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Tales from the Dream Shop: Bringing a Jersey Back from the Dead

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[Editor’s Note: Today we have another guest entry from baseball jersey restorer extraordinaire Bill Henderson and his business, the Dream Shop. Enjoy. — PL]

By Bill Henderson

“It’s not worth saving. Just send it back to me and I’ll decide later what to do with it.”

That’s what Mark Fletcher, the owner of this jersey, had told me. At his instruction, we had just completed another project, “borrowing” the front crest from this 1972 White Sox road knit jersey to transplant onto and restore a more valuable 1971 road flannel. This jersey was like the bones of the donor. And clearly, it had had a hard life: From all appearances, after being issued to infielder Bill Melton for the 1972 season, it was renumbered to 60, a perfect spring training number for a prospect, and then used for multiple years in the team’s spring training camp. No roster player had been issued No. 60 in the following five years that this jersey would have seen duty (counting 1976 spring training).

“It will end up hanging in your closet for the next 30 years if we do that,” I cautioned. “Then someone will throw it away. Let me restore it. It won’t be cheap, but with proper documentation it will be worth something and you can sell it if you want.” I knew it would be worth it because so few of these 1972 White Sox jerseys remain. The only ones made were the ones the players on the team wore — there were none made for collectors or fans, and most of the originals were stripped of their front script and sent to the minors.

Mark agreed. And he specified that he wanted it restored to look old, with the lettering media-blasted and dyed to make it match the patina of the base garment. And so we began the process of restoring a jersey that otherwise would have been discarded and forgotten.

This was our starting point — a very dirty, badly stained jersey shell, naked and with shredded trim. Prior to my getting it, someone had removed the “60” and then, likely seeing how badly it was stained underneath, just gave up on it.

Close up, we could see what appeared to have been a washing machine disaster: The fabric was stained purple in many spots, then bleached by the sun (especially on the shoulder tops, as is common). Glue and thread remained showing the outlines of its history. The front zipper was also history, hanging like a spiny noodle from the placket:

I used my light table to lift the images of what was once sewn onto the jersey. After doing this for many years, I have amassed a fairly compete set of team patterns culled from handling and authenticating so many jerseys. But when a jersey is this worn out, the fabric has often shrunk and become distorted from use and hot-water washing. On top of that, most original lettering was hand-cut with scissors, so no two jerseys are exactly alike.I needed to be sure that the lettering I cut for the restoration would exactly cover the rather pronounced ghosts. Here you can see the outlines of the original 14 from the back, with some distortion in the fabric under the “4.” I do not cut lettering with distortion baked in — rather, I cut it to spec and then shrink it with steam to make it conform:

Mark had told me that he had washed the jersey before he sent it to me. Nevertheless, this is what my hand-washing in OxiClean generated:

I then hand-scrubbed the stained fabric with a mixture of OxiClean paste (powder barely dissolved in a little water) and a diluted solution of Clorox. (Caveat: I do this outdoors and wear a hazmat mask.)

After thoroughly rinsing the jersey multiple times in clean water to remove all traces of the detergent, I dried the fabric by laying it flat in a towel and then tightly rolling it up in the towel. Then I hung it to dry in the sunshine:

Meanwhile, I created all the necessary cutting patterns on my computer in Adobe Illustrator. For the red fabric, I decided to use is a slightly lighter color called University Red, not bright Crimson Red. I have found that when we age-distress the lighter shade, it looks more true to the aged patina we are seeking.

I laid the cut pattern images on top of the jersey photos to create a proof, which I sent to Mark for him to review and approve. Every job that goes through here gets a proof — it’s an important quality-control step and gives the client a chance to see what the final product will look like and request changes. No surprises, no mistakes, no rework. (I mistakenly put “#15” on the proof sheet, instead of “#14.” That was later fixed.)

The jersey needed a new zipper. Original 1972 zippers were made by Talon and had “Talon” lettering on the tab. Vintage Talon stock is available, but it takes a lot of searching and can be expensive, so instead I sourced a brass replacement that looked identical except for the tab lettering.

