Small Traditions is pleased to launch its 2nd Annual Exclusive 100-Lot Spring Premium Auction which runs through May 2, 2015. In addition to several high-grade PSA Set Registry collections and single graded cards, the auction contains an impressive array of extremely high-end cut-signature and game-used patch, jersey, and rookie cards from the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, President John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Mike Trout, and many others.
The meteoric rise and fall of the 1928-32 Phoenix Senators may be the greatest untold American epic of the 20th century. It is, quite literally, the rags-to-riches story of E.L. “Harp” O’Malley, a native of Pittsburgh who had worked the stands as a peanut and soft drink vendor at Forbes Field when it opened in 1909 with his friend, the future theatrical producer, Earl Carroll, watching Honus Wagner and learning to love the game as “The Flying Dutchman” played it. After marriage, O’Malley transplanted his family to Phoenix in search of a better climate for his father-in-law’s failing health. In 1915, absent any serious prospects, he found his first Phoenix job at the popular soda fountain of the Ford Hotel on 2nd Avenue and Washington Street (now home to the Phoenix City Hall), where his infectious good nature and quick Irish wit endeared him to the momentarily small town’s sugar-hungry terrors and their pioneering parents.Indeed, Phoenix was hardly more than a village of loosely connected farm plots in the early 1900s, quickly falling into line with Van Buren Street, just a few blocks to the north of the Ford Hotel, which would soon erupt with electricityfrom the world famous Hoover Dam, inviting transplants and curious travelers from across the country to the great American Southwest. In the span of just half a decade from 1910 to 1960, Phoenix would grow from approximately 11,000 people to nearly a half million, the fastest boom in the nation’s history.
By the early 1920s, “The Harp” had saved enough money to open his own business, the Uneeda Towel Supply Company, the rags with which he would soon build his riches. With prohibition well under way, we believe that O’Malley and his business partners then used his towel business as a cover to deliver illegal alcohol throughout the booming city, alcohol which they had legally stockpiled in various fraternal organizations of which they were all a part, and which the law had allowed. Clearing the way for a virtual monopoly on all of Phoenix’s booze business was Harp’s closest partner, Guy Alsap, youngest son of famed Phoenix pioneer John T. Alsap, who not only founded the city but served as its first mayor as well as the first judge of Maricopa County. To say that Alsap had connections is an understatement, but exactly how (or even if) he and O’Malley used those connections remains conjecture.
What we do know for certain, however, is that in the span of a half-decade, the once-destitute O’Malley soon found himself traveling all across North America on an odyssey by rail, attending the Jack Johnson v. Pat Lester fight in Nogales Mexico in May of 1926, where he sat ringside, and then the famous Jack Dempsey v. Gene Tunney fight later that summer in Philadelphia, where he again sat ringside, and then Games 1 and 2 of the 1926 World Series at Yankee Stadium, where he enjoyed field seats, rubbing elbows with the richest and most famous men and women in the world. Perhaps it was then and there in The Bronx that he decided to build Phoenix a proper baseball team, never imagining that in the span of another half-decade, that decision would take his life. [Please click here to browse the immaculately preserved PSA-graded tickets and season passes comprising part of the Ed O’Malley collection.]
What we also know now, and still cannot believe, is that Ed’s closest business partner, Guy Alsap, who had also served as the team’s scout, can be associated with at least two famous Phoenix murder cases in the 1920s. First, filmmaker Dan Adams names him as “the most dangerous of all” suspects in the 1929 murder of FBI Agent Paul E. Reynolds, the second-ever FBI agent killed in the line of duty, and the only one that remains unsolved to this day. We also believe that Alsap is the “prominent businessman” in the newspaper clippings below, which describe “The Fate of the Love Pirate with 100 Married Sweethearts,” who was found face-down in a Phoenix canal, strangled to death. The end of the article describes how everyone in town knew this businessman had done the deed but how he “looks wise” and carries on. Miraculously, we were able to substantiate the allusions made in this article with the discovery of a news photo of Alsap’s wife in the archives of an historic image dealer. On its reverse are the photo editor’s notations: “Mrs. Guy Alsap – Phoenix Ariz Held for developments in Dernier murder case.”
And that’s not all! On top of these two murders potentially implicating Guy Alsap, the O’Malley saga can be tied to yet another famous Phoenix murder case, perhaps the most famous of them all. Just two months after Ed O’Malley was tragically and suspiciously killed when the renowned 37-year-old sportsman “accidentally” fell to his death at 1:30 AM from the observation platform of a train en route to California, where he was to enter negotiations with Vic Devincenzi and other owners of the Pacific Coast League, a 26 year-old medical student named Winnie Ruth Judd chopped her two roommates into pieces and boarded that same train to California with their bodies stuffed into suitcases. In her own words at the AZ Memory Project, the sensationalized “Trunk Murderess” describes how her roommates had tortured her over her former lover, Jack Haloran, another close associate of Ed O’Malley’s. Together, Ed and Jack owned a monopoly on the lumber yards around Phoenix, calling them by different names to create the illusion of competition. Winnie even mentions Ed by name in her confession letter, speaking almost reverently of him and Mrs. O’Malley, thereby directly tying him and his Phoenician high society circles to yet a third distinct murder case. Therefore, if we also consider O’Malley’s death suspicious — and we certainly do — that raises our creepy total to four potential murder cases associated with the 1928-32 Phoenix Senators, begging the question, was there possibly a serial killer among them?
