Another Gehrig Bat – Coming in January!

Gehrig Bat - Long View We’re thrilled to bring you another Lou Gehrig game-used bat in our January auction, another beautiful Hanna Batrite, another new hobby discovery.

Our Summer sale of a 1930 Lou Gehrig Hanna Batrite bat produced a veritable avalanche of bats adorned with Gehrig’s name; store-models, post-career bats, even bats without any identifying markings whatsoever were all brought to our attention as potential Gehrig gamers for auction.  While we approach each potential consignment with enthusiasm, it was only natural that we approached an October phone call about a possible Gehrig Batrite bat with a bit of cynicism.  The caller, not a baseball fan but an antiques buff, had purchased his bat several decades ago at an antique shop.  The price: $20.

Gehrig Bat - Barrel BrandWe met the bat’s owner later that day in a coffee shop, ironically enough in the same town where we met the consignor of the Gehrig bat we offered in our last auction.  When he handed us the bat, it only took a few seconds for us to determine that the bat was the real thing – another Hanna Batrite model produced for the Iron Horse himself.

We know, at this stage, that the Hanna Manufacturing Company of Athens, GA produced baseball bats for professional use.  Of all the players we speculate may have used the company’s Batrite models, none are more definite than Lou Gehrig, who was called upon to testify in court during a lawsuit between Hillerich & Bradsby and Hanna.  As a result, Gehrig’s use of Hanna Batrite bats is well-documented, more so than with any other major leaguer.  In fact, in addition to Gehrig’s testimony, records available online from the National Archives clearly illustrate the correspondence between Gehrig and Robert Hanna of Hanna Manufacturing.  The correspondence, along with Gehrig’s testimony, clearly demonstrate that Gehrig used Hanna bats for a two-year period.  By reviewing Gehrig’s Hillerich & Bradsby Professional Bat Ordering Records (PBOR), we can identify that two-year period as being between 1929 and 1931.

We also know that Gehrig specifically requested that the weights of his bats be clearly marked on each bat.  This is a specific request that Gehrig made, of both Hillerich & Bradsby and of Hanna Manufacturing.  According to his testimony, Gehrig requested bats of varying weights, fluctuating between 36 and 40 ounces.  From his correspondence with Hanna, we can see that Gehrig typically ordered heavier bats during spring training and earlier in the season, gradually using lighter bats as the season progressed and the rigors of baseball’s arduous schedule wore him down.  Gehrig, in reference to his use of Hanna bats, stated “Two or three Batrite and Spalding bats were sent to me on trial, and I finally placed my orders with the Hanna Manufacturing Company.  I used the Batrite bats I obtained from Hanna Manufacturing Company a good majority of both years I used those bats.”

Gehrig Bat - KnobAs has been noted by John Taube of PSA/DNA, Hanna Manufacturing did not mark bat weights on their retail bats.  Retail bats were either left blank, marked with the bat length, or after 1930, marked with Hanna’s patent stamp.  Any Hanna Batrite bat marked with the weight in the knob is surely a professional bat.

This particular bat, weighing in at exactly 38 oz., is clearly marked as such in the bat knob.

What we find interesting about this bat is that, when compared with the correspondence between Gehrig and Hanna, we can see that in March of 1930, Gehrig appeared to refer specifically to these bats.  In one letter, Gehrig thanks Mr. Atwell of Hanna Manufacturing for the shipment of bats, but states that the bats seem very heavy.  He then orders eight new bats, in various weights, and again specifically asks that they be labeled with the weight.

On March 14 of 1930, Robert Hanna responds to Gehrig and states that the bats which were shipped to Gehrig all weighed between 38 and 39 ounces, and that those bats were meant for spring training and early season use.  Gehrig responded by telegram, ordering new bats with specific weights, each lighter than this 38-oz bat.  It is that March 17 telegram that we feel represented the order for the Hanna bat we sold in our Summer, 2015 auction.

