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Lot # 1211 (of 1727)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

The Merkle Ball - The Ball That Cost the Giants the Pennant in 1908!

Starting Bid - $25,000, Sold For - $76,375

For a complete description of "The Merkle Ball" - The Ball That Cost the Giants the Pennant in 1908! please go to:

The following is an edited version.

Robert Edward Auctions has had the privilege of handling literally hundreds of thousands of baseball items over the past thirty years, including some of the game’s most significant historical relics and rarities. Even our years of experience, however, could not temper our excitement over the consignment of this extraordinary piece: The famous "Merkle's Boner" ball. Presented here is the very ball held by second baseman Johnny Evers to record the final out in the famous “Merkle’s Boner” game between the Giants and Cubs on September 23, 1908, at the Polo Grounds. That was the game in which Giants rookie first baseman Fred Merkle failed to touch second base on what was the apparent game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. That mistake not only cost the Giants the victory (the game was ruled a tie), but ultimately the pennant. The Merkle Ball is perhaps the most famous baseball in the history of the game! It is without question one of the defining artifacts of the game. There is no more important baseball from the dead-ball era or a more controversial ball from the entire twentieth century.

The ball was personally saved by Johnny Evers and sold at auction by his family way back in 1993, where it was purchased by Charlie Sheen, who sold it in 1999 in a private transaction to a fellow collector who has had it ever since. We have known about this ball all this time, but it’s been so long since it’s been seen or heard of, even predating the Internet era, that it seems like it is being presented here for the first time. But in fact it was sold in 1993 (at that time for $30,250) and is being offered at REA in 2010 publicly for the very first time since. It is an honor!

The ball is accompanied by a notarized letter of provenance directly from Joe Evers, the great-nephew of Johnny Evers. The letter, dated February 17, 1993, is typed on “Johnny Evers Sporting Goods Co.” letterhead and reads in full:

To whom it may concern:

The following is to certify that “The Merkle’s Boner Ball” is 100% authentic:

Official National League Ball with “Merkle Sept 23, 1908” written on the sweet spot by John J. Evers. On one panel the ball is stamped 1908…Harry C. Pulliam. The ball is coated and shows a great amount of use. This is the ball that John J. Evers touched second base with in the 9th inning of the game against the N.Y. Giants on Sept 23, 1908. This game has since gone down in the record books as the most controversial game ever played.

John J. Evers (my great uncle) carried this ball off the field and it has been in the possession of the Evers family ever since.

I certify that the above information is true and correct. Joe Evers [signed].

The offered ball, which is accurately described in the accompanying Evers letter, is an official 1908 National League (Pulliam) ball and bears the period black-ink notation, “Merkle – Sept. 23. 1908,” printed across the sweet spot. Both the year, “1908,” and Pulliam’s facsimile signature appear stamped on a side panel (the factory stamping of the year on this ball was a one-year-only manufacturing style unique to 1908). The ball is heavily toned and soiled, as one would expect from a game-used ball dating from the dead-ball era, displaying a number of minor scrapes and abrasions. It should be clearly understood that this is the actual ball Evers was holding when he touched second base to record the final out of the game. As we relate in our historical analysis, it may or may not be the ball Al Bridwell hit for what appeared to be the game-winning single, as there are many conflicting reports regarding the close of the game. Evers always took exceptional pride in that play, especially after it resulted in the Cubs winning the pennant. It was the highlight of his career and one can only imagine that this ball was the most prized of all his baseball possessions.

When this ball, along with other baseball items personally saved by Johnny Evers, was first offered by the Evers family at public auction in February 1993, as previously noted, it sold at that time for the extravagant sum of $30,250. Today, a high-grade Babe Ruth single-signed baseball sells for similar sum, but in 1993, this was one of the highest prices ever paid for a baseball or any piece of sports memorabilia. In the very same auction, for example, a game-used 1920 Babe Ruth bat personally signed for Buck Weaver sold for $38,500. This same Ruth bat sold at auction in August 2006 for $167,000. Sports auctions in the early 1990s (predating the internet era) were not nearly as high profile, or as large as they are today. While the world and society are both much different than they were in 1993, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the timeless significance of this ball. If the world's greatest baseball scholars were asked to compile a list of what they consider to be the most important baseballs in the history of the game, the offered “Merkle’s Boner” ball would be a worthy contender at or near the top of every short list. What other ball can lay claim to being at the center of not only the most famous controversy the game’s ever seen, but also the greatest blunder in all of sports? “Merkle’s Boner” was the first great sports gaffe in history and is so ingrained in both baseball lore and public consciousness that even most people with little or no baseball knowledge are familiar with the term. That fact notwithstanding, Merkle’s famous omission of failing to touch second base also decided the 1908 pennant and, without being facetious, was indirectly responsible for a number of deaths, most notably that of National League president Harry Pulliam.

More words have been written and spoken about the Merkle ball controversy than perhaps any other play in the history of the game. Merkle's place in history is secure. The Merkle's Boner game is commonly referred to by scholars as "the most controversial game in baseball history." The impact of the controversy on the history of the game, on the 1908 season, on the people and players involved, and on the collective consciousness of the public is felt to this day. It is a great privilege for Robert Edward Auctions to present the Merkle Ball at auction, and in the process to have the opportunity to document the history of the legend of the Merkle incident as well as the history of the ball itself. Reserve $25,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $76,375

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