This trio of baseball jerseys was worn during the 1909 season by Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance, the Chicago Cubs infielders immortalized in verse. Shortstop Tinker, second baseman Evers, and first baseman Chance turned double plays so regularly that they prompted Franklin Adams, a frustrated New York Giants fan, to lament their prowess in the 1910 poem Baseball’s Sad Lexicon. “These are the saddest of possible words,” he wrote, ” ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance.’ Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble, making a Giant hit into a double.”
This is the only complete set of Tinker, Evers, and Chance game-worn jerseys. The owner says that the garments have not been altered or restored. One other game-worn Chance jersey is known to exist, but these Tinker and Evers uniform tops are the sole examples of their kind. (The cursive-script names visible in the necks of the shirts are not the players’ signatures; they were stitched by Spalding, the company that made the uniform tops.)
San Francisco Giants fan Stephen Wong first encountered Adams’ verse in 1982, when, as a high school student at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J., he was rummaging through old yearbooks. He found a yellowed clipping of Baseball’s Sad Lexicon tucked into a 1910 edition. “The poem piqued my curiosity about Tinker, Evers, and Chance,” Wong says. “I knew they had something to do with baseball, but I didn’t know who they were.” The find led him to search for books on the three players, which in turn ignited a passion for baseball literature. He eventually began collecting baseball memorabilia, and in 2005, he published Smithsonian Baseball, a book that features prominent baseball collectors. (Wong and his Cubs jerseys appear in chapter 21.) He now follows the Giants from Hong Kong, where he is a managing director of investment banking for Goldman Sachs.
Wong purchased the jerseys one at a time, acquiring Chance’s at a private sale in 1999, Evers’ at another private sale in 2000, and Tinker’s at a public auction in 2002. “They all originally came from a Chicago barber who cut the players’ hair,” Wong says. “His heirs had them in the family for decades and decades, then the Tinker shirt went to a museum in Ohio, and the other two went somewhere else. Now, they’re all in my collection.” Wong plans to lend the jerseys to the Sports Museum of America, which is scheduled to open this spring in Manhattan. (He also will serve as the senior curatorial adviser to the museum.)
Other prizes Wong owns include a baseball signed by Ty Cobb, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Cy Young, and other heroes from that era. The ball was one of two used in a 1911 exhibition game in Cleveland, Ohio, that honored Addie Joss, a Cleveland Naps player who had died of meningitis three months earlier at age 31. Joss’ widow received the funds raised by the game. She also was given the baseball, which Wong purchased at a 2003 auction. “Imagine who touched that ball: Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson—names that resonate today as much as they did 80 or 90 years ago,” he says. “This ball is the genesis of the All-Star Game.”