Trim needed to be reapplied. This 1972 jersey used the old-style flat-woven nylon uniform braid that was common during the flannel uniform era, not like the polyester trim that’s used today. Luckily, I have a collection of vintage trim made on the original machines and from the original supplier:

After cutting the lettering, I test-placed it on the garment to see if it covered the shadows. The small ”White Sox” lettering on the tail of the logo was hand-embroidered by my seamstress, Emily, who also sewed in the new zipper, the new trim, and all the lettering. We used off-color thread to make it look like it had been washed many times instead of brand-new:

The next step was media-blasting. The lettering was tacked firmly onto cardboard and then placed into my full-sized blast cabinet and strafed with a hand-mixed compound of abrasives to dull the sheen of the twill, soften the edges, and make it look like it’s been used and washed a bunch of times. Here are before and after photos — the photo at the right is after blasting:

See how some areas of the printed ink on the cardboard have been blasted away? That’s how I know when we have done it enough! I also blasted the trim to age it, prior to Emily sewing it on.

We want this lettering to look severely aged, but tackle twill is normally impervious to dyes and bleach. So I mixed up this concoction in my kitchen and boiled it on low for about 10 minutes on the stove. The trim was also boiled:

Once the dyeing was complete, I rinsed the lettering and left it wet. Working with the jersey on the light table, I aggressively steamed the lettering on the plate steamer to make it conform to the shapes of the ghosts on the jersey. Subtle tweaks in the shapes of the lettering can be made while the pieces are hot with steam. I also steamed the trim the same way to give it some age and pucker. (I wear gloves to do this, because steam is hot and dangerous.)

Emily stitched the trim in place. Look at the lining on the inner collar — it was yellowed in the earlier photos but now it’s bright and clean:

The final result! This jersey will never pass for new — nor should it. It is still discolored in spots, but the overall garment has been brightened considerably and the color evened out, thanks to our careful but aggressive washing:

The replacement trim looks just as it should — not jarring and new but slightly yellowed and harmonious with the base fabric. The aging of the twill is subtle — you don’t even notice it, and that’s the point. If left crisp and shiny, it would look out of place.

There is some intentional distortion of the rear-jersey “4,” to match the ghost beneath.

Notice that we did not touch the tagging. That’s because a jersey’s tagging is like the serial number on a car or a gun — it should never be tampered with, even if it’s missing or in bad shape. Sure, a jersey with original tagging in perfect condition is worth more, but tagging that’s been tampered with, even with all good intentions, makes the jersey all but worthless to serious collectors. Many auction houses will not even touch such an item.

The final step, as always, is to document the process with a letter of restoration:

A job like this is a lot of work and is not inexpensive, but the end result has preserved a relic and made it something worth displaying. The documentation of its restoration and its authentication as a piece of 1972 White Sox history cements its future value if and when it is sold, even if that time is many decades from now.

Here are composite photos of the front and back, showing how the jersey looked at the beginning and end of the restoration process:

I probably do about three restorations like this each month, though most are not this dramatic. I rarely take the time to photograph and write them up like this— it just takes too much time. In this case, spelling it all out, like the restoration process itself, was worth the effort.


Paul here. What a great story! Big thanks to Bill for sharing his wizardry with us.



It's That Time of Year Again

Today is the final day of July, which means it’s also the final day before my annual August break from this website. I’ll have at least one more blog post later today (probably several), and then I’ll hand the baton to deputy editor Phil Hecken.

Here’s what you can expect from Uni Watch in August:

  • Phil will run the site on weekdays and will cover breaking news, fun design-concept projects, and so on.
  • The Ticker will continue to run on weekdays.
  • We will not have new content on weekends.
  • I will be tweeting much less frequently.
  • I will continue to do my weekly Premium articles over on Substack (including one this Wednesday). I do four Premium articles per month, which means there are four “bye weeks” built into the yearly 52-week calendar, and one of those bye weeks will come this month — probably the week after next. But there will still be four August articles. If you’re not already a paying subscriber, you can rectify that oversight here.

