Game Worn Guide documents decades of MLB jerseys – SportsLogos.Net News
Bill Henderson, author of the Game Worn Guide to MLB Jerseys, answers his front door on a rainy Saturday afternoon wearing a camouflage New York Mets jersey tucked into jeans. It’s a bit surprising because I know two things about Bill: he doesn’t like special jerseys and he’s a Phillies fan. A Mets camo jersey was the last thing I expected.
Over the next hour, Henderson introduces me to his collection of authentic, not-so-authentic, and restored Major League Baseball jerseys. There are around 1,000 of them by Henderson’s tally – nearly every home, road, alternate and batting practice jersey for every Major League team since 1972. There’s an entire closet just for jerseys padres.
The Game Worn Guide to MLB Jerseys, Henderson’s labor of love since the 1970s, is an eBook dedicated to the details of identifying, restoring, and collecting authentic baseball jerseys. The origins of the book coincide with the early days of Henderson’s collection. It started out simply as a series of notes he kept to himself so he could tell the genuine jerseys from the fakes. The most recent version, the eighth edition, available on Henderson’s website (and nowhere else because it’s so huge), weighs in at 3,600 pages.
“When I started looking for uniforms worn by the game, I started making a list of what was correct and what was incorrect,” Henderson said. “A lot of times you could find surplus stuff that wasn’t lettered…and I wanted to know what lettering to put on it. So often I had them do it and they got it wrong. They would have the wrong color numbers on them, they would have the wrong style, they would have the wrong outline thicknesses. I realized nobody had any record of that, so I started making a record.
This record grew with each passing season, and soon fans and fellow collectors took notice.
“People started asking for copies,” Henderson said. “There was supposed to be 100 pages, then 300 pages. I don’t think it was really until the third edition that I started selling it.
In the beginning, Henderson started collecting, documenting and writing about the jerseys worn by the game in order to connect with the game he loves.
“I wasn’t a good player, so my connection to the sport was the uniforms,” he said. “The uniform means you belong.”
Some objects in the collection have unique and personal stories. One of the most prized items in the collection is a powder blue Gaylord Perry Texas Rangers jersey with cigarette burn holes (pictured above). During my visit, Henderson pulled out the jersey and demonstrated how Perry shielded cigarettes from view while he smoked, causing ashes to fall on his jersey.
The first jersey acquired by Henderson was that of his favorite player, Larry Bowa. A photo of Henderson wearing his Bowa jersey in 1980 (left, above) appears in his book. The book also includes a photo of that jersey in its current home, autographed by Bowa and kept safely in a shadow box next to a Mike Schmidt jersey, ticket stubs and a Phillies pennant.
Henderson’s collection does not languish unused in storage. He wears the jerseys as part of his everyday wardrobe. Showing me a 1960 Phillies jersey (pictured above), Henderson proudly tells the story of the collector he bought it from who was left baffled when Henderson asked him about cleaning instructions. Why, asked the collector, would you need cleaning instructions? It’s already clean. Yeah, Henderson replied, but that won’t be when I wear it!
“If I don’t pull them out of the closet and wear them, I never see them,” Henderson explained. “I’m just gonna reach over here and catch one, and all I catch that day is what I’m wearing.”
In his basement, Henderson maintains a shop where he restores damaged original jerseys or fixes faulty imitations to reflect proper lettering or styles. Font designs stored on a computer guide a mechanized cutting machine, which produces letterforms that Henderson layers and presses by hand before sewing them onto jerseys.
This working knowledge helps illuminate an intricate level of detail within the pages of the Game Worn Guide.
Henderson’s expertise has become so widely recognized that MLB teams consult him to ensure their homecoming jerseys are accurate.
“I have a great relationship with multiple team offices as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,” he said. “My research is archived there as part of their permanent research collection.” (Henderson showed me a recent letter from the director of the Hall of Fame library saying how valuable the museum curators found his book and asking if he would donate a copy of the new edition.)
Of course, Henderson’s intimate knowledge of uniform designs over the past four decades is both a blessing and a curse.
“It thrills me when I see my recreated team artwork used on the field, like I recently did with the Astros and Mariners, who used my models,” he said. “Conversely, it makes me sad when a team comes up with inaccurate uniforms, when I’m so able and willing to help them get it right.”
As Henderson’s reputation and the circulation of his book grow – he estimates that the last edition of his book sold around 1,500 copies – readers contact him not only with questions or requests, but to help augment the content of the book.
“I had a collector this edition who only collects every team’s Turn-Back-the-Clock jerseys,” Henderson said, “and he filled in a lot of holes where we previously lacked good close-up photos of the game jerseys laid flat.”
Looking ahead, Henderson considers options for his publication, including attempting to document jerseys from the 1950s and 1960s, though he hesitates when considering how difficult researching those decades would be. For now, he’s content to maintain his remarkable collection of jerseys – just to wear them – and provide an invaluable resource for fans, collectors, designers and Major League Baseball itself.
Discount for SportsLogos readers
Bill Henderson offered readers of this site a discount on the current version of the book that was just released. Redeem Code SportsLogos (case sensitive) to get 25% off at checkout. Visit gamewornguides.com.