Love of the Blog

Communication, Commercialism, and Commentary

High-grade 1952 Red Man Tobacco Complete Set

1952 Red Man 1The first and arguably most popular of the four Red Man Tobacco issues, the 1952 set is one of the premier card issues of the hobby’s Golden Age.  Featuring large, full-color illustrations of 52 of the era’s most coveted players along with some brief biographical information, the oversized nature of the cards coupled with their method of distribution (tucked outside a package of tobacco, protected only by a thin layer of cellophane) make the issue particularly condition sensitive.  In addition, each card featured a coupon that could be redeemed for a free baseball cap; as a result, cards with the coupons still attached are more scarce and valuable than those without.  A total of 20 Hall of Famers including very popular cards of Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Stan Musial make this one of the most coveted card issues of the 1950s.

Presented is a gorgeous, high-grade complete set that, with a set score approaching 85 ranks #4 on the SGC Registry with a total GPA that would rank it #3 on the current PSA Registry.  As a result, this is the #6 graded and registered 1952 Red Man set in the hobby.  Each card in the collection grades SGC NM 84 or 86, with particularly close attention paid not only to the cards’ technical grades but also to overall color and image quality.  Rarely, if ever, does a Red Man set of this quality become available for sale, and due to lower populations and higher demand for high-grade cards from this issue, assembling a set in this condition would be a long and time-consuming process.

1952 Red Man 2A condition breakdown of the cards in the set are as follows:  SGC NM+ 86 (20 cards): #2N (Richie Ashburn); 2A; 5A; 7A; 8N; 10N; 11A; 12N (Ralph Kiner); 15N (Willie Mays); 16A; 17N (Pee Wee Reese); 18A; 19N (Red Schoendienst); 19A; 20A; 21N (Duke Snider); 21A; 22A; 23N; and 26N.  SGC NM 84 (30 cards): #1A (Casey Stengel); 1N (Leo Durocher); 3N; 3A (Yogi Berra); 4N; 4A; 5A; 6A (Larry Doby); 6N; 7N; 8A (Bob Feller); 9N (Monte Irvin); 9A (Nellie Fox); 10A; 12A; 13A (George Kell); 13N; 14A; 14N; 15A; 16N (Stan Musial); 17A; 18N (Robin Roberts); 20N (Enos Slaughter); 22N (Warren Spahn); 23A (Ted Williams); 24N; 24A (Early Wynn); 25N; 25A; 26A.

This is a remarkably consistent set, with no card graded below NM. Easily one of the top graded 1952 Red Man sets in the entire hobby, with only five current sets graded higher on either the SGC or PSA registries.  52 cards total.

1952 Red Man 2


GREAT MEADOWS, N.J., July 18, 2014 – Love of the Game Auctions, an internet-based sports auction house catering to the passionate collector of cards and memorabilia, announced the launch of its “Set Builder’s Auction,” an internet-only auction featuring single cards, smaller lots, and collector-grade treasures.

The new auction will complement Love of the Game’s Premiere auctions, which feature a carefully-curated selection of quality sports artifacts, but will cater more towards hobbyists looking for more affordable examples of vintage cards and rarities. The auction will primarily feature cards, with the occasional autograph or memorabilia offering.

“The Set Builder’s Auction will truly have something for everybody,” explained Auction Director Al Crisafulli. “Because of the nature of our Premiere auctions, we are often limited in terms of the value of the material we can offer. Due to the time commitment and expense involved with preparing and marketing a Love of the Game Auction, we often have to turn away lower-dollar consignments. That is disappointing to me, because its important to me that LOTG caters to the most passionate collectors in the hobby. The Set Builder’s Auction gives us an avenue to feature lower-valued cards, delivered with the same quality and care that collectors have come to expect from Love of the Game.”

The Set Builder’s Auction will have a simplified structure that will permit some additional advantages to collectors as well. “A typical LOTG Auction features detailed descriptions and history on each individual lot,” Crisafulli said. “For the Set Builder’s Auction, however, we’ll be focusing simply on the card itself – written descriptions will be very brief, or nonexistent.”

