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Lot # 1290 (of 1727)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Mel Ott's 511th Signed Home Run Ball - Last Home Run of His Career

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $5,875

When our consignor, a longtime collector, first mentioned to us that he had Mel Ott's last home run ball, we were, naturally, somewhat skeptical. However, after examining all of the evidence, we have to concede that we are fully convinced that this ball is exactly what it is purported to be: the ball hit by Mel Ott for his 511th and final home run. When our consignor purchased this ball many, many years ago, the source was a noncollector who was gracious enough to provide a letter concerning its provenance. The accompanying letter reads in full: "To whom it may concern: My name is Bill Apton. As a teenager I would quite often go to games at the Polo Grounds to watch my favorite team, the Giants, play. On one afternoon in 1946 I was sitting in the outfield bleachers when Mel Ott hit a home run ball that I was lucky enough to retrieve. Following the game and through the course of the next few weeks I had various members of the team sign the ball. I attended many games back in those days so I'm not sure which particular day, or home run, this ball is from. However, it is definitely a home run ball hit by Mel Ott and signed by the team. I have had this ball in my possession since 1946." What is important to note here is that our consignor did not purchase this ball as Mel Ott's 511th home run ball, nor was it offered to him as such. At the time, its worth was predicated on it being a 1946 New York Giants team-signed ball as opposed to being a random Mel Ott home run ball (an additional point provided in the letter), which only served to make it a more interesting conversation piece, nothing more. After our consignor purchased the ball, he decided to check the records, just out of curiosity, to see how many home runs Mel Ott hit in 1946. He was shocked by what he saw. Ott hit just one home run in 1946, and, most important, he hit no home runs in 1947, his final year as an active player. (Ott, who was managing the Giants at this point, was at the very end of his career and played sparingly those final two seasons.) If the information in the accompanying letter is accurate and the original owner did retrieve a home run ball off the bat of Mel Ott in 1946, than this ball can only be one thing: Mel Ott's 511th home run ball. Mel Ott's final home run occurred in the Giants 1946 home opener at the Polo Grounds on Tuesday, April 16th, against the Phillies. That fact is confirmed by a newspaper article reporting on the game (a copy of which we have located and accompanies the lot). The article also corroborates the fact that Ott's home run was hit into the right-field stands, just as the original owner states in his letter. Since all of the information in the letter appears to be correct, we next turned our attention to the ball, which is an official National League (Frick) ball. Based upon the label markings, this ball dates to the 1946 to 1951 manufacturing period. Again, that is a very important fact. The original owner said he obtained this ball in 1946. If he had said any year earlier, the physical evidence would not support his claim. Also, the ball is moderate-to-heavily soiled, with a number of minor surface abrasions, looking exactly as it should for a sixty-four-year-old game-used ball. The blue-ink signatures (ranging in grade from "2" to "6," averaging "4") on the ball further corroborate the story. There are nineteen signatures on this ball, fourteen of which we can identify (the others are either illegible or too faded to read): Ott (grading "5"), Lombardi, Rigney, Rosen, Cooper, Rucker, Witek, Warren, Bartell, Kennedy, Voiselle, Trinkle, Budnick, and Krees. Just the combination of those fourteen signatures conclusively dates the ball to 1946 alone. The most telling point, however, is the fact that the original owner claims he obtained the signatures on this ball over a period of a few weeks. It had to be so! Ott's 511th home run occurred on April 16, but Goody Rosen, whose signature is on this ball, was not acquired by the Giants until April 27th, when his contract was purchased from Brooklyn. While there is naturally a leap of faith involved in the identification of any home run ball, based upon all of the evidence presented, which we find extremely compelling, we are convinced that this ball is exactly what is purported to be: the ball hit by Mel Ott in 1946 for the 511th and final home run of his illustrious career. Ott retired in 1947 as the National League career leader in home runs, and until the 1960s he was one of only three players, along with Ruth and Foxx, to hit 500 or more home runs in his career. Obviously, no one could have guessed at the time that his 511th home run would be his last, especially since it occurred on opening day. Bill Apton just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and in doing so he helped preserve an important piece of baseball history that is being offered publicly here for the very first time. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $5,875

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