A 1931 Lou Gehrig game jersey, a Babe Ruth bat dating to early in his career dozens of other items from a high-end one-owner collection are set to sell during a live auction scheduled for December 16.
As we reported last month, Christie’s and Hunt Auctions have partnered for the event, called Home Plate: A Private Collection of Important Baseball Memorabilia.” Details on the collection have now been released. Assembled over the last 25 years, it features iconic players, teams, and moments in the history of Major League Baseball with specific focus on items of scarcity. Over 150 items are in the auction.
Highlights of the auction include the Gehrig jersey worn during the 1931 New York Yankees home season that’s expected to bring a seven-figure price and a Babe Ruth bat dating to 1916-18 (estimate: $500,000-1,000,000). The collection is notable for numerous artifacts relating to the 1903 World Series, 1927 New York Yankees, and the 1934 U.S. All-Star Tour of Japan.
“This particular private collection has remained largely unknown within the industry for over 25 years.” stated David Hunt, President, Hunt Auctions. “We expect the debut of this world class collection to mark as one of the finest of its type to have been offered at public auction. A great number of the items within are being unveiled to the public for the very first time including several which are the finest known examples of their medium.”
The Gehrig jersey is one of the earliest to be offered to the public, and one of less than four extant which date to 1931 or earlier, with most of the surviving examples dating to the mid to late 1930s period. The jersey is a cream color heavy gauge flannel displaying its original blue pinstripes, with A.G. Spalding manufacturer’s tagging affixed inside the collar area and a fine “L. Gehrig” name identification chain stitched in red within the collar.
The Ruth bat has “RUTH” in block lettering on the barrel and possesses a succinct provenance, which traces its origins to an appearance at a 1944 War Bond Game played at Shiba Park in Philadelphia. Connie Mack had invited Ruth to participate and would be given three swings to try to hit a home run. Ruth hit the first and second balls to the fence and the third and final swing also hit to the wall but cracked the bat. Ruth reportedly remarked to the crowd, “Ole Babe doesn’t have it anymore.” The bat was presented to his old friend Mack, who in turn presented it to the Philadelphia A’s bat boy Frank Gara. It descended within the Gara family until its purchase by noted bat collector Michael Montbriand in 1991.
Additional items related to the Bambino include a high-grade Ruth signed baseball dating to the 1940s (estimate: $50,000-100,000), and a lineup card from Ruth’s 1914 debut as a big league pitcher. Originating from the collection of Hall of Fame umpire Tommy Connolly, it carries a $50,000-$75,000 estimate.
Baseball cards in the sale include a T206 Green Portrait Ty Cobb PSA 8 (estimate: $225,000-425,000), a 1933 Goudey Ruth (#149), also graded 8 that’s expected to also sell for a six-figure price and a W600 Sporting Life Honus Wagner rated 5 by PSA (estimate: $50,000-100,000).
The collection features a group of 32 lots of artefacts from the 1934 U.S. All-Star Tour of Japan. The selection is led by a 1934 U.S. All-Star Tour of Japan Presentational Display Autographed by United States and Japanese Teams consisting of a charcoal illustrative rendering of the flags of the United States and Japan with autographs by both team members including signatures of Ruth, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Earl Averill, Charley Gehrigner and Mo Berg as well as all-Nippon players have signed in Japanese characters with Jimmy Horio also in English (estimate: $50,000-75,000).
The collection also includes rare documents, letters and photographs. An important document archive between Lou Gehrig and Dr. Paul O’Leary of The Mayo Clinic circa 1939-41 details the progression of Gehrig’s disease in addition to his personal views beginning with optimism and infused with courageous yet fearsome reverence as time passed (estimate: $400,000-600,000). The original archive of documents was retained by Dr. O’Leary and includes numerous letters with significant historical content as it related to Gehrig’s illness.
A handwritten letter by Marilyn Monroe to Joe DiMaggio written on the reverse of a dry-cleaning receipt circa 1954 and kept folded in DiMaggio’s personal wallet is estimated at$50,000-100,000. A rare Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig autographed photo circa 1927 by legendary sports photographer Louis Van Oeyen and is expected to bring $25,000-50,000)
You can browse the entire auction here.