The 1948 Original Study for “Tough Call” by Norman Rockwell had both the sports and the art world buzzing after a protracted online bidding war that extended into the early morning hours of Aug. 20 in Heritage Auctions recent Platinum Night Sports Auction. The 1948 Orignal Study sold for $1.68 million.
“I need to credit my colleagues in the Art division for the assist on this one,” said Chris Ivy, director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve been able to draw from other segments of our million-strong bidding clientele to benefit a Sports consignor.”
That beneficiary was a direct descendant of famed Major League umpire John “Beans” Reardon, the primary subject of Norman Rockwell’s charming painting that ultimately would appear in its final version upon a 1949 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Reardon’s family had believed the original study they owned was merely a signed print, worth only several hundred dollars.
The Iron Horse accounted for the second and third top prices in the two-day auction event. Lou Gehrig’s 1937 New York Yankees home pinstriped jersey soared to a world record price of $870,000, while his 1924 rookie contract with the team drew a winning bid of $480,000.
Other legendary Yankees rounded out the auction’s top five, with Mickey Mantle’s 1954 jersey finding a new owner at $432,000, and a bat used during Babe Ruth’s first pinstriped season realizing $408,000.
The market for signed pre-war baseball cards continued its steady ascent, with stunning results for Gehrig ($52,800), Ty Cobb ($33,600) and Mantle ($45,600). And Negro League collectors set new pricing records for the highly-coveted Harrison Studio postcards featuring the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords, which realized $22,800 and $36,000 respectively.
Other highlights include:
• 1920 “Shoeless Joe” Jackson & Buck Weaver signed baseball: $240,000
• Circa 1915 Babe Ruth rookie-era original photograph by Paul Thompson: $72,000
• Early 1960s Paul Hornung game-worn Green Bay Packers jersey: $84,000
• 1936 Casey Stengel game-worn Brooklyn Dodgers uniform: $90,000
• 1933-2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game complete ticket run: $144,000
• 1970 Ernie Banks game-worn Chicago Cubs jersey, MEARS A10: $132,000
• 1915-19 “Shoeless Joe” Jackson original photograph by Charles Conlon: $18,000
• 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas rookie #138 PSA Mint 9: $144,000
• 1965 Topps Joe Namath rookie #122 PSA NM-MT+ 8.5: $78,000