Early this summer, David Hunt had a conversation with Bill Mazeroski about an upcoming autograph-signing event. Somehow the subject of the 1960 World Series arose and Hunt, the president of Hunt Auctions, asked Mazeroski if he had any memorabilia from Game 7.
"He said, 'I do, I've got the jersey,' " Hunt said. "I'm like, excuse me?"
Mazeroski, who in that seventh game hit the winning home run against the New York Yankees' Ralph Terry at Forbes Field to give the Pirates a championship, will soon sell some of his memorabilia, including that jersey, at auction. The timing stemmed in part from the current Pirates' success, said Hunt, whose eastern Pennsylvania-based company will conduct the auction.
Mazeroski's baseball collection headed to auction
Hunt Auctions showed off some of the items from the collection of Bill Mazeroski to be auctioned Nov. 9. Among the items is the bat he used to hit the game-winning homer in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. (Video by Nate Guidry; 10/24/2013)
"The renaissance of this team right now, you've got people who obviously didn't see Bill play, but not only that, they don't even know who he is because they haven't won in so long, they haven't cared," Hunt said. "And now they do, so it's neat to reconnect that past, with the McCutchens, with the Mazeroskis."
Before Hunt could proceed with the jersey, which will join the bronzed cleats and bat from Game 7 in addition to hundreds of other items, his company began the two-month process of verifying that the jersey Mazeroski had was indeed the jersey he wore for Game 7. Like crime-scene investigators, they started with the thread work.
Hunt unbuttoned the jersey to compare the stitching holding the letters on the front to that holding the number on the back. It matched, he said, indicating the same seamstress had assembled it. The fabric inside the numbers, held in place by the stitches, was puckered due to repeated washing and drying, which Hunt said was a difficult effect to fake.
Photographic comparison also comprised a large portion of the verification process. Photos from the World Series allowed Hunt Auctions to compare the diagonal stitching on the buttons, the asymmetrical letter 'T' and especially several scattered black threads underlying the yellow stitching, all of which indicated the jersey was the one.
"You get to a preponderance of evidence, forgetting the fact that it originates from the person who hit the home run who should have this uniform," Hunt said. "It just becomes, basically, almost irrefutable."
Another telltale sign: The yellowish stains down the front of the jersey from the champagne dumped on Mazeroski's head, which Hunt said matched a picture of the dousing.
Throw in the washing instructions, the script "Mazeroski" on the lower left-hand side, and it all fit.
For an extra measure of insurance, Hunt said, he sent the jersey to Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services, a third-party authentication service. The jersey received a grade of 10 out of 10, the highest possible standard of authenticity.
Mitch Antin, an orthopedic surgeon at UPMC according to the company's website, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2010 that he had Mazeroski's Game 7 jersey, and that Mazeroski signed it "Uniform Worn By Me in 7th Game of 1960 World Series -- Bill Mazeroski" at an autograph show.
Antin did not reply to messages seeking comment.
The auction, which takes place Nov. 9 at the Louisville Slugger museum and factory in Louisville, Ky., also contains a rare bat from Mazeroski's collection that belonged to Roberto Clemente, inscribed "Momen Clemente" on the barrel.
As a kid, Hunt said, Clemente frequently used the phrase "un momento," or "one moment," earning the nickname "Momen," which eventually appeared on his bats.
"Then he went into a hitting slump and he said, forget this, I'm going to use Roberto, and had his bat stamped Roberto," Hunt said. "But they didn't do many of the Momens, so they're much rarer."
In the second game of a doubleheader June 28, 1970, Chicago Cubs leadoff hitter Don Kessinger grounded out to Mazeroski at second base. That was the final out recorded at Forbes Field.
After a 14-game road trip, the Pirates returned to Pittsburgh and began play in Three Rivers Stadium. The ball put in play for that final out of the old ballpark is among those of Mazeroski's items in the auction.
"It's pretty uncommon," Hunt said. "To have a final out ball from the history of a stadium is pretty unusual."
Mazeroski kept his World Series rings, along with some of his gloves and bats. He will donate some of the proceeds, which are expected to reach into the high six figures, to Pirates Charities.
Post-Gazette sports writer Jenn Menendez contributed. Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.