The gloves that Muhammad Ali wore in 1971 in his first of three heavyweight title fights with “Smokin’” Joe Frazier – a bout that lived up to its billing as “The Fight of the Century” – realized $388,375 to take the top spot in Heritage Auctions’ $4.5+ million Platinum Night Sports Auction, held at the Cleveland House of Blues, in conjunction with the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland.
Singular memorabilia relating to The Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, was also mightily in demand in the auction, as Gehrig’s 1924 New York Yankees rookie contract soared past pre-auction estimates, amidst spirited bidding, to bring $358,500, while a Gehrig game-worn Yankees cap from the mid-1930s proved very popular to the tune of a final price realized of $215,100 and the only known ticket stub from Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man” farewell at Yankee Stadium that is autographed by the dying legend provided emotional heft to the evening, along with a $98,500 price realized.
“Collector enthusiasm for all of the offerings in the auction was tremendous, from Ali, to Gehrig, to Babe Ruth and well beyond,” said Chris Ivy, director of Sports Auctions at Heritage, “the results were very strong, right in line with what we expected from such a tremendous grouping of rare memorabilia.”
Baseball legend Babe Ruth’s 702nd career home run baseball, struck at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on July 23, 1934 - the same day notorious fugitive John Dillinger was gunned down just a few miles away - proved The Babe’s enduring popularity as collectors competed fiercely for the treasure, before it settled at $191,200.
“This lot was the highest numbered home run baseball from the Babe in private hands,” said Ivy. “With rock solid provenance in the form of decades of newspaper articles attesting to its remarkable history, it’s not surprising that this was one of the most popular lots of the night.
More Yankees royalty was on display in the form of a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 PSA NM-MT 8 card, which performed admirably with a price realized of $179,250. The 1927 New York Yankees World Series Championship Ring presented to Hall of Fame outfielder Earle Combs soared to $155,350 while the very first lot on the block in the auction, a team-signed ball from the 1927 “Murderer’s Row” New York Yankees kicked the auction off with a stunning $143,400 price realized.
Game-worn uniforms from Hall of Fame legends from all four major American sports changed hands in the auction, with highlights including a 1971-73 Bill Walton UCLA Bruins game-worn jersey, MEARS A9, which came in at an impressive $50,788 and a 1967 Harmon Killebrew game-worn Minnesota Twins Jersey, MEARS A9.5, brought $59,750.
More highlights from the auctioin include the following:
- 1923-24 Ty Cobb Game Used Bat, PSA/DNA GU 9.5.: $107,550.
- 1963-64 Pete Rose Game Worn Cincinnati Reds Rookie-Era Jersey: $55,269.
- 1909-11 T206 Sovereign Ty Cobb Bat on Shoulder PSA NM-MT 8: $40,331.
- 1910 E98 "Set of 30" Honus Wagner (Black Swamp Find) PSA Mint 9: $40,331.
- 1972 Buck Leonard Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ring: Realized $33,460.
- Circa 1954 Joe DiMaggio Handwritten Signed Love Note to Marilyn Monroe: $13,145.