I will return to the daily blog on Friday, Sept. 1. Right after that, rather conveniently, is Labor Day weekend, so we’ll probably be closed for that, and then I’ll get fully back in the saddle on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Speaking of Sept. 5: That will also be the pub date for this year’s Uni Watch NFL Season Preview (which will clearly be a doozy, what with all the new throwbacks and alternates). Like all my Season Previews, this one will run on Substack. Did I mention that you can subscribe here?

Have fun while I’m away, and I’ll try to do likewise. See you all in a month!




Can of the Day

“Meet the Enemy of Friction” — don’t mind if I do! Looks like a friendly fella, no? My only gripe here is that I hate it when a slogan or descriptor isn’t fully visible from a head-on view of the can. Come on, just make that lettering a smidge smaller, so we can read the entire thing without turning the can!

As noted above, I’m about to take my annual August break from the site, so the Can of the Day will be on hiatus for a month. Should I bring it back in September? Should I treat it as a fun little mini-project that has now run its course? Talk to me, people.

Comments (30)

    Can of the Day is a cool feature. I vote to keep it! In fact, thanks to the posts, we bought a vintage can of bug repellent Uni Watch posted as a gift for our son the entomologist! Thanks!

    Have a nice break Paul. And yes, bring the Can of the Day back with you in September!

    Bill again performs another miraculous restoration! Keep the Cans! Enjoy your August Paul!

    That particular Sox jersey style in any condition is not one of my favorite/their best looks, but Mr. Henderson’s healing powers sure improved this one – Great work…as always!

    At first I felt Can Of The Day was never going to be as appealing as the Catch of the Day sidebar was way back when, but it’s grown on me…while summer vacation is taking you away, I’m hopin’ I’ll see you in September. Enjoy your break, Paul!

    I am in the Pro-Can camp, Paul.
    The White Sox jersey reminds me of what car collectors call a barn-find. It jazzes me to note the similarities of all collectibles: Sports uniforms, classic cars, electric guitars, postcards, pencil sharpeners, &c. The deeper the rabbit hole, the better the story. This is some of Uni Watch’s best material!

    I can never get enough of these jersey restoration journeys! Fascinating!

    Enjoy your break Paul!!

    I never would have guessed that was a blue jersey to begin with! Thank you for sharing the story behind that restoration. As always, it’s the details that count!

    Enjoy your break Paul!

    And I enjoy the can feature, but wouldn’t be upset if you only included it when something interesting popped up.

    That is a very impressive effort by Mr. Henderson to bring that jersey back to life!

    The cans are a fun thing, so as long as you’re having fun with it, then I say yes, bring it back when you’re back!

    Love the can of the day. I share it more than I’d have thought, at first. Enjoy your month off!

    1. Bill Henderson’s work is incredible and inspiring.
    2. I greatly enjoy the cans.

    Bill’s restoration projects are the best!!! Never tired of seeing his work.

    And keep the cans coming!!!

    Unlike the gunman in Steve Martin’s “The Jerk,” I don’t hate these cans. Keep them coming!

    Can of the day every day possible for as long as possible please!

    When I saw the condition of the Jersey, I said to myself, this is a job for Bill Henderson! Love how he chronicles each step along his restoration process.

    1. I LOVE Bill Henderson stories.
    2. I’m neutral on COTD but a lot of people seem to like it, and I am not one to rain on anyone’s parade.
    3. Enjoy your rest!

    Thank you, Mr. Henderson, for taking the time to document this job, amazing! The work you do bringing these jerseys back to life is incredible. Your skills are unparalleled.

    Phil, you guys solved the riddle of why Eddie Van Halen designed his Frankenstein the way it looks…
    All because of the COTD (GE “All Weather” Electrical Tape)…
    (Is there a way to submit a COTD, I think the Uni-Un would have a few to offer…)
    COTD is a Keeper

    If you (or anyone) wants to submit a Can of the Day, I’d definitely run it — but you need to find it and describe it! (All with proper credit of course)

    Always loved the White Sox in those powder blues with red lettering/numbers and white trim. Spectacular restoration Mr. Henderson. Bravo.

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