Spring Premier Auction 2020


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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/2/2020

ADDENDUM: Additional provenance info included.

As he strolled the sidelines looking dapper in his trademark houndstooth fedora and matching black and plaid suit, Paul "Bear" Bryant had an intimidating presence that let opponents know, my boys mean business. And his boys sure backed it up. His Crimson Tide teams won six National Championships and 14 SEC titles over an unprecedented 25-year stretch of dominance. After playing for Alabama in the 1930's and coaching several teams over the next 20+ years, Bear Bryant returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1958. "Momma called," as the 'Bama God so eloquently put it. "And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin'."

His old school "no pain, no gain" mentality and brutal spring practice sessions became legendary, working players to the bone and driving the faint-of-heart to quit. A heavy drinker and smoker, Bryant's health began to catch up with him toward the end of his reign in Tuscaloosa when he suffered a cardiac episode and light stroke. After coaching his last game at the end of the '82 season, he was asked what he planned to do in retirement. "Probably croak in a week." Sadly, he was practically clairvoyant. Just four weeks later, Bryant checked himself into the hospital complaining of chest pain. He died the very next day, January 26, 1983, of a heart attack.

Presented here is a historic treasure for football collectors, especially the “Roll Tide” faithful: Coach Bear Bryant’s well-worn houndstooth hat and his first known autographed example to come up for auction. The fedora was made by Cavanagh Hats of New York (tagged on the interior) sometime in the 1950s or 60s based on its internal logo design, overall style, and the history of the manufacturer. Thus, we can attribute this hat to much earlier wear than 1982.

The black and white plaid design, small red feather, and crisscross pattern on its external band matches the houndstooth hats worn by Bryant on the sidelines throughout his long career at the University of Alabama. Although, we cannot place an definitive date as to the game or season in which Bryant donned this particular one, the most logical range would be between the mid-1960s and mid-70s. A letter from Butch Baldone, Bryant's friend and longtime personal tailor from Birmingham, AL, attests to the hat being a classic Bryant houndstooth.

The coach signed his full name “Paul Bear Bryant” in thick 9/10 black marker with the date “11/22/82” inscribed in his hand. This means he signed it just two months before his death. The hat shows obvious wear with yellowish sweat staining around the internal liner band. There is no size labeled on the internal as it was custom-designed; we measured it to be in the 7-1/4 to 7-1/2 range. It appears the Coach Bryant signed this hat twice, the other autograph tough to make out along the underside of the brim on the left side. Includes full LOA from JSA plus a handwritten letter from Bryant’s longtime tailor and friend. Style match (possible photo-match) and similar looking houndstooth example from Paul W. Bryant Musem each uploaded for viewing. According to the consignor, the hat was originally sourced from a University of Alabama employee who cleaned out the Crimson Tide locker room after a season.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $7,361
Number Bids: 16
Auction closed on Saturday, May 2, 2020.
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