This reduces the time required to prepare the auction, which reduces the company’s cost as well. “We’re able to pass that cost reduction through to our buyers, in the form of a reduced buyer’s premium. For the Set Builder’s Auction, the buyer’s premium will be just 15%, and for those choosing to pay by cash, check or money order, an additional discount will be offered, bringing the total buyer’s premium to just 12%.

“Shipping charges will also be reduced,” added Crisafulli. “Rather than ship via Priority Mail, winning items will typically be shipped by First Class Mail, which cuts shipping costs in half. We really want everyone to be able to participate in this auction.”

The company plans three such auctions each year, with special, flat consignment rates and extra discounts for consignors who contribute material to both the Set Builder’s and Premiere Auctions.

The first Set Builder’s Auction is slated to go live before the end of July, with a preview opening the week of July 21. The sale, which will be a small, introductory offering, will close Saturday, August 16.

Love of the Game will be displaying material from its inaugural Set Builder’s Auction, as well as from its upcoming Premiere Auction, at the National Sports Collector’s Convention in Cleveland. The company will also be accepting consignments for future auctions from its location at Booth #2024.

To register for the auction and review the selection online, visit For more information, or to consign your valuable material, contact Love of the Game at or (973) 452-9147.


A quick note from LOTG about the Spring Auction

Dear Valued Customers:

I’d like to take a moment to thank you for your participation in our recent Spring auction, and to provide some information about the status of your order.

The Spring auction was our biggest yet.  In addition to offering our largest number of lots, the auction also received our largest number of bids, from our largest amount of bidders.  The lots were won by our largest number of different participants.  We were thrilled!

Equally exciting was the number of people who elected to pay their invoices right away.  Typically, we receive payments from about 25% of our winning bidders in the days immediately following the auction close.  This time, we received a much, much higher percentage.

As part of our ongoing marketing, this past winter I made a decision to exhibit at a new card and memorabilia show, which was held in Edison, New Jersey, from June 6 through June 8.  It is important to me that LOTG support regional card shows whenever possible, particularly when they’re right in our backyard.

The mistake here, of course, is that while LOTG is growing, it is still difficult to do two things at once.  So while we were preparing for and exhibiting at the show, many of our winning bidders were paying their invoices and hoping for the quick shipment that they’ve come to expect from us.  When we returned from the show on Monday, we were swamped!

Suffice to say that we are diligently working to get orders packed and fulfilled as quickly as possible, without sacrificing the quality and accuracy our customers have come to expect from us.  We’ve gained quite a bit of ground during the week, but still have a ways to go.  We’ll be working through the weekend, and I expect that we will be caught up by the beginning of the week.

If you have already received your winnings, or if you’ve received an email notice that your winnings are on the way, congratulations on your bids and thank you for participating.  If you have not, please know that we’re doing our very best to get your material out to you as quickly as possible.  And either way, please know that I’ll be putting measures in place to ensure that such delays don’t happen again in the future.

Thanks once again for your patience and support of Love of the Game.

Warm Regards,

Al Crisafulli

The key Cracker Jack.

1914 CJ Matty Front BOne of just two examples of subjects included in both the 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack sets where the player’s pose was changed (the other being Del Pratt), the 1914 Cracker Jack Christy Mathewson is one of the hobby’s most important cards, and the undisputed key of the entire Cracker Jack run.  We’re pleased to offer this appealing VG example in our upcoming Spring auction.

The Cracker Jack Mathewson is so elusive that most Cracker Jack collectors elect to build the 1915 set rather than the 1914, simply because of the unavailability of the Mathewson card.  Since 1914 Cracker Jacks are more rare than their 1915 counterparts in general, and the Mathewson is one of just two cards where the pose was changed with the 1915 issue, the 1914 Mathewson has reached nearly mythical proportions in terms of desirability.

