A 1973-74 Milwaukee Bucks photo-documented warm-up jacket worn by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar soared to the top position in Grey Flannel’s Dec. 8, 2010 Holiday auction, capturing a winning bid of $96,631. The 1,068-lot absentee auction grossed $1,753,093; all prices quoted are inclusive of a 20% buyer’s premium. Twenty-five bids were placed on the extremely rare cardinal-red jacket emblazoned with the Bucks team name across the front and “Abdul-Jabbar” on its back.
“We suspected it would do very well, but in the end, it was the basketball fans who determined its true market value,” said Richard E. Russek, president of the sports memorabilia auction house that has exclusive ties with the Basketball Hall of Fame. “Abdul-Jabbar’s personal and team accomplishments are perhaps the most amazing in league history, and no one has ever duplicated his trademark ‘skyhook.’ He’s a living legend, and the demand for his game-worn apparel will only continue to grow.”
A second basketball treasure landed the second-highest price in the multi-sports memorabilia auction. Personally autographed by Bob Pettit – arguably the greatest forward of his era – a 1957-58 St. Louis Hawks game-used home jersey was accompanied by a Pettit letter of authenticity. Perhaps the best Pettit jersey in existence in terms of completeness of tags, condition and provenance, it flew past its $10,000 reserve to land at $73,409.
Other basketball highlights included a 1967-68 Boston Celtics warm-up road jacket worn by Bill Russell, $42,435; a rare 1971 Mel Daniels ABA All-Star Eastern Conference game-used jersey, $39,600; and a 1979-80 Spencer Haywood Los Angeles Lakers game-used, Championship-season home uniform, $33,095.
One of the great surprises of the sale was the $69,769 price paid for a turn of the century, game-used Princeton University football jersey. “This jersey was a classic representation of Americana from a century ago,” said Russek, “but we never expected the extreme amount of interest it generated.” The black wool turtleneck featured the famous Princeton orange sleeve stripes and the Princeton “P” on its chest area, as well as the earliest-known Spalding label stitched onto the inside neck of the garment.
Championship jewelry was aggressively pursued in the auction, whose phone and Internet bidding didn’t conclude till 6 a.m. the next morning. J.R. Redmond’s 2001 New England Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI player’s ring brought the most money of all jewelry entries, settling at $31,129. Another distinctive symbol of Boston, a 1984 Celtics World Championship ring originally given to coach Red Auerbach’s attorney, netted $26,576. Making it a triumvirate of sports bling, a 2009 New York Yankees World Series Championship ring that belonged to a Dominican scout named “Cordoba” slammed in a winning bid of $25,726.
Although a late 1920s/early 1930s stirrup sock might seem a minor item, it takes on gargantuan importance when confirmed as part of a uniform worn by the immortal Yankees home run king Babe Ruth. With a reserve of $2,500, the blue wool sock with “G Ruth” embroidered tag and impeccable provenance drew 13 bids before settling at $18,368.
The top ephemera lot in the auction was the hand-written final speech Mickey Mantle delivered to America in August 1995 via national TV from a Dallas hospital. Completely hand written by Mantle, the speech, with its warning to youngsters to stay off drugs and alcohol, earned $12,865.
Grey Flannel Auctions is currently accepting consignments for its next major auction of professional sports memorabilia, slated for mid April. For additional information, call 631-288-7800, ext. 223; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.