The uniform worn by Lou Gehrig during Major League Baseball’s famous tour of Japan following the 1934 season has been consigned to an auction that will take place at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago next month.
The jersey is expected to fetch over $300,000.
Several other big ticket items are also part of the sale.
The Gehrig uniform is one of the hobby’s top finds in recent years, solving a widely debated mystery regarding one of baseball’s most noteworthy foreign excursions. Only a tiny handful of uniforms from this famous trip have been unearthed in the 75 years since Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and about a dozen other American players visited the nation with which the U.S. would soon be at war. Ruth’s uniform sold for more than $750,000 in a 2005 auction – the highest price ever paid at auction for an exhibition baseball uniform. This left hobbyists wondering where, and if, Gehrig’s might ever be found.
“It wasn’t Moe Berg-inspired intelligence gathering that led us to this buried treasure,” said Heritage Auctions’ Director of Sports Collectibles Chris Ivy, “but rather a simple telephone call from the son of a serious ex-girlfriend of Gehrig’s, who almost became Mrs. Gehrig before Eleanor took the job.”
Despite the fractured romance, this ex remained close with Gehrig and his family, a bond that survived past Gehrig’s tragic 1941 death and until Lou’s mother herself passed away in the 1950s. The special friendship is documented in Christina Gehrig’s will, which provided for a college fund for the consignor and stipulated that a portion of her famous son’s belongings be left to her.
For more than half a century this uniform, and the four other pieces in a collection of Gehrig items consigned to the August 4 auction, resided in the familial home of Gehrig’s ex, its residents largely unaware of the historic and monetary value stored in the attic. All that, however, has changed as these treasures have come to light.
Besides the Gehrig Tour of Japan uniform, Gehrig’s 1928 New York Yankees World Championship wristwatch is being offered. Expected to bring $20,000+, it was earned by Gehrig for his extraordinary service in capturing the Yankees’ third World Series title.
The Hamilton “Yankee Piping Rock” watch is coveted for more than its relevance to baseball’s greatest age/hero. The design is considered the crowning achievement of the period’s leading manufacturer of timepieces, and has been widely reproduced in more recent decades. Advanced watch collectors are well aware that the original production was limited only to players and staff of the 1928 Yankees, signifying an original population of less than three dozen. Of this population, fewer than five have surfaced.
Other highlights from The Lou Gehrig Collection include a 1934 Tour of Japan team signed cigarette lighter baseball (estimate: $10,000+); a 1927 New York Yankees infield signed photograph (estimate: $10,000+) and a 1926 New York Yankees team signed baseball (estimate: $8,000+).
Also offered will be a 1908 game worn Boston Red Sox uniform of the legendary Cy Young, which carries a pre-auction estimate of $350,000+. The uniform entered the collecting hobby in 2007 after having been deacquisitioned from The Cy Young Museum in Young’s hometown of Newcomerstown, Ohio, where it had been displayed for over 25 years. As a notarized letter from museum president Barbara Scott attests, the uniform was given to local resident Ike Norris by Young himself in the 1940’s, and donated to the museum for display upon the occasion of Norris’ passing. The “red sock” logo was reportedly removed by Young during the 1940s. A replica patch will be included with the uniform.
“Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s legendary “Black Betsy” game used bat, used throughout the slugger’s infamous career, returns to the auction block. It carries a pre-auction estimate of $300,000+.
Bobby Jones’ personal 1937 Masters green jacket, with a $100,000+ pre-auction estimate, could be the most important Jones artifact that exists. According to the auction house, Jones personally made a gift of this jacket to the artist who painted the portrait of Jones that hangs in Augusta to this day. A 1991 notarized letter traces the chain of custody from the artist, to the man who purchased the jacket when the artist fell upon hard times, to the letter writer.
A 1952 New York Yankees team signed baseball with signatures from both Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, is a bit unusual in that it was actually kissed by Marilyn and stills bears the lipstick imprint of the legendary starlet. The ball was one of fifteen gifted to the victorious squad of a 20th Century Fox intramural softball league (though the first ever to surface within the hobby). Each team was represented by a studio star for its mascot, and it was the Marilyn team that took home the 1952 Championship. One photo finds the team posing with Ms. Monroe, each holding his baseball. A second pictures the wives, one of whom is the consignor of this lot.
Further highlights include:
- a T206 Honus Wagner (graded Authentic) Est. $250,000+
- Muhammad Ali’s personal “Three Times World Champion Ring” Est. $50,000+
- 1987 Walter Payton Chicago Bears jersey worn in final regular season game Est. $40, 000+
- Fuzzy Thurston’s Super Bowl II ring Est. $20, 000+