This is the most coveted of all the Cracker Jack cards, and easily one of Mathewson’s most desirable issues as well.  Boasting exceptional image quality, nearly perfect centering and very gentle corner wear, this example is marred primarily by the caramel staining that is so common with the issue.  The staining results from the caramel corn in the Cracker Jack boxes and is present with virtually all cards from the 1914 issue, since the cards were available only in the boxes and were not redeemable through mail, as with the 1915 set.  Very few examples more attractive than this one exist, and it is even more rare that the cards change hands.

This is an outstanding specimen, one of the hobby’s most desirable and highly coveted cards, of one of the hobby’s most popular subjects: Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson.


The fastest pitches ever thrown.

Feller Ryan BallsGame-used memorabilia has carved a special niche in our hobby as fans strive to get closer to the game.  Jerseys worn by players, equipment they use to play the game, game balls – anything that serves as a memento to remind us of a certain player, or a specific event, helps hobbyists make an emotional connection with the game they love.  Collectors often seek out memorabilia from an important sports event, a particular game, even a memorable play.  This equipment serves to document the event, becoming historical artifacts in the process, living proof that the player existed, that the game was played, or that the event took place.

In the sport of baseball, hardcore fans are frequently drawn to events that appeal to their knowledge of the game, and how amazing certain feats can be: a perfect game, a hitting streak, a high batting average, a spectacular play.  The types of events that both hardcore and casual fans can appreciate, however, are related more to pure athleticism: a towering home run, a lengthy streak of consecutive games played, a 100 MPH fastball.  Athletic achievements that seem superhuman are always captivating to a wide audience of people; their understanding of such feats are what make game-used memorabilia so interesting to those outside the hobby.

Presented are two such pieces, which will be featured as a single lot in our upcoming Spring auction: the very baseball thrown by Bob Feller in 1946 to set the record for the fastest pitch ever thrown, and the baseball thrown by Nolan Ryan in 1974 to break that record – a record that still stands today.  Indeed, of the millions and millions of baseballs thrown by untold numbers of pitchers, these two baseballs were thrown faster than any other baseballs on record, ever, in the history of the game.

The story begins on August 20, 1946.  As part of a pre-game promotion (in which Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith paid the Indians hurler $700 to participate), pitcher Bob Feller was to throw pitches through the U.S. Army’s “Sky Screen Chronograph.”  The Sky Screen Chronograph was a device used by the United States military to measure the velocity of artillery shells, and was deemed to be accurate to one ten-thousandth of a second.  Working with the device involved setting it up behind home plate, and catcher George Susce crouching behind an opening in the device.  Feller, then, was to throw fastballs through the opening, at which point the speed would be measured.

Bob Feller throws a ball into the Sky Screen Chronograph on August 20, 1946.

Bob Feller throws a ball into the Sky Screen Chronograph on August 20, 1946.

“Rapid Robert” was no stranger to promotions designed to show off his incredible velocity.  In 1938, Feller tested his speed against a racing motorcycle, speeding down a road at 86 miles per hour.  Feller’s fastball beat the motorcycle to its target by 13 feet, which was figured out at 104 MPH.

But it wasn’t until 1946 that Feller’s fastball was measured scientifically.  The Chronograph clocked Feller’s fastest pitch at 145 feet per second, the equivalent of 98.6 miles per hour – the fastest pitch known. Feller threw 30 pitches into the Chronograph before the game, then went on to pitch a complete game against the Senators, giving up six hits and striking out seven in a 5-4 loss.

Click this link to see video of the record pitch.

Feller’s record stood for 38 years, until electronics technicians from Rockwell International measured fastballer Nolan Ryan on September 7, 1974.  Ryan, who had insisted that he threw harder in the late innings than he did at the beginning of the game, was clocked all night, on Rockwell’s radar equipment.  In the ninth inning, against the White Sox’ Bee Bee Richard, Ryan was proved correct, throwing his fastest pitch of the night.  The pitch was clocked at an astonishing 100.8 miles per hour, breaking Feller’s record and setting a new one that stands to this day.

