We begin by looking at the 11 (just to be different from 10) most expensive items of sports memorabilia sold or auctioned.
Number 11 is Babe Ruth’s All-Star jersey worn in the 1933 All-Star Game which sold for $657,250 in a 2006 auction
Number 10 is Barry Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run ball which sold for $752,467 in an online auction.
Number 9 is the only known complete uniform worn by Babe Ruth on a 1934 barnstorming tour of Japan which sold for $771,000 in a 2005 auction.
Number 8 is a home run ball from the 1933 All-Star game signed by the Babe which sold for $805,000 in a 2006 auction.
Number 7 is Babe Ruth’s jersey from the controversial "called shot" in the 1932 World Series. It sold for $940,000 at a 2005 auction.
Number 6 is the contract used for the sale of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1920. This piece of paper sold for $996,000 in a 2005 auction.
Number 5 is the bat the Babe used to hit the first home run in the original Yankee Stadium in 1923. It sold for $1.3 million in a 2004 auction.
Number 4 is a Honus Wagner baseball card. There are only 57 such cards known to be in existence because when Wagner took an anti-smoking stand he had his baseball card removed from cigarette packages. The most recent one sold for $2.8 million.
Number 3 is Mark McGwire’s record breaking 70th home run ball from the 1998 season which sold for $3.5 million. The same person bought Barry Bonds’ record breaking 73rd home run ball for $450,000.
Number 2 is James Naismith’s original handwritten rules for basketball which sold for $4.3 million.
Number 1 is the Bambino’s 1920 jersey which is his oldest known Yankee jersey. The price paid was $4.4 million.
Recapping these 11 items we find that 10 of the 11 items are from baseball. Of these 10 items, 7 are directly connected to Babe Ruth. Honus Wagner, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds each are connected to 1 item. Four of the baseball items are jerseys, 3 items are baseballs, and there is 1 each of a bat, baseball card and a special piece of paper. The only item not from baseball is from basketball. Yes, baseball is our National Pastime and I call Babe Ruth the Elvis Presley of baseball. As Elvis was and is still the King of Rock and Roll the Babe was and is still the King of Baseball. This statement is supported by the fact that items connected to these 2 icons have continued to increase in value many years after they died.
My own close encounter with a ball hit into the stands occurred when I was only 14. It was a weekday and a group of friends and I traveled from Hackensack NJ to Brooklyn’s Ebbetts Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers 1913-1957, in the early 50s to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers play. We took our seats in the section behind first base near the right field foul pole. There was a high wall in right field and we made sure to get to the park early for batting practice. We knew balls would rebound off the wall into where we were sitting. Sure enough a ball rebounded close to where I was sitting. As I reached down to grab it a boy hit me from behind causing me to flop over the rail. He then picked up the ball and left me bruised and empty handed. Clearly, there must be some logical reason why fans put their body and sometimes their children’s body in harm’s way for a $4.00 ball. See the video below of a father holding and feeding his infant child with one hand and catching a foul ball with his other hand. Great catch but when my wife saw the video of the catch she was horrified that a father would put his child in danger- what if something had gone wrong? I would like to hear your stories and opinions.
Should we bestow onto Alex Rodriguez the title “Comeback Player of the Year?” As an optimistic Yankee fan my highest expectation for A-Rod’s contributions to the Yankees for the 2015 season was 15 home runs and 40 RBIs as a part-time DH. As of this writing A-Rod has 14 home runs with 40 RBIs and a BA of .283 in only 68 games. This is an amazing comeback because he was out of baseball for one year, had two hip surgeries, and is 39 years-old. In fact, according to baseball-reference.com, there are only three players who finished a season over 38-years old with a better OPS than A-Rod currently has. They are Babe Ruth in 1934, Ted Williams in 1958 and Barry Bonds in 2004. Still, there is over half a season remaining and the question is will A-Rod break down? Since Joe is using him almost solely as a DH, I believe A-Rod will continue to produce power numbers for the rest of the season.
