Walter Johnson Game-Worn Jersey Found In Farmhouse Attic Fetches Over $2 Million At Auction

One of only two known game-worn Walter Johnson jerseys to exist fetched over $2 million at auction on Friday night. Following 23 bids, the final gavel landed at $2.01 million at Heritage Auctions. Johnson, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Washington Senators, wore this road gray flannel jersey in 1920 when he faced Babe Ruth as a New York Yankee for the first time. The jersey survived decades being stashed in the farmhouse attic of a former teammate.

It fell below the $3 million estimated value.

The jersey was photomatched from the Senators-Yankees game on April 29, 1920, when the two teams squared off at the Polo Grounds in New York. It was just the third home game Ruth played for the Yankees. He ended up finishing with a hit and RBI against Johnson, but the Hall of Fame pitcher got the last laugh as the Senators defeated the Yanks 2-1. Johnson even legged out a triple leading off the fifth, but he was gunned down at home plate on a fielder’s choice.

This is the only “Big Train” jersey in private hands — the other is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

“The monumentally rare and significant garment is crafted from heavy grey flannel with blue pinstripes, the black logo ‘W’ on the each bicep validating the ‘less is more’ wisdom of its designer. Intriguingly, each logo ‘W’ is reinforced with a square patch of jersey fabric at interior sleeve, each cut and aligned to match up with the pinstripes even though only Johnson’s biceps would ever enjoy that view,” Heritage writes in the description lot. “The cadet collar reminds us that, like its master, the jersey marks a transitional period of the game. Common in the first two decades of the twentieth century baseball fashion, it would be gone by the start of the third. Interior collar bears the simple and correct ‘Spalding’ manufacturer’s label, underscored by the essential ‘Johnson’ script embroidered directly into the jersey. We find a small degree of rust staining in this area, almost certainly from years spent upon a metal hanger.”

The jersey originally belonged to Johnson’s former Senators teammate, Eric “Swat” Erickson. He kept the historic item in the attic at his Jamestown, New York, farmhouse. The family sold the jersey through Sotheby’s in 2006 for $352,000.

The name of the latest buyer is not yet known.

Johnson was part of the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame class in 1936, along with Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner. The two-time Most Valuable Player finished his career with 417 wins, 3,509 strikeouts and an all-time record of 110 shutouts.

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