Nolan Ryan knows he's got heat.

Nolan Ryan knows he’s got heat.

The Angels hurler, when asked by Sports Illustrated reporter Ron Fimrite about the toll such pitching would take on his arm, responded “I don’t look for longevity.  I look for productivity.  If I can escape injury, I should be a fastball pitcher for maybe another five years.”

Of course, five years later was 1979.  At the end of the 1979 season, Ryan ended his career with the California Angels – and signed with the Houston Astros, where he would pitch for 9 more years, before pitching 5 seasons with the Texas Rangers.  During that 14 year period that the young Ryan expected his career would have been long over, he recorded 2,805 more strikeouts, breaking the career record and finishing with 5,714 – nearly 1,000 more than his nearest competitor.

Of course today’s radar equipment, ubiquitous at all games, seems to record a 100 MPH fastball every week.  Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman famously has been clocked at 106 MPH.  So how is it that we can claim that Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller are still the owners of the two fastest pitches ever recorded?

Simply because they are.

Today’s technology measures pitch speeds at a point near the pitcher’s hand, 50 feet from home plate.  The radar and Chronograph devices that measured the pitches from Ryan and Feller measured speed at distances much further away from the hand.  Given that typical pitches lose 8-11 MPH by the time they reach the front of the plate, a standardized adjustment needs to be made in order to standardize all known pitch speeds.  The measurement is known as an “FFE (fifty foot equivalent) Calculation.”*

Nolan Ryan’s fastball on August 20, 1974 were measured by a laser radar device at 9-10 feet from home plate.  Utilizing the FFE calculation, Ryan’s pitch would have been clocked at an astonishing 108.1 MPH using today’s standard of measurement. Feller’s measurement was taken at home plate, 60 feet from the mound.  Utilizing the FFE calculation, Feller’s pitch would have been clocked at 107.6 MPH using today’s standard of measurement.

Standardizing all known pitch speeds utilizing FFE calculations, the four fastest pitches recorded are as follows:

1. Nolan Ryan, September 7, 1974: 108.1 MPH

2. Bob Feller, August 20, 1946: 107.6 MPH

3. Aroldis Chapman, September 24, 2010: 105.1 MPH

4. Joel Zumaya, October 10, 2006: 104.8 MPH

The baseballs in question were acquired by noted collector Barry Halper, where they resided until Halper made the bulk of his collection available in a widely-publicized public auction in September of 1999.  The baseballs were sold together as a single lot, where they were won by our consignor, who has kept them in his collection for the past fifteen years.

The Feller baseball is an official Wilson American Association ball, noting Roy Hamey as president.  This ball was used exclusively by the American Association between 1945 and 1947.  It should be noted that Feller’s pitch was not thrown in a game but was thrown in a pre game exhibition, so the use of a non-official ball is entirely plausible.  Notations written on the baseball in ink are “August 20, 1946″ “145 FT. per Second or 98 Miles per Hour.  World Record.”  The adjacent panel is signed both by Feller (on the sweet spot) and catcher George Susce, both vintage signatures.

The stampings on the ball are faded with time, and the ball is somewhat worn and toned.  The ball has been coated with a thin layer of shellac to protect it from further wear.

The Ryan baseball is a Spalding official Lee MacPhail American League baseball.  We consulted with Brandon Gruenbaum, author of the excellent research publication History of the Baseball, and he confirmed that Spalding official baseballs were definitely used in the American League as early as 1974.  The ball, also somewhat worn and toned, features an inscription in felt tip marker on one panel reading “This ball was thrown 100.8 MPH on 9/7/74 for a worlds record.”  The adjacent panel has been signed in ballpoint by Nolan Ryan, with another panel signed and inscribed by Bill Kunkel, who was the second base umpire for the game.  Kunkel’s inscription and the identifying writing were clearly written in the same ink, and appear to have been written in the same hand.  Ryan’s signature, applied in different ink, has faded considerably but is unmistakably Ryan’s.

