A CHILDHOOD DREAM

Ruth Lot AOf the many items that we have offered for sale in our auctions, it could be that this one is our favorite.  It may not have the panache of a T206 Wagner or a Babe Ruth jersey, but it is likely the only one of its kind, and it represents everything that made baseball the national pastime in its earliest days.

Picture this: the year is 1934, and a 10-year-old boy listening to the radio learns about a contest involving Babe Ruth.  First prize, a trip to Florida with Ruth for Spring Training, seems out of reach.  But perhaps by entering, he can win a lesser prize, like a baseball or a glove.

A few weeks later, young Gerard Knapp of Menands, NY receives a letter from the Babe himself, telling him he’s qualified for the “World Series Finals” of his contest.  By simply choosing an “all-star” team and explaining why he’s chosen the players he had, he could be one of just fifty boys to accompany the Sultan Of Swat to Florida.  And on March 5, the young boy receives a Western Union Telegram from the Babe, that he won the contest and would be traveling to Florida!  Alone, without his parents, but accompanied by “experienced leaders.”

Everything about this sets off alarm bells with even the least experienced parents, but 1934 was a different time, and this really happened.  Every piece of this lot was saved by the Knapp family, chronicling the young boy’s adventure, from his entry into the contest, his instructions on how the trip would work, and even the newspaper article announcing “Menands Boy Will Be Guest of Babe Ruth in Florida Camp.”

The entire lot contains 14 pieces that chronicle the young boy’s entrance into the contest (which, we learn, was sponsored somehow by Standard Oil), his winning, the telegram from Babe Ruth himself (!), the entire itinerary for their time in Florida.  It even includes a postcard from young Knapp to his family back in New York.  Our upcoming catalog and auction description will describe each of the 14 pieces in detail.

The 1934 Spring Training was particularly newsworthy, as much news was made of Babe Ruth’s physical conditioning.  It would be Ruth’s final Spring in a Yankee uniform, and the 40-year-old superstar reflected on his career often, in a host of news stories across the country.   On March 25 of that spring, Ruth hit a home run off Boston’s Huck Betts that was measured as having traveled an amazing 624 feet – just two days after leaving the company of young Gerard Knapp and 49 other boys who were winners of the radio contest.

An outstanding document, chronicling the excitement of winning a chance to spend time with the greatest player of all-time, the leap of faith that parents took in putting their children on a train with strangers, and a detailed itinerary of what was likely one of Gerard Knapp’s greatest memories.

Ruth Lot C

Ruth Lot M

CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEBSITE!

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Lots going on here at Love of the Game.

First and foremost, we’ve got a brand-new website.  Believe it or not, it’s been nearly five years since we launched LOTG, and while we’ve been working really hard on presenting quality auctions and designing beautiful, useful auction catalogs, we haven’t spent a whole lot of time on our website.  So, it was time.

Our new website is much cleaner and easier to use than our last one (though we loved the last one when we launched it, web technology has changed quite a bit over the last five years).  We wanted a way to present you with the most important information right up front, in a way that you couldn’t miss it, so we created a dominant home page graphic with a clear headline.  We also wanted a way to make it easier for you to get in touch with us about consignments, so we placed that information in an easy-to-find place.  And we also wanted to create a way for non-registered bidders to sign up to receive our email updates, so we added that technology right to the home page.

We also updated the actual auction software, changing the layout dramatically to incorporate longer lot titles (so you can see what each lot is more easily), and enabling you to add items to your watch list without having to click through to that item.

More importantly, we incorporated two brand new pieces of technology into the auction, to make bidding easier and more user-friendly:

  1. Our entire website, including the auction catalog page and individual lot pages, are now mobile-friendly.  This means that it is much easier for you to view the auction and place bids from your mobile device or tablet.  Next auction, give it a try!
  2. We’ve added a new feature to the site – you now have the ability to receive your outbid notices by text message!  It is our hope that this feature helps to un-tether you from your desktop computer on auction night.  Now, you’ll be able to configure your account so that instead of waiting for outbid emails or refreshing the page, you can simply get a text message if you’re outbid on a lot, and then increase your bid right from your mobile phone.  No more waiting up all night in case you’re outbid!

