by Cara Jordan
This is a follow up to one of the items we discussed in our October 7, 2013 blog, Mold Before & After.
A plastic suitcase filled with uniforms belonging to WWII Marine Veteran John E. Holland, Jr. arrived at Museum Textile Services in spring, 2013. The owners were distraught that the suitcase had inadvertantly been stored in a damp basement, leading to the dramatic condition of the items inside.
Holland's three-piece baseball uniform was vacuumed, fumigated in a chlorine dioxide chamber, and wetcleaned to clean it and kill the mold spores. The jersey and pants are made of grayish wool with red piping along the sleeves, neck, and front closure. All that remains of the team name is a single “I” in the center of the closure, along with a coordinating red button. The owners believed that Holland had played minor league baseball for a New York affiliated team. A quick search on www.baseball-reference.com for New York affiliate teams with the letter “I” in the name was inconclusive.
I noticed that quite a few fragments of red fabric and thread remained on the front of the jersey where the lettering had once been. So I put the jersey on a light table to see if any of the machined stitch holes that once attached the letters remained, but we were thwarted. Next I printed some digital photographs and highlighted the red remnants on the image. When I "connected the dots,” I was able to make out an “E” and “R.” The other letters were less forth-coming and the team name remained a mystery. I put the images aside for a few days later we took another go at it. Soon I was able to decipher a possible “A” and “N,” giving me "_ A? R I N? E _." Then it dawned on me: this wasn’t a minor league jersey at all! It was a MARINES baseball jersey.
According to Wikipedia, US Armed Forces baseball dates back as far as the Civil War. More recently, military baseball was used as a recruiting tool to attract personnel and improve morale among the troups. Military baseball was at it’s apex during John Holland Jr.’s time, with big leaguers like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio playing on service teams. I suspect that Holland played ball for the Marines team during his time with them in WWII and then reused the jersey after his discharge.The mystery of the moldy jersey had been solved!
Although mold isn't a conservator's favorite thing to deal with, this project has been rewarding on many levels.