It was almost tossed in the trash. After all, it just looked like an old magazine, part of a stash of items a New Jersey woman had been going through following the death of her grandfather in Maryland. She decided to take another look, though, and inside it appeared as if the glossy pages of the old baseball publication were autographed.
Indeed they were.
Recognizing the names “Babe Ruth” and “Joe DiMaggio” the woman decided to go online and find someone who might know if it had any value. She wound up contacting the nearby offices of JustCollect and drove over.
The publication she handed over was actually a 1939 World Series program, missing its cover unfortunately, but carrying a confluence of Yankee greats as well as a bit of mystery. After a discussion, she and the young boy who traveled with her decided to consign the program to auction. It is expected to launch soon via eBay.
Seventy-two years earlier, it had been passed from one generation of Yankee lore to the next somewhere in or around Yankee Stadium, where the Bronx Bombers were handing the Reds a four game rout. Among the eight signatures apparently garnered by a fan—perhaps the woman’s grandfather—or someone he knew—are those of Ruth and DiMaggio, but it’s rare to find them both on the same item. The Ruth and DiMaggio signatures have been authenticated by PSA/DNA.
“And it was from 1939 which is odd because Ruth had been estranged from the Yankees by then,” said Leighton Sheldon of Just Collect, which plans to place the item up for bid today. “DiMaggio was also the young budding star so it's very interesting Ruth signed this.”
Ruth, in fact, was in attendance at the ’39 Series. He had retired after a brief stint with the Boston Braves in 1935, then spent a short time as a Brooklyn Dodgers’ coach. Just a few months after Lou Gehrig’s emotional farewell speech, he and the Babe are pictured in the Yankee dugout, old teammates and friends together on the field one more time. Was the program signed that day? It’s not certain.
Other names are scribbled onto it as well including Waite Hoyt, Bennie Fields, James Farley and four other still unknown or unidentified subjects who could be players, front office employees or anyone else associated with the game or the teams.
Bidders can try to solve that part of the equation if they like but the attraction obviously lies in the Ruth and DiMaggio autographs on an item that until just a couple of months ago was never known to exist. It’s what keeps sports memorabilia dealers anxious to come to work each day.
“It’s great,” Sheldon said. “ I'm on a life-long treasure hunt. But as fun as that is, I enjoy the stories that come with each collection just as much if not more.”