One of the most widely identifiable of all professional sports uniforms – the pinstriped New York Yankees home uniform Yogi Berra wore during the 1956 World Series perfect game pitched by Don Larsen – has sold at auction for an astounding $564,930. The iconic uniform, which is prominently visible in a now-famous, copyrighted photo of Berra embracing Larsen after the final pitch of the perfect game, was purchased by a private collector.
Held in private hands for more than half a century, the sale’s top lot was consigned to Grey Flannel Auctions’ April 14 Summer Games Auction by a Florida man, Ronald Stevenot, who had been given the uniform to wear as a 17-year-old hopeful trying out for the Yankees’ rookie team in 1959.
“The minute I first held the uniform in my hands, I had a strong feeling it might be the one Yogi Berra wore during the ’56 World Series perfect game,” Grey Flannel’s president Richard E. Russek.
Russek took the uniform to Grey Flannel’s headquarters in New York, where he and his team of experts compared the uniform to a blowup of the famous World Series photo. To the naked eye, it was a convincing match, but further verification was required. The uniform was then painstakingly compared to DVD “stills” of the perfect game.
“Every Yankee pinstripe is like a fingerprint to when the jersey was worn,” Russek explained. “We compared the way the pinstripes matched up to the ‘N’ and ‘Y’ on the front, how they matched up to the collar and the sleeves, and it was an exact match. We then had our proof that it was unquestionably the uniform Berra wore as catcher during the 1956 World Series perfect game.”
Other top baseball lots in the April 14 auction included a 1972 Roberto Clemente game-used Pittsburgh Pirates home jersey with team letter, $36,716; and an Ichiro Suzuki game-used and autographed bat from 2001, the year Suzuki was Rookie of the Year, American League MVP and batting titleholder for the season. It clinched a winning bid of $17,365
The coffee pot was working overtime during the 1,072-lot absentee, phone and Internet auction, which ran until 7:00 the following morning, when the books closed at $2,139,321.
“The interest in game-used artifacts, uniforms and awards from all major sports – not just baseball – was tremendous,” said Russek. “Auctions are a highly accurate way of gauging which players and teams hold the public’s fascination. A case in point would be the late NBA superstar Dennis Johnson, who was a phenomenal player and, in the minds of many, greatly underrated. Everything in the sale that had a connection to Johnson went sky high.”
Johnson’s 1979 NBA/Sports Magazine Most Valuable Player Award from the World Championship Series was offered with a family letter of authenticity and scored a closing bid of $84,422 – more than 33 times its reserve. His 1979 Seattle SuperSonics World Championship player’s ring was bid to $71,548; while Johnson’s boxed 1986 Boston Celtics World Championship player’s ring was nothing but net at $44,427. Each of the rings came with a Johnson family LOA.
The hockey section of the sale was led by an authenticated circa-1986 Mark Messier game-used Edmonton Oilers jersey exhibiting team repairs. With an Oilers patch on the front and emblazoned with the number “11” and the NHL star’s name on its back, the orange, blue and white jersey made six times its reserve, finishing at $15,180.
A mid-1970s road jersey game-worn by legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach was another fan favorite, earning $13,800.
“We couldn’t be happier with the results of this auction,” said Russek. “Now it’s time to start the ball rolling for the August auction we’ll be conducting at the Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s an auction we produce every year during the weekend of the Hall of Fame Induction. It’s high energy and always a lot of fun.”
All prices quoted in this report are inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium. View the fully illustrated catalog with prices realized online at www.greyflannelauctions.com.