Of course, we realize that not everybody wants to receive their outbid notices on their cellphone, so we set it up so that you actually have to turn this feature on yourself.  To set it up, simply follow these steps:

  1. Log into your account.
  2. Click “Edit User Information.”
  3. Add your cell phone number in the “Cell Phone” box.
  4. Click “Receive Outbid Text Messages”
  5. Choose your cell phone company from the drop-down menu
  6. Click “Submit.”

That’s it.  It’s that simple, and you can change it any time, just by un-clicking the “Receive Outbid Text Messages” box.

Our Spring auction is right around the corner.  The photo above includes many of the items you’ll see (and yes, that’s a Gehrig rookie, and a Voskamp Coffee Wagner, and a 1923-24 Exhibit Babe Ruth).  This auction includes another outstanding assortment of type cards, 19th Century cards and memorabilia, plus a large run of Felix Mendelsohns, a huge assortment of Exhibits (including tons of Ruths, Gehrigs, and Cobbs), and more T210s than we have ever seen in one place.  For you postwar collectors, we have an enormous assortment of signed 1952 Topps (more than 400!), a stunning Roberto Clemente collection, and a beautiful grouping of 1950-52 Bowman Yankees, Dodgers and Giants.  Keep coming back for more details – catalogs will mail in late March!

“STOCKTON FIND” OF RARE CRACKER JACK BASEBALL CARDS TO BE FEATURED IN LOVE OF THE GAME FALL AUCTION

Newly-discovered horde of rare baseball cards to be auctioned November 19 

1915-cj-30-cobb-frontHACKETTSTOWN, N.J., October 31, 2016 – Beginning in 1908, when “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” became one of the year’s most popular songs, the Cracker Jack brand has been synonymous with baseball.  Today, the company’s baseball cards are likely to provide a New Jersey family with a six-figure windfall.

Love of the Game Auctions, a Hackettstown, NJ-based sports memorabilia auction company, will be auctioning a group of more than 170 newly-discovered 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack cards, including ultra-valuable cards of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.  The cards were discovered by a family who inherited them from a favorite uncle in 2002, in a box of assorted personal belongings.

“A find like this is a rare occurrence,” explained Auction Director Al Crisafulli.  “In 1914 and 1915, Cracker Jack included baseball cards as the ‘prize’ inside each box.  They were tremendously popular when they were issued, but they’re very scarce today, especially the 1914 cards.  Some collectors speculate that fewer than a dozen complete 1914 sets exist in the entire hobby.  The Christy Mathewson alone is a $20,000 card.”

The cards were initially collected by a South Dakota boy named Oliver, who at 9 or 10 years old, bought as many boxes of Cracker Jack as he could afford, tucking the cards away into his growing collection.  Oliver, like many of us, eventually outgrew his baseball cards, but his mother didn’t throw them away – she packed them away in a box of his personal memorabilia, which included old report cards, Playbills, and letters.  Along with other heirlooms, the box was passed down through Oliver’s family over the years, eventually landing in the sleepy town of Stockton, New Jersey with his descendants in 2002 – where it remained unopened until this past summer.

The family reached out to Love of the Game Auctions due to the company’s reputation for handling significant sports memorabilia finds.  “The family had done their homework,” explained Crisafulli.  “There isn’t much historical precedent with collections like this when it comes to establishing value.  They took the time to understand what they had, how to properly assess their condition, and the best way to sell them.  They took great care to make the right decision when it came to selling the cards.  I’m thrilled that they chose Love of the Game to auction the collection.”

The cards, all of which have been professionally authenticated and graded by industry leader Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), will be sold as part of Love of the Game’s Fall Auction.

“The cards are unbelievably clean,” stated Crisafulli.  “They’ve got some normal wear, because young Oliver clearly loved them and played with them as a boy – but once they were packed away, they didn’t see the light of day for the better part of a century.  Almost all the important cards are included – it’s the largest ‘original owner’ collection of Cracker Jacks we’ve ever seen.”

