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1940 Hank Greenberg Single-Signed 214th Career Home-Run Ball
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $1,800
On June 2, 1940, in a game against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium, Detroit Tigers first baseman Hank Greenberg hit his eighth home run of the season, and 214th of his career, to help lead the Tigers to an 8-6 victory. Greenberg's home-run ball ricocheted off a bleacher seat, leaving a telltale streak of bluish-green paint on the sweet-spot, and ended up in the hands of our consignor's father, Sydney Brown, who was attending the game with his father. What happened next is best described by Brown in an accompanying signed letter he composed in 1991 detailing the history of the ball. In part:
During the game, Hank Greenberg hit a home run that landed in the seats not too far from us. I ran over and got the ball. Someone suggested that we should go to the clubhouse after the game and get Mr. Greenberg to sign it. We did and a boy at the door of the clubhouse went and got Mr. Greenberg who came outside and talked with us. He saw the paint on the ball and said that he would sign across it. He said that he had never signed across bleacher paint before. We shook hands and this ball has been a treasured memory ever since.
As noted in his narrative, Greenberg did indeed sign the ball across the streak of paint on the sweet spot, with his blue fountain-pen signature grading "8." In a separate letter, our consignor (Brown's son) relates how much the ball meant to his dad, mainly because it was a tangible memento of his meeting Hank Greenberg. In part: "Till the end of his life, this was one of those moments that he cherished. He could talk forever about how nice Hank was and how easy he was to talk with."
Further supporting the compelling family testimony is the ball itself. This ball dates from the very narrow 1940-1942 manufacturing period, which conforms perfectly to the narrative, and the Greenberg signature upon it is unquestionably vintage. Furthermore, the ball displays moderate soiling, as well as few tiny abrasions, that are indicative of game use. A check of the box score from the June 2, 1940, game between the Tigers and Senators at Griffith Stadium shows that Greenberg did indeed hit his 8th home run of the season that afternoon. The box score also notes the attendance that day was a sparse 1,000, which means our consignor's father probably had little competition for the home-run ball as it rattled around the bleacher seats.
While no one from Robert Edward Auctions was present on that day to witness the events recounted here, we feel that the facts, as presented, strongly indicate that this is indeed Greenberg's 214th home-run ball. Many items require "a leap of faith," and this is an example of such an item, but sometimes this leap is not very great. We believe that to be the case here. We would love to be able to provide definitive proof but that is rarely possible for any home-run ball from decades ago. At the very least it is a vintage Hank Greenberg single-signed ball dating from his playing days, which, by itself, makes it a desirable rarity. (We cannot remember the last time we saw a Greenberg single-signed ball dating from his active career.) At the very most it is exactly what we strongly believe it to be, and exactly what the family who has treasured this ball for the past seventy-five years knows it to be: Hank Greenberg's 214th home-run baseball. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,800
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