MORE LOSS — In a tough year for baseball, three more Hall of Famers passed away in October. Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson and Joe Morgan all died within nine days of each other, sparking tributes from all corners. The announcements came on the heels of a number of other 2020 baseball deaths, including Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Horace Clarke, Jim Wynn and Johnny Antonelli. Below, we take a closer look at Ford, Gibson and Morgan memorabilia.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD — Whitey Ford played on a star-studded team, so he didn’t get the accolades he should have. But look at those stats—he had a record of 236–106, 45 shutouts and a sparkling ERA of 2.75. And his “ace” status carried over into World Series play: He had a 10-8 record with a 2.71 ERA and three more shutouts.
Ford arrived in New York in 1950, when Joe DiMaggio was still playing. He made an instant impact by going 9-1 down the stretch, helping the pinstripers get into the World Series. Once there, he won the decisive Game 4 in the Yankees’ sweep over the Phillies.
The next two seasons, Ford served in the military. He returned in 1953 to a team that no longer had DiMaggio but did have the game’s newest sensation, Mickey Mantle. All around Ford were headline-hogging players—Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer and Billy Martin, among others.
If Ford was overshadowed a bit in his playing days, it carried over into the hobby. His rookie card, from Bowman’s 1951 set, has always been a steal, selling in recent years for $1,000 to $1,200 if graded at 6. After he died at age 91 on Oct. 8, however, a PSA 6 example of his ’51 Bowman sold for $2,606 on 27 bids.
Even so, Ford’s rookie is far cheaper than Mantle’s and Willie Mays’ first-year cards in the same set. Graded at 6, a Mays rookie typically sells for $8,000 to $9,000 and a Mantle for $20,000 to $22,000. Hard-to-find Gem-Mint 9 cards of these three players illustrate the variance in stunning fashion. While Ford on a PSA 9 card draws $75,000, Mays draws $600,000 and Mantle $700,000.
Other Ford cards of note:
• One early Ford rarity is his 1951 Berks-Ross issue. We saw a signed example sell for $450 shortly after he died. Unsigned and in 5 or 6 condition, you can get it for $175 to $250.
• His first appearance in a Topps set was in 1953. Sales of that card after his death include a BVG 8 that got away for $788 on 28 bids.
• His 1953 Bowman Color card is maybe his most appealing, from an aesthetic point of view. It presents a smiling Whitey staring happily at a baseball he’s gripping in his left hand. With blue sky and billowy clouds behind him, it looks like a classic Ozzie Sweet image. One ’53 Bowman Color card of Ford graded PSA 7 recently drew $715 on 14 bids.
Ford was an active and willing signer for many years, so there’s a healthy supply of autographs in the market. You can find authenticated examples of single-signed Ford baseballs, even now, for as low as $50 to $75. More frequently, you’ll see them selling at $100 to $150.
Certain inscriptions can kick the price up to a few hundred dollars—or even more. For example, one ball loaded with Ford-inscribed career stats sold for $1,282 on 38 bids. Ford inked his full name (Edward C. “Whitey” Ford) along with the following: #16, HOF ’74, 33⅔ innings scoreless W.S., 45 shutouts, .690 winning percentage, 1961 W.S. MVP, N.Y. Yankees 1950–67, Cy Young ’61 and 10 World Series wins.
“THE DOMINATOR” — On the mound, Bob Gibson was both unflappable and intimidating, qualities that helped him blow away National League hitters and World Series opponents during his remarkable career. The St. Louis Cardinals’ longtime ace played from 1959 through 1975, finishing with a 251-174 record, 2.91 ERA and 3,117 strikeouts in 3,884 innings. Baseball historians still marvel at his landmark 1968 season, when he posted a 22-9 record and a microscopic 1.12 ERA. A true workhorse, he pitched 304 innings that season and spun 28 complete games and 13 shutouts.
Gibson’s first appearance in a Topps set was in 1959 on a card with a bubblegum-pink background. For years, the card has been selling for $2,000 to $2,500 if graded 8. After his death on Oct. 2, we saw one PSA 8 example soar to $4,050 on eight bids.
In 9 condition, by the way, Gibson’s rookie typically brought $17,000 to $20,000. But after his death on Oct. 2, one auction house sold a PSA 9 Gibby rook for $31,200. On the other hand, if you drop down to a 6 grade, you can snag a Gibson rookie for $600 to $800.
Interestingly, Gibson-signed baseballs are selling for prices not far off Whitey Ford’s—around $75 to $150. Stat inscriptions can add a few hundred dollars to the price.
If you’re shopping, you’ll find lots of examples of baseballs signed with one of nicknames: “Hoot,” “Gibby” or “The Dominator.” We see examples of those in the $300 to $650 range. We also spotted two baseballs he inscribed with “1957 Globetrotters.” They sold for $468 on 21 bids and $300 on 16 bids. Yes, this fire-balling, menacing hurler spent a season making people laugh as a member of the “clown princes” of basketball, the Harlem Globetrotters.
LITTLE JOE — Joe Morgan made it to the majors with the Houston Astros at age 19 in 1963 and quickly started turning heads. In 1971, the Cincinnati Reds acquired him as part of an eight-player deal. Slugger Lee May was the player Houston wanted most, but the Reds really won the deal, because Morgan helped put the “big” in Big Red Machine. He became the team’s sparkplug, hitting between base-hit machine Pete Rose and sluggers Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. He won the NL MVP Award in both 1975 and ’76, helping the Reds win back-to-back World Series titles.
Morgan returned to Houston in 1980 for one season, then played for the Giants, Phillies and A’s during his final four seasons. He retired in 1984 at age 40 with a .271 average, 689 steals, 268 homers and 1,650 runs (including eight seasons of 100 or more).
Morgan’s first baseball card, shared with fellow Astros prospect Sonny Jackson, was in Topps’ 1965 set. In recent years, the card has been a reasonable buy for collectors, typically selling for $1,750 to $2,500 if in 9 condition. Three weeks before he died, we saw a Morgan rookie sell within that range: $2,405 on 35 bids. We’re monitoring the card’s performance in these first few weeks after his Oct. 11 passing.
Morgan’s first solo card came in Topps’ 1966 set. That one is a budget-friendly $200 to $300 if in 7 condition. An 8-grade 1966 Morgan goes for $1,000 to $1,200.
For anyone wanting to build a Morgan collection, there are more than 10,000 listings on eBay. Among them are all kinds of rarities, sometimes available at wallet-friendly prices, even now. For example, we spotted a beautiful Topps autographed bat card of Morgan that sold for only $120. The card bears Morgan’s signature plus slivers of game-used memorabilia.
Finally, the little second baseman was a generous signer, so there are plenty of Morgan-signed objects in the hobby. Right now, collectors are paying $50 to $100 for baseballs signed by Morgan.
TOP 10 CHART
1. $88,768 on 94 bids: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor (PSA 10)
2. $85,000 on 15 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (SGC 7.5)
3. $65,000 on 66 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Signature Class Duals LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, #1/15, autos (ungraded)
4. $64,800 on 64 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Xfractor, #15/220 (PSA 9)
5. $63,400 on 88 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (PSA 10)
6. $55,100 on 28 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic LeBron James Rookie Authentics, #252/500, auto (PSA 10)
7. $52,100 on 63 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (PSA 10)
8. $38,600 on 48 bids: 2004-05 Upper Deck SP Signature LeBron James Inkredible Inkscriptions, #2/25, auto (PSA 10)
9. $37,601 on 80 bids: 2017 Panini Contenders Patrick Mahomes II Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9.5)
10. $35,123 on 33 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (BGS 9)