This is an incredible piece of historically significant memorabilia.  The legends of Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan are legends against which every power pitcher who has come after them is compared.  Everybody – even the casual baseball fan – knows that Nolan Ryan threw 100 miles per hour, and this is the very ball he threw!  And of course, like the power pitchers of today who are chasing the legend of Nolan Ryan, Ryan broke into baseball chasing the legend of Bob Feller – and this is the ball he threw as well.  Truly a museum-quality pair of baseballs, worthy of becoming the centerpiece of any memorabilia collection.

* research on FFE Calculations and the fastest pitches ever thrown taken from  Read the entire fascinating article at

A rare Cuban issue

1923 Billiken Mendez FrontOur Winter auction features a number of difficult Cuban issues, none more so than this 1923-24 Billiken Cigarettes card of Hall of Famer Jose Mendez.

The Billiken Cigarettes set of 1923-24 was a Cuban-issued set that featured 2×2 5/8″ cards depicting 60 players from the Cuban Professional League.  Each black and white glossy photo contains an ad on the reverse, either for Billiken or La Moda Cigarettes.  One of the more popular Cuban League sets, this issue includes many stars of the American Negro Leagues, including Oscar Charleston (perhaps the key card in the set), Pop Lloyd, Andy Cooper, and this card of Jose Mendez.

Jose Mendez was a Cuban pitcher and manager in the Negro Leagues, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.  Mendez’ notoriety began in the summer of 1908, when he pitched 25 consecutive scoreless innings in three appearances in Havana against the visiting Cincinnati Reds.  In addition to being a standout in the Cuban League, Mendez pitched with various Negro League teams, notably finishing his American playing career with the Kansas City Monarchs, where he played and also managed from 1920 through 26.

1923 Billiken Mendez BackOn his Billiken card, he is depicted with the Santa Clara Leopards, a team loaded with American Negro League players and often considered the most dominant team in the Cuban professional league.  Mendez was a legend, the author of a 10-inning perfect game in 1909.  His dominance against American teams in Cuba made him the first internationally-known Cuban star.

The Billiken issue remains very scarce (as are most Cuban card issues), and extraordinarily difficult to find in top condition.  The cards are printed on photographic paper and are subject to significant wrinkling and creasing.  Much like American N172 Old Judge cards, the photos are often found faded, similarly making the numeric grade less important than the image quality and contrast.  While this card has been graded POOR by SGC, less due to the minor staining and wrinkling and more to the two small circular holes in the card itself, the image quality is fantastic, with sharp contrast and very clear definition to the image itself.

Cards of Hall of Famers in the Billiken set are extremely desirable, and extraordinarily scarce.  Aside from the 1910 Punch Cigars card of Menedez, no earlier issue of the player exists, and just six card sets featuring Mendez during his playing days – all Cuban issues – are known. An outstanding collectible from an international Cuban and Negro League Hall of Famer.

The fun of amateur baseball

Wilmington Cabinet FrontWe often receive consignments featuring photos of turn of the century amateur or factory teams, and love trying to identify the teams and their players.  Hosting an auction is fun, but researching these old photos of nameless players, and giving them back their names is one of the most rewarding parts of doing this.  The pieces usually wind up not being incredibly valuable, but the gratification of learning about these regional teams is more than worth it anyway.

Wilmington PinThis auction features two such pieces from the great The Wilmington, Delaware A. A. team of 1902. The team was managed by Jesse Frysinger, a local baseball legend who received accolades in the Northeast as well as nationally.  The team posted an outstanding record, prompting a mention of Frysinger in the October 25 issue of Sporting Life under the headline “Worthy of Promotion: An Independent Manager Who Made a Great Record Last Season.”  The article went on to describe Wilmington’s 93-34 record, including six victories against Major League teams, suggesting that Frysinger was destined for bigger and better things.

