The June 10 Sotheby’s and SportsCards Plus live auction in New York City boasts one of the most significant documents in baseball history, a Babe Ruth signed bat from his first season with the Yankees and a vast array of other significant pieces from every corner of the sports world.
The auction, the second pairing of the legendary auction house Sotheby’s with SCP will feature 350 lots of memorabilia and cards spanning the history of baseball, basketball, football, boxing, tennis and track & field.
Highlighting the sale is a trove of Boston Red Sox memorabilia, including what Sotheby’s and SCP officials are calling “the most important document in sports history”, the 1919 contract selling Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees, which forever changed the course of baseball history. Auction officials said the contract is expected to bring more than $500,000, and is complemented by dozens of spectacular Red Sox and Yankees pieces, including the first baseball thrown at the 1912 Grand Opening of Fenway Park (pre-auction estimate of $30,000-$50,000).
The sale will also feature property from a number of private estates and collections, including that of Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove; Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi; the first American League umpire in the Hall of Fame, Tom Connolly; one of the most esteemed sports journalists in American history, Jim Murray; and tennis great Arthur Ashe.
Prior to the June 10 auction at Sotheby’s in New York City, there will be a public exhibition of all of the items from June 5-9. The sale is expected to bring in excess of $5 million.
Boston Red Sox Memorabilia
Connolly, one of Major League Baseball’s first umpires, and also one of the first two to be elected to the Hall of Fame, held on to the baseball from the Grand Opening Day of Fenway Park on April 20, 1912, which is estimated to sell for $30,000-$50,000. Written in Connolly’s handwriting, the ball is inscribed “Fenway Park, First Ball Pitched, April 20, 1912,” along with noting the pitching batteries, umpires and attendants and the final score. Also offered is a 1912 Opening Day ticket ($4,000-$6,000) and Bill Buckner’s 1986 Red Sox AL Championship ring ($20,000-$30,000).
The Ruth contract is consigned by Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein, who pointed out the funds raised from the sale, less taxes, will go towards the Feinstein Foundation’s annual campaign to help fight hunger. “It has raised over $250 million for over 2,000 agencies throughout the country in the past eight years, and we will continue this campaign until we reach the $1 billion mark,” Feinstein said. “The proceeds will feed a tremendous number of people.”
The Ruth bat is a Hillerich & Bradsby Model 125 ($200,000-$250,000), signed and game-used from his pivotal first season as a Yankee in 1920. One of only a handful of game-used bats signed by Ruth, it is inscribed “To Mayor Thompson, From Babe Ruth, Sept. 17, 1920.” William “Big Bill” Thompson was one of Chicago’s most infamous and eccentric mayors, known for his alleged involvement with organized crime and his rumored ties to notorious gangster Al Capone. Prior to leaving office, Thompson presented the bat to his longtime secretary.
Other highlights include Ruth’s 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers full uniform ($150,000-$200,000), Barry Bonds’ 700th home run baseball ($100,000-$200,000), the last home plate from the Polo Grounds ($10,000-$15,000) and a fine collection of New York Giants team-signed balls, including examples from 1921 ($8,000-$12,000), 1922 ( also $8,000-$12,000), and 1933 ($6,000-$8,000), among others. A number of manuscripts will also be included, among them a Ruth handwritten letter from Boston Globe writer Jim O’Leary’s scrapbook, written in 1923, to thank him for being voted the Most Valuable Player in Major League Baseball (est. $30,000/50,000).
Items from the Tom Connolly Collection
In addition to the 1912 Fenway Park Opening Day baseball, items from the Connolly Collection will include 21 game balls, among them a Ruth and Lou Gehrig signed baseball ($20,000-$30,000), a baseball signed by Connie Mack ($2,000-$3,000) and a 1924 World Series baseball signed by umpires Connolly, Bill Klem, Bill Dineen and Hank O’Day ($2,000-$3,000).
