Baseball signed by Hall of Fame's first class sets auction record

A baseball signed by 11 of 12 living enshrinees at the Hall of Fame’s first induction ceremony in 1939 in Cooperstown, N.Y., sold Saturday night for a record $623,369, the auction house confirmed.

The ball was signed by who’s who of early baseball: Connie Mack, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, George Sisler, Eddie Collins, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth.

Lou Gehrig, alive but terminally ill, was inducted into the Hall that year but was too sick to attend the ceremony and, thus, didn’t sign the ball. 

It was sold by SCP Auctions for $623,369, nearly doubling the previous record.

The autographs were collected by White Sox third baseman Marv Owen, who “(u)pon his return home with this souvenir of a lifetime … stored the ball in a fur-lined glove in a safe deposit box,” where it was kept until he died in 1991, according to the auction catalog description:

“The ball remains today as stunning as it was on that June afternoon in 1939 after Owen walked it around to each Hall of Famer and asked them to sign it. Its most astonishing trait is the convergence on one side panel of what can be called the “Holy Trinity” of baseball icons: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner.​”

“The sheer greatness of this ball is simply unrivaled,” SCP Auctions president David Kohler said in a statement (via “Its historical importance compounded by the impeccable provenance and state of preservation elevate it to singular status as the most important and valuable autographed baseball in the world. The final price certainly proved this.”

The identity of the buyer was not made public. 

The previous auction record for a signed baseball was one signed by Ruth that sold for $388,375 in 2012.

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