According to Crisafulli, early word of the consignment has been met with strong enthusiasm. “Beyond its significant value, this is the kind of collection that makes baseball fans of all ages feel like kids again,” he said. “Everyone knows Cracker Jack – it’s one of the oldest and most respected American brands.  Everyone knows players like Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson – they bring us back to a more innocent time.  It’s a truly fantastic and rare find.”

LOTG’s call auction will open in early November and run through November 19. Crisafulli added that the Cracker Jack collection will share the spotlight with an impressive lineup of featured items including Christy Mathewson’s World War I garment bag, a beautiful 1909-11 T206 near set, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle graded SGC VG 40, a beautiful selection of 19th Century baseball cards, and much, much more. For more information, visit www.loveofthegameauctions.com.

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Two auctions at once? You betcha!

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Next week, in addition to our eagerly-anticipated Fall Premier Auction, we will be launching our inaugural Ringside Auction, which features approximately 250 lots of boxing-specific cards and memorabilia.

The auction was curated in conjunction with Adam Warshaw, author of America’s Great Boxing Cards.  Adam helped with lotting and descriptions, and we’re really enthusiastic about the result, which features some truly special boxing material.

One of the items we’re most excited about is an American Caramel E125 Jack Johnson.  Graded AUTHENTIC by PSA, this is one of just three examples known, and the first to be graded by PSA.  It, along with a host of other cards, is part of the PSA Set Registry’s #2 Jack Johnson set, which we’ll be offering in this auction.

The auction will launch at the same time as our Premier auction, but will close one week after – the closing date is Saturday, November 26.  Catalogs will mail together.  Be on the lookout!

 

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Christy Mathewson’s Military Garment Bag

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Of all the players of the Deadball Era, Christy Mathewson is among the most revered among hobbyists.  The legend of the “Christian Gentleman” as exactly that – a college educated gentleman, playing a sport at the time often reserved for miscreants, led him to be one of the most popular and well-liked players of his era.  During the War, Mathewson enlisted in the US Army, and was appointed a Captain in the Chemical Warfare Service (along with fellow ballplayers Ty Cobb and Branch Rickey). The tragic 1918 accident that resulted in Mathewson’s exposure to mustard gas during a training excercise certainly shortened his life; eight soldiers died that day but Mathewson and Cobb escaped with their lives.  

Memorabilia from Mathewson’s time in the military has filtered its way throughout the hobby over the years; this is one of the most significant pieces we have encountered: Mathewson’s military garment bag.  Emblazoned with Mathewson’s name, rank and “C.W.S.,” this outstanding relic is constructed of durable cloth with a heavy leather handle, and measures approximately 28″ x 50″ with multiple pockets, straps, and spaces for the Captain’s uniform and garments.  Indeed, Mathewson’s clothing likely accompanied him to France in late 1918 in this very bag – and returned home with him after the accident which ultimately cut his life short.

The bag itself is in ourstanding condition, with normal wear and tear related to its age and usage, including multiple pronounced, visible stains throughout.  Mathewson’s printed name and the CWS insignia are printed clearly on the front pocket.  We have also included a 6″ x 9″ photo of Mathewson in his military uniform – likely a Type II photo of vintage origin, marked 1922 on the reverse.

One of the more remarkable items we have had the pleasure of offering, a piece that bridges the life of one of the game’s greatest ever ballplayers with the branch of the US Army in which he served, to which ultimately gave his life.  A wonderful, museum-quality piece, coming soon in our Fall Premier Auction.

Al Kaline’s Last Bat

635682646352205376-01-Kaline-final-at-batDennis Clotworthy’s outstanding book Al Kaline’s Last Bat Boy is a wonderful memoir of his growing up around the Detroit Tigers, filled with warmth and humor, and fascinating anecdotes about his time as the team’s batboy in the early 1970s.  During the 1974 season, Clotworthy witnessed the end of an era, with the release of fan favorite Norm Cash, Kaline’s 3,000th hit, and of course, his final at bat.  That at bat occurred on October 2 against the Baltimore Orioles and was, by all accounts, unceremonious.  Kaline was DH in that game, and was nursing a shoulder injury, and after his second at bat (a lineout to left), removed himself from the game.  Clotworthy’s account of that final game included this recollection:

