Joe DiMaggio’s rookie uniform and Joe Jackson’s Black Betsy bat form a potent one-two punch for the Dec. 10 Sotheby’s and SCP Auction in New York City. Previous editions of the collaboration between SCP and the famed Sotheby’s auction house featured the sale of Babe Ruth’s first Yankee Stadium home run bat and the contract that sold Ruth from Boston to New York, leaving the auction powerhouses with a serious challenge in Act III, but there seems little doubt they’ve managed the feat.
SCP and Sotheby’s officials called the DiMaggio uniform one of the most historically important artifacts of sports memorabilia ever offered at auction, and estimated it will bring in excess of $600,000. Auction lots will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s second floor galleries from Dec. 5-9. The sale is expected to bring approximately $5 million.
“This auction tells a number of amazing sports stories,” said Lee Dunbar, director of Sotheby’s Collectibles Department. “In 1936, Joe DiMaggio burst on the scene in the middle of the Depression and both reignited the nation’s passion for baseball and reinvigorated the Yankees dynasty, leading them to four consecutive World Championships, the first wearing this Yankees pinstripe uniform.
Another highlight of the sale is the original 1935 Heisman trophy plaster sculpture, used as the model for the most famous and significant individual award in college football and the most magnificent trophy in sports. SCP officials noted that the original 1935 Heisman Trophy sculpture will be sold on the same day as the 2005 Heisman trophy winner is announced in New York City, with the sculpture slated for the money session.
David Kohler, president of SCP Auctions, continued, “Our Dec. 10 sale features 350 lots of scarce sports memorabilia and cards. In our two past auctions, we have set records with exceptional items, such as the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run ever at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day 1923 and the 1919 contract selling Ruth from Red Sox to the Yankees. Once again we have unearthed a number of historic pieces that have never been out before for public sale.”
Another sale highlight is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s Game-Used “Black Betsy” bat. Recognized as Jackson’s favorite bat, “Black Betsy” was arguably the most famous piece of sports equipment attributed to a single athlete and was used throughout his magnificent 13 years in the big leagues. On August 1, 1932, a Greenville, South Carolina, newspaper quotes Jackson in reference to this bat: he states that he originally received the bat in 1908 from a friend who fashioned it from a piece of hickory. “I've had it ever since and it’s never been broke, although its getting old now and I expect it to break at any time.” The bat weighs more than 40 ounces, compared to today’s average bat weight of 32-34 ounces.
Authenticated by the industries’ leading third-party authentication firms, “Black Betsy” was originally sold by Jackson’s family in 2001, bringing $577,000 in an eBay auction. The bat is accompanied by photo documentation of Jackson with the bat and is the only game-used Jackson bat with documented Jackson family provenance.
Other game-used bats in the sale include: Babe Ruth circa 1917-21 (pre-auction estimate $80,000-$120,000); Mickey Mantle circa 1966 ($30,000-$50,000); Ty Cobb circa 1921 ($50,000-$70,000); Joe DiMaggio circa 1947-48 ($15,000-$20,000); Roberto Clemente circa 1964 ($8,000-$12,000); and Stan Musial circa 1940s ($6,000-$8,000).
Also offered is a selection of signed contracts, and among them are Christy Mathewson’s 1900 New York Giants rookie contract ($50,000-$75,000), Mantle’s signed Yankees contract from the storied 1961 season ($50,000-$60,000) and Ruth’s 1930 Yankees contract ($50,000-$60,000).
Numerous autographed baseballs include single-signed balls from Ruth ($30,000-$40,000), Lou Gehrig ($6,000-$8,000), Cobb ($30,000-$40,000), Cy Young ($8,000-$12,000), Ed Walsh ($4,000-$6,000), Walter Johnson ($8,000-$12,000), Honus Wagner ($8,000-$12,000) and Clemente ($8,000-$12,000). Among the important team-signed baseballs are examples signed by the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers ($20,000-$30,000), the 1927 Yankees (est. $30,000-$50,000) and the 1934 Tour of Japan ($25,000-$35,000).
Jerseys, Awards and Rings
Among the game-used jerseys to be featured are Ted Williams’ 1948 Boston Red Sox home jersey ($40,000-$60,000), Reggie Jackson’s 1967 Kansas City Athletics rookie jersey ($20,000-$30,000), Duke Snider’s 1962 LA Dodgers home jersey ($12,000-$18,000), Jimmy Dykes’ 1933 Chicago White Sox home jersey ($8,000-$12,000) and Alex Rodriguez’s 1995 rookie jersey ($8,000-$10,000).
Also available will be the cap that Hank Aaron wore when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record hitting home run No. 715 ($20,000-$30,000) and the first baseman’s glove Mantle used during the last three years of his career ($30,000-$50,000). A number of rings and awards are offered, including a Mickey Mantle 1957 MVP award, one of only two produced ($20,000-$30,000).
Baseball Card Finds
Rounding out the auction is a diverse sampling of 19th-century, prewar and postwar single cards and sets, including a recently discovered and rare group of (8) autographed 1871-72 Boston Red Stocking cabinet cards from Warren Studios, including Al Spalding and Harry Wright, which date from the very beginnings of professional baseball ($40,000-$60,000). A cache of circa 1903-04 E-107 Breisch Williams cards that were almost tossed into a trash can in recent months is also offered. Several E-107 Hall of Famers and commons will be sold, including Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Eddie Plank, Nap Lajoie and Ed Delahanty, along with what SCP officials are calling the finest known T-205 Hoblitzell “No Stats” card ($12,000-$15,000).
Among the complete sets of baseball cards to be sold are 1933 and 1934 Goudeys, 1934-36 Diamond Stars, 1941 Play Ball, 1948-49 Leaf, 1951 Topps Connie Mack and Current All-Stars, 1952 and 1953 Topps and 1949-53 Bowman complete sets. Many scarce regional sets and near-sets are also featured, including a 1954 Wilson Weiners, 1953 and 1954 Stahl-Meyers, 1955 and 56 Rodeo Meats, 1950 Drakes, 1953 Glendale Meats and 1953-$54 Briggs.
A selection of rarely seen and historically important sports programs covering the history of baseball, football and basketball will be offered from long-time collector Hunter Kaplan, including an 1875 first Harvard vs. Yale football game program ($5,000-$7,000) and a 1907 World Series program, Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs ($15,000-$20,000).
The catalog can be pre-purchased by logging on to www.sothebys.com or by calling (888) 752 0002. The price of the catalog is $36, including shipping and handling.
For information about bidding, call (212) 606-7414 or go to the websites at www.sothebys.com or www.scpauctions.com.