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1961 Roger Maris Single-Signed Ball From His Long-Forgotten Post-Season Barnstorming Tour!
Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $2,700
Offered here is one of the most unique Roger Maris signed items we have ever seen dating from and relating to his historic record-breaking 1961 season. This Official South Atlantic League (Smith) baseball has been signed by Maris in black ink (grading "7") across the sweet spot. However, it is an additional notation, printed on a side panel reading "Oct 18/61/Char./NC.,", that reveals its true significance and provenance. (A second notation reading "1961/61/HRs" appears on a separate side panel.)
Today, few collectors or baseball historians remember that immediately following the 1961 World Series, Roger Maris agreed to take part in a modest barnstorming tour down South. Unlike other barnstorming tours that featured a game, this tour featured a home-run hitting exhibition, with Maris, naturally, the star of the show. Traveling with Maris on the ten-day tour through North Carolina and Georgia were Harmon Killebrew, Jim Gentile, and Rocky Colavito. This ball dates from that long-forgotten barnstorming tour in 1961! Interestingly, the only place we were able to find any detailed information regarding the tour was in Maury Allen's authoritative biography Roger Maris - A Man For All Seasons (Donald I. Fine, Inc., New York, 1986). After reading Allen's fine account of the tour, lack of additional information regarding it is more than understandable: it was a complete flop and didn't even last the scheduled ten days. As noted in the book, Maris was to receive $15,000 for the ten-day tour and Killebrew, Gentile, and Colavito $5,000 each for their participation. Much of Allen's account of the tour is in the form of a narrative by former Major League pitcher Clyde King, who was hired as the batting-practice pitcher for the tour. At the time, King was manager of Rochester's entry in the International League and also living in North Carolina:
The format was for each batter to take ten swings in turn for three separate turns. We had a local kid catching and a few other local kids chasing down the balls in the infield and outfield. There would be thirty swings in all by each of the guys, and the whole thing took less than an hour. . . . We used to travel together in a new station wagon with the promoter driving us from city to city. We carried all the equipment in it. . . . We started out in Wilson and drew 3,700 people the first day. Then we went to Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro, and one or two other places before the tour sort of petered out. After the first day there weren't many people coming out, and the promoters sort of gave up the idea after the first three or four days that they could make any money out of it. It was a lot of fun while it lasted.
According to Allen, the brainchild behind the tour was Frank Scott, who was the exclusive agent for Maris and Mantle in 1961. While it might seem strange to some that Maris agreed to such a tour so soon after having endured one of the most trying and pressure-filled seasons in history, Scott's comments suggest a reason. Maris was in great demand on the banquet circuit that off-season, but, as Scott states, "Roger was never comfortable doing those things." Unlike Mantle, who was often the life of the party, Maris was much more introverted and ill at ease in the company of strangers. Therefore, he much preferred to be driving around the South in a crowed station wagon with people he knew, than standing on a dais giving a speech to hundreds of strangers. This is only the second Roger Maris signed ball we have ever seen from that short-lived 1961 postseason barnstorming tour and, given its lack of success, there are probably few other examples extant. The ball displays moderate-to-heavy toning, as well a few minor surface marks, and is in Very Good condition overall. This is both a rare and highly desirable Roger Maris signed baseball, with a great story and significance to Roger Maris' historic home-run record-setting 1961 season. LOA from James Spence/JSA. SOLD FOR $2,700
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