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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/20/2017

     While Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig may not have invented “Barnstorming,” they, along with Ruth’s longtime agent Christy Walsh, certainly perfected the practice during the off-seasons of 1927 and 1928. It was during those two off-seasons that the two Yankee legends leveraged their names and their skills to reach remote outposts across the country where major league baseball-starved fans were able to get an up close and personal look at their heroes. In a pre-cursor to modern fantasy camps, many semi-pro players and locally assembled nines were also afforded the opportunity to play with and against a pair of baseball’s immortal figures.

     In fact, a March 2011 New York Times article documented a recent find of rare 16-millimeter film, thought to have been shot with a high-end home movie camera, that includes three and a half minutes of Ruth and Gehrig wearing the uniforms of their barnstorming teams the Bustin’ Babes and the Larrupin’ Lou’s. The film was thought to have been shot in or around Sioux City, Iowa, on Oct. 18, 1927, just 10 days after the famous “Murderer’s Row” Yankees finished off the Pittsburgh Pirates in a four game sweep in the 1927 World Series.

     According to the New York Times Article, “The 1927 [Barnstorming Tour] began two days after the World Series and consisted of 21 games strung from Providence, R.I., to Los Angeles. Local schools closed for the occasion. Thirteen games had to be called early because the mobs disrupted the action. (“Every time a fly or grounder went past the infield, there was a race between the outfielder and the spectators on the fringe of the crowd,” The New York Times reported from one game.) Ruth, who occasionally pitched, had a .616 batting average and hit 20 home runs. Gehrig hit .618 and had 13 homers.”

     The fervor around the 1927 Ruth/Gehrig Barnstorming Tour was likely heightened by the fact that the 1927 Yankees finished 110-44 and are still considered by many to have been the best team in major league history. That season, Ruth hit his career-high 60 home runs, a single-season home run record until it was eclipsed in 1961, and Gehrig hit 47 home runs, more than any other player besides Ruth up to that point. Gehrig was also the American League most valuable player in 1927 and had already shown the consistency that would lead to his consecutive-games streak and his “Iron Horse” nickname.

     According to Jim Gates, the librarian for the Baseball Hall of Fame, “The barnstorming tours were heavily covered events.” Not to mention, memorabilia from these events have fetched some impressive numbers among collectors. As the New York Times article points out, a photograph of Ruth’s and Gehrig’s barnstorming teams from a game in Des Moines dated October 17, 1927, sold in December 2010 for $33,000.

     That leads us to the incredible baseball offered here. Thankfully, there is a 1920s newspaper article from the Des Moines Tribune that explains the provenance behind this baseball. The article, prophetically titled “Valuable Baseball,” documents how this ball was awarded to eight-year-old Frederick Stewart for his prize-wining essay in a contest conducted by Younker Brothers. The article also states “The ball is that which Babe Ruth pushed over the fence at the Western league park when the Sultan of Swat and his understudy, Lou Gehrig, appeared here on a barnstorming tour last summer. Both Babe and Lou autographed the home run ball.”

     The article also includes a picture of young Frederick along with the statement that he “wouldn’t take a ‘millyun dollars’ for the baseball he is holding.” It is little wonder that even the young Frederick knew this ball would be of great value. To attest to how valuable this ball would be to its owner, a Sioux City Journal newspaper article from October 19, 1927 detailed a scene that gives us some insight to its import. The article described a chaotic scene at the previous day’s game where it stated, “About 5,000 people crammed into the minor league park, and ‘2,000 youngsters became so unmanageable in their desire to get a close-up’ that the game was called early in the ninth inning.” Given that scene, imagine the value of a documented Babe Ruth home run baseball autographed by both Ruth and Gehrig.

     Along with the incredible provenance that comes with this baseball, the game use has been further authenticated by Mears and the autographs on the ball have been authenticated by both PSA/DNA and JSA. Ruth, of course, penned his name on his traditional sweet spot location, while Gehrig added his name on the side panel. As for the game use, Mears has noted, “Per review of the book ‘History of the Baseball National League,’ the ball bears the stamp above the Spalding mark which reads, ‘Mar 17-25.’ According to the book, this mark is exclusive to the 1926-27 time frame, which is consistent with the homerun/barnstorming attribution.”

     This baseball displays evidence of heavy use and, as would be expected from a nearly 100-year-old baseball, it is heavily toned. The stitching is red and black and the stampings are light, but the signatures are readable. This baseball comes with a full LOA from Mears for the game use attributing this ball to use during that October 1927 Sioux City, Iowa event and LOAs from PSA/DNA and JSA for the signatures. A copy of the newspaper article from the Des Moines Tribune will also attend.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $5,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $10,200.00
Estimate: $20,000+
Number Bids: 9
Auction closed on Sunday, June 4, 2017.
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