The young manager left Wilmington for Harrisburg in 1903, then departed to the Holyoke, Massachusetts Paperweights team of the Connecticut State league in 1904 and bringing several of his players with him.  At the conclusion of the 1904 season, he jumped the team and returned to the Tri-State League to manage the Lancaster Red Roses.  He later had surgery for an appendicitis and developed an infection from the surgery, dying in 1906 at the tender age of 33, his whole life still ahead of him.

Pictured in the cabinet and matching pinback are: Back Row (L-R): Harry Kuhn, Snake Deal, Chick Hartley, Winham P Aubrey.  Center Row (L-R): Russell, Harry Tate, Stirlith, Frysinger, Harry Barton, Doc Blough.  Front Row (L-R): O’Neil and Bert Everson.  The African-American mascot is an anonymous Wilmington resident.

Of the members of this team, several went on to play briefly in the Majors.  Snake Deal had 243 plate appearances with the 1906 Cincinnati Reds.  Chick Hartley went 0-for-4 in one game with the 1902 New York Giants.  Harry Barton had 65 plate appearances in 13 games with the 1905 Philadelphia A’s.  Severeal other players had brief minor league careers as well.

The cabinet photo is in outstanding condition, taken by Bucher studios of Wilmington.  Unlike the pinback offered elsewhere in the auction, where the image is small enough to be difficult to identify faces, this particular photo is very strong.  It is very difficult not to focus on the team mascots – a young, African-American boy, and a goat.  Envisioning these young ballplayers, each in their late teens or early 20s, their imaginations transfixed on a possible Major League career while the young boy is ineligible to do anything but be a mascot lends a sort of sadness to the photo that is almost visible in the young boy’s eyes.  This makes for a poignant image, and an excellent document not only of a great amateur or semipro team, but also of the social issues of the time.

We’re offering the pinback and the cabinet photo as two separate lots in our auction.

Pedigreed cards in our Winter auction

1895 N300 Haddock FrontThe card grading industry has, in many ways, changed the face of modern collecting.  Long-time collectors often resist the best-known changes brought about by grading: the price explosion among “low pop” commons and set registry competition resulting in exorbitant prices paid for minute increases in set “GPA.”  Many more embrace the security of being able to purchase reliably-graded cards online, often sight unseen.

But none of those developments are actually new to the hobby.  We’ve always judged cards by their condition, and deep-pocketed, quality-conscious collectors have always paid top dollar for pristine examples of the hobby’s marquee cards.  Well-known collectors have always jockeyed to have the “best” collection.  All this happened long before the names that dominate today’s set registries became household names within our hobby.  Clear proof of this resides in long-time collectors’ knowledge of where the best “unregistered” collections lie, who has the “best” Wagners, Planks and Ruths outside the graded arena of the hobby.

1955 Topps Aaron Horiz FrontWhile assessing condition and creating competition among collectors for the hobby’s top sets aren’t developments that were invented by grading companies, there is one hobby area that grading has helped develop, if not singlehandedly invented: the pedigree.  All hobbyists agree that provenance is a critical component of collecting; tracking a card back to its original owner helps to trace a card’s lineage or create a virtual guarantee of authenticity (and reduces the likelihood of alteration along the way, in many cases).  Indeed, many collectors are willing to pay a premium for cards once owned by hobby pioneers such as Lionel Carter or Frank Nagy or Barry Halper.  Other collectors go out of their way to purchase cards once owned by a player.  Some collectors have begun collecting subsets of pedigreed cards, each memorializing a specific player, collector, or hobby event.  As more pedigreed cards enter the market, pedigreed card collecting is becoming more prevalent among collectors.

1948 Ruth Story Horiz FrontWe are pleased to offer a significant pedigreed card collection in our Winter, 2014 auction.  The collection includes many cards of all eras, owned by both hobby pioneers and significant figures in the game – collecting legends like Frank Nagy and Lionel Carter, as well as Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle and Bob Feller.  Many of the cards being offered are not necessarily super valuable cards in their own right, however, they are an important piece of hobby history with impeccable provenance.

E90-1 Jennings Nagy FrontTo add to their provenance, the majority of the cards we will be offering are part of the collection of noted collector, dealer, and friend to everyone Jay Wolt.  One of the most personable and lovable guys in the hobby, Jay has been a long-time collector of pedigreed cards, seeking out such cards as a student of hobby history.  Jay collects pedigreed cards due to their historical significance, recognizing that in many cases, the hobby and the players who play the game we love are closely intertwined.  As many are aware, Jay has been battling illness, and has decided to auction a large portion of his pedigreed card collection in an effort to defray medical expenses.  We have allocated a special section in our auction just for pedigreed cards, most of which have been a part of the Wolt Collection, as a way of recognizing the interesting nature of pedigreed cards, and also out of respect for Jay.  Jay is a long-time friend and mentor, and we – along with the entire hobby – are firmly in his corner as he fights his battle.

The auction will go live this week – stay tuned.

1954 Bowman Feller FrontE90-1 Jennings Nagy Front

The Babe Slept Here.

Babe Ruth Ball 4Every year about this time, PSA/DNA publishes their list of the ten “most dangerous” autographs.  By “most dangerous,” of course, they mean the autographs that are most at risk of fraud.  It’s no secret in the hobby that the autograph business, along with many other facets of sports memorabilia collecting, is rife with fraud and forgery, and PSA believes that the hobby’s biggest name – Babe Ruth – is also the most dangerous.  In fact, 60% of the Ruth signatures submitted to PSA for authentication are rejected as fraudulent.  When autographed Ruth items often bring six figures at public auction, authentication is critical.

Equally important, however, is provenance.  The provenance of a piece can provide documented evidence of authenticity, and in the process, add significantly to its value.  In fact, it is our opinion that authentication and provenance are as important as the attractiveness of the signature itself, particularly with a Ruth signature.  In the case of Babe Ruth, who signed autographs virtually every day of his adult life, provenance is paramount.  With more than half the Ruth signed balls deemed fraudulent, and well-preserved signed balls easily reaching into five figure range, tracing a ball back to its original owner becomes a key element in determining its value.

We are thrilled to offer this beautiful signed Babe Ruth baseball, authenticated by PSA/DNA, along with a letter and well-documented story from the ball’s original recipient.  Such ironclad provenance is rare in pieces such as this.

Upon Ruth’s retirement from baseball in 1938, he almost immediately took up the cause of raising money for the war effort by participating in various fundraisers.  One such event involved a well-publicized 1943 exhibition game at the Polo Grounds where Walter Johnson served up the last pitch that the Sultan of Swat would ever deposit over an outfield fence.  We offered a press photo documenting that game in a previous auction.

More often, however, Ruth’s philanthropic activities took the same form as that of today’s pro athlete: the celebrity golf tournament.  Ruth played frequently, as evidenced by the many pictures of The Babe out on the links.

Ruth golfing in Westport, CT in June, 1946

Ruth golfing in Westport, CT in June, 1946

Such an event took Ruth to the town of Westport, CT in late June of 1946, where at the behest of his friend, Dr. Vito Edward Caselnova (golf chairman at Westport’s Longshore Country Club), Ruth was to participate with New York Giants Hall of Fame halfback Ken Strong.  Ruth, along with his wife Claire and their boxer puppy, would stay with the Caselnova family for the entire week, playing golf at Longshore, talking with local Boy Scouts and visiting victims of a recent fire at a local hospital.  Ruth’s visit to Westport, along with his stay with Vito Caselnova and his family, was well-documented in local newspapers at the time.

