Babe Ruth added his timeless clout to a record-breaking Grey Flannel Auctions sale (www.greyflannelauctions.com), which ended June 23 in early morning bidding.
Ruth’s game-used jersey, which Grey Flannel officials contended was “almost certainly the same uniform” The Bambino wore when he hit the fabled ‘Called Shot’ home run in the 1932 World Series, sold for $940,000, including buyer’s premium. It was the most ever paid for a sports jersey. The game-used Ruth pants, once found in the same box as the jersey, sold for $94,618. Together, both items totaled $1,034,618. In all, the sale grossed $3,348,750, a record for Grey Flannel Auctions.
Richard Russek, president of Grey Flannel Auctions, was thrilled with the record results. “Babe Ruth has proved once again why he is the all-time baseball king,” he said. “As a historical and cultural icon, there’s no one quite like the Babe. The bidding in the entire auction was spirited till the wee hours of the morning.”
Howard Rosenkrantz, GFA chairman and CEO, added, “The results confirm that the Ruth uniform was the most important ever sold in an auction by a long shot. Collectors continue to attach significant premiums to items attributed to historic events. To own pieces usually only found in museums . . . again, GFA has shown that it is the leading company to consign one-of-a-kind, game-used equipment.”
Two other Ruth items added to the totals. A game-used Ruth bat sold for $76,375, and a single-signed Ruth ball sold for $32,143.
The sale included an impressive collection of items that sold for five figures. Among those lots was Eddie Shore’s Boston Bruins jersey from the 1939 Stanley Cup Championship team, which sold for $62,969, and Bill Russell’s game-used home Boston Celtics jersey from 1965, which sold for $57,244.
Other highlighted items included:
• A 1950s Yogi Berra game-used and autographed catcher’s mitt – $28,435
• Ted Williams’ game-used Red Sox home flannel jersey from 1960 – $60,952
• Nolan Ryan’s jersey worn during his seventh no-hitter on May 1, 1991 – $46,918
• A Willie Mays game-used road flannel jersey from 1958 – $40,567
• Joe Pepitone’s 1999 New York Yankees World Series ring – $34,898
• Joe Namath’s 1968 game-used, white New York Jets jersey – $27,825
• Wilt Chamberlain’s 1962-63 game-used San Francisco Warriors jersey, with a letter from a ball boy – $25,188
• A game-used Terry Bradshaw Pittsburgh Steelers jersey from the early 1970s – $22,764
• Charlie Gehringer’s Detroit Tigers game-used road flannel jersey, circa 1930 – $21,777
• A Bobby Orr NHL All-Star game-used jersey from the early 1970s – $19,776
• An early 1980s Magic Johnson Lakers road jersey – $19,388
• A 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers team-signed ball – $17,973
• Reggie Jackson’s game-used Yankees batting helmet from 1977, signed – $14,860
• A late 1970s, early 1980s game-worn Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Los Angles Lakers jersey – $12,338
• A vintage Yankee Stadium turnstile – $10,986
• Hideki Matsui’s game-used Yankees cap from the 2003 World Series, with a Yankees Steiner letter – $7,820
A home Yankees jersey worn by perennial All-Star Derek Jeter in the 2003 World Series sold for $31,826. GFA officials noted that game-used jerseys from active players tend not to reach prices reserved for Hall of Famers. “To fetch such a lofty price for a shirt of an active player is an amazing accomplishment,” Rosenkrantz said. “This jersey came to our auction through a relationship we have through Steiner Sports. That relationship will continue to give us access to many other history-making Yankees players in the future.”
The Jeter World Series jersey was the first item offered through Grey Flannel’s new, exclusive relationship with Yankees Steiner, a division of Steiner Sports Memorabilia.
“This is the first time we’ve been involved with a traditional auction house,” said Jared Weiss of Steiner Sports. Steiner selected Grey Flannel from seven or eight leading auction houses. “We were impressed with their ability to touch the most people and get the most amount of money for various items, but what touched us the most was Rich (Russek’s) enthusiasm and passion for what Grey Flannel does.”
The summer sale offered nearly 40 items from Yankees Steiner and another 60 items from the Steiner Memorabilia holdings. “We didn’t know what to expect,” said Steiner’s Sean Mahoney, “but we were very pleased. There’s a segment of people that we’re not in touch with that Rich is able to connect to us. And we have the ability with our exclusive arrangements with the Yankees and players to offer one-of-a-kind items to that segment of the marketplace.”
Among the 1,241 lots in the Internet sale were numerous nonsports and Americana pieces. The record sale also produced strong results in these areas. A Lucky Strike Cigarette wheel advertising piece, with a $5,000 minimum bid, sold for $28,497; the signed “trial proof” lithograph of Norman Rockwell’s famed “Triple Portrait,” which once hung in the home of the great American artist, sold for $11,452, more than double the minimum bid; a letter from Queen Elizabeth II, with a minimum bid of $1,000, sold fetched $10,523; and a Winged America Award, with a minimum bid of $2,500, sold for $8,812.
“GFA has once again proven it can obtain top prices for Americana and nonsports related items,” Rosenkrantz said. “We have shown we are capable of reaching a diverse audience with a broad range of memorabilia.”
Grey Flannel is accepting consignments for its Fall Classic sale, which is scheduled for December. One of the Yankees Steiner items that will be in the December sale is the organ played for years by the late Eddie Layton.
Grey Flannel serves as the official appraiser for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Springfield, Mass. It also worked with Sotheby’s in authenticating the largest private collection of jerseys, the Barry Halper Collection, part of which landed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown