By its very nature, our hobby was always been given to hyperbole, and that penchant expanded with the growth of auctions over the last decade, so there's a tendency to be cautious when somebody crows about nailing down "the biggest deal we've ever had."
Yet, when I look at what David Hunt has lined up for May 19-20 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in the heart of Times Square in New York City, it's tough to quibble with his choice of words.
Hunt Auctions will conduct a two-day auction expected to top 1,200 lots of artifacts from Joe DiMaggio's personal collection. In what has to be one of the most coveted deals in the rarefied air of the major auction houses, the Exton, Pa.-based auction company finalized a deal with the DiMaggio estate that will bring to the marketplace a remarkable array of items once owned by "The Yankee Clipper" himself.
The lineup will include all three of DiMaggio's Most Valuable Player awards, a boatload of trophies, including his Pacific Coast League award for the 61-game hitting streak, plaques, photos, and autographed balls, including many team-signed balls, plus uniforms (including his 1951 road jersey) and even a jersey and photos from DiMaggio's stint in the Army during World War II.
Hunt figures that nearly 75 percent of the major items in the sale come photo-sourced, a remarkable enhancement of the already considerable provenance that comes from material derived from the player's estate. "For many of the various plaques and awards he received, there are photos that come with it showing him getting the award," Hunt noted.
He's also particularly enthused about a glove that reportedly came from the family of Ken Keltner, with the initial finding that the glove was the one used to snag a pair of DiMaggio line drives that ultimately were the cornerstone of the hitless afternoon of Game No. 57. That one is still being checked out by the Hunt Auctions staff. The sale will also feature the ball that DiMaggio hit for a home run in Game No. 45, which broke the old hitting streak record that had been held by Wee Willie Keeler.
"There's no question that this is the single-greatest player collection ever to be sold," Hunt said. When he first told me about the auction and mentioned all the Marilyn Monroe stuff included in the sale, it got me to thinking that the coupling of the two (albeit briefly) in 1954 constituted the single-most significant pairing of two celebrities in all of recorded history.
I know that's hardly an original thought, but it's worth considering when an auction ostensibly of baseball memorabilia includes stuff from one of the most beloved Hollywood figures (no pun intended) as well. Many of the Monroe related items have never been seen by anyone outside the DiMaggio family.
"Joe was the guy of the 1940s era, and then you add Marilyn Monroe to the equation and it just becomes surreal," Hunt continued. "There are candid, personal photos of Marilyn, including the one inscribed "I Love You Joe, Marilyn," Hunt added. I'm not even an autograph collector and I can see where that takes an admittedly spectacular photo (this week's SCD cover) and makes it a whole new ballgame, if you will.
"Nobody knew how much stuff was there," said Hunt. "He just kept everything." Hunt also explained that the unique circumstances of DiMaggio's extraordinary life mean the auction will span nearly seven decades from the 1930s to the 1990s and touch on more than a half-dozen specific categories, like his Pacific Coast League items, Yankees material, items related to the 56-game hitting streak, Monroe items pieces from his stint as a coach for the Oakland Athletics, and even presidential items from a lengthy list of Oval Office types more than thrilled to have the chance to shake the hand (and pose for a picture) with "The Great DiMaggio." There are even pieces of furniture from DiMaggio's home in San Francisco.
A portion of the proceeds from sale of The Joe DiMaggio Collection will benefit the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla. Auction catalogs will be available in early spring and detailed information about the auction items will also be available online early this spring at www.HuntAuctions.com.
For auction and bidding information call (610) 524-0822.