Gehrig Bat - CenterbrandIf that bat was the result of Gehrig’s March 17, 1930 order, we believe this bat to be one of the original bats shipped to Gehrig by the Hanna Manufacturing Company in late 1929/early 1930.  The Hanna logo on the centerbrand would support this hypothesis, as the logo dates the bat to 1929.

The bat itself has received a thorough review by John Taube of PSA/DNA.  The weight is clearly stamped into the knob, and the bat itself has been treated with the identical finish to the Hanna bat we sold previously – something specifically requested by Gehrig in his correspondence.  The “TA” and “11 5” model identifiers are consistent with Gehrig’s model number, and the bat itself was prepared to the exact dimensions of Gehrig’s Louisville Slugger bats.  All this, along with the cleat impressions, slight ball marks and stitch impressions noted by PSA on the barrel, have resulted in a grade of PSA/DNA GU 7.

It should be noted that when we received the bat, it was wrapped in heavy tape from the knob to a spot several inches above the centerbrand, down the barrel – in other words, 2/3 of the bat was completely covered in tape.  Though we are typically not inclined to perform restoration work, the tape needed to be removed in order for us to see the bat’s model number – and while the removal of the tape revealed the correct model number for a Gehrig bat, it also revealed a handle crack, and left a coating of black tape residue.  As such, there has been professional restoration work performed on the bat, to remove the tape, as well as to repair the handle crack and a small crack in the knob.

The bat has an interesting marking at the end of the knob – the letter “B”, stamped in a large, block letter.  It is unknown what this represents, but according to the LOA, “The fact that the ‘B’ is branded may be a factory notation pertaining to the type of wood or finish.  We’re inclined to believe it does not pertain to a player’s initial especially with the knob only stamped with the weight and no other identifier.”  The quality of the stamp – clearly not an amateur marking – would support the supposition that it was likely done at the factory.

This is a beautiful bat.  The finish is a rich, reddish brown, and the wood is a very high-quality ash.  The bat is solid and clean, with very clearly identifiable cleat marks throughout.  Lou Gehrig game-used bats are exceedingly rare, and newly-discovered models are impossibly so.  Estimates are that there are fewer than 20 Gehrig bats known – approximately one Gehrig bat in existence for each Ruth bat.  Though our recent sale of a Lou Gehrig game-used bat has resulted in several such bats being sold at auction in the time since, it is important to understand that Gehrig bats are extraordinarily rare, and clean, attractive examples such as this even more so.  Thoroughly examined and vetted by John Taube of PSA/DNA, this is a brand-new hobby discovery, another beautiful bat with an extraordinary backstory, the classic “antique shop find” that yielded an impossibly rare treasure.

An incredible discovery

The name Lou Criger is one that is known to many deadball era enthusiasts; during his time he was considered one of the greatest catchers the game had known.  The Elkhart, Indiana native was the catcher for most of Cy Young’s wins, staying with the great pitcher during his time with Cleveland, St. Louis and Boston.  He was the Red Sox’ first catcher, and caught every inning in the first World Series.  Criger later revealed that during that series, he turned down a $12,000 offer from a gambler to call “soft pitches” during the Series.  Commissioner Ban Johnson, citing Criger’s honesty and integrity, established a pension fund for retired players – Criger was one of the first recipients.

Criger was our kind of guy.

Health issues plagued the catcher later in his life, as he lost a leg to tuberculosis in 1914 and ultimately relocated to Arizona to take advantage of the warm climate.

In 1930, the Boston Post newspaper hosted an Old-Timer’s Game at Braves Field in Boston, bringing together some of the greatest players ever to take the field.  Such luminaries as Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Ed Walsh, Honus Wagner, and Tris Speaker were present; the game’s first hit delivered by future Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins.

Criger Hi Res Photo

The beloved Criger, unfortunately, could not make the game due to illness, prompting the players to present the player with several mementos from the game, including a large, poster-sized certificate of appreciation which was signed by 49 deadball era figures.  The poster hung in the hallway in Criger’s Arizona home until he passed in 1934, and remained in the possession of his family until our visit to Arizona, where they graciously consigned it to our Winter auction.  It is the family’s desire that the piece find a home in a private collection, perhaps even in the Boston area, where Criger made his name.  The family also consigned a large panoramic photo from the day that was given to Criger by the photographer.

