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Ruth headlines FanFest auction; All-Star ball tops

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Hunt Auctions, Inc. conducted the second annual MLB All-Star FanFest Live Auction in Pittsburgh prior to the Midsummer Classic, and delighted in the enduring power of one the game's very first All-Stars.

The auction event is one of the numerous attractions held in conjunction with the MLB's All-Star Game. The overall results were notably strong, nearly doubling the presale high estimates for a total of $2,750,000, which included numerous record prices in various categories.

There were clearly two items which captured the attention of bidders nationwide and soared to unprecedented levels. The first of the two pieces came across the auction block approximately one hour into the day with extraordinary anticipation in the room and a full bank of eager telephone bidders. The inaugural home run baseball hit by Babe Ruth in the 1933 All-Star game played at Chicago's Comiskey Park was caught by Earl Brown, who retrieved the historic home run ball in the right field stands.

The ball remained in the Brown family until they elected to offer the baseball, appropriately enough, at the MLB All-Star FanFest auction some 73 years after it was hit by Ruth in Chicago. The presale auction estimate range was $100,000-$150,000.

After heated bidding from multiple telephone and floor participants, the battle between two floor bidders ended at an amazing $805,000, with the winning bidder opting to withold his name from public release. The price shattered the previous record for a Ruth-related home run baseball.

Another Ruthian treasure followed later in the session, again drawing strong phone and floor bidding. A Ruth game-used baseball bat attributed to his record setting 59th home run in 1921 carried a presale estimate of $150,000-$250,000. The bat also included a signed letter from Ruth himself as presented to its recipient Fred Weber. The bidding began at $50,000.00 and quickly rose to six figures. The hammer fell once the bat reached $483,000, going to the Gary Cypres, the owner of the Cypres Sports Museum in Los Angeles, Calif. The fact that the bat will ultimately be on display to the public was very well received by the standing-room-only crowd at the auction.

The auction, which included more than 550 lots, began with a selection of late addition items highlighted by a game-used fielder's glove consigned directly by HOF'er Bill Mazeroski. Mazeroski himself was on hand to open the auction and offered the glove, with the proceeds to benefit the Bill Mazeroski Scholarship fund. The glove drew heavy interest, selling at $18,400. A fine Honus Wagner single-signed ball also sold in the initial group of late addition lots for $13,225.

The catalog portion of the auction followed with property from the former Allegheny Club, which was located in Three Rivers Stadium. Many of the objects were display oriented, with several unique items performing well above their estimate range. A set of cast iron scoreboard numerals from Forbes Field sold for $7,187; two sets of Forbes Field Stadium seats brought $3,220 and $6,325, while a group of original arched windows from Forbes Field totaled $9,948.

Another feature collection of the auction was a significant offering of vintage materials with relation to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The pieces originated primarily from prominent Pittsburgh area collector and were assembled over a period of 20 years. Early 1900s Pirates materials were well represented, with a 1901 team photograph selling at $4,830, a 1904 W600 Sporting Life Honus Wagner cabinet card at $9,200, Honus Wagner handwritten letter for $2,760 and a 1909 World Series supplement photo at $4,715. The Pirates teams of the 1920-30s era were also showcased within the sale, including an imperial size 1925 Pirates team photo for $4,140, 1935 Pirates home jersey for $4,140, and a Pie Traynor game-used baseball bat at $6,325.

Pricing for vintage autographed materials continued its ascension with multiple pieces besting their high estimate ranges by a large margin. A 1933 AL All-Star team-signed baseball sold for $20,700, Jackie Robinson dual-signed baseball for $8,050, Lou Gehrig single-signed baseball for $7,188, Christy Mathewson signed note page for $10,350, and a 1927 New York Yankees team-signed baseball brought in $37,950.

A large number of Roberto Clemente and 1960s era Pirates materials were auctioned, including a 1969 All-Star Game bat used by Clemente ($25,300), a Clemente single-signed baseball ($11,500), a 1970-71 Willie Stargell Pirates home jersey ($14,950), game-used and signed Clemente bat ($14,375), and a rare 1968 Mazeroski game-worn Pirates road jersey ($18,400).

The auction concluded with two exceptional single-owner collections of vintage baseball cards dating from 1910-70. The condition of the grouping was, in general, outstanding and the results were indicative. The majority of the card lots routinely exceeded their high-estimate ranges by multiples as high as six to seven times. A 1953 Bowman Baseball set sold for $16,100, a 1954 Topps Baseball set brought $26,540, a 1953 Topps set was hammered down at $40,250, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle sold for $25,300, a 1954 Topps Ernie Banks exceeded its estimate at $5,750, a 1932 U.S. Caramel Ruth sold for $9,775, a 1916 M101-5 Joe Jackson ended at $5,520, and a 1915 Cracker Jack Jackson brought $2,530.

Prices realized for the entire MLB All-Star FanFest Live Auction are available at Hunt Auctions is currently accepting consignments for the November 2006 Louisville Slugger Museum Auction, which will include the James "Deacon" White Collection and the second portion of the circa 1900-40 vintage baseball card collections.