Hunt Readies for Louisville Auction No. 5

For the fifth consecutive year, Hunt Auctions will host Auction Week at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory from Wednesday, Nov. 12 to Saturday, Nov. 15, culminating with a live auction of more than 875 lots of historical baseball memorabilia at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Auction items will be on display for museum visitors beginning Nov. 12. Hunt’s team of nationally recognized experts will also conduct complimentary appraisals of sports memorabilia Nov. 12-14 during museum hours. Select items from the appraisal fair may be consigned to the live auction. 

Visitors to the museum during Auction Week will want to make a point of viewing the many highlight pieces in the sale, including Babe Ruth’s 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers road uniform, worn as a coach during his final year in baseball. Upon retiring as a player in 1935, Ruth set his hopes on becoming a major league manager.

The closest he ever came was in 1938, when he returned to New York as a coach with the Dodgers. Ruth was a tremendous drawing card for the talent-starved Dodgers, and the Brooklyn front office made sure he kept a very high profile. Not only was Ruth appointed first base coach, where the fans would be sure to see him throughout the entire game, but he was also ordered to take pregame batting practice with the club so the fans could once again witness the “Sultan of Swat” hitting a few balls out of the park.

In spite of the “side show” atmosphere, Ruth hoped to parlay the position into something bigger. When the club’s managerial post opened the next year, however, Leo Durocher was appointed the job, and Ruth wasn’t re-hired.

The offered uniform comes from Ruth’s lone season with the Dodgers, and features a heavy grey flannel Spalding jersey and matching pants, both of which include Ruth’s full name in chain stitch. The uniform shirt displays the blue Dodgers team name across the front, and Ruth’s uniform No. 35 on the back. The jersey remains in completely original condition, and exhibits the light-to-moderate use consistent with Ruth’s position as the Brooklyn Dodger’s first base coach.

According to David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, the Ruth Dodgers uniform is one of only a handful of surviving exemplars, and is particularly notable as one of the final uniforms he ever wore. It is expected to fetch between $150,000-$200,000.

Collectors of boxing memorabilia will have a unique opportunity to view and bid on what Hunt Auctions officials tout as one of the most significant championship boxing belts ever offered publicly. Rocky Graziano’s 1947 World Middleweight Championship belt, won by defeating archrival Tony Zale, is set to be offered on behalf of the Graziano family. Steve Farhood, former editor-in-chief of Ring Magazine once stated, “Pound-for-pound, punch-for-punch, violence-for-violence, Graziano-Zale was by far the greatest rivalry in boxing history.”

Graziano won this belt in the second of his three bouts against Zale between 1946-48. The signature match of the epic rivalry was a six-round bloodbath that saw both men severely battered. The fight included Graziano suffering a severe injury over his left eye that required his cornermen to cut him open. It was scene that would be replicated decades later in Hollywood, among many other parallels, in the Academy Award-winning movie “Rocky.”

Graziano ultimately knocked Zale out in the sixth round to take the title. Stepping to the ring microphone, Graziano famously exulted, “Hey, Ma, your bad boy done it. I told you somebody up there likes me.” The utterance later inspired the title of Graziano’s colorful, 1955 autobiography, Somebody Up There Likes Me, which was subsequently turned into a critically acclaimed movie starring Paul Newman.

The belt carries a presale estimate of $50,000-$75,000.

As one would expect from an auction conducted at the world-famous Louisville Slugger Museum, a substantial selection of game-used lumber from some of baseball’s greatest legends will also be on display and up for auction.

Examples include a Ty Cobb professional model baseball bat, circa 1925-28. The Louisville Slugger 125 model bat measures 34-1/2 inches long and weighs 35 ounces. Dating to the final years of Cobb’s storied career, the bat remains uncracked with outstanding usage characteristics. It’s estimated to sell for $40,000 to $60,000.

Also featured will be an exceptional Jackie Robinson professional model baseball bat, circa 1950-51, originating directly from the family of Robinson’s Dodger teammate, Tommy Brown.

According to the Brown family, Robinson presented the bat to Brown after he was traded to the Reds, telling him that, “…it was his lucky bat and he wanted him to have it.” The bat has remained in the Brown family since that time, and is described by Hunt Auctions as one of the finest of its type to have entered the marketplace. The Robinson gamer is expected to sell between $40,000-$50,000.

Other significant bats in the sale include Honus Wagner sidewritten professional model bat, circa 1917-21. This bat dates to Wagner’s last season as a player and his transition into his career as a coach. It’s among a small population of Wagner bats known to exist that can either wholly or partially be attributed to his playing career ($25,000-$35,000); a Jimmie Foxx professional model baseball bat, circa 1939-43 ($20,000-$25,000); a Lefty Grove professional model baseball bat attributed to the 1931 World Series ($20,000-$30,000); a Mickey Mantle professional model baseball bat, circa 1961-64 ($15,000-$25,000); a Rogers Hornsby professional model baseball bat, circa 1927-28 ($10,000-$15,000); a Roberto Clemente professional model baseball bat, circa 1961-64 ($7,500-$10,000); a Hank Aaron game-used baseball bat, circa 1965-68 ($5,000-$10,000); and a Willie Mays 1973 All-Star Game autographed professional model baseball bat ($5,000-$7,000).

