Long says claim 'out of left field'

ByDarren Rovell ESPN logo
Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long said he was befuddled by the auction of what is described as a game-used jersey of his with "metal pebbles" sewn underneath the jersey numbers.

After being alerted about the auction and reading the description, Long said the idea that he had something under his numbers was "so out of left field. It's just bizarre."

The auction house, Heritage Auctions, in its description of a jersey that was sold Friday night for $3,585, wrote that Long or the Raiders could have customized the jersey "to rough up the fingers of opposing offensive linemen."

"We will suggest that Howie Long may have broke the rules a bit in this instance," the description read.

"It's just all so ridiculous," Long responded, adding skepticism to the story and the alleged custom tailoring by asking why, if something was sharp under the jersey, the jersey itself wasn't torn.

"I've authenticated more than 10,000 jerseys, and I've never seen anything like this," said Troy Kinunen, president, chief executive and lead authenticator for Mears, a bat and jersey authentication company that backed the validity of the jersey.

The auction company says the jersey, believed to have been worn during Long's rookie season in 1981, is from the collection of the late John Kindler. Kindler, whose son Ian consigned the jerseys for the auction, obtained them from the 1970s and '80s by befriending equipment managers as well as team and school officials.

Kinunen said his company is confident that not only is this Long's jersey and that it was game-used, but the wear suggests that it was used for at least one season. Kinunen also said that the company made sure that 75 was the only number ever sewn into that particular jersey, as forgers frequently try to take random jerseys from a time period and replace the number with the number of the most valuable player. Kinunen also said the jersey showed no sign of after-the-fact tampering, that the insertion of the objects was part of the original fabrication of the jersey by the equipment managers.

The Raiders did not make Bob Romanski, the current equipment manager who was working under his father, Dick, at the time with the team, available for comment.

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