Before spring training began this year there was a real feud between A-Rod and the Yankee organization. Some people predicted the Yankees would release A-Rod even though they would still have to pay him the $61 million left on his contract. There was also the idea that A-Rod, not needing the money, would retire and not embarrass himself. In spite of harsh words between the Yankees and A-Rod neither one of these two events happened. Now the most dysfunctional marriage in sports is in a holding phase. Still both sides seem destined for an off-season fight over the marketing agreement, pegged to A-Rod’s home run milestones. The Yankee fans and Yankee players have accepted A-Rod back into the Yankee family. So, I ask the question: Why can’t the Yankee organization do the same? In my opinion they are making a horrible mistake. The idea behind the marketing agreement was as A-Rod reached each of these home run milestones, the Yankees would be able to add more money to their coffers by selling many different things. They now argue because of his admitted steroid use the fans would not celebrate his achievements and there would be no marketing value attributed to these milestones. Boy are they wrong. It is known that baseball fans are quick to forgive a player’s sins if that player is successful on the playing field. The fans certainly have celebrated each of A-Rod’s achievements from his 2000 RBIs to his 3000 hits with standing ovations and curtain calls. It is sad that the Yankees have not so far planned any celebration events to honor A-Rod’s achievements. After all in the history of baseball A-Rod, Henry Aaron and Willie Mays are the only three players with 600 home runs and 3000 hits; A-Rod and Henry Aaron are the only two players with 600 home runs, 3000 hits and 2000 RBIs. Of the 29 players in the 3000 hit club, only A-Rod, Boggs and Jeter have their 3000 hit be a home run. But A-Rod went one step further when his 3001 hit was also a home run.
Outside of his on-field accomplishments A-Rod should be applauded for his work with children. In the Miami area where A-Rod grew up he works with the children of the Boys & Girls Club in Miami. “He usually shows up at the club unannounced,” said Miami-Dade’s club’s president. “He just shows up. This is home for him. This is where he spent a lot of time as a child.” Besides holding clinics for the club’s children, he has given the club significant financial support over the years.
Has every baseball fan forgiven A-Rod? Of course, the answer is no. The opposing team’s fan boo him as they always have and some Yankee fans have not forgiven him. Since the beginning of spring training Alex has said and done the right things. Yes, I have forgiven A-Rod and recognize that his baseball achievements make him one of the greatest baseball players in the history of baseball.
Fred Merkle’s incident in 1908, referred to as “Merkle’s Boner” is one of the most prominent events in the history of Major League Baseball. Fred Merkle was a 19-year old rookie filling in for the veteran Fred Tenney at first base for the New York Giants when the famous play occurred. The day was September 23 and the opponent was the Chicago Cubs. With a runner on third base and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, the batter singled and the winning run crossed home plate. Fred Merkle was on first base and veered off to the clubhouse failing to touch second base. Second baseman Johnny Evers retrieved the ball and touched second base. This resulted in a force out. The fans of the home team Giants filed onto the field to celebrate the assumed Giant victory. The game could not be continued due to darkness. The umpires ruled the next day that Merkle failed to touch second base and the Giants had not won the game. The league president eventually ruled the game was a tie and must be replayed in its entirety. As things would happen the Giants and Cubs ended the season tied and when the game was replayed the Cubs won. The Cubs went on to defeat Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers in the 1908 World Series. Since their 1908 championship to this day the Cubs have appeared in seven World Series in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945, losing each time.
There are now some additional facts that need to be mentioned. Many times tradition trumps the rules of baseball. Traditionally, at that time in baseball history, when a winning run crossed home plate the players on base, fearing for their safety, ran to their clubhouse. To the credit of Johnny Evers he immediately made the umpire aware of Merkle not touching second base. It turned out a few days earlier the Cubs were involved in a similar situation with the Pittsburgh Pirates and as luck would have it the same umpire was in that game. After the Pirates game, Evers informed the umpire in the future he was going to insist that the rules of baseball must be enforced and the player must be called out. It also should be mentioned that there were four future Hall of Famers involved in that play. They were Johnny Evers, Joe McGinnity (the third base coach), Frank Chase (the Cubs player/manager), and John McGraw (the Giant manager).