Offered in this lot is the 1928-32 Phoenix Senators team-signed baseball pictured below and once belonging to Ed O’Malley and/or Guy Alsap and consigned directly to Small Traditions LLC, along with the rest of the team’s remnants, by O’Malley’s granddaughter. It may be the only team-signed Phoenix Senators ball in existence, and it may also be the key to understanding the fate of not only Ed O’Malley and his Phoenix Senators but the entire Arizona-Texas League as well. The ball bears prominent signatures from 18-year-old future stars Harry “Cookie” Lavagetto and Billy Raimondi, in addition to several lesser known players, plus the Senators’ skipper and former Major Leaguer, Lou Guisto, and finally the team scout, “Guy Alsap,” whose imposing mug has been glued to the baseball. On its opposite side is a suspicious spot where it appears another photo had been glued but subsequently ripped off. Judging by how permanently Alsap’s photo is still glued in place, we’re guessing that someone did this intentionally. Was this perhaps a picture of Ed O’Malley? If so, who tore it off, and why? What really happened to Ed, and what happened to all these other players after his death? Not just his baseball players, but all the players in this fascinating American epic unraveling before our very eyes. Who were they, we ask, and what really happened to the 1928-32 Phoenix Senators?
Important Note: This description is Part I in a seven-part presentation of our research regarding the fate of Ed O’Malley and his Phoenix Senators, all of which can be found among the following lots comprising the rest of our 2nd Annual Spring Premium Auction. We’ve received a number of inquiries regarding this material, with interest from several noted Hollywood filmmakers and news organizations as well, so please be sure read all seven parts for further details before contacting us. We’re offering the entire collection in this auction. It’s all here, and we’re not holding anything back.
For additional inquiries, please call 303.832.1975 or write email@example.com.
Lou Gehrig Farewell Speech Worn Centennial Patch Card Heads to Auction
Lou Gehrig appeared in just eight games in 1939 before giving his “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech on July 4th. When he stepped to the microphone, his head bowed in characteristic humility, Major League Baseball’s Centennial anniversary patch adorned his once-muscled shoulder. Every player in the big leagues wore this same patch that sad season, only most players lasted longer than its first month. But not Gehrig. The Yankee team Captain appeared in his final game on April 30th, going hitless against the Washington Senators. Just before the Yankees next game on May 2, he approached Yankee skipper, Joe McCarthy, and said, “I’m benching myself, Joe, for the good of the team.” Baseball’s beloved “Iron Horse” had played in 2,130 consecutive games, a record that would stand until baseball’s “Iron Man,” Cal Ripken Jr., surpassed it in 1995. While Ripken would eventually retire and make his way to Cooperstown as well, the difference between the two is only 64 career batting average points (.340 versus .276) and five World Series rings (6 to 1). New York’s native son had done what no one on earth had ever imagined possible. He took baseball’s scorching hot and seemingly 60-ton-heavy torch from teammate Babe Ruth, and he held it higher, and he burned it brighter and longer than even the Great Bambino could. Unfortunately, no one living will ever know just how great he was.
Clearly evident in the patriotic red, white and blue stitching of the nostalgic patch work embedded into this remarkable 2008 Donruss Americana Celebrity Cuts Lou Gehrig Combo Prime patch card are not one but two very prominent cuts from the Centennial patch that adorned Lou’s last-ever game-used jersey. One of the cuts from the patch shows the baseball stitching and jersey of the depicted player, many of whom believe was modeled after Joe DiMaggio, and the other shows the “n” and “i” of the nostalgic Centennial lettering, designed by a New York artist named Marjori Bennett. Not only that, the offered example is the highest ever graded, sharing this distinction with 3 other prominent copies in the BGS Mint 9 grade from just 10 made. Or so we thought.
Also graded BGS Mint 9, here’s a similar example of this uber famous card that recently sold on eBay with a $3,500 Buy-It-Now price tag. Strangely enough, both cards feature the same serial-number of 06/10, which at first had alerted us to a potential issue with the card. Thanks to the excellent research provided by our consignor, however, plus a closer look at the back of the card, we are very pleased to report that what we at first thought was problematic is instead decidedly fortuitous.
The offered masterpiece was designed and intended to be the single greatest Lou Gehrig baseball card ever produced. While some might argue that that distinction obviously belongs to the one copy of his 1933 Goudey #92 issue graded PSA 10 Gem Mint and probably worth anywhere from $500,000 to a $1 million, the offered historically significant card had been intended to be a cut signature card bearing an authentic autograph from the Iron Horse and uniquely numbered 1/1, the only example made. We know this because of the fine print on the back of the card which already offers a statement about the authenticity of said signature, only there is no signature. Gehrig’s is one of the most expensive in the hobby, and so we’re guessing that Donruss simply couldn’t find or afford a decent enough example. So it may not be worth half a million dollars, but it’s a very different card than the $3,500 example referenced above, even though they have the same serial number. Comparing the two, the patches planned for this 1/1 masterpiece were chosen for their undeniably superior presentation.
No full video of Gehrig’s famous farewell speech survived that Independence Day 76 years ago, but additional clips do exist. Please click the following for more video and for the the full text. Please also note that we cannot confirm 100% that Mr. Gehrig wore this patch during his world famous speech, easily one of the most famous in human history, but even the game’s greatest players weren’t issued multiple uniforms like they are today, one for each game now, and seeing as how he played in only five home games before retiring in 1939, we’re confident that this is most likely the same patch he wore on April 20, when the Yankees beat the Red Sox on Opening Day at the Stadium, and also the same he wore ten days later during his last game against the Senators, and almost certainly the same he wore two months later, when he entered immortality, not for he did on the field — though that was certainly at the core — but for what he said.