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1923 New York Yankees Opening Day Program
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $4,200
Exceedingly rare program from the first game ever played at Yankee Stadium, on April 18, 1923. This is considered by many to be the single most significant regular-season program in existence, and for good reason. Yankee Stadium is the most famous sports venue in America and its opening in 1923 heralded the start of baseball's greatest dynasty. Over 74,200 fans jammed the stadium on April 18th to witness the game between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and it was reported that another 25,000 people were turned away at the gates. (Coincidentally, the Yankees were the opponents of Boston during the first game at Fenway Park in 1912.) One of the main reasons for all of the excitement was the fact that the Yankees would finally have a home park to call their own.
Since 1913 the Yankees had been playing their home games at the Polo Grounds, where they were simply tenants of the New York Giants. When Ruth joined the Yankees in 1920 the Giants found themselves in an embarrassing position: the Yankees were outdrawing them. Finding such a situation intolerable, the Giants basically evicted the Yankees after the 1922 season. Not a man to cross, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert purposely built Yankee Stadium just a quarter mile south of the Polo Grounds and demanded that it be built in record time: 185 working days. At the time of its construction, Yankee Stadium, which was the first ballpark to be called a stadium, was double the size of any existing ballpark. Prior to the opening game, Babe Ruth was quoted as saying "I'd give a year of my life if I can hit a home run in this first game in this new park." The baseball gods must have been looking kindly upon Ruth that day, for in the third inning he got his wish, blasting a towering three-run homer into the right-field bleachers off pitcher Howard Ehmke. With Bob Shawkey limiting the Red Sox to just one run, Ruth's home run proved the difference in the Yankees historic 4-1 victory that afternoon. Following the game, legendary sportswriter Fred Lieb, in his article for the Evening Telegram, dubbed the Yankees' new home "The House That Ruth Built," and it has remained so in the hearts and minds of fans ever since.
In addition to its enormous historical significance, and obvious extraordinary display value, the Opening Day program for Yankee Stadium is incredibly rare. This is just the seventh example REA has ever presented at auction and we have only seen a few other examples. Its rarity is no doubt related to the fact that this program was produced for sale for only one day, and cost fifteen cents; but even so, it is almost unfathomable that so few have survived when one considers that over 74,000 people attended the game!
The sixteen-page program (9.25 x 11 inches) boasts portrait images of both Yankee owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Vice President Colonel Tillinghast Huston on the cover, with the preprinted text proudly proclaiming its historical provenance: "Yankee Stadium/Opening Day/April 18-1923." The pages include a photo of the new stadium, as well brief biographies of Ruppert, Huston, general manager Ed Barrow, and manager Miller Huggins. Also featured is a composite team photo of the Yankees picturing individual portrait images of twenty-three players, including Ruth.
The program, which is neatly scored in pencil, is in Fair to Good condition overall. The covers have detached, but are presently held together by a small piece of clear tape at the base of the spine. A five-inch diagonal tear in the lower-left quadrant of the front cover has been repaired along the interior with clear tape. The back cover is missing an approximate 6 x 1-inch rectangular portion along the top border and also displays surface-paper loss in each corner from having once been mounted and later removed from an album. The interior pages remain firmly bound and are all generally clean and bright. Despite the flaws, the program displays at a much higher level, and is closer to Excellent in its overall appearance, with the tear on the front cover very unobtrusive.
This highly prized program has a significance that transcends program collecting, and is perhaps the most substantial, desirable, and ideal-for-display of all items relating to the historic opening of Yankee Stadium. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $4,200
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