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A Sports Auction for the Ages Slides in to Heritage Auctions in November

Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 18-20 Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction, is open for bidding!  “There’s a bit of magic to it,” said a recent visitor to Heritage Auctions as he eyed, with awe and reverence, the gray jersey adorned with “NEW YORK” on the front and “7” on the back. The slightly soiled, sweat-stained top belonged, of course, to Mickey Mantle – the No. 7. Of this, there is no doubt: It has been validated by myriad authentication and grading services. Mantle had also signed the jersey – inside, near the collar – just below the embroidered “M. Mantle.”

He wore it on the road during the 1954 season, his first in which he drove in more than 100 runs. The Mick also batted .300 that year, his fourth as a New York Yankee and his first full season back from injury. 1956 might have been Mantle’s “biggest year,” as he would later write. But ’54 was the season he began ascending from mere mortal to The Mick.

This historic jersey is but one centerpiece in a November event stacked with items either from or featuring immortals, legends, hall-of-famers, all-stars and countless other sports heroes whose doings made transcended their respective fields of play. This auction features several players’ collections, among them those from Mr. Tiger Al Kaline, St. Louis Cardinals great Lou Brock, Los Angeles Rams’ Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood, and Scott Williams, a member of the first Chicago Bulls team to win a title.

There are more than 4,200 lots in Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 18-20 Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction, ranging from iconic cards to important memorabilia, among them players’ uniforms and tools, their championship rings, their signed contracts and autographed balls, tickets to their landmark moments. The auction spans more than a century’s worth of sports history – and includes some items from moments that meant more than mere wins and losses.

Look no further than this extraordinary item that has never before been to auction: the pitching rubber from Yankee Stadium used during the 2001 World Series, which had been delayed that fall following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This is the very rubber from which President George W. Bush, clad in an FDNY jacket over a bulletproof vest, threw the ceremonial (and emotional) first pitch before Game 3.

As Bush recalled in the ESPN short film First Pitch, shortly before he took the field, Derek Jeter asked the president if he planned on throwing from in front of the pitcher’s mound. Bush said that during warm-ups Jeter warned him, “It’s Yankee Stadium, you better throw on top of the mound or else they’ll boo ya.” Bush took the advice to heart, along with one more thing Jeter added as the shortstop walked away: “Don’t bounce it, or they’ll boo ya.”

As Bush said in First Pitch, “The gravity of that moment never really hit me until the first step comin’ out of that dugout. I remember that noise. It was deafening. I remember looking out at that stadium, at this giant crowd.”

Bush threw a perfect strike over home plate.

“The place just went berserk,” actor Billy Crystal says in the documentary. “This is a moment when the politics go away.”

Shortly after the end of that season, Yankee Stadium’s playing surface underwent a major renovation, which necessitated the removal of the pitching rubber, which was gifted to a close friend of the Yankees organization. Dan Cunningham, the team’s head groundskeeper, signed and dated the rubber in black Sharpie. Three pitchers from that team also signed the cement-weighted rubber: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

“There are thousands of items in this auction, each one significant for any number of reasons, each one an absolute thrill and honor to offer,” says Chris Ivy, president and founder of Heritage Sports. “That pitching rubber is in so many ways emblematic of much of the memorabilia being offered in this event – an item that tells an incredible and important story that resonates far longer than a fleeting headline.”

Indeed, from Yankee Stadium comes another breathtaking offering: Joe DiMaggio’s jersey worn during the 1946 home-opener by The Yankee Clipper himself, who later signed the pinstriped garment.

That year was no “regular” regular season for Joltin’ Joe: He had spent the previous three seasons in the U.S. Army Air Forces, having enlisted on Feb. 17, 1943, and eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. By the time he returned to New York, he was something of a question mark – which was answered during the very game in which he wore this uniform, as he bashed three hits during five at-bats, among them a double to left in the bottom of the ninth that tied the game against the Washington Senators. The Yanks wound up winning in front of the more than 54,000 in attendance for DiMaggio’s long-awaited return home.

As with the Mantle jersey, DiMaggio’s name is stitched into the collar, beneath which the Clipper signed his name. Just as significantly, Resolution Photomatching used a photo of the slugger posing with Joe Jr. in the Yankees dugout before that very game to provide what the catalog calls “the most ironclad assurance of authenticity possible.”