Criger Hi Res Certificate

It is our belief that reproductions of the poster were given to the participating players, as examples have occasionally been seen in the hobby.  For instance, when presenting the poster to James Spence Authentication for review, we were advised that their digital library of exemplars contained a copy.  Additionally, a black and white reproduction was featured in a recent Heritage auction.  However, the original has never been seen.

Until now.

We are thrilled to feature this amazing piece in our winter auction.  It is simply spectacular, measuring 20″ x 29″ in its original frame (likely framed some time after 1930).  Each of the signatures – a veritable “who’s who” of Boston baseball and T206-era history – is strong and bold, and crystal clear, with each measuring approximately 3″ long and nearly an inch high.  While some minor staining can be seen near the bottom of the poster (including what looks like a small tea or coffee drop), these signatures are simply amazing.

The hand-lettered message on the poster, written in calligraphy with red and silver accents, reads as follows:

In Appreciation Lou Criger

We want you to know, old pal, that none of us could forget you, that we were all thinking of you and praying for you as we gathered here in Boston for one more good time together.

God in his wisdom has seen fit to give us various burdens.  Yours has been heavy, but we know that you are giving it a grand and gallant fight, and we know you’ll come thru, for Lou Criger always fought it out until the last strike was called.

The only shadow on the day was the fact that you couldn’t be here, but since you couldn’t we, your old team mates, and the boys you played against, send you this expression of our affection.

The piece is then signed exquisitely by a “dream team” of deadball era players (and fans), each signature more striking and beautiful than the one before it:

Cy Young (HOF), Ty Cobb (HOF), Harry Hooper, Bill Carrigan, William Dinneen, Hugh Bedient, Jack Coombs, Nick Altrock (who added “Still Nutty – Hope you are OK” in the margin), James Collins (HOF), Fred Parent, Edd Roush (HOF), Chief Bender (HOF), Harry Gowdy, George “Candy” LaChance, Rube Oldring, Fred Tenney, Ed Walsh (HOF), Hobe Ferris, Dick Hoblitzell, Dode Paskert, Larry Gardner, Ralph Glaze, Larry Doyle, Emil Fuchs (Braves owner), Thomas Madden, Johnny Evers (HOF), Bill Bradley, Bill McKechnie (HOF), Kitty Bransfield, Fred Clarke (HOF), Jimmy Archer, Nuf Ced McGreevy, Fred Mitchell, Dave Shean, Bill Sweeney (the only signature that, signed in a lighter ink, has faded), Jeff Tesereau, Leslie Mann, Honus Wagner (HOF), Buck Freeman, Clyde Engle, Steve Yerkes, Tris Speaker (HOF), Duffy Lewis, “Smoky” Joe Wood, Ed Cunningham, Fred Hoey (who inscribed “cheerleader” in the margin), and three names we are still working to identify: “Stick Stick Lew Stick,” Joe Conway and Ed Cunningham.

Criger Sigs

This piece is simply incredible, an unbelievably high-end, one-of-a-kind piece that commemorates what may have been the last gathering of some of these Deadball Era greats all in one place.

We will undoubtedly be conducting plenty of research on this game and its players in the time leading up to our winter auction, but we couldn’t resist sharing this amazing piece with you right now.

And, of course, if you’ve got any information on Lew Stick, Joe Conway or Ed Cunningham, feel free to get in touch!

An incredible discovery.

Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League's New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.
Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League’s New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.

Easily our favorite part of running a sports auction is the research component.  Digging into the history of an item, a player or a team, and discovering some obscure detail that can improve a story or increase our knowledge is rewarding, challenging, and most importantly, fun.

This time, we’ve found something that’s never been found before, and it has an enormous impact on the key lot in our current auction.

Several weeks ago, we let you know about the Lou Gehrig game-used bat that would be featured in our summer auction.  It is an extraordinary piece with an incredible backstory, and it’s made lots of news since we announced it, appearing in a variety of articles in newspapers, magazines, and also on television.

