Sotheby’s/SCP Auctions bought part of the T206 PSA 8 Honus Wagner card a few weeks ago. Now, the company is preparing for a sale of its own.
Three single-owner collections highlight a major sports memorabilia auction by Sotheby’s and SCP Auctions.
The estate of New York Baseball legend Casey Stengel, The collection of Mitsuhiko Fujita featuring memorabilia from the 1934 Tour of Japan and a private collection of Hall of Fame basketball jerseys highlight the June 5 event.
Also among the items to be included: a 1931 Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Home Jersey, a selection of Jim Thorpe letters and other materials from his personal archive, and a Walter Johnson single-signed baseball from the last out of the 1924 World Series. The approximately 360 lots, expected to bring $between 3 and $4.5 million, will be on public exhibition at Sotheby’s New York from May 31st through June 4th.
Dan Imler, Managing Director of SCP Auctions, stated, "The majority of the property offered in this sale, whether part of a collection or an individually consigned item, comes from either it’s original owner or a very small chain of ownership. As such, collectors will see many of the finest pieces in the sale for the first time in the pages of our catalogue."
The Estate of Casey Stengel
As the only person to have worn the uniform, as player or manager, of all four Major League baseball teams that played in New York City in the 20th century, Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel is a true New York baseball legend. Stengel’s playing career spanned 14 seasons with five major league organizations, including visits to three World Series. Casey’s true legacy comes from his tenure as manager of the New York Yankees. Coaching such Hall-of-Famers as Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, Stengel led his squad to an unprecedented five consecutive World Series titles (1949-1953) in his first five seasons as manager. In just 12 seasons, Stengel won 10 pennants and 7 world championships for the baseball club. After "retiring" as the manager for the Yankees after the 1960 season, Stengel agreed to manage the New York expansion team, the Mets, from his inaugural season in 1962 to his retirement in 1965.
Among the marquee items being offered by the Stengel Estate are his 1951 World Series Ring, won during his only season as manager for both Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle; his 1969 Mets Championship Ring (est. $25/35,000), bestowed upon him by the Mets players in honor of their former manager; and his Hall of Fame Plaque (est. $8/10,000). The estate collection also includes team signed baseballs, photos, scrapbooks, contracts, (12) World Series bats, caps and cleats, programs, press pins and memorabilia from the 1955 Tour of Japan, including his own Kimono and Geisha Wig (est. $2/3,000).
The Collection of Mitsuhiko Fujita
Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth inspired Japanese baseball’s own Golden Age, which peaked with the visit of the Ruth and Gehrig-led U.S. All-Stars in 1934. Although US teams, as early as 1888, traveled to Japan to face the best team the Japanese could put together, the 1934 tour had by far the most dramatic effect on the popularity of baseball in Japan. Mitsuhiko Fujita, grandson of Baron Denzaburo Fujita, grew up watching and playing baseball in Kobe, Japan. Young Mitsuhiko always carried his camera, taking as many photographs of both the Japanese and American baseball greats as he could. He then had the photographs developed, ready to be signed at the ballpark the following day.
One of the highlights of this private collection is a 1934 US Tour of Japan Team Signed Baseball in Original Japanese Ball Box (est. $25/35,000). No tour team in the history of baseball had a more impressive lineup, headlined by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. Also from the same tour are a Babe Ruth Single Signed Baseball in Original Japanese Ball Box (est. $25/35,000); a Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Signed Snapshot Photo, 1934 (est. $8/12,000); and three Babe Ruth Signed Snapshots (est. $5/7,000).
This collection also represents the single greatest assemblage of autographs of pre-war Japanese and American Nisei baseball legends ever publicly offered. The Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame Autographed Photo Collection (est. $8/10,000) features 41 circa 1920s-30s autographed photographs, some of which are the first autographs of these players, managers and founding pioneers of Japanese professional baseball, ever offered at auction. The offering also includes a 1935 Dai Nippon Tokyo Yakyu Club Autographed Team Photo (est. $4/6,000), Japan’s longest standing professional team.
Private Collection of Important Basketball Jerseys
Over 80 lots in this section recall the playing days of basketball legends from all eras: from a George Mikan 1947-48 Minneapolis Lakers Road Jersey (est. $50/75,000), to a Bill Russell 1967-68 Boston Celtics Home Jersey (est. $40/60,000), to a Larry Bird 1992 Dream Team Jersey (est. $7/10,000).
