The Ultimate Treasure from Cooperstown’s Grand Opening
A unique, multi-signed baseball sold this past weekend for an astounding $623,369. It was sold at auction by SCP Auctions, an auction house based in Laguna Niguel, California. What made this baseball so special is the fact it was signed (at the time) by the 11 living members of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction ceremony who were present that day (June 12, 1939) in Cooperstown, New York. The signatures on the baseball are unrivaled: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Connie Mack, Eddie Collins, Pete Alexander, George Sisler and Nap Lajoie. Only the great Lou Gehrig, who was being diagnosed that week with ALS at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was missing from the celebration that day. The final price realized set a new auction record for a signed baseball, one that was graded “authentic” by PSA’s Principal Authenticator, Kevin Keating.
“This may be the most noteworthy, complete and exclusive collection of the Hall of Fame’s living charter inductees known,” said Keating. “Most items signed by the icons who first entered Cooperstown in 1939 are also signed by other players and dignitaries who were present that day. This baseball possesses a complete roster of only those living players whose plaques were unveiled.
“The single panel of Cobb, Ruth and Wagner is what puts it over the top. Those are the elite of the elite.”
Interestingly, another baseball, one signed by only Ruth from the 1933 MLB All-Star game, which marked baseball’s first Mid-Summer Classic ever, did sell for more money in 2006 ($805,000), but there’s a catch. The 1933 treasure was a game-used ball that Ruth hit out of Comiskey Park for the very first round-tripper in All-Star Game history. As Collectors Universe CEO Joe Orlando explained: “The Ruth home run ball is not a good comp [comparable] because 99% of its value is derived from the game used element.”
What’s more, the multi-signed baseball from the 11 HOF inductees has a terrific back story to it. In fact, it stayed in the family of its original owner, Marv Owen, until 1997, six years after the former Chicago White Sox third baseman’s death. That year it was sold at auction for $55,000. That means that in the 21 years since, the coveted baseball has appreciated by 1,033 percent!
For the record, Owen was selected to play in an exhibition game that day at Cooperstown and was bold enough to ask each of the attending inductees to sign a baseball he acquired from fellow exhibition game participant, Hank Greenberg. Owen and Greenberg were former teammates on the Detroit Tigers. Owen had two balls signed that day, both originating from Greenberg, who understood the significance of the day. Only Owen’s ball, which he preserved in a fur-lined glove inside a safe deposit box, has survived the past 79 years. Greenberg’s baseball, unfortunately, has been lost to history.
NOTE: 1939 Hall of Fame inductee Ty Cobb is missing from the group photo above. As the story goes, he showed up late to the festivities.