“Mr. Kaline simply took a seat in the dugout about midway along the bench.  He had his Tiger warmup jacket on over his uniform.  The stadium was eerily quiet, and he was motionless as he stared out over the dugout steps and straight out toward right field where he had roamed for the past 22 seasons.  Bill Fundaro and I respectfully kept our conversation to a quiet minimum.  You could see that Mr. Kaline was taking it all in just one more time before he left the dugout.  I actually felt sad for him.  It was like a loss, an ending, no tomorrow.  After maybe about ten minutes, he came out of what seemed almost like a trance and began to look around to other areas of the stadium.  It was time for him to leave the dugout and go into the tunnel that led to the clubhouse and join his teammates.

Kaline Bat Barrel BrandNow, what happened next is way beyond me.  At least it’s certainly nothing I planned.  How I got the nerve to ask my question right at that moment, I’ll never know, but ask I did.  Maybe it was plain old genius on my part.  Anyway, as Kaline slowly got up from the bench and slowly headed toward the dugout tunnel, I asked, “Mr. Kaline, may I have one of your bats as a keepsake?”

He smiled, looked at me and simply said, “Sure.”

Well, at that point, opportunity certainly had knocked for me.  There were two of his bats still in the bat rack, along with the bats of maybe five or six other players.  I had purposely not put his away, because I had intended to ask him for one of his bats early in the game when it wasn’t such a final, final thing.  There were two bats, so which one do you think I pulled out of the bat rack and kept for myself?  Yep, I took the one he used when he flew out to left field in his second at bat of the game.”

Kaline Bat KnobPresented here is that bat, the cornerstone of the wonderful Dennis Clotworthy Collection of Detroit Tigers memorabilia.  The uncracked bat is in outstanding condition, a 1973-75 Louisville Slugger measuring 34.5″ in length and weighing 31.1 ounces.  The bat exhibits outstanding signs of use, including several ball marks and stitch impressions, along with an impression from a weighted batting donut.

The bat was signed by Kaline, and subsequently inscribed by Kaline with the date “Oct 2, 1974.”  The account of this is also included in Clotworthy’s book.  The bat itself, coupled with Clotworthy’s account of that final game, have resulted in an outstanding grade of GU 10 by John Taube of PSA/DNA.  Included with the bat and LOA is a signed and notarized letter from Clotworthy, along with a copy of his wonderful book.

Al Kaline is one of the most beloved figures in Detroit Tigers history, his 3,000th hit a milestone still fondly remembered by fans (remember, in 1974, 3,000 hits was an even more momentous achievement than it is today; Kaline was only the 12th player in baseball history and the first player in 49 years to reach that plateau).  His 1974 retirement truly was the end of an era, and he continues to be an icon not only in Detroit, but for baseball fans everywhere.

We are thrilled to offer this outstanding document of “Mr. Tiger” and his stellar, Hall of Fame career.  Full LOA from John Taube of PSA/DNA.

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T210 Old Mill Casey Stengel

T210 Stengel FrontAlong with the Series 8 card of Shoeless Joe Jackson, the Casey Stengel card is one of the two key rarities of the T210 Old Mill issue.  The first pro card of the future “Old Professor” is depicted here as an outfielder with the Maysville Rivermen of the Blue Grass League.  Stengel would play three minor league seasons with nine different teams prior to launching his legendary major league career with Brooklyn in 1912.

Culled from the issue’s sixth series, the Stengel is an extreme rarity, with approximately 15 examples known.  Due to its extreme rarity and desirability, the card rarely appears at public auction; we can find just three examples to come to auction in as many years.

Graded GOOD 30 by SGC, the card presents far better than many examples from the issue.  Some corner wear and edge chipping are present throughout, with a heavy crease traversing the front of the card from left-to-right, along the bottom third of the card.  Despite the crease being heavy, it is relatively unobtrusive due to its location on the card.  The reverse is clean, but off center.

One of the more widely desirable cards of all the tobacco issues, and certainly one of the more rare, the “rookie” card of Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel, one of the game’s most popular and lovable figures.