July 22, 2015
The above Mickey Mantle quote may seem extremely immodest and off-putting. But, in fact, it is just Mantle exhibiting his legendary sense of humor that is one of the many reasons fans, friends, and collectors love Mantle so much. The catalog description below puts the quote in context. This lot will appear in REA's upcoming October auction, which we are working on every day. After we cataloged it, we decided to put it on the REA blog as the first of many auction lot previews (not so much because it is extraordinarily valuable; the auction will have hundreds of lots that will be more highly valued in monetary terms, but because we thought it was fun lot that Mantle fans and collectors would enjoy reading about).
1989 "500 Home Run Club" Photo - Signed By Mantle with Good-Humored Insult to Fellow 500 HR Club Members
Presented is definitely the most unusual 500 Home Run Club Mickey Mantle signed item we have ever seen, and one that is accompanied by an amusing story! Famous 1989 large-format photograph (20 x 16 inches) of the eleven then-living members of baseball's elite 500 Home Run Club, inscribed and signed by Mickey Mantle, including a funny "off-color" remark. Mantle has inscribed the photo in the upper left corner: "I was the Greatest! The rest of these guys suck. Mick." Both the text and signature grade "10." Please note that the other apparent Mantle "full-name signature" which appears below is not actually a Mantle signature, but is very related to the story of the photo and is part of a notation written by Bill Hongach. Hongach was one of the promoters of the first ever 500 Home Run Club signing show, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1989. The concept of creating these signed photos for sale and arranging for their signing was one of his many contributions to the project. Five-hundred 20 x 16-inch prints were made of this image, which were later signed by all eleven members and eventually sold.
When the photos were signed, Bill Hongach naturally had to provide direction to the signers so that the photos would be signed properly. Mantle was one of the first signers, and Hongach used an extra (slightly damaged) photo that the printing company affixed to the top of the bound-and-sealed package of 500 prints ordered (so that the contents of the package were easily identified) to provide a guide for Mantle. In blue-Sharpie, Hongach wrote at the base of Mantle's feet the notations "Sign Here - Mickey Mantle." Sometime while Mantle was signing the 500 photographs as instructed, he also took the time to sign the extra photo with instructions as seen here, as a joke to make his good friend Bill Hongach laugh. It worked! And it has been saved as a special treasured keepsake ever since.
This piece has been consigned directly by Hongach, in whose possession it has been since the day of Mantle's signing in 1989. Also included with the photo is a copy of Hongach's book, The Dark Sides of Baseball (self published by Hongach in 2013), which details his life and career in the hobby, and provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes history of the first 500 Home Run Club show in 1989. The photo displays large chips in three of the four corners (upper right and left; lower right), a small abrasion along the base, and remnants of both tape and adhesive residue along the borders (resulting from it having been affixed to the top of the bound and sealed package of 500 photos). Technically in Good condition, but nearly all of the flaws are relegated to the corners and edges (most can be matted out), and the central image area presents as Excellent. LOA from James Spence/JSA.