This incident haunted Merkle throughout his 16-year career. He was forced to endure the insulting name “bonehead” and was unjustly blamed for the Giants losing the 1908 pennant. “Merkle was careless, to be sure.“ wrote Baseball Magazine, “but withal, he did what many others had done without suffering criticism.” Bitter over the events of the controversial game, Merkle avoided baseball after his playing career ended in 1926.
This leads me to my first curse. Due to the Cubs stealing the 1908 pennant from the Giants, the unjust ridicule endured by Fred MerkeI, “The Curse of Fred Merkle” , was placed on the Cubs.
I now fast forward to the World Series played in 1918. The Cubs opponent for this series was the Boston Red Sox. The series was won by the Red Sox 4-2 with the help of a guy named Babe Ruth. Ruth was the winning pitcher in two of the games and extended his WS scoreless inning streak to 292/3 innings before it was broken. This leads us to the second curse called “The Curse of the Bambino.” This curse was caused by the trading of Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. After 86 years this curse was finally broken when the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in the 2004 WS. To reach the WS the Red Sox overcame a 3 games to 0 deficit to their arch rival Yankee in the ALCS.
But, when will the curse of Fred Merkle on the Cubs be broken?
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal attempted to list the most miserable moments for each of the New York professional sports teams. Two columnists, Matthew Oshinsky and Michael Salfino, gave us their opinion on what these moments were for each New York team. Since this is a baseball blog, I will discuss only their choices for the New York baseball teams. After reading their choices, I encourage you to comment on your choices.
We begin with the New York Giants baseball team. Of course, I refer to the New York Giants baseball team before they left for San Francisco in 1958. The winning most miserable incident occurred on Sept. 23, 1908. The player involved was Fred Merkle. In fact I wrote about this incident in a previous blog and this incident also appears in my website www.sandlotstats.com under the topic of “Interesting Facts.” On an apparent game-winning hit in the ninth inning, the 19 year-old Merkle was on first base and stop running between first and second base and went back to the dugout. As the happy Polo Grounds’ crowd filed onto the field, second baseman Johnny Evers got the ball and stepped on second resulting in a force-out which negated the winning run. With the fans already crowding the field, the game could not be played to a decision and the game was declared a tie. A newspaper called the incident “Merkle’s Boner.” This spawned the phrase “bonehead play” which is still used today. The Giants and the Cubs ended the season tied for first place and had a rematch at the Polo Grounds, on October 8. The Cubs won this makeup game, 4–2, and thus the National League title. The Cubs went on to win their last World Series to date that year. You could say the fact that the Cubs won a pennant they did not deserve, the curse of the injustice paid to Fred Merkle was placed on them. The Cubs would go on to appear in seven World Series in the years 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945, losing each time. The runner-up for miserable day occurred in 1957 when the National League owners unanimously voted to allow the Giants (and Dodgers) to leave New York. The Brooklyn Dodgers most miserable day was when on Oct. 8, 1957 in a news conference it was announced they would leave for Los Angeles in 1958, after 74 years in Brooklyn. The runner-up for miserable day occurred on July 19, 1942 when Pete Reiser’s promising career ended when he ran face-first into the outfield fence.
The winning event for most miserable day for the New York Mets occurred on June 16, 1977.when fans woke up and found out that the greatest player in their team history, Tom Seaver, was traded to Cincinnati for four mediocre players (Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman). The Mets next winning season occurred seven years later in 1984. Runner-up for misery occurred on Oct. 9, 1988 when Dodger catcher Mike Sciosia homered off of Dwight Gooden in the ninth inning of Game-4 of the NLCS ending the Mets title hopes.
Number one on the misery index for the New York Yankees occurred on Oct. 20, 2004 when the Yankees became the first team in MLB history to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series, losing in game-7. What made it even worse was that it happened against their hated rival the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox went on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, sweeping them 4-0. This was the Red Sox sixth World Series championship, but first since 1918 and finally ended “The Curse of the Bambino.” Runner-up for misery occurred on Oct 13, 1980 when Bill Mazeroski wins the World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates by hitting a walk-off home run in Game-7 off of Ralph Terry.