We can go through Sotheby’s/SCP catalogue for their December 10th auction and marvel at so many pieces, from the Joe DiMaggio rookie uniform to their Babe Ruth bat graded a MEARS 9.5 to Mickey Mantle’s 1961 Players Contract. However, one piece stood out, almost jumping off the page of the catalogue. It is an item that would deservedly fit just as well in Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as it would in the collection of whoever is lucky enough to win it.
Joseph S. Bauer served as the batboy for the Cubs in the early to mid 1950’s. As a passionate fan with a penchant for collecting memorabilia, he assembled an impressive collection of game used items from a multitude of 1950’s superstars. His system for organizing and preserving items he received included storing bats and balls in socks with markings identifying the historical significance of the piece. In either 1954 or 1955, Bauer received this ball, hit by Willie Mays for his 17th Homerun of the season. Upon retrieval of the ball, Mays signed it and added his notation “#17”. Bauer similarly marked the sock with the notation “Mays #17”, and this lot comes with a letter of provenance from Joe Bauer Jr. as well as LOAs MEARS, JSA and PSA/DNA.
This is one of those pieces that stands out in any auction, both in its flawless provenance and its incredible aesthetic appeal. Visually stunning, an old style legible Mays signature that grades minimally a “9”, and a super clean Official National League Giles baseball with stampings as bold and as dark as the day it were printed. Imagine owning a homerun baseball hit by arguably the game’s greatest all round player, early in his career and documented on the ball by the Say Hey Kid himself in his own writing. It will take all of that imagination and perhaps a bit more to own this one, as Sotheby’s has a pre-auction estimate on this ball of $10,000 – $15,000.
“Without hesitation, this is the finest signed Willie Mays ball I have ever examined. The best part of this vintage artifact is that we can read every letter in his name, a notion that is foreign to Mr. Mays’ autograph in current times. Mr. Mays could charge triple his current autograph signing fee is his penmanship would revert back to his early-1950s style.” James J. Spence
“This ball was one of many saved by Joe Bauer that we authenticated. The lot originated at the inaugural Ed Kranepool’s Memorabilia Road Show auction during the summer of 2004. Each ball was carefully preserved and documented by Joe Bauer. The completeness of the original collection and detailed provenance aided with our authentication of the collection. Of the balls examined, the Willie Mays homerun ball was the most special of the lot.” Dave Bushing, MEARS