Joe DiMaggio may have retired his bat in 1951, but the legendary Yankee Clipper continues to slam home runs at auction. A game-used road jersey with the team name “New York” on the front and DiMaggio’s long-retired Yankee number “5” on the back commanded $256,858 in Grey Flannel’s Nov. 30 Holiday Auction. (All prices quoted are inclusive of 20 percent buyer’s premium.)
DiMaggio wore the jersey in 1948 and possibly into 1949. Its left sleeve shows evidence of a black armband worn through the end of 1948 to memorialize Babe Ruth, who died on Aug. 16 of that year. In addition to a chain-stitched “DiMaggio” nametag inside the rear collar, the DiMaggio jersey retained its original Wilson manufacturer’s label and size 44 flag tag. It was entered in the sale together with a photo-match of DiMaggio wearing the jersey, the picture overwritten with “$100,000,” a reference to the fact that he was the first baseball player in history to earn six figures in a single season.
“Joe DiMaggio is one of baseball’s immortals,” said Grey Flannel Auctions’ President Richard E. Russek. “The DiMaggio jersey we sold was an outstanding example and will always rank among the most important mementos of professional baseball history.”
Grey Flannel’s $2,360,499 auction total was bolstered by another iconic Yankee treasure – a baseball signed by the 1927 World Championship team powered by the fearsome lineup of batters known as “Murderers Row.” The signatures on the ball include those of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The ball flew out of the park with a winning bid of $86,581.
The West Coast had a strong presence in the sale, as well, led by a 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers flannel road jersey game-worn and autographed by pitching ace Sandy Koufax. Representing the World Series season in which Koufax won his third Cy Young Award by unanimous vote, the jersey was described in the auction catalog as “immaculate” and “all original.” Against a $10,000 reserve, it was competitively pursued to $131,770.
Hardcourt highlights were topped by Hall of Famer Bill Russell’s NBA All-Star Game-used uniform from 1967. Exhibiting a bold color motif of royal blue with gold felt lettering, red stars and a distinctive image of the Golden Gate Bridge, the jersey with matching satin-type shorts sold for more than eight times the reserve, at $88,826.
Other notable basketball lots included Bobby Jones’ 1983 Philadelphia 76ers Championship ring, $71,544; and Dennis Johnson’s 1977-78 Seattle SuperSonics NBA Finals game-used road uniform, $58,465.
Gridiron winners included Tony Caldwell’s 1983 Los Angeles Raiders Super Bowl XVIII Championship player’s ring, which sold for $33,600; and a circa-1968 Gale Sayers Chicago Bears game-used home jersey that concluded its bidding run at $22,796.
“Once again, collectors helped make our annual Holiday Auction an exciting and very successful event,” said Russek. “We look forward to a full house and a lot of fun on Feb. 11, when we host our Babe Ruth Auction at the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Sports Legend Museum at Camden Yards in Baltimore.” Absentee and online bidding will precede the live auction. Additional details will be announced soon.