A jaw-dropping gathering of important sports memorabilia, led by Lou Gehrig’s 1934 Tour of Japan game-worn uniform, from The Lou Gehrig Collection, is set to thrill collectors at Heritage Auctions’ Thursday, Aug. 4 Signature Sports Collectibles Platinum Auction, taking place in conjunction with the National Convention in Rosemont, Ill. The incredible Gehrig gamer is estimated to bring $300,000+, and is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amazing grouping Heritage has assembled for the auction.
“There are dozens of pieces in this auction that would, individually, be the lead lot on their own in any other auction,” said Chris Ivy, director of Heritage Sports Collectibles. “Needless to say, it’s an issue that we’re happy to have. This is easily one of the finest groupings of material that the hobby has ever seen.”
The 1934 Gehrig Tour of Japan uniform represents what is unquestionably the most significant hobby find of the young decade, solving a widely debated mystery regarding one of baseball’s most noteworthy foreign excursions. Only a tiny handful of uniforms from this famous trip have been unearthed in the 75 years since Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and about a dozen other American players steamed back to our shores, with the Babe's uniform commanding more than $750,000 in a 2005 auction – the highest price ever paid at auction for an exhibition baseball uniform. This left hobbyists wondering where, and if, Gehrig's might ever be found.
“It wasn’t Moe Berg-inspired intelligence gathering that led us to this buried treasure,” said Ivy, “but rather a simple telephone call from the son of a serious ex-girlfriend of Gehrig’s, who almost became Mrs. Gehrig before Eleanor took the job.”
Despite the fractured romance, this ex-girlfriend remained close with Gehrig and his family, a bond that survived past Gehrig’s tragic 1941 death and until Lou's mother herself passed away in the 1950s. The special friendship is documented in Christina Gehrig's will, which provided for a college fund for the consignor and stipulated that a portion of her famous son's belongings be left to her.
For more than half a century this uniform, and the four other pieces in The Lou Gehrig Collection in this auction, resided in the familial home of Gehrig's ex, its residents largely unaware of the historic and monetary value stored in the attic. All that, however, has changed as these treasures have come to light.
Besides the Gehrig Tour of Japan uniform, there can be no doubt that the most coveted of these pieces will be Gehrig’s 1928 New York Yankees World Championship wristwatch, estimated at $20,000+, earned by Gehrig for his extraordinary service in capturing the Yankees' third World Championship.
A true masterpiece of art deco timepiece design, this Hamilton "Yankee Piping Rock" watch is coveted for more than its relevance to baseball's greatest age/hero. The design is considered the crowning achievement of the period's leading manufacturer of timepieces, and has been widely reproduced in more recent decades. Advanced watch collectors are well aware that the original production was limited only to players and staff of the 1928 Yankees, signifying an original population of less than three dozen. Of this population, fewer than five have surfaced.
Other highlights from The Lou Gehrig Collection include a 1934 Tour of Japan team-signed cigarette lighter baseball (estimate: $10,000+); a 1927 New York Yankees infield signed photograph (estimate: $10,000+) and a 1926 New York Yankees team-signed baseball (estimate: $8,000+).
More Hall of Fame royalty is represented by the 1908 game-worn Boston Red Sox uniform of the legendary Denton T. "Cy" Young, the most prolific winning pitcher to ever toss the rock, and for whom modern-day baseball’s highest pitching honor, the Cy Young Award, is named. It carries a pre-auction estimate of $350,000+. Young’s career record of 511 wins is generally considered unassailable and his other records – most career games started at 815 and most complete games at 749 – are not likely to be approached anytime soon by any modern day pitcher. This is easily the most important Cy Young artifact ever offered at auction.
One of the high points of the Heritage Platinum Auction will certainly be the offering of Shoeless Joe Jackson's legendary "Black Betsy" game-used bat, used throughout the slugger’s infamous career, representing what is inarguably the most famous and important game-used bat of baseball's long history. The fact that it never broke, despite the decades of use, is a testament to the strength of the wood from which it is hewed and the incredible skill with which it was wielded. It carries a pre-auction estimate of $300,000+.
“This definitive artifact, Jackson's constant and faithful companion throughout his tumultuous baseball career,” said Ivy, “stands as one of the most important collectibles ever made available at auction, in the sporting realm or otherwise.”
In the realm of golf, the name of Robert T. "Bobby" Jones reigns supreme and anything associated with the legendary Grand Slam winner, and creator of Augusta National carries an incredible cachet, as well as a premium price. It is certain then, that when Jones’ personal 1937 Augusta National Green Jacket comes across the block that collectors will take specific note. This jacket, with a $100,000+ pre-auction estimate, is arguably the most important Bobby Jones artifact that exists, which puts it quite solidly in the running for the most important collectible from the history of golf, as well.
A 1952 New York Yankees team-signed baseball with signatures from both Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, would normally be an incredibly desirable rarity in and of itself, but the particular ball on offer here was actually kissed by Marilyn and stills bears the lipstick imprint of the legendary starlet. Doubtless, this baseball, with a $20,000+ pre-auction estimate, lived a dream shared by countless millions of red-blooded American males, smooched by the definitive blonde bombshell at the height of her Hollywood fame. If the vintage horsehide is still weak at the knees from the experience, however, it doesn't show it, surviving with impressive strength to challenge for the title of most desirable post-war signed baseball on earth.
Further highlights include, but are certainly not limited to:
– T206 Honus Wagner PSA Authentic: What can be said of the T206 that hasn’t been said before? It is, simply put, the most famous collectible on the planet, of any genre, and the appearance of any T206 at auction is an important event. Estimate: $250,000+.
– 1978 Muhammad Ali's Personal "Three Times World Champion" Ring: One of the most important Muhammad Ali artifacts ever placed upon the public auction block, commissioned and worn by The Champ to mark his third trip to the mountain top. Estimate: $50,000+.
– 1987 Walter Payton Chicago Bears jersey worn in final regular season game: This white mesh Chicago Bears jersey can be definitively photo-matched to on-field images of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton taken at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where Payton scrambled for the last of his NFL career record 16,726 yards. Though Sweetness would make one more appearance in an NFL uniform in a first-round playoff defeat, this jersey brought an end to all regular season stats which earned him a well-deserved first round Canton nod. Estimate: $40,000+.
– 1967 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl II Championship Ring Presented to Frederick "Fuzzy" Thurston: The ring Thurston earned for his participation in the very last game of his career, likewise the final Championship claimed by the iconic Vince Lombardi. The story of its current availability is a sad one, the sale mandated by the United States government due to an unpaid $1.7 million federal tax bill accrued by the popular Packer. It is Heritage’s hope that the ring will be purchased by a Packer fan and returned to Thurston. Estimate: $20,000+.
– 1875 Prescott & White CDV Hartford Dark Blues SGC 80 EX/NM 6 – Newly Discovered Example: Nestled in between a pair of musty pages of a literary volume, an account of the battles of the Civil War, comes one of the more surprising new discoveries of recent years – a very rare, fresh and seemingly uncirculated CDV of the 1875 Hartford Dark Blues (or Blue Stockings), a card that features one of the more significant players of the 19th century in pitcher William "Candy" Cummings (1848-1924), the pitcher credited with inventing the curve ball, now standard issue in the arsenal of every Major League pitcher. Estimate: $20,000+.