In Hans Christian Anderson's folktale "The Emperor's New Clothes," a famous leader publicly embarrasses himself with a fashion faux pas; nearly all of his royal subjects act as if there's nothing wrong; and even when the truth does come out, the Emperor proudly marches on anyway with his head held high.
Not so with the Phillies' "Saturday Night Special" uniforms. No, what happened on May 19, 1979, was more like the prom scene in Carrie—the poor Phils wore uniforms that looked like they'd been doused with buckets of pig's blood...and then everyone laughed at them. Rather than soldier on with the plan to don those all-burgundy unis every Saturday night, Greg Luzinski threatened to go play for another franchise, and the whole team tossed their new duds in a trash heap on the locker-room floor, where, according to Larry Christenson, "Our clubhouse attendant gathered them together and put them into a laundry cart that was pushed into Never Never Land." (In actuality, we now know they were individually sold to collectors.)
All this to say two important things about the "Saturday Night Special" experiment. First, it's become synonymous with tasteless sports fashion and has been infamously ridiculed in listicles for over 40 years. Second, its ephemeral single-night usage has made for one of the rarest and most desirable of all modern-era uniform styles. Case in point: In 2017, Phillies pitcher Dick Ruthven's SNS jersey sold at auction for almost $10,000. Yes, you read that right. Five figures for Dick Effing Ruthven. Now, far be it from us to throw shade, but if Mr. Ruthven's jersey alone commands such a princely sum, then the entire uniform ensemble of all-time hits leader Pete Rose must be worth $100,000!
And here it is in the flesh—all original, all appropriate, and in all its polyester glory. Rose's size-42 jersey is highlighted by a chain-stitched swatch reading "42 79 1" (size, year, set number) and a flag tag for "SET 1 1979." The size 34 pants showcase a faded Rose signature on the left outside trim. The cap exhibits vintage sweatband stains and another faded signature atop the brim. Excellent condition overall. For his part, Charlie Hustle went 3-for-5 in this uniform, rapping out a double, stealing a base, scoring a run and knocking in a run. See, who says the clothes make the man?!
Superb provenance comes in the form of an LOA from authenticator Phil Wood, as well as an LOA from the original purchaser Thomas J. Whitman, who recounts the detailed back-story: "I originally worked as an extra for the Philadelphia Phillies as a helper when I was in 7th grade. I met Jack Donnelly, who was there for 40 plus years as the Left Field ball guy who would have a catch with the Phillies left fielder, Greg Luzinski when I was there! I cut his lawn and he asked me if I would be interested in helping out? It was an awesome experience for a 14 year old boy. They would bring us in on Promotional Days. When the Phillies wore the Burgundy Uniforms for weekend games they turned out to be not so popular with fans, so the team decided to sell them for $200 each and give the money to charity. I put in $200, my life savings at the time, and requested Greg Luzinski's uniform. When the box came in the mail from the Phillies organization, I was at first disappointed, when I opened it up and it was Pete Rose's! I was a big fan of the 'Bull.' Then everyone told me I was the luckiest guy around to get Pete's uniform!! Mr. Donnelly was nice enough to take the uniform to Pete Rose and have him sign it for me. I was really fortunate! I had the uniform framed and it hung in my home or business wherever I lived or worked for the past 42 plus years. It has been an honor to own such a great piece of history."