A pair of baseballs regarded as the fastest baseballs ever thrown are up for auction. New Jersey-based Love of the Game Auctions is selling the ball thrown by Bob Feller in a 1946 exhibition to set the record for the fastest pitch ever thrown (98.6 MPH), and the ball thrown by Nolan Ryan in 1974 to break that record at 100.8 MPH.
Using the “Fifty Foot Equivalent” calculation used to standardize all the different pitch clocking measurements used over the years, the auction company says the two balls were thrown at the equivalent of 108.1 and 107.6 MPH respectively.
Remarkably, Feller’s record was part of a pre-game promotion. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith paid the Indians hurler $700 to fire 30 baseballs before one of his starts, with the speed being measured bh the U.S. Army's "Sky Screen Chronograph”, a device used by the United States military to measure the velocity of artillery shells.
The stunt was the second for Feller, who as a rookie had his speed measured against a motorcycle.
Ryan’s pitch was clocked during the ninth inning of a September game. Measured by electronics technicians from Rockwell International, Ryan’s pitch established the mark that is still the speed standard today. Both baseballs originated with the Barry Halper Collection and were purchased in 1999 by the current consignor.
The sale features sports and non-sports cards and memorabilia from the late 19th Century to the present, highlighted by a rare and valuable 1914 Cracker Jack Christy Mathewson; an extremely rare 1924-25 Aguilitas Segundas card of Negro Leagues Hall of Famer “Pop” Lloyd; a PSA-graded ticket stub from Ty Cobb’s final game, and an attractive run of complete and near sets from 1952 through 1962.
Also included in the auction are a number of ticket stubs, passes and programs from important games throughout history, including Ty Cobb’s final game, the 1909 World Series, Gil Hodges’ four home run game, Roy Campanella Night,Stan Musial’s final game, both Mickey Mantle Day’s (in 1965 and 1969), each of Sandy Koufax’ 20th wins, the first night game at Wrigley Field, a Jackie Robinson college football game, the day of Chuck Bednarik’s vicious hit on Frank Gifford, and more.
“We’re thrilled with the selection in this auction,” said Auction Director Al Crisafulli. “By increasing our growing list of consignors, we’ve been able to expand the number of lots to 660 without sacrificing quality. This auction has an excellent blend of cards and quality memorabilia, both prewar and post-war vintage. We’ve added significantly to our autograph selection, and we’ve seen a tremendous increase in our postwar cards sections.”
The auction includes several rare and valuable card types that are seldom seen in the hobby. Among the most rare are a 1911 Jones Keyser & Arras cabinet of Hall of Famer Zach Wheat, a tough 1911 Zeenut PCL card of Buck Weaver, a 1914 E224 Texas Tommy James Archer, and a rare 1906 Lincoln Publishing postcard of Hall of Fame pitcher Eddie Plank.
Other card types represented in the auction include 1907-09 Novelty Cutlery Postcards, 1910 E90-3 American Caramel, a 1910 E105 Mello-Mint Nap Lajoie, a 1911 D304 Butter Krust Ty Cobb, and a trio of rare 1912 E270 Colgan’s Red Border Hall of Famers in Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. The parade continues with a 1913 Oakland Oaks Team Issue of Ody Abbott, a previously uncatalogued 1913-15 Pinkerton blank back Christy Mathewson, a 1916 D382 Fleischman Smoky Joe Wood, a 1922 W503 George Sisler, a 1927 E126 American Caramel Walter Johnson, and many, many more.
A large group of T206 cards, spread across 101 different lots. The auction contains a large assortment of Hall of Famers, high-grade commons, Southern Leaguers, rare backs, print anomalies, and ‘shoebox lots’.
The 1914 Cracker Jack issue is also well-represented, including examples of the issue’s key card, of Christy Mathewson, the rare and valuable #93 Del Pratt, a collector grade example of #30 Ty Cobb, and an attractive assortment of other Hall of Famers from the set.
The Spring auction contains a selection of 19th Century cards, including N172 Old Judges of Hall of Famers Buck Ewing, Tim Keefe, Jim O’Rourke, Hoss Radbourn,Sam Thompson, and Mickey Welch, along with a tough N300 Mayo’s Cut Plug of Sliding Billy Hamilton.
Studio cabinets of Pittsburgh Pirates players Monte Cross and Pink Hawley are featured in the sale, as well as a gorgeous W600 Sporting Life cabinet of Hall of Famer Willie Keeler.
There is a collector-grade run of complete and near sets, including 1952 Bowman, 1954 Bowman, 1954 Red Man Tobacco, 1954 Topps, 1955 Bowman, 1955 Topps, 1956 Topps, and more sets and large collections of both baseball and football.
A large run of both PSA and SGC-graded high-grade 1951 Topps Magic football cards is included in the auction, featuring 14 cards that are either the highest-graded or among the highest-graded examples in existence. Also included is a difficult 1948 Leaf #1 Sid Luckman graded PSA NM 7, and small but high-grade groups of cards from the 1935 National Chicle and 1955 Bowman issues.
The final date to bid in the auction is Saturday, May 31 via the company’s website.