By Larry Canale
It must have been a huge thrill for some anonymous young baseball fan in 1928: a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth and 13 other Yankees—among them Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Mark Koenig, Earle Combs, Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock, not to mention manager Miller Huggins. Offered on eBay in October with a Beckett Authentication certificate, the treasure sold for $16,995—despite being a condition-challenged (well-used) piece of memorabilia.
The ball bears the date “6/17/28,” so it likely was a game ball from the Yankees’ contest that day. It was a Sunday match-up at St. Louis against the old Browns, and the Yankees’ “Murderers’ Row” was on full display, producing 15 hits in a 6-2 victory.
The No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in the Yankees’ lineup—Combs, Ruth and Gehrig— all hit homers and collectively accounted for five hits. The No. 2 batter, Koenig, had two hits as well, and even pitcher Hoyt got into the act, rapping three singles while pitching a complete-game three-hitter. The Yanks, of course, went on to win the World Series in that memorable 1928 season, a campaign in which they hit .295 as a team and cranked 133 homers. By today’s standards, that HR total isn’t much, but in 1928, it was well above the next-highest total, 89 (by the Philadelphia Athletics).
Back to the baseball itself: Even if it indeed happens to be a game-used ball, it looks like the original owner may also have played with it later. We can only picture a young fan showing off the treasure to his pals… and then having a game of catch with it—and then, for a little extra fun, bringing it out to the sandlot and taking a few hacks at it. Yes, the ball bears the scars and scrapes and grime that tells us it enjoyed serious time on the diamond. Some collectors want “pristine,” but there’s something very appealing about the wear and tear of an item like this.
BABE SIGS II and III
You wouldn’t think we’d see multiple Babe Ruth-signed baseballs on eBay inside of a month, but there were two others that changed hands between mid-September and mid-October.
One of them—featuring a strong Ruth sig on the sweet spot and accompanied by a PSA/DNA document—sold for $13,000 in a Buy It Now deal. Another, signed by Ruth around 1927, according to provenance (and verified by PSA/DNA), fetched $12,288 in an auction format, garnering 70 bids. The autograph was more faded on this one, and the ball is in whiter but slightly rougher condition.
SIGNED, MICK AND RAJA
Speaking of Yankees-signed balls, another vintage treasure popped up on eBay in October bearing the autographs of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Presented with a PSA/DNA document attesting to its authenticity, the ball has a $16,000 Buy It Now price. It’s in impressive condition; unlike the 1928 Yankees ball featured above, this one has been well-preserved.
Free of scrapes and cuts, it shows just typical yellowing that we see on balls of this vintage. Stamped with the Official American League logo, it also has the facsimile signature of Lee MacPhail, which helps date the autographs. MacPhail was president of the AL from Jan. 1, 1974 through Dec. 31, 1983. (Maris died in 1985.)
GOOD LUCK TO GORDON
If you saw the Boston Celtics season-opening loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 17, you likely won’t forget it for one reason: the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward.
The Celtics and their fans have been amped up about the newly acquired 27-year-old star forward, who spent seven seasons with the Utah Jazz. During his time with Utah, Hayward averaged 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. He’s been getting better every season, too, increasing his scoring average from 5.4 in his rookie campaign to 11.8, 14.1, 16.2, 19.3, 19.7 and, last season, 21.9. Now, with a fractured ankle, he’s likely done for the season.
In honor of Hayward, we give you arguably his most popular card: his 2010-11 National Treasures rookie card. An ungraded but (judging by the photograph and description) Mint-condition specimen of the card sold on the night of Hayward’s injury for $535 on 28 bids. The card features a uniform patch as well as Hayward’s autograph.
While we’re on the subject of signed baseballs, let’s show you one that bears one of the most distinctive autographs ever: Roberto Clemente. The former Pirates star right fielder had a stylish, ornate sig that adds an artistic flair to anything he signed. In September, a beautiful Clemente single-signed baseball sold on eBay for $12,995. The ball came with PSA/DNA as well as JSA authentication.
In the most recent edition of this column, we reported on a Peyton Manning 1998 Playoff Contenders signed Rookie Ticket card that brought $17,600 on 39 bids. This time out, we direct you to a more “budget-friendly” card: his 1998 Upper Deck SP Authentic (unsigned) rookie card. Recently, two BGS 10-graded specimens of the card sold for prices of $4,100 and $3,903. And that was after spirited bidding in both cases: The former drew 57 bids, the latter 64.