Babe’s cap, Lou’s jacket, Mickey’s glove headline Hunt

David Hunt is reluctant to mention the “H” word. Even when you are in the auction business, and trying your best to talk up what is one of the best sales of your own career, and potentially one of the best ever held, period, you have to be careful about getting carried away and throwing around the “H” word.

That’s “H” as in Halper.  As in Barry Halper, whose 1999 Sotheby’s event became the Woodstock, Millennium celebration and Ali vs. Frazier I of all sports auctions, setting the collecting world on its ear and raking in more than $22 million. 

But when you start to digest what will be available at Hunt’s 2008 MLB All-Star Live Auction July 14-15 at the Javits Center in New York City, it’s evident that not many other past auctions measure up. “You really want to be careful ever comparing anything to the Halper Auction,” Hunt said with a laugh. “But in an interesting sort of way — and I know there were many more items in that auction, and needless to say the gross was much more than this will be — but if you are just comparing quality of items, I don’t know if it’s out of line to draw comparisons of the two.

“Including us, there have been dozens of high-end auctions done over the past few years – and I am always careful about saying anything is the greatest – but this is certainly the best auction we’ve ever done in our 20-plus years and it may be one of the best memorabilia sales ever offered. It’s just amazing.”

Indeed, it is a rare day when Babe Ruth’s 712th home run ball, an ultra-rare Ruth game-used cap, a Jackie Robinson bat or a Shoeless Joe Jackson signed ball are relegated to supporting cast status, but that may be the case this time around. All those items and several dozen others would almost certainly be centerpiece items in most high-end auctions – the kind of marquee pieces you build an entire event around – but with the Thurman Munson and Whitey Ford collections that will be available for the next Hunt Auctions event, it’s hard for even show-stopping pieces to avoid getting a bit lost in the shuffle.

A collection of spectacular Munson items and a similarly impressive array of Ford artifacts will certainly play well at a New York City event celebrating not only the MLB All-Star Game, but the final year of Yankee Stadium. The Munson items were consigned by Diane Munson, the widow of the former Yankee captain, and include some one-of-a-kind treasures that could spark more than one bidding war. Among the lots: several signed contracts, including Munson’s 1968 Binghamton Triplets first professional baseball player contract (estimate $7,500-$10,000); Munson’s first MLB hit baseball ($5,000-$10,000); 1979 Yankees home uniform ($75,000-$125,000); 1970 American League Rookie of the Year plaque ($30,000-$40,000); Adirondack professional model game-used baseball bat circa 1971-79 ($10,000-$20,000); 1976 American League Most Valuable Player award ($100,000-$150,000); 1976 A.L. championship ring ($30,000-$40,000), 1977 and 1978 World Series rings ($40,000-$50,000 each), a game-worn Yankees hat circa 1970s ($15,000-$20,000); Munson’s custom 1977 Mercedes Benz 450 SL convertible ($20,000-$30,000); and a 1974 Thurman Munson Gold Glove Award ($30,000-$40,000).

The centerpiece Munson offering will no doubt be his 1978 presentational World Series trophy. Following the 1978 World Series, in which the Yankees defeated the Dodgers (Munson’s final World Championship), Yankees owner George Steinbrenner presented Munson with a full-sized replica of the trophy that the team received from the league. The trophy stands 24 inches tall and has a brass band at the base that reads: “To Thurman Munson Captain of the 1978 World Champion New York Yankees.”

“(The Munson trophies) are one of a kind,” said Hunt. “The trophy that the Yankees presented to him is breathtaking, literally. It’s identical to the trophy the team got for winning the title … There is one, and there will only be one … For a player to receive that from the team he plays for speaks volumes about what he meant to them.”

The Whitey Ford Collection is certainly fitting for a pitcher who won 11 league pennants and six World Series rings. Among the top items consigned by Ford himself: 1950 Yankees rookie road jersey ($20,000-$30,000); Ford’s “Brooklyn vs. World” tour uniform circa 1946 ($5,000-$7,500); a 1964 World Series professional model baseball bat ($5,000-$7,500); multiple Ford signed Yankees player contracts, including 1953 ($5,000-$7,500); Ford Hall of Fame plaque display piece ($7,500-$10,000); President John F. Kennedy single-signed baseball personalized to Ford ($25,000-$35,000); Ford game-worn glove attributed to the 1962 World Series scoreless innings record ($15,000-$20,000); Mickey Mantle 526th home run baseball from Ford ($10,000-$15,000); 1961 World Series Most Valuable Player Award plaque ($30,000-$40,000); the 1961 Cy Young Award replica plaque ($10,000-$15,000); Ford’s professional model baseball glove attributed to the 1963 World Series ($10,000-$15,000), and Ford’s 1999 New York Yankees World Championship ring ($20,000-$30,000). {For more on the Whitey Ford Collection, see T.S. O’Connell’s cover story in the June 6, 2008 issue of Sports Collectors Digest.}