Other notable game-used artifacts highlighting the sale include a 1978 Thurman Munson Yankees road jersey ($20,000-$30,000); a 1966 Brooks Robinson Orioles home jersey with World Series attribution ($10,000-$15,000); a 1983 Cal Ripken Jr. Orioles road jersey ($7,500-$10,000); and a 1983 Ron Guidry New York Yankees road jersey ($5,000-$7,500). A rare New York Yankees batting helmet attributed to Munson, circa 1975, is also offered, originating from the family of a gentleman who obtained it personally at Comiskey Park after it accidentally bounced into the stands when Munson, agitated after striking out, pitched the helmet toward the on-deck circle. The Munson helmet carries an estimate of $15,000-$20,000.

Of all of the spectacular game-used artifacts to be offered in the Nov. 15 auction, perhaps none is more intriguing and potentially valuable than a professional model baseman’s mitt with attribution to Lou Gehrig, circa 1931-39. The glove is a high-quality Spalding left-handed model #4P, retaining its period lacings and exhibiting heavy overall use. Having never before been offered publicly, the glove has documented lineage that traces it to James Barton, an accomplished comedic actor and New York socialite in the 1930s.

Barton counted Ruth and Gehrig among his many prominent New York friends. In fact, it was Barton who introduced Ruth to a young woman by the name of Claire Merritt Hodgson, whom Ruth would later marry.

The glove has many distinctive features, including a horseshoe-shaped reinforced backing with uncommon single back-strap design that can be closely matched to photos of Gehrig wearing a similar glove from the period it was manufactured. The glove is part of a small trove of Ruth and Gehrig memorabilia, including a Ruth photo signed to Barton and his wife from the same source. The glove is listed as “Estimate upon request.”

Other highlights
Several notable estate collections will be presented, including the balance of the Thurman Munson Collection. This substantial group of memorabilia from the Munson estate is being offered on the heels of the initial offering that headlined the firm’s July 14-15 auction held in conjunction with the MLB All-Star Game in New York City.

This secondary offering of Munson memorabilia from his estate includes a substantial selection of autographed items (including contracts), game-used material, awards, and significant personal effects. Other important collections on the slate include that of former National League President Charles “Chub” Feeney and Hall of Famer and Negro League legend Monte Irvin.

Rounding out a vast array of historical baseball memorabilia in the sale will be a unique 1919 Ruth and Ty Cobb autographed baseball ($15,000-$20,000), Ruth single-signed baseball, circa 1940s ($15,000-$20,000), Roberto Clemente single-signed baseball ($10,000-$15,000), Ruth and Gehrig dual-signed baseball, circa 1928-30 ($10,000-$15,000), Ruth autographed oversized photograph circa 1940s ($10,000-$15,000), Frank Chance autograph cut signature ($10,000-$15,000), New York Yankees 1923 World Series gold pocket watch presented to catcher Wally Schang ($7,500-$10,000), and a Gehrig single-signed baseball ($7,500-$10,000).

For those collectors interested in vintage baseball cards, Hunt Auctions will present a diverse offering of prewar and postwar singles, complete sets and group lots. Among the prewar card highlights is a scarce 1914 Boston Garter Johnny Evers. This superb example of one of the rarest cards from the highly elusive Boston Garter series is encapsulated as SGC Authentic with a VG-EX appearance ($20,000-$30,000).

Other prewar highlights include a 1887 Kalamazoo Bats N690 Harry Wright SGC 50 ($7,500-$10,000), 1887 Kalamazoo Bats N690 Joseph Mulvey SGC 50 ($2,500-$3,500), 1909-11 T206 Bill O’Hara Rare St. Louis variation PSA 4 ($5,000-$7,500) and an impressive selection of T206 and T205 HOF’er singles and group lots.

A comprehensive offering of postwar cards is highlighted by a fresh-to-the-market complete set of 1954 Wilson Franks. Half of the 20 cards in the set will be sold individually, in addition to a single lot of 10 cards. The key Ted Williams card from this scarce regional issue has been graded SGC 88. It is one of only two examples graded at this condition tier by SGC with none higher (est. $30,000-$40,000).

Other notable 1954 Wilson Franks cards being offered individually from this set include Bob Feller SGC 96 ($10,000-$15,000), Gil Hodges SGC 88 ($3,000-$4,000) and Andy Pafko SGC 92 ($1,500-$2,500).

Other prominent single cards include a 1952 Topps Mantle, PSA-graded 4.5 ($10,000-$15,000) and a 1953 Bowman Color Mantle SGC 88 ($3,000-$4,000). Unopened material includes five 1971 Topps Baseball fourth series wax boxes and three 1972 Topps Baseball wax boxes, each to be offered individually. The auction will also feature complete Topps and Bowman baseball card sets spanning from 1948-72.

Running concurrently with Auction Week will be the presentation of Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory’s Living Legend Award to Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.  Robinson will be on hand at the museum the evening of Friday, Nov. 14 to accept the award at a private event.  A limited number of tickets are being sold through the Hunt Auctions website at www.huntauctions.com.

The entire auction catalog and a full Auction Week schedule may be viewed online at www.huntauctions.com.  Bids and catalog orders may be placed through the website or by calling (610) 524-0822. Hunt Auctions is currently accepting consignments for several future auctions, including its 2009 March Live Auction and next year’s MLB Live Auction at DHL All-Star FanFest in St. Louis. 

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