This magnificent Chicago Bears road jersey was worn by running back Brian Piccolo. The off-white durene pull-over jersey features embroidered “41” numbers to chest, back, and both sleeves, with the proper King O’Shea manufacturer’s tag sewn to the front left tail listing cleaning instructions and size, “44,” with hand-annotated “+3″ body.” In fine condition, with expected light wear.
The letter of provenance includes the statement that “this shirt was not worn by any other player since Piccolo came up in 1965, the year the Bears went to tear-away shirts for their running backs & return men. His uniform number was retired after his death.” Also included is a Mears letter of opinion with official worksheet, evaluating the jersey with a base grade of 10 and a condition grade of -2 moderate wear.
The tragic story of Brian Piccolo was told in the made-for-television movie “Brian’s Song” in 1971. The film focused on the unlikely friendship between Piccolo and his teammate Gale Sayers, as well as the former’s sickness and untimely death at the age of 26. Late in the 1969 season, Piccolo took himself out of a game complaining of breathing problems and was soon diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma. Doctors were unable to stop the cancer’s spread, and after several surgeries, Piccolo died on June 16, 1970.
Bollman notes that Piccolo “almost wasn’t good enough to play pro ball; but sheer grit and determination got him on the Bears roster. This is only the second [Piccolo jersey] we’ve seen come to market in the last few decades. The other was a home jersey; this is an away.”
He adds that the scarcity of surviving tear-away jerseys makes this an exceptional offering. “The material [used is] another reason you don’t see these very often. They’re usually all shredded from game use and destroyed.” A Mears A8 is a rare well-preserved example from a man whose story transcended the realm of sports.