His career had started in 1907 at age 19 and when the 1924 season began, Walter Johnson had accomplished just about all there was to do in baseball…except get to a World Series. In an era where there was no prize for finishing second, The Big Train’s season had always ended before October. Finally, the Washington Senators snared a pennant in 1924 and now an important artifact from his crowning achievement is coming to auction.
It’s possible, but impossible to say with certainty, that the ball was the final out ball from the seventh and deciding game in what was Washington’s lone championship. The ball was originally passed down from Johnson, who died in 1946, through the family to Johnson’s grandson, Hank Thomas. It’s expected to bring at least $100,000 when the auction concludes later this fall.
Johnson had started Games 1 and 5 to the New York Giants, who were making their fourth straight appearance in the World Series. With the Senators losing 3-1, a bad hop single by Bucky Harris brought two runs home to tie the game at 3. Johnson was summoned from the bullpen in the ninth inning and tossed three scoreless innings. In the bottom of the 12th, Giants catcher Hank Gowdy tossed his mask away while trying to catch a Muddy Ruel foul pop-up, tripped on it and dopped the ball, giving Ruel a second chance. Ruel promptly belted a double and after Johnson reached on another Giants error, Earl McNeely sent another smash toward third that again took a wicked hop past Fred Lindstrom, sending Ruel home with the series-winning run.
The game is still considered one of the most dramatic clinching games in World Series history and video uncovered a few years ago shows the bedlam that ensued after McNeely’s hit.
Last sold at auction through Sotheby’s in 2007 where it netted $90,000, ball is one of three that Thomas says his grandfather kept from his career. The others were a ball from his 1920 no-hitter and one from his 100th career shutout. It’s an official National League ball, with the logo and writing having faded over the 97 years that have passed.
The ball also has an “X” written on it, a common practice for many years that distinguished important baseballs from others.
Bidding is expected to open October 28.