Two of the most important transactions in New York Yankees history – the bonus check that brought Mickey Mantle to the New York Yankees, (estimate: $20,000+) and checks involved with the sale of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox, (estimate: $100,000+) – along with possibly the most important document in professional hockey history, Wayne Gretzky’s 1979 multi-signed rookie WHA player's contract (estimate: $50,000+), headline the autographed offerings in Heritage Auctions Feb. 23 “Platinum Night” Sports event, now open for bidding at HA.com/Sports.
The 1920 sale of Babe Ruth that sent the fates of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on drastically divergent paths is documented in a pair of Yankees’ checks. Made payable by Hall of Fame executives Ed Barrow and Jacob Ruppert to Red Sox team owner Harry Frazee, the transaction gave birth to the "Curse of the Bambino" that denied Fenway faithful a World Series spot for nearly nine decades.
“This is the most famous transaction in all baseball history,” said Chris Ivy, director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “Losing Ruth set a chain of events in motion that would eventually grant the Yankees 26 World Championships over 80 years. The Boston Red Sox: zero. The historical implications have and will continue to fill books for years to come.”
Nearly as great a boon to the future of the Yankees franchise was the 1949 signing bonus check paid to a 17-year old Mickey Mantle, officially bringing the Mick into the pinstriped fold. While lesser-known players were cashing checks up to $100,000, Mantle happily accepted the check dated July 11, 1949, for just $1,150. Why? Because, ‘nobody offered me one,” Mantle said.
As the first Heritage Sports Collectibles auction presented in New York City, the event is heavy with examples from baseball’s most storied franchise, with a peerless assortment of rare and high-grade horsehide consigned by one of the hobby’s top Yankee collectors.
Perhaps most noteworthy is what is considered the finest 1927 Yankees team-signed baseball on Earth, a stunningly well-preserved ball packed with 20 signatures (and the player’s position notations) from the personal collection of their Hall of Fame center fielder Earle Combs.
Also on offer are quality single-signed spheres from Ruth, Lou Gehrig, the only known ball signed by Yankee’s first baseman Wally Pipp ($10,000+) and a remarkably rare ball with Roger Eugene Maris’ full name ($10,000+). Team baseballs from the first World Championship squad of 1923 ($20,000+) and the 1932 edition ($15,000+) best remembered for Babe Ruth’s World Series “Called Shot,” are likewise on offer, as is a signed photograph of the 1927 Yankees pitching staff ($10,000+).
Heritage’s Platinum Night auction features the finest hockey memorabilia offered at auction, ranging from the historic Mike Eruzione Miracle on Ice collection to Wayne Gretzky’s rookie contract, which secured a decade of the Great One’s service on his 18th birthday ($50,000+).
Moving from the rink to the ring, boxing fans and historians have an opportunity to own a contract addendum that would serve to deny the legendary Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan any financial compensation for his final stand, an 1892 loss to “Gentleman Jim” Corbett in New Orleans ($10,000+).
The daughter and grandson of inaugural class Hall of Famer Walter Johnson supply this auction with “The Walter Johnson Collection,” a trove of historic memorabilia which includes a heartfelt letter from Senators owner and fellow Cooperstown resident Clark Griffith accepting Johnson’s retirement from the game ($10,000+). Also within are signed letters sent to the Big Train by Cy Young ($10,000+) and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ($10,000+).
Other noteworthy autographed material on offer includes:
- A 1923 Urban Shocker single-signed baseball: Estimate $10,000+.
- A 1961 President John F. Kennedy single signed first pitch baseball: Estimate $25,000+.
- The finest known example of a baseball signed by The Beatles: Estimate $40,000+.
- A 1944-45 Babe Ruth signed Albertype (Type I) Hall of Fame plaque: Estimate $30,000+.
- A handwritten letter from Roy Campanella to Branch Rickey regarding black prospects: Estimate $10,000+.