While we were designing our catalog, however, we actively searched for a photo of Gehrig, holding a Batrite bat.  On the other occasions when Gehrig Batrites have sold at auction, the listings included a photo of Gehrig, selecting a bat from a bat tray that contained some post-1930 Batrite models, but we’d never found a photo of the Iron Horse with a Batrite featuring the “bat wing” logo.

Two weeks ago we discovered one, taken for the Chicago Daily News, featuring Gehrig alongside Bob Shawkey and Babe Ruth.  The photo depicted Gehrig clearly holding a “bat wing” bat, so much so that it could have been an ad for Hanna Batrite.  We reached out to the Chicago History Museum, who owns the rights to the photo, and procured a license.

What they sent us was astonishing: a 1200 DPI scan from the glass plate negative that illustrated the detail on the bat in a way we hadn’t seen before: the grain patterns on the bat appeared to be a match for the bat in our auction!

Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League's New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.
Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League’s New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.

This week we returned the bat to John Taube of PSA/DNA, who conducted a thorough examination of the bat, and arrived at the same conclusion: we had a photo match, and are in possession of the exact bat being held by Gehrig in the photo!

PSA/DNA found nine different points of reference on the subject bat with the bat in the photo, where the grain alignment of the barrel and centerbrand matched perfectly.  Like fingerprints, grain patterns are unique.  This new discovery increased the grade of the bat from PSA/DNA GU 8.5 to PSA/DNA GU 9.

This is the first and currently only Lou Gehrig professional model bat that has ever been photo matched.  Among the rarest pro model bats in the hobby, this photo match enables us to put this very bat in Gehrig’s hands in Comiskey Park in 1930, clearly establishing Gehrig’s use with photographic proof.  No Lou Gehrig bat exists with such impeccable provenance.

This extraordinary discovery could not have been made without help from the fine folks at the Chicago History Museum, or John Taube of PSA/DNA.  We are thrilled to offer this incredible bat, now dated to 1930, perhaps Gehrig’s finest offensive season.  How many of Gehrig’s 220 hits in 1930 were pounded by this bat?

Love of the Game Auctions Procures New-To-Hobby Gehrig Game-Used Bat

Historically Significant Piece to be Featured in Summer 2015 Auction

GREAT MEADOWS, N.J., May 6, 2015 – When picking a name that speaks to the term “baseball legend,” Lou Gehrig is a common choice. Similarly, when choosing a preferred store-behind-the-door self-defense weapon, a baseball bat frequently serves as a homeowner’s choice. But when a Gehrig game-used bat surfaces in the sports memorabilia hobby – particularly one that for decades did, indeed, sit just inside its owner’s front door for peace of mind – there is nothing ordinary about it.

Great Meadows-based Love of the Game Auctions (LOTG) today announced it has procured a game-used Gehrig bat that will be featured in its Summer 2015 auction. It is one of fewer than 20 known examples, according to PSA ProBatFacts. As such, this PSA/DNA-certified 1929-31 Hanna Batrite R2 measuring 35.5 inches and 37.5 ounces, graded GU 8.5, represents a rare, historically significant piece that already is garnering significant attention.

“This bat was given to the consignor decades ago by a family member of a former Yankee Stadium groundskeeper,” said LOTG’s Al Crisafulli, president of the internet-based sports auction house. “Though the consignor is a Yankee fan, the family is not a baseball family, and without knowledge of the bat’s value it was kept behind the front door for protection – for 30 years.”

Crisafulli added that the bat was nearly left behind during a move in the early 2000s, and a few years later was almost given to a neighborhood child who liked to play ball. “Really, it is amazing that this outstanding piece of memorabilia made it this far, and its history certainly adds color to the story. All that aside, it is gorgeous. It is important. And it is among the most exciting consignments with which an auction house can be entrusted.”

