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Lot # 1291 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Harry S. Truman Signed Ceremonial First-Pitch Baseball to Open the 1950 Season

Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $29,375

The tradition of the United States President officially opening the Major League baseball season by means of a ceremonial first pitch dates back to Howard Taft in 1910. Since that time, every President, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has taken part in a Major League Baseball "first-pitch" ceremony at some point in his term, be it opening day, an All-Star Game, or a World Series. Very few "first-pitch" Presidential baseballs have ever been properly documented at all, let alone survived. Presented here is an exceedingly rare actual Presidential opening day first-pitch ball used by President Harry Truman to start the 1950 season at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. While all such Presidential first-pitch balls are highly prized, this particular example is further distinguished by the facts that it is signed by President Truman and that it has ironclad provenance. This ball originates from the personal collection of Eddie Robinson, who was the first baseman for the Washington Senators in 1950 and the player who caught the ball from Truman. After the ceremony, Truman signed the ball for Robinson and it remained in his personal collection until 1999, when it was purchased by our consignor at auction (he paid exactly $3,609 in 1999). Truman has signed the official American League (Harridge) ball in black ink (grading "6") on a side panel. On an adjacent side panel, Robinson has commemorated the event with a red-ink inscription that reads "Pres. Truman/Caught this ball/thrown by him/Opening Season/1950." In addition to his inscription on the ball, Robinson has also provided a one-page handwritten letter of authenticity, dated 8/17/99, on Major League Baseball Players Alumni letterhead. In full: "To whom it may concern: On opening day 1950 I caught the ball thrown by Harry Truman to open the 1950 season in Washington. It was customary at that time for the President to open the season by throwing out the first ball. Regards, Eddie Robinson." Further accompanying the ball, and perfect for display with it, are two photos (8 x 10 inches) of Robinson holding this very ball as he poses with Truman in the stands directly after the ceremony (one of the photos is an original press photo, while the other is a copy of the original that has been signed by Robinson in blue ink; grading "10"). One thing that Robinson forgot to mention in his letter is that Truman made Presidential first-pitch history in 1950 by tossing out this ball twice: once left-handed (he was a natural south paw) and then again right-handed. Truman took part in seven first-day ceremonies during his two terms in office, with the offered ball representing the fifth ball tossed by him to start the season. The ball, which is coated with a layer of protective shellac, is affected by dark age toning in a number of areas and displays a number of minor abrasions. Nearly all of the manufacturer's stampings have been obscured with the exception of the ball label, where just enough remains to allow for its identification as an OAL (Harridge) ball. A small mounting hole is evident on the side panel opposite of Truman's signature. In Good condition overall. Despite the technically accurate modest grade, both Truman's signature and Robinson's inscription remain clearly legible. This is one of the finest documented Presidential first-pitch balls we have ever seen, let alone offered, and is a museum-quality piece that would be the highlight of even the most advanced baseball or Presidential autograph collection. Together with a custom-made lucite case for optimal presentation. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate $4,000++. SOLD FOR $29,375

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