Included in the numerous Hall-of-Famers represented in this collection is a Wilt Chamberlain 1959 Philadelphia Warriors Rookie Uniform (est. $50/75,000). It was during this rookie season that Chamberlain, an intimidating 7’1" and 250 pounds, brought a level of domination to the game which had seldom been seen before. In 1959-60, Chamberlain averaged an unbelievable 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds, easily surpassing the previous regular-season records and meriting him both the NBA Rookie of the Year and NBA Most Valuable Player awards.
A second highlight of this section is Willis Reed’s 1969-70 New York Knicks Home Jersey (est. $75/100,000), from his historic performance in the 1970 Championship Series leading his team to their first NBA title. Reed, who missed Game 6 of the series with a torn right thigh muscle, amazingly appeared on the court in the middle of pre-game warm-ups to join his team for the deciding game of the NBA Finals. It was this dramatic entrance that is said to have set the tempo energizing his team to victory and was recently voted in a national poll as the most dramatic sports moment in the history of Madison Square Garden. The epic game seven win finished a phenomenal season that saw the Knicks win a franchise-record 60 games while Reed became the first player in NBA history to be named the NBA All-Star Game MVP, the NBA regular season MVP and the NBA Playoff MVP in the same season.
The sale will also include one of only a handful of known examples of a Lou Gehrig New York Yankees Game Worn Home Jersey (est. $200/300,000) and a personal archive of rare handwritten letters and other materials directly from Jim Thorpe’s family. Included in this offering is a group of 14 letters from Jim Thorpe to Fiancé Freeda Kirkpatrick during the Summer of 1924 with Baseball Content (est. $20/30,000).
In the summer of 1924, Thorpe separated from his first wife Ida and began courting Freeda Kirkpatrick, a young office worker employed by the Oorang Indians football program. All of these letters were handwritten from Thorpe to Freeda and contain previously unknown information about Thorpe’s challenging and at times lonely life on the road playing semi-professional baseball in Massachusetts. A second grouping contains Fourteen (14) Letters from Jim Thorpe to Wife Freeda Kirkpatrick from Late 1925 and Early 1926 with Superb Football Content (est. $20/30,000), just two months after his marriage to Freeda. Thorpe wrote during the time he played football for the Tampa Bay Cardinals, at which point he met his match in football’s newest "Golden Boy," Red Grange. They detail the longing for the new Mrs. Thorpe from an aging athlete’s worn-out life on the road. Also offered is a Jim Thorpe Archive Including a Signed Movie Contract, Citizenship Letter, Marriage Certificate, Western Union Telegram Announcing Their Marriage, Divorce Decree and More (est. $10/15,000).
Passed down from Walter Johnson through the generations and consigned by his grandson, a ball used to get the final out during game seven of the 1924 World Series is in this auction. Johnson, after losing his first two games as a starter, was called to pitch and threw four innings of scoreless relief. It was this crucial outing that held off the Giants until the 12th inning when the Senators were able to score a run and win their first and only world title. This ball is signed by Johnson and notated "World Series 1924." This keepsake, one of only three balls personally saved by the Washington Senators pitcher, is estimated to sell for $60/80,000.
Highlighting the boxing memorabilia is Jack Johnson’s Confession Letter to Nat Fleisher of Ring Magazine (est. $20/30,000). This fascinating five page letter written by Johnson to Fleisher gives a full explanation for losing his championship on April 5, 1915 to Jess Willard, a 34 year old who has only boxed for four years. Johnson confesses to throwing the title fight against Willard, a battle that to this day is one of the most controversial and racially charged heavyweight championship fights ever.
Other items include:
- 1927 Babe Ruth and Brother Mathias (St. Mary’s School for Boys) Dual Signed Baseball
- Ted Williams’ Cleats Worn for his Final Home Run
- Circa 1928-29 Babe Ruth Game Used Bat (Graded 10) (est. $125/175,000),
- Ted Williams 1955 All-Star H&B Game Bat (Graded 10) (est. $45/65,000),
- Walter Johnson Script Signature Game Bat (est. $40/60,000)
- Ty Cobb 1917-21 H&B Game Bat (est. $30/40,000)
- Henry Zimmerman’s 1907 Chicago Cubs Championship Medallion (est. $15/25,000).
- Vintage baseball cards including a 1909-11 T206 Eddie Plank Card (est. $40/60,000), a 1952 Topps Baseball Complete Set of 407 Plus Sain Variation (est. $40/50,000), a 1960 Topps Baseball (2nd Series) Cello Box with 35 Packs (est. $25/35,000), a 1911 T3 Turkey Red #27 Christy Mathewson (est. $6/8,000) and a 1915 Cracker Jack #30 Ty Cobb PSA 5 EX (est. $4/6,000).
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