New Jersey's premier Product, Food, & Catalog Photography Studio serving Bergen, Passaic, and Morris counties in NJ and Rockland, Bronx & Orange counties NY.Henry Louis Gehrig (1903-1941), a New York Yankees great, is recognized as one of the game’s most dominant hitters. Also known as The Iron Horse due to his then-record 2,130 consecutive games played, he held the franchise record for the most hits – 2,721 – until Derek Jeter tied it in 2009 (at which point the LOTG consignor considered sending the bat to Jeter as a congratulatory gift in the hopes of scoring some free Yankees tickets). His game-used bats rank among the hobby’s five most desirable for collectors, according to PSA, sharing that distinction with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson.

According to Crisafulli, early word of the consignment has been met with strong enthusiasm. “Beyond its significant value, this is the kind of item that makes baseball fans of all ages feel like kids again,” he said. “Everyone wants to hold this bat – which once belonged to a true American sports legend.”

LOTG’s summer auction will open in late July and run through early August. Crisafulli added that the Gehrig bat will share the spotlight with a growing – and impressive – lineup of featured items including a beautiful 1909-11 T206 near set, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle graded PSA EX 5, a beautiful selection of higher-grade N173 Old Judge Hall of Famer cabinet cards, and much, much more. For more information, visit www.loveofthegameauctions.com.

Could this be Jim Thorpe’s first medal?

Thrope RPPC FrontA few days ago we posted about a pair of real photo postcards featuring Jim Thorpe and his friends at the Carlisle Indian School, circa 1908.  In researching the postcard we had identified the sender of the postcards as Joe Charley, who wrote notes to his sisters on each of the two postcards – one to his sister Fannie, and one to Bessie, each of whom had been former students of the school.  The postcards were mailed on June 4, 1908.  Charley, as we noted, eventually became Chief Joe Charley of the Yakama tribe.

We were very excited to identify Charley in the photo, and to trace Charley and his sisters from their time at the Carlisle school til their later lives.

What we also noticed, however, was that Jim Thorpe was wearing some sort of medal pinned to his tie.

In our research, we learned that Thorpe won a gold medal in the Penn Relays for the high jump, and speculated that since the Penn Relays were in the Spring and the postcards were mailed on June 4, maybe that medal was Thorpe’s gold medal.

Now, just a couple of weeks later, we’re reasonably convinced that it is.

According to Jim Thorpe: A Biography by William A. Cook, Thorpe went out for the track team at the Carlisle Indian School in 1908.  The coach was “Pop” Warner (who also coached the football team).  That Spring, Warner challenged Thorpe, telling him that if he could clear 5 feet, 10 1/2 inches in the high jump, that he would bring Thorpe with him to the Penn Relays.  Thorpe jumped 5 feet, 11 inches.

Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, the Penn Relays are the oldest amateur track and field competition in the country, dating back to 1895.  On April 25, 1908, Thorpe competed in the high jump, and to our knowledge it was his first significant amateur match.  His 6 foot, 1 inch jump was good enough to tie him for first, and a coin flip awarded him the gold – to our knowledge, his first track and field award.

Thorpe would continue to dominate during the rest of the track season, trying for (but not qualifying) the Olympic games. That summer, Thorpe joined the Carlisle baseball team.  The timing of these postcards’ mailing – June 4, 1908 – coincides with Thorpe’s rise to national prominence, just six weeks or so after his Penn Relays victory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom what we can gather, the Penn Relays have always awarded a similar medal.  Here’s one from the late 1920s that we found online.

The image of the medal in the photo is very small.   The ribbon on Thorpe’s medal appears identical to that which we’ve seen on virtually every vintage Penn Relays medal we’ve found online.  The dimensions of the medal itself relative to the ribbon also seem very similar.  But what about the medal itself?  In the postcards, it’s awfully small to see any of the detail.

We scanned the postcards at 1200 DPI and enlarged them, and in each image the medal appeared quite blurry.  But we then cropped the best of the two images of the medal itself and enhanced the detail of the image, and the result was quite interesting.  While it’s impossible to see detail, the shadows and raised areas on the medal are consistent with the design of the Penn Relays medal.

