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Walter Johnson Single-Signed Baseball Used in the Final Game of the 1924 World Series
Starting Bid - $2,000.00, Sold For - $32,587.50
Historic game-used ball delivered to the plate by Walter Johnson in the seventh and deciding game of the 1924 World Series, signed and dated by Johnson on the sweet spot. The red-and-blue stitched official American League (Johnson) ball has been signed by Johnson in black fountain pen across the sweet spot, with the signature grading "8." To the right of his signature, on the east panel, Johnson has added the date "Oct 1924." In addition to the date, the ball's game-used provenance is fully detailed in an accompanying typed-signed letter by W. D. Regnier. In his one-page letter, dated April 16, 1997, Regnier writes in full:
To Whom It May Concern:
SUBJECT: Baseball autographed by Walter Johnson
Dated Oct. 1924
My father and mother, through a mutual friend, were acquainted with Walter Johnson. I must note that my mother was the most avid and knowledgeable baseball fan I have ever known or heard of. We (mother, dad, my brother and I) attended every Sunday and home games of the Washington Senators. This began about 1927 and continued for some years. We always had seats in Box 57, a field box, just off first base. During the period Johnson was managing, he often came over for a brief visit before games. I do not remember years, but it was on one of these occasions that he asked if we could come by his home after the game. Accordingly, we went to the Johnson farm in Bethesda, Maryland. It was here Johnson gave this ball to my mother. At this time Johnson told us (I was there), "The ball was in play and pitched by me in the final game of the 1924 World Series." In 1986 my mother died. As her sole heir, the ball became mine.
Also accompanying the ball is a second letter signed by Henry W. Thomas, Walter Johnson's grandson, in which he fully attests that both the signature and date on the ball are in the hand of his grandfather. In his one-page typed letter , dated August 11, 1998, Thomas writes to a former owner of the ball regarding the authenticity of the signature. In part: "Thanks so much for bringing your Walter Johnson baseball by for me to see. As I told you at the time, it is my firm opinion that both the signature and writing on the ball are in the hand of my grandfather." It should be noted that Henry Thomas is not just Walter Johnson's grandson but a noted baseball historian and the most respected authority on Walter Johnson's life and career. He is also the author of the definitive biography of Walter Johnson: Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train (University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1998).
The ball itself displays all the characteristics of one used in a game, including soiling and numerous surface abrasions. That Johnson would keep have kept one or more balls used in the final game of the 1924 World Series seems more than plausible, especially when one considers Johnson's long wait to finally take part in a fall classic. Johnson made his Major League debut in 1907 and despite the fact that he was the game's most dominant pitcher for nearly his entire 21-year career, the Senators were often a second-division club. It wasn't until 1924, in his eighteenth season, that Johnson had the opportunity to take the mound on baseball's center stage. Unfortunately, his first two starts against the New York Giants ended in defeat. Johnson pitched all twelve innings in Washington's 4-3 loss in Game 1 and was uncharacteristically roughed up in Game 5, which he lost 6-2. His redemption came in Game 7. With the score tied 3-3 in the ninth, Johnson entered the game in relief and held the Giants scoreless for three innings before Earl McNeely's bad-hop base hit over the head of short stop Freddie Lindstrom brought both the Senators and Johnson their first World Championship.
This must have been a very special memento for Johnson and a true indication of his friendship with Mr. Regnier's parents at the time. Obviously, he had chosen the perfect caretaker for such a significant piece, as Regnier's mother cherished it right up until her death. It appears that Regnier sold this ball privately in 1997 and that the gentleman he sold it to later consigned it at public auction in 1998. Our consignor purchased it at that time and it has remained in his substantial collection until now. Given the facts of the letter, the ball itself (which is correct for the period), and Henry Thomas' support of its provenance, we firmly believe that this ball is exactly what it appears to be: a game-used ball from the final game of the 1924 World Series that was pitched by Walter Johnson in his historic World Championship victory, and personally presented as a gift by Walter Johnson. As noted earlier, the ball is heavily worn and the manufacturer's labels are faded, but all are still legible. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $32,587.50
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