A number of other Opening Day baseballs will be included in the sale, signed by such important figures as President Woodrow Wilson ($20,000-$30,000) and Vice President Calvin Coolidge ($6,000-$8,000). Other highlights include Connolly’s Hall of Fame pin from 1953, the year he was honored along with Klem as the first two umpires to be inducted, and a group of 17 press pins from World Series that Connolly attended from the 1920s to 1950s ($2,000-$3,000), among others. Another personal element of the offering is Connolly’s rule book, a handwritten lineup sheet from the 1914 game between Cleveland and Boston and a group of letters ($3,000-$5,000).
The Lefty Grove Estate
About 30 items will be featured from the estate of Lefty Grove, including a game-used Louisville Slugger bat from Grove’s 1934 Tour of Japan teammate and friend, Lou Gehrig ($50,000-$75,000), a 1939 signed Red Sox Jimmie Foxx half-bat, including the signature of rookie Ted Williams ($8,000-$12,000), a signed “299th” win ball from 1941 ($7,000-$10,000), a plaque commemorating Grove’s 300th win, and a ball signed by Ruth, Grove, Frank Baker, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, George Sisler and Eddie Collins ($10,000-$15,000).
The Ernie Lombardi Estate
Among the items offered from the estate of Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi are his 1940 Cincinnati Reds World Series ring ($10,000-$15,000), a 1938 MVP silver presentation box received from the National League ($2,000-$3,000), and his 1938 All-American certificate signed by Ruth ($6,000-$8,000).
The Jim Murray Estate
A collection of items from Hall of Fame sportswriter Jim Murray will be featured, highlighted by the typewriter that he used to write more than 10,000 columns for the Los Angeles Times from the early 1960s through the late 1990s ($4,000-$6,000). Murray, one of only four sportswriters to win a Pulitzer Prize, was named “America’s Best Sportswriter” by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters 14 times. A large number of letters from athletes and other notable figures will be included in the sale.
The Arthur Ashe Estate
The sale will include a pair of Arthur Ashe Haggar solid-gold presentation trophy tennis balls, weighing 372 ounces ($150,000-$200,000), which were awarded to Ashe by The World Championship Tennis Organization in 1975, the year he became the first and only African-American to have won the men’s singles at Wimbledon, an Ashe Head tennis racquet which was used for the Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” cover photograph and will also be featured on a 37-cent stamp this August ($5,000-$7,000), and his 1975 World Tennis Championship ring ($2,000-$3,000).
The sale will include a significant offering of baseball cards, highlighted by one of only two known graded PSA 8 Ruth rookie cards from 1915 ($100,000-$125,000), a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle graded PSA 8 ($40,000-$50,000) and several rare complete baseball sets, including early tobacco cards (T205, T206, T207, etc.), Caramel cards, Bowmans and Topps.
Other Sports Highlights
Other highlights from basketball, football, boxing, tennis, and track and field will include a group of nine Los Angeles Lakers championship rings from their nine NBA titles with such players as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West, the only Laker to own all nine rings.
Being sold to benefit the Los Angeles Lakers’ Youth Foundation, the rings are es timated to bring in excess of $100,000. Also featured are a Boston Celtics championship trophy from the 1958-59 season that team owner Walter Brown gave to a sportswriter friend ($30,000-$40,000), a lithograph signed by the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players ($50,000-$60,000), a robe worn by legendary heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano ($30,000-$50,000), and an extensive collection of memorabilia from track and field star William Kramer, including numerous items related to the 1912 Olympics.
The catalog can be prepurchased and is currently available to the public by calling (888) 752-0002 or logging on to www.sothebys.com. Catalogs are also available for purchase in Sotheby’s galleries in New York and London. The price for the catalog is $36, including shipping and handling.
Bidders can register at Sotheby’s any time before the sale, or via fax with an absentee bid form. Call the Bid Department at (212) 606-7414 for further information.
Bidding is offered through the Internet using real-time and absentee bidding at ebayliveauctions.com, and collectors may also download an absentee bid form from sothebys.com. Online registration only enables online bidding.
There is also live bidding at Sotheby’s, telephone and absentee bids via fax or mail. Absentee bid forms are printed in the back of each catalog, and are available at Sotheby’s offices and at the Web site at www.sothebys.com.