By changing the perspective of an actual Penn Relays medal and overlaying it on top of the Thorpe medal, then animating the two, you can see what we mean.

Thorpe

While we cannot enhance the image further, prohibiting us from being 100% positive, we are reasonably convinced that Thorpe is wearing his Penn Relays medal in both photographs.  We have been unsuccessful in finding other images of Thorpe wearing this medal, the first significant athletic award of his legendary career.  All that being said, it is entirely possible that these two postcards are among the only images  depicting one of the greatest of American athletes, wearing the first of his many athletic awards.

c. 1908 Jim Thorpe Postcard pair

Before beginning today’s blog entry, a quick update on the “Name That Player” contest: Keep the guesses coming (but please, try and include photographic proof).  We’ve gotten a lot of suggestions, but thus far just one or two that we think might be possibilities.  And perhaps one guess of our own, that hasn’t been suggested yet.

Now, on to the next featured piece.

Thrope RPPC FrontIn 1907, a young Jim Thorpe tried out for the football team at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, PA.  Thorpe had enrolled at the school in 1904 but was too small to play on the varsity team.  In 1907, Thorpe tried out for the team whose coach, Glenn “Pop” Warner, was impressed with Thorpe’s running ability and the rest was history, as Thorpe graduated and became an Olympic athlete and professional multi-sport superstar.  

Already a star athlete at the school, these two photographs were taken of the young Thorpe and some of his friends at the Carlisle Indian School in 1908.  One of them, Joe Charley (eventually Chief Joe Charley of the Yakama Indian tribe), mailed these two postcards to his sisters Fannie and Bessie, each former students of the Carlisle Indian School, on June 4, 1908.  

The photos depict four well-dressed young men, posing smartly for the camera (it is our belief based on future photos of Joe Charley available online in full Native American regalia, that Charley is the smallest of thre four men, with the dark necktie).  The unmistakeable Thorpe wears a pinstripe suit and straw hat.  Most interesting about the photos is that, under magnification, Thorpe has some sort of medal pinned to his tie, and a ribbon of some sort on his jacket pocket.  Could these be some early athletic awards?  Perhaps.  In the spring of 1908 Thorpe won a gold medal in the Penn Relays for a 6’1″ high jump, and won several other track and field awards during that spring.

The images in both postcards are sharp with beautiful contrast, with some edge and corner wear to both.  One of the two postcards exhibits some surface indentation along the edges consistent with once having been framed, and obviously, both have been postally used.  Additionally, both have remnants on the reverse of having once been mounted in some sort of album.  Still, these are two spectacular images of a young Jim Thorpe, likely both unique, at the very start of what would become a legendary athetic career.

CONTEST: Name The Player

Wagner PC

Time for a contest.

In our upcoming auction, we’ll be featuring this absolutely spectacular postcard.  It depicts three players, horsing around on the baseball field during Spring Training, an image we feel truly illustrates the ideas behind “Love of the Game.”

The postcard came from Honus Wagner’s estate.  There are handwritten notes underneath the three players – underneath Wagner, it looks to read “Hans.”  Underneath Hall of Fame manager Fred Clarke, it reads “Clark.”

Underneath the guy in the middle, it appears to read “Alpean.”

Some have concluded that the guy in the middle is Dodgers infielder Whitey Alperman.  We struggle with that, because A) the player looks nothing like Whitey Alperman to us, and B) Whitey Alperman was with the Dodgers.  Though the player does have a “B” on his sleeve, and the Brooklyn Dodgers also trained in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the Pirates trained, we think there’s a good chance he’s wearing a Pirates uniform (the Pirates had a “PBC” logo on their sleeves, for “Pittsburgh Baseball Club.”).

The player looks awfully familiar.  Can you name him?

If you can name him, and provide us with photographic proof, we will give you a TWO HUNDRED DOLLAR credit for spending in our Spring auction.  The rules?  Simple.  A) We have to agree with you.  B) You have to win something in the auction, and we’ll discount your price by $200.  C) You need to be a registered bidder in order to play.  Send your answers with photographic proof to info at loveofthegameauctions dot com. First correct answer wins.

