1923 Baseball Signed by McGraw, Huggins, Moran, and Altrock

Sold For: $2,666

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 781

Item Year: 1923

Category: Autographed Baseballs/Flats/Photos

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Official American League (president's name no longer visible) ball signed in black fountain pen by John McGraw, Miller Huggins (signed "Miller J. Huggins"), Pat Moran, Nick Altrock, as well as featuring Babe Ruth (which is a classic clubhouse signature from the era). The McGraw signature sits alone on the sweet spot, extending into the east panel. The signatures of Huggins and Moran appear, respectively, on the west panel and ball label, while the signatures of Ruth and Altrock are located together on the north panel. It must be noted that the signatures of McGraw, Huggins, and Moran are exceptionally bold and are among the finest examples for each that we have ever seen on a ball. Except for a few tiny abrasions affecting the Huggins and Moran signatures, all three examples grade a spectacular "9/10." The Altrock and Ruth signatures are each affected by a number of abrasions and/or surface marks and grade "6" and "4," respectively. While the combination of signatures on this ball might seem odd or at least random to some, research indicates otherwise. Each of the signers on this ball was a celebrity columnist for the famed Christy Walsh Syndicate. Christy Walsh, in addition to being the agent and business manager for Babe Ruth, operated a successful sportswriting syndicate that employed many of the most well-known names in sports, including Ruth, McGraw, Ty Cobb, and Knute Rockne. The quintet featured here on this ball were all present at the 1923 World Series (Ruth, Huggins, and McGraw were active participants in the Series) as evidenced by a photo taken at the Polo Grounds on October 13, 1923. The photo (a photocopy of which accompanies the ball) pictures Christy Walsh posing with Huggins, Moran, Ruth, Altrock, and McGraw in front of the dugout prior to the game. Walsh traditionally took such photos of his syndicate columnists at major sporting events for promotional purposes. Afterwards, Walsh normally had the syndicate members sign baseballs to be used as gifts to sports editors and various newspapermen around the country. We believe that this ball is one such item, especially since the ball bears a mounting hole, as well as a large circular area of abrasion on the south panel. Walsh customarily mounted those signed gift balls on wooden blotters that bore the name of his syndicate and it seems almost certain, given the physical evidence here, that this ball too was once presented in that manner. The only odd facet of this piece is that the Ruth signature is a clubhouse version. 1923 was the year of the Yankees first World Championship and perhaps the demands for Ruth's signature right after the Series were so great that Walsh took the liberty of having the Yankees' clubhouse man sign a number of balls just to expedite the process. Despite that fact, it remains an extraordinary signed baseball given the exceptional quality of the signatures present. Also, Miller Huggins' signature is exceedingly rare because he passed away in 1929 at the age of fifty. Although Ban Johnson's facsimile signature is no longer visible on the ball, the ball label definitively dates it to the 1910-1925 manufacturing period. The ball has been coated with a layer of protective shellac that displays a number of light-to-moderate chips and/or abrasions, including the aforementioned mounting hole and large circular area of abrasion on the south panel (the ball was most likely originally glued as well as mounted to the blotter). In Very Good condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $1,000+. SOLD FOR $2,666

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