There are other jerseys from baseball immortals, among them: a 1956 Stan Musial game-worn and signed St. Louis Cardinals jersey, which was worn only during that season; and a photo-matched Harmon Killebrew game-worn Minnesota Twins jersey from the franchise’s debut season in 1961. But here, too, is a basketball legend’s collegiate tank top: the LSU Tigers jersey worn by “Pistol” Pete Maravich during the 1969-70 season.

A Heritage sports auction would be incomplete without museum-quality signed balls, and this one is certainly no exception. This event features two of the most coveted signatures in baseball history, each attributed to landmark moments.

From 1924 comes a World Series ball signed by Walter Johnson, who, three years later, would retire after 21 seasons spent hurling for the Washington Senators. Johnson is one of baseball “Five Immortals,” alongside Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. Those were the first players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.

According to Johnson’s family he kept few mementos from his playing days, and this ball, says his grandson in a letter accompanying it, was one of only three in his collection: “I believe this to be the ball Earl McNeely hit in the bottom of the 12th inning of the seventh game to win the game for Walter Johnson and the World Series for Washington, the greatest event of his spectacular career.” According to experts who have examined and authenticated the ball, it was signed by Johnson, who added “World Series 1924.”

One of baseball’s other Five Immortals serves up another extraordinary offering in this auction: Babe Ruth’s signed and inscribed 571st career home run baseball, hit off Philadelphia Athletics ace Rube Walberg on May 24, 1931. Ruth didn’t merely autograph the keepsake: On either side of the signature he wrote “No 6” and “May 24, 1931,” and the experts at Beckett and James Spence Authentication both confirm that the notations are in the Ruth’s hand. (Now it can be in yours.)

This auction is also slathered in championship jewelry: There are more than three dozen rings, among them the iconic Josten’s hardware made for the 1991 Chicago Bulls team upon their first NBA title. This one comes from the collection of Scott Williams, then a rookie power forward; it’s identical to the one awarded his teammate Michael Jordan.

Here, too, are Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Alvin Harper’s Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII championship rings; and the 2018 World Series ring presented to Boston Red Sox pitcher Austin Maddox; and the 1960 Stanley Cup ring presented to Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard. There are more diamonds in this auction than in a mine.

And there are plenty of cardboard gems, too – more than 2,000 cards, among them one of the most beautiful 1949 Bowman Jackie Robinsons we’ve ever seen. Perhaps that’s because this card, graded PSA Mint 9, is one of 10 best-known examples ever handled by the grading service – its reds and blues shockingly vibrant, the Dodgers logo crisp, Robinson’s smiling face so clear it’s almost three-dimensional.

It joins a Hall of Fame roster’s worth of cards, from Mickey Mantle’s 1951 Bowman classic (graded PSA NM-MT 8) to Sandy Koufax’s 1955 Topps rookie offering (PSA Mint 9) to Robinson’s own 1948-49 Leaf rookie (NM-MT 8) to Derek Jeter’s 1993 SP debut (SGC Gem Mint 10). And, of course, no sports auction is complete now without Michael Jordan’s 1986 Fleer bow, offered here in an SGC Gem Mint 10.

Here, too, is Tom Brady’s gold rookie card made in 2000 by Bowman in a BGS Mint 9. There were 99 made. But this is the one to own: No. 12, matching the number on Brady’s jersey.

Brady is represented in this auction, as well, by complete tickets from some of the most memorable moments from that first season. Such as: his Foxboro debut on Sept. 23, 2011. And: his first full start on Sept. 30, 2011. And: his first career touchdown (out of 600 and counting!) on Oct. 14, 2011.

And each one is signed by Brady.

“Every time I look at the catalog for this auction, something else leaps out at me – Leroy Neiman’s painting of Thurman Munson, for instance, or Muhammad Ali’s contract for his 1970 bout with Jerry Quarry, his first fight after being banned for protesting the war in Vietnam,” Ivy says. “The history available here is staggering, to put it simply. And to say we’re honored to offer all of it would be an understatement.”

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