which bear the small Rawlings patch on the leg, are definitely from the tour of Japan, as the regular season pants did not feature the patch. The tagging aside, it is hard to refute the photographic evidence of Rose wearing this very jersey. The photographic match to the pants, in our opinion, is also extraordinary, and we would find it very hard to believe that anyone could look at closeups of the pants and not conclude with certainty that they are also a conclusive match. It is also impossible to refute the fact that the jersey originally obtained by Gary Fischer in the official Reds drawing does not match up to the jersey worn by Rose during the tour in most images that we have found. In our opinion, the evidence is overwhelming. We not only have no qualms about offering this uniform, there is no question in our opinion that Rose is wearing this very uniform in most Japan Tour game photographs and this is one of the finest and most important Pete Rose jerseys in existence. 

The fact that this jersey can be photo matched notwithstanding, it is also highly significant in that it is one of, if not the very last (we have no way to know which he wore in the final Tour game) uniform worn by Rose as a member of the Reds during the 1970s, thereby symbolizing the end of one of baseball’s greatest dynasties. After dominating the National League for much of the decade and winning two consecutive World Championships in 1975 and 1976, the fabled “Big Red Machine” was coming to a halt in 1978. In the fall of that year, after finishing behind the Dodgers once again, Sparky Anderson decided to take his club on a goodwill tour of Japan, which was sponsored by Rawlings. The tour ran from October 28th through November 21st, and by the time it concluded the “Big Red Machine” was no more. The club granted Pete Rose free agency on November 5th. Shortly upon returning from Japan, on December 5th, Rose signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The departure of Rose left a huge void in the Reds clubhouse and signaled the end to one of the greatest eras in Cincinnati Reds franchise history. This is a remarkable and unique Pete Rose Cincinnati Reds uniform with enormous historical significance, dating from his final days as a member of baseball’s “Big Red Machine.” In addition to being the most important uniform that could possibly exist from the 1978 Cincinnati Reds Tour of Japan, this is also one of the finest, most well documented, and historically significant Pete Rose Reds Cincinnati Reds uniforms in existence. Letter of Lifetime Guarantee from REA. “Unable To Authenticate” LOA and Unsigned Worksheet from MEARS. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open).

Below is a link to the REA auction bidding page for this lot:

http://bid.robertedwardauctions.com/bidplace.aspx?itemid=20029



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