Monster Ruth/Gehrig items
Beyond that, the event will feature such gems as Ruth’s 712th home run ball; one of reportedly only three Ruth game-worn Yankee caps in existence; a Ruth professional model bat inscribed and presented to Broadway starlet Tessa Kosta circa 1924; a signed Ruth ball and two other signed Ruth bats; and the warmup jacket worn by Lou Gehrig on the day he took himself out of the lineup to end his consecutive games played streak in 1939 (estimate provided to bidders upon request).

An Associated Press photograph capturing a somber Gehrig standing at home plate on May 2, 1939, with Detroit Tigers manager Del Baker and the game umpires appears to picture Gehrig wearing the offered jacket. The jacket itself is typical of the period, featuring the original interlocked “NY” affixed to the breast area, “A.G. Spalding Bros.” manufacturer’s tag inside the tail front along with a strip tag with “Gehrig” chain stitched in red. The lineage of the jacket is clearly defined, and can be traced directly to Eleanor Gehrig and a couple who were dear friends and neighbors of the Gehrigs in Riverdale, N.Y. Other Gehrig items include a travel bag circa 1920-30s ($15,000-$20,000), and an exceptional Ruth and Gehrig signed baseball circa 1930 ($25,000-$35,000).

Other high-end items up for bids: A team-signed team 1917 Chicago White Sox ball with Shoeless Joe Jackson’s signature; a Jackie Robinson professional model bat and single-signed baseball; Clint Brown 1934 U.S. All-Star Tour of Japan presentational album ($15,000-$25,000); 1936 Hall of Fame Original Inductee Class autographed display piece ($20,000-$30,000); Casey Stengel New York Mets jacket and professional model hat circa 1962 ($10,000-$15,000); Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates warm-up jacket circa 1961-67 ($20,000-$30,000); 1963 Stan Musial Cardinals home uniform with related materials ($20,000-$30,000); Ted Williams professional model bat with home run attribution circa 1951 ($15,000-$20,000); Bobby Thomson’s 1976 Babe Ruth Crown for “Outstanding Batting Achievement ($10,000-$15,000); and an original 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series ring ($20,000-$30,000).

An abundance of memorabilia relating to Mantle includes a 1960 World Series Adirondack professional model baseball bat ($50,000-$75,000); 1966 Yankees player contract ($20,000-$30,000); Mantle game-worn first baseman’s mitt circa 1967-68 ($60,000-$80,000), and a Yankees professional model baseball hat attributed to Mantle circa 1955-65 ($40,000-$50,000).
Other notable offerings from the Bronx Bombers include a 1927 Yankees team panoramic photograph ($20,000-$30,000); 1927 Yankees team-signed baseball ($40,000-$50,000); 1928 Tony Lazzeri World Championship ring ($50,000-$75,000); 1932 Yankees team-signed ball from the personal collection of Tony Lazzeri ($20,000-$30,000); 1952 Yogi Berra Yankees home jersey ($10,000-$15,0000); and a 1977 Birdie Tebbetts World Series ring ($20,000-$30,000).

A huge collection of 293 T-206 cards is also featured, along with many other lots of vintage cards. Other card offerings include: a lot of 23 1888 Goodwin Champions N162 baseball tobacco cards, including six baseball players ($7,000-$10,000); 1949 Bowman Roy Campanella SGC 96 ($3,500-$4,500); 1953 Bowman Color Duke Snider SGC 96 ($7,500-$10,000); and high-grade Topps and Bowman sets from the 1940s-60s

“We’re honored to be doing the All-Star auctions,” said Hunt. “This is our fourth time around, and with the game being in New York, we anticipated something special.

“When this all started to come together, you start culling through all your old leads and calling people to tell them, ‘Hey, this is your shot. These are singularly unique, historic pieces.’ We can’t conceive of a better event in our career, honestly. It sounds cliché, but what better event could you possibly have to do this? It can’t get any better.”
For more information on the Hunt All-Star auctions, visit www.huntauctions.com.

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