The Longshore golf course still stands in Westport today, as do members of the Caselnova family.  It was young Kenneth Caselnova, the recipient of this signed baseball from the Great Bambino, who penned the notarized letter that accompanies the ball.  Among other stories Mr. Caselnova relates in his letter, is this one:

My parents spent the week having nightly dinner parties for Babe, Claire and friends.  In those days the lady of the house still wore aprons when they cooked.  I remember as clear as if it were yesterday, Babe walking right up to my mother in the morning, taking off her apron, putting it on and telling her “Move over Mrs. C, The Babe is making breakfast now!”  Breakfast consisted of eggs, Canadian bacon and toast.

Ruth signed several items that week for the members of the Caselnova family (along with, no doubt, most of Westport).  But the more poignant memory, as related by Caselnova’s letter, is a chilling one:

I remember Babe pulling cans of Budweiser out of my parents’ refrigerator, not to drink, but to subdue the headaches that he was experiencing in his eyes.

Those headaches were, by 1946, debilitating for Ruth, getting worse as the summer progressed.  By fall, Ruth’s face was swollen and he was unable to eat solid food, and by late 1946 he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  Sadly, the greatest player the game had ever known would be gone within two years.

Presented here is a spectacular memento of that week in Westport, where Babe Ruth entertained an entire town, raised the spirits of injured firefighters, raised money for charity, and left indelible memories with young Kenneth Caselnova.

Babe Ruth Ball 1The ball, authenticated by PSA/DNA, is inscribed “To Big Kenneth Caselnova From Babe Ruth” in Ruth’s unmistakeable handwriting.  The signature and inscription remain bold and clear nearly 70 years later, very visible with very little fading and no smudging.  The ball itself, while worn and toned with age, remains well-constructed, though any identifying stampings that may have once been on the ball are no longer visible.  While we do not attempt to grade autographs as we find that to be very subjective, this signature would clearly rate at the higher end of any grading scale.

This is an outstanding ball, one of the most spectacular items we’ve had the pleasure of handling at Love of the Game.  It is, of course, the stories, the history, and our ability to document names and events that we find most compelling, and this ball comes with history aplenty.  Along with the ball and PSA/DNA holder, the winning bidder will receive the LOA from PSA/DNA as well as the notarized, signed letter from Kenneth Caselnova, the recipient of this baseball, relating the fascinating story of how and when he received it.  Further documentation of Ruth’s June, 1946 visit to Westport and his stay with the Caselnova family is readily available online.

A spectacular ball, signed by the most famous player in the game’s storied history, remarkably well-preserved and with impeccable provenance.  Easily a cornerstone piece of even the most advanced, sophisticated collections.

Getting warmed up.

Okay, it’s cold.  Really cold; below zero throughout a good chunk of the United States.  We’re also smack dab in the middle of the NFL playoffs, hurtling towards the Big Game on February 3.

This also means it’s time to get “warmed up” for our Winter, 2014 auction, and it’s going to be a great one.  We’re loaded with special cards, memorabilia, and autographs, and we can’t wait to tell you all about them.

But we’ll start with this.


This is a spectacular collection of vintage football card display boxes, ranging from 1954 Bowman right through 1977 Topps Mexican.  While we can’t help but imagine what treasures might have been inside the packs that were once held in those boxes, we also think that the boxes themselves are pretty cool; featuring gorgeous graphics from Bowman, Fleer, Philadelphia, and Topps, each in fantastic condition for display, and many wrapped in cellophane and fitted with styrofoam inserts to fill out the box.  We’ll be offering most of the boxes individually or in small groups – while it’s a very cool collection, it’s also the type of thing we’d like everyone to have a chance at winning, so by keeping the lots small, we also keep them affordable.

There’s more than what is pictured in this photo, as well, with some additional graded boxes, as well as a few actual 1950s and 60s unopened packs (all PSA-graded, including a 1952 Bowman Large Wax pack), 1974 and 81 vending boxes, a 1935 National Chicle wrapper, and a rare box of 1977 Topps Mexican cards.

So we’re kicking off a Super auction with a Super group of football display materials.

We are feverishly taking photos, writing and proofing descriptions, and getting ready to present you with our best auction yet.  Stay tuned.  And stay warm.

Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.