As most of my regular readers already know, I am a big fan of the live auction venue. Not only is it a great way to actually see, in person, the items in which you may have an interest in, it is also a great avenue to meet with old friends and some new ones as well. If you are a collector and have never been to a live auction, you owe it to yourself to attend one, meeting with fellow collectors and sharing information and collecting stories. You will find out there are a lot of folks out there with similar interests and will benefit from the sharing of information.
I have been working with the Louisville Slugger folks for almost ten as well as conducting an appraisal fair. Four years ago, they decided to hold a live auction venue at their manufacturing plant and museum and I have attended all of them. They are conducted by Hunt Auctions and are held each November. Now if you haven’t been to Louisville, the town is a treat in itself. The host hotel, The Galt House, is a spectacular hotel with numerous balcony views of the river and the new steak house adjacent to the hotel, Ruby’s, serves an incredible steak served up with live jazz. Other great restaurants such as Jack Fry’s, (also featuring live music) Proof, and Morton’s could not be beat in New York, Chicago or L.A. and all are either within walking distance or a short cab ride away. The Frazier firearms museum is right across the street from the Louisville Slugger Museum and features a great collection of early guns and there are a few great antique malls in town as well. The Slugger museum, run by Dan Cohen, and the tour of the plant are can’t miss visits on any agenda. The special exhibit on Roberto Clemente was particularly interesting and very well done.
This year’s auction week began on Wednesday with the appraisal fair where yours truly worked until Friday. We saw some spectacular items like a 1926 Cardinals
World Series ring and a 1928 watch, a great Ruth/Gehrig autographed barnstorming photo, a 1948 New York Giants Hat, a 1928 Yankees team signed ball, a few minty decal bats and tons of assorted autographed balls and more baseball cards than I could count but it was the Friday night benefit party that really set things off. This year, Louisville Slugger gave out the inaugural Living Legend award to Ken Griffey Jr in recognition of his many off the field humanitarian efforts. The award was presented to Jr. by his father, Ken Griffey Sr. In addition, Eddie Murray made an appearance and took a tour of the museum and the auction preview as well.
The tickets, which sold for $250 each, benefited the Louisville Area Sports Commission and there was a benefit silent auction as well that included not only some great sports items but tickets to the Kentucky Derby, the Ryder Cup and Thunder over Louisville. The preview party kicked off at 6 PM with live entertainment by two really incredible Frank Sinatra tribute singers. They were followed by a great set of Chicago style blues sung by none other than Mudcat Grant. I had a chance to talk to him for about a half an hour and it was truly a pleasure, as a nicer gentleman could not be found. And his singing, (it was as good as his pitching,) was a real crowd pleaser. And lastly, the main performance given by the 1950’s hit makers, the Platters, just made the evening that much more enchanting. Even Mudcat joined in for one set. The martini and Kentucky bourbon bar along with the never ending food served by a constant wave of servers made this a first class event that will long be remembered by everyone in attendance.
Of course, the main event and the reason most of us were in attendance was the live auction, which started promptly at 10 A.M. The much anticipated sale of a 1938 Lou Gehrig game worn Yankees home jersey did not disappoint hammering down at $350,000 not counting the buyers premium, a figure that I am quite certain is a worlds record for a publicly sold Gehrig jersey and one of the nicest, if not the nicest, Gehrig jersey this author has ever handled. Another key piece of game worn attire was the 1930’s game worn hat of Lefty Grove, arguable the greatest left handed pitcher of all time. To date, the only pieces of apparel that can be attributed to Grove is an A’s uniform, a Boston uniform, this hat and a couple of game used bats making this a very rare item indeed. Game worn hats, especially those with the players name stitched in the band, are among the rarest of any game worn items as they were usually thrown out, to worn out to be recycled as were many of the jerseys.
A collection of items belonging to Bill McKechnie including his St. Louis Cardinals home jersey c.1928-29 were featured along with a collection of items belonging to Athletics star, Mule Haas, brought to light many incredible items that had remained with the families until this sale. Family collections are always a special treat as they are hitting the market for the first time having never seen the light of day in the collecting world representing the first ever chance for collectors to add pieces to their collection that come directly from the family.
Every item included in the auction was displayed in large glass show cases in the main area at the center of the museum where the auction is held allowing ample opportunity to thoroughly examine each piece and the entire auction process, sans any breaks, concluded around 5PM. The excitement of a live auction cannot be compared to any Internet event. The live bidding and the competition for rare pieces creates an atmosphere that is very similar to the finish line at a horse race and unlike an internet auction, there is no going back for any items you may have missed, it is fact paced and terminal in that respect. You have to think on your feet and be prepared ahead of time. I could go on and on with prices realized and featured lots but you can do that yourselves by going to Huntauctions.com for a complete recap. The purpose of this blurb is to extol the excitement of the live auction along with the many social benefits of such a venue. Next year, plan on setting aside a couple of days and attending a live auctions event such as the Hunts All Star Auction or Sotheby’s live auctions. Both are coming to NYC this summer and both will offer a wide array of incredible items and given the All Star game will be held in conjunction with the Hunts auction, or is it the other way around, as well as the last season for the Yankees in their current stadium, this might just be the best reason yet to explore the Big Apple. For the sports fan, this triple treat should be reason enough. Granted, traveling to a live auction requires more time and money that does an internet auction but there are often some bargains as the bidding is terminal and players cannot back track so the cost you incur might just get covered with the savings from a great deal. If not, you owe yourself a nice weekend trip and this is as good as it gets. David Bushing