Meanwhile, check out this awesome postcard.

Between 1901 and 1913, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent their spring training weeks in Hot Springs, Arkansas, preparing for each upcoming season.  The team trained and played its exhibition games at Whittington Park, springtime home to several other teams including the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This postcard, featuring Pittsburgh Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke, flanking an unknown third player, exemplifies all the excitement of spring training.  The happiness in their faces as they horse around for the cameras is a stark contrast the the majority of photos depicting the two Hall of Famers.  Perhaps that’s why this postcard was initially auctioned as part of Honus Wagner’s personal belongings when parts of his estate were sold several years ago.

The medicine ball in the background tipped us off that the photo was likely taken during spring training but it was our stadium expert Tom Daley who was able to quickly identify the ballpark as Whittington Park based on the grandstand behind home plate and the trees on the hill beyond the third base line. The postcard, which is postally unused and displays wonderfully, appears in EX condition save for handwriting on the bottom of the image, identifying the players.

Despite this handwriting, we are unable to identify the player in the center (we are fairly certain he is not Whitey Alperman, as some have speculated).  The uniform could be a Brooklyn or Pittsburgh uniform (the Pirates players had uniforms with a “PBC” logo on the left sleeve).  Regardless, the photo is easily our favorite item in this auction – a picture of three pro ballplayers (including one of the greatest ever), hamming it up for the camera, smiling in anticipation of the upcoming season, truly demonstrating their Love of the Game.

1935 National Chicle Nagurski

1935 Chicle Nagurski FrontThe 1935 National Chicle football set is undoubtedly one of the most popular and certainly one of the most important football sets ever manufactured.  The set contains some of the game’s bigest names, and includes the first card of virtually every key subject in the set.  The issue’s colorful art deco design was typical of the day’s contemporary art, and the popular design was repeated by National Chicle in their “Diamond Stars” baseball set of 1934-36 as well as their Sky Birds cards of 1933.

What makes the 1935 Chicle football set so important, however, is the inclusion of the card we present here: the first card of Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski.

The 1935 National Chicle Bronko Naguski has been widely established as the most valuable and important football card in the hobby.  Clearly the key to this set, the card achieved this notoriety because it is the first card of the well-known Hall of Famer and famous pro wrestler, and also because it comes from the set’s ultra-scarce high number series.  There is no question that this is the most important and highly sought-after football card in existence.

Presented here is a clean, midgrade example of the card, boasting strong color and image clarity.  Slightly off-center from left to right, with pronounced corner wear, the card is accurately graded at this level, yet presents very strongly for the assessed condition.

A 1935 National Chicle Nagurski is an iconic card that transcends the football hobby altogether, taking its place among the most iconic cards in any sport.  One of the most difficult to obtain football cards, mid and high-grade Nagurskis do not frequently change hands; they are very scarce and desirable and the hobby’s best examples are locked up in elite collections.  Rarely does even a midgrade specimen make itself available to the hobby.  One of the most important sports cards this great hobby has to offer.

The Most Valuable Postwar Football Card

1952 Bowman Large Lansford FrontOne of football card collecting’s most desirable rarities, the 1952 Bowman Large Jim Lansford serves as both the player’s rookie card, a short print, and the last card in the set.  The 1952 set was rife with short-printed cards, a result of printing larger cards on standard-sized press sheets.  Coupled with the tale of large quantities of the Lansford card being destroyed during production, the resulting scarcity and legend have made this the hobby’s most valuable postwar football card.

Just six examples have been graded NM-MT 8 by PSA, with only two higher.  This specimen boasts crisp color and wide borders, centered just a hair off from top to bottom but otherwise pristine.  With three of the known 8s residing in the top three all-time registry sets, the likelihood of another example in this grade appearing at public auction in the near future is slim.  A cursory internet search will reveal very few examples of this card sold in any grade, PSA 7s reaching into the thousands and no “straight” PSA 8 example having sold in years.  A wonderful example of the hobby’s most valuable postwar football card.