Babe Ruth and Co. signed a ball that sold for ...

Memorabilia autographed by 11 inaugural Hall of Famers fetches record price

August 13th, 2018

How much would you pay for a piece of memorabilia etched with an imprint from Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner?

A baseball with each's signature, as well as the rest of the electees who were present for the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1939, has sold for a record-shattering $623,369, according to SCP Auctions. The 11 signatures include Ruth, Cobb, Johnson, Wagner, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, George Sisler, Connie Mack, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins and Grover Cleveland Alexander. The only name missing is Lou Gehrig's, who was unable to attend the inaugural ceremony due to illness.

So how did all those signatures wind up on a single 108-stitched sphere of leather-wrapped rubber?

According to Sports Collectors Daily, former White Sox and Tigers third baseman Marv Owen realized the consequence of the moment. So when he was selected to play in an exhibition game in Cooperstown that day and got the chance to meet the first of the enshrined, Owen asked each to sign a pair of balls, one of which he gave to former teammate Hank Greenberg. Owen kept the other ball until his passing in 1991, and his family kept it after.

The bidding for the ball began at $50,000 and collected 29 bids total, according to SCP's catalog listing. The ball had last sold for $55,000 at an auction in 1997, according to Sports Collectors Daily.

"The sheer greatness of this ball is simply unrivaled," SCP Auctions president David Kohler said in a statement. "Its historical importance compounded by the impeccable provenance and state of preservation elevate it to singular status as the most important and valuable autographed baseball in the world. The final price certainly proved this."

The previous record for an autographed baseball was $388,375 for a Ruth single-signed ball. The most paid for a single baseball remains $3 million, which collector Todd McFarlane spent for Mark McGwire's 70th home run from his then-record-setting season in 1998, according to ESPN.