Extraordinary Christy Mathewson Signed Ball with Babe Ruth and the 1934 New York Giants
Reserve - $5,000, Estimate - open
Offered here is what is undoubtedly the most unique Christy Mathewson signed ball extant: an official National League ball (red and black stitch; league president's facsimile signature no longer legible) signed by Mathewson, eighteen members of the 1934 New York Giants (including Ott, Hubbell, Terry, and Jackson), Frankie Frisch, and four members of the 1935 Boston Braves, including Babe Ruth! Ideally, Mathewson's signature is not only the finest example on the ball but also resides on the sweet spot for optimal display value. Beautifully executed in black fountain pen, Mathewson's signature grades "8" and stands out among the later-day signatures that surround it, all of which are scripted in green ink with the exception of Ruth (black fountain pen). The signatures of the eighteen 1934 New York Giants on the ball are those of Ott ("6"), Terry ("3"), Hubbell ("7"), Jackson ("2," first name barely legible), Richards, Parmalee, Castleman, Vergaz, Bill, O'Doul, Snyder (coach), Schumacher, Moore, Critz, Ryan (on the sweet spot with Mathewson), Clark, Luque, and Clarke (coach). The ball has also been signed by former New York Giant Frankie Frisch ("4/5"), who was player/manager of the Cardinals in 1934, and four members of the 1935 Boston Braves: Babe Ruth ("4/5"), Wally Berger, Ed Brandt, and Hank Gowdy (coach, and also a former member of the Giants). With the exception of Mathewson, signatures range from "3" to "7," averaging "5."
Incredibly, the ball is accompanied by impeccable provenance in the form of a 1934 newspaper clipping that partially explains the unusual circumstances regarding its signing. This ball was originally owned by a gentleman named John E. Weil (our consignor's great grandfather), who, some years earlier, obtained Mathewson's signature on the sweet spot. In 1934 (nine years after Mathewson's death) he took the ball to the Polo Grounds and added the eighteen New York Giants signatures. That series of events is fully chronicled in an accompanying original 1934 newspaper clipping that bears the headline "Bronx Fan Has Giants Sign Ball Matty Once Did." In full:
A quarter of a century ago, John Weil, an ardent admirer of the late Christy Mathewson, attended a dinner in honor of the star pitcher. When he left the dinner, Weil had in his proud possession a ball signed 'Christy Mathewson.' For 25 years, this ball remained a precious heirloom in the Weil family, passing from John Weil to his son, Edwin, 3900 Greystone Ave., and in turn, to the latter's son, John II. Yesterday, Edwin Weil took the ball to the Polo Grounds and, with the aid of Jack White, night club entertainer and No. 1 Giant fan, had the whole crop of 1934 Giants affix their signatures, the first that have been added since Matty wrote his name 25 years ago .
While the period newspaper article fully documents both the Mathewson and eighteen New York Giants signatures on the ball, it does not explain the presence of the Frankie Frisch signature or the four Boston Brave signatures; however, we have a theory. If, on the day the Giants signatures were obtained, the club was playing the St. Louis Cardinals, it would seem natural to add Frisch's name to the ball, especially since he was one of the club's top stars during its 1921-1924 dynasty. As for the Braves signatures, it seems reasonable to assume that they were simply added on a whim in 1935. It may have been the case that our consignor's great grandfather had intended to get only Ruth's signature on the ball, but in the normal excitement that sometimes take place during autograph signings at the stadium, the four others were added as well. Also, the newspaper article appears to be slightly off regarding the date of the original Mathewson signing. According to the article, Mathewson first signed this ball in 1909, but based upon the manufacturer's labels, this ball was probably produced sometime between the years 1914 and 1925.
This is the very first ball we have ever seen featuring the signatures of both Mathewson and Ruth, each of whom was one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. All of the other various combinations that one can make are equally unique, given the fact that Mathewson had passed away in 1925. This ball was just recently discovered by our consignor's family carefully stored away in a drawer in her parent's old home. As mentioned in the article, it had been considered a family heirloom as early as 1934 and had been passed down from her great grandfather, to her grandfather, and then to her father. Upon the passing of both her parents, it then became the property of the remaining siblings, who, after careful consideration, have decided to part with it in the hopes that the new owner will care for it with the same reverential treatment as did their forefathers. The ball has been coated with a light layer of protective shellac (a common practice at the time) and is otherwise in Excellent condition. This is a remarkable Mathewson signed ball, not just for its remarkable period documentation and high-grade signature, but also for the myriad unique combinations of signatures that it gave rise to when it was later signed in the mid 1930s. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).
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