Japanese planes would attack the United States seven years later, but in November of 1934, American baseball players were treated like heroes as they arrived in Tokyo for an 18-game barnstorming trip around the country. There were plenty of ominous undertones during the visit, but goodwill surrounded the 12-city tour. Hundreds of thousands of people jammed the streets in the Ginza shopping district as the players rode in cars just after their arrival.
The tour also produced a fairly sizeable number of souvenirs. A cap worn by Babe Ruth during the tour sold for over $300,000 a few years ago.
Now, a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and three other members of the U.S. all-star team—still in the original Japanese-made box– is part of SCP Auctions’ current catalog.
While team members signed a lot of baseballs during the tour, few have survived with their original box and fewer still have a connection to one of their hosts.
The Japanese-made Tamazawa “Official American Ball” originated from the tour’s stop in Sendai-City, Miyagi Prefecture on November 9, 1934. That’s where the fourth game of the 12-city tour took place. Ruth belted two homers against a Japanese team made up of college and high school players.
The team was staying at a luxury hotel owned by a man who had a close friend who would serve as the American team’s doctor during their stay. The doctor acquired the ball carrying the signatures of Ruth, Gehrig, Earl Averill, Bing Miller and Clint Brown. The ball was later passed down to a family member and recently made its first trip across the Pacific Ocean to SCP Auctions, where bidding has surpassed $4,000 thus far.
The black and red stitched ball exhibits a moderate and even amount of toning and soiling on the surface, but the blue ink signatures (averaging 5.5/10) remain clear and legible.
Bidding will continue through Saturday, April 27 at SCPAuctions.com.