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14Jun/05Off

Buying a slice of time

One dark day in 1919, a historic curse was initiated. A curse that some say inhibited the Boston Red Sox from winning the World Series for 85 years. Hard-hitting baseball great Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees from Red Sox owner Harry Frazee to Colonel Jacob Ruppert of the New York Yankees, prompting the legendary "Curse of the Bambino" to begin. On June 10th, 2005 the sensational and historic contract sold at Sotheby's auction house in New York City for $996,000.

Ruth's contract was sold to Peter Siegel, the owner of New York City memorabilia store Gotta Have It! Collectables, through an auction by Sports Cards Plus (SCP) and Sotheby's. Siegel, a passionate baseball fan, said that he would have paid more for it and he?ll probably never sell it. He described the document as "a historical jewel, a diamond" and received a standing ovation when he won the contract with a bid of $996,000.

Interestingly, Seigel was also the top bidder for the dress Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang happy birthday to John F. Kennedy. That entertainment "diamond" set Seigel back $875,000.

The Ruth contract truly is a historic sports "diamond". The Bambino's five-page contract required $125,000 and a $350,000 loan to finance Frazee's Broadway production interests in exchange for blossoming superstar Ruth; oh, if only the Red Sox had known what they were giving up! In what became known as the "Curse of the Bambino", the New York Yankees would go on to win 39 American League Pennants and 26 World Series Titles. The Red Sox, on the other hand, did not win another World Series until 2004.

The astronomical price paid for the historical memento is only second in price to Mark McGuire's 70th homerun ball, triumphantly rocketed by McGuire back in 1998. That sold in a 1999 sale for $3 million.

Items that once belonged to Yankee legend Lou Gehrig fetched sizeable amounts at the auction as well. A bat he once used snatched up $156,000, making it the most ever paid of one of Gehrig?s items.

A rare Honus Wagner baseball card, a T206 PSA 1 FR-FD dating back to 1910, brought in a whopping $132,000 and the inaugural baseball thrown at the 1912 opening of Boston's historic Fenway Park sold for the same amount. The ball was sold through the estate of former umpire Tom Connolly and was reportedly thrown out by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

Pitching idol Lefty Grove was also well received at the sale. His signed "299th" pitch win ball from 1941 fetched $6,000. The medium toned ball also carries the date "July 4, 1941" as well as the box score on the west panel. Grove was only the twelfth pitcher to win 300 games, thus adding much significance to the ball. A game used bat signed by Grove and fellow Red Sox player Jimmie Foxx was also sold. It brought in $8000.

Tennis phenom Arthur Ashe's pair of Haggar 24-carat gold trophy tennis balls garnered $144,000. Ashe acquired the trophy when he beat Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon in 1975, becoming the only African-American to win the men's singles title at the prestigious English tournament. The unique prize weighed an unheard of 25 pounds and was sold to Ashe fan John Ramblin.

Finally, some interesting items that once belonged to boxing great Rocky Marciano were auctioned off at Sotheby's last week. His black satin Everlast robe yielded $48,000. The garment bears his embroidered name on the back and was worn by Marciano on September 3, 1952 when he beat Jersey Joe Walcott to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Marciano's report card from 1941 was also sold, bringing in $3,600.

Overall, the Sports Cards Plus/Sotheby's auction brought in an unfathomable $5,527,200 USD. Given the legendary names, historical value and money generated, this auction was truly in a league of its own!

For more information, please visit www.SportsCardsPlus.com.

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