Chronology : 1850-1859
1857 The Laws of the Knickerbockers
2016 SOLD for $ 3.26M including premium
The spirit of competition requires fixed rules that will identify champions who will defend their title in the following season. In England, football has a similar story at the same period.
The activist of the standardization of base ball, which will later become the baseball, is the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club established in 1845 and named after the uniforms of the firefighters who lent to them their playing field.
The Knickerbockers were not the best in sport but they had the merit of endeavoring to impose their rules. They were also one of the two teams that played the first official match in 1846 and the first base ball club to use a distinctive uniform in 1849.
In 1857 in New York, the first congress of the National Association of Base Ball Players establishes the first regulatory body and freezes the rules that will remain virtually unchanged for ever, ending the initiatives of the Knickerbockers.
A set of three manuscripts that were almost unnoticed in an auction in 1999 gives a new vision on the fundamental and even unique role of the Knickerbockers in defining the final baseball laws.
In 1857 the President of the Knickerbockers is Doc Adams who had been a player in the 1846 pioneering game. The three documents are the first autograph draft written by Adams in 1856 (the last page is missing), an iteration annotated by him before the congress and the final laws submitted to Congress and approved.
These documents are grouped as the lot 1 in the online auction organized by SCP Auctions with bidding close out on April 23. I invite you to watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are record setters here at SCP #Auctions. Remember when we sold The Laws of Baseball for over $3,000,000? We’d love to help you with your #sports #memorabilia in our Summer Premier Auction. Send in your #consignments before it’s too late. pic.twitter.com/jVT7YCG3vh— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) July 7, 2019
1857 Football was born in Sheffield
2011 SOLD 880 K£ including premium
Particularly dynamic since its creation in 1857, the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club immediately established a working group to standardize the sport. On October 28, 1858, a set of eleven rules was adopted. Sheffield succeeded where other clubs had failed: in 1863 the new Football Association confirmed the game as it was played in Sheffield.
The club sells its archives on July 14 at Sotheby's in London.
The documents contain the official records of the club with the minutes of meetings and the first accounts of games. They include, of course, the oldest handwritten version of the rules of football, but also the only known copy of the first printed edition (1859).
It is an extraordinary set for the knowledge of sports history, so important as an input to social history as a whole. The estimate, £ 800K, seems low.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was well targeted. Sold £ 880K including premium, the lot has remained around the low estimate.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's.
1891 Ball and Basket for Indoor Sport
2010 SOLD 4.3 M$ including premium
By design, it is not a rough sport. The idea of the inventor, the Canadian James Naismith, was to occupy without risk of injury the sportsmen in winter, when weather conditions do not allow to play baseball or football.
The elevated position of the baskets gives a specific interest to this sport that does not invite to physical contact. One can argue whether similar sports existed before basketball and inspired Naismit. No matter: the basketball based on his thirteen rules has become one of the most popular sports due to the simplicity of its required equipment.
Naismith had typed these thirteen rules, in two sheets that he modified by hand writing and signed. His family, who had kept this precious document, sells it at Sotheby's in New York on December 10 for the benefit of a Canadian foundation that spreads the ideals of sportsmanship of the inventor. The photo of these pages is shared by Artdaily.
It is clear that this lot is highly important in the history of sport. The auction house devoted a separate catalog to it, and expects $ 2M.
POST SALE COMMENT
The invention of basketball is really a major act of modern history, one of those advances that have impacted the lives and behavior of millions of people. The document was sold for $ 4.3 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's :
1892 Faster, Stronger, Higher
2019 SOLD for $ 8.8M including premium
With a remarkable open-mindedness, Coubertin compares the progress of sport in several countries. In England, the country of the fair play, football is a team sport practiced in colleges, including Rugby, and the establishment of official rules allows competitions. In Sweden the mental benefit of gymnastics is officially recognized. In the United States, sport opens the way to the practice of collective recreation. He does not like the use of sport for military training in Germany but recognizes its heroic character.
The time is also favorable for meetings of thematic clubs in England and France. They will support the development of the Coubertin project. In 1891 he promulgates a motto : citius, fortius, altius (later modified in its sequence). Coubertin is setting the example : on March 20, 1892 he is the referee in the final of the first French rugby championship.
Taking as a pretext the fifth anniversary of a running club, a conference is organized at the Sorbonne on November 25, 1892, with three speakers. Bourdon and Jusserand tell the history of the sport. Coubertin, entrusted for dealing with modern sport, concludes his speech by proposing the reestablishment of the Olympic Games.
In this seminal address, Coubertin's vision is universal. The most developed nations will help the others. It is a matter of practicing sports in common between athletes of all nations with a search for the individual excellence, but not yet of international competition or rewards.
The autograph draft of this Coubertin thesis, largely modified by the author in the preparation phase, is estimated $ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 18, lot 173.
Very remarkably, despite necessarily different visions of his international interlocutors, it is Coubertin himself who will concretize his concept. A January 1894 autograph document defining the stadium and sports passed at Goldin Auctions on October 29, 2016. In June 1894, Pierre de Coubertin creates the International Olympic Committee.
#AuctionUpdate Moments ago in our #NYC salesroom, the original Olympic Games manifesto soared to $8.8 million, more than 8.5x its $1 million high estimate following a 12-minute bidding battle. The manifesto outlines Pierre de Coubertin's vision for reviving the ancient games. pic.twitter.com/xoR4uAzs2t— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) December 18, 2019
1918 Salary Increase for George H. Ruth
2014 SOLD 1.02 M$ including premium
He knows that he can demand a salary increase for 1918. He will earn $ 5,000 for the new season, compared with the $ 3,500 of his paycheck from the previous year. The debate is not difficult because the employer knows the actual value of the player. This contract is considered as a bargain for the club.
The contract was signed in triplicate on January 16, 1918 by the player, the club owner and president of the American League in the official format. The copy for Babe Ruth is the oldest surviving contractual document concerning the champion. It is for sale by Goldin Auctions in Baltimore on July 12. Here is the link to the site of the auction house.
Babe Ruth continues his prodigious career. After the 1919 season, he was transferred by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees. A copy of the contract signed by both clubs has been sold for $ 1M including premium by Sotheby's on 10 June 2005.
POST SALE COMMENT
The contract signed in January 1918 was sold for $ 1.02 M. The release issued by the sports business reporter Darren Rovell compares this result with the price including premium obtained by Sotheby's in 2005 for the contract between Red Sox and Yankees. This release is linked in the tweet below published by the auction house.
1918 contract sells for $1 million http://t.co/7IGU5SuOoH http://t.co/wunf8W3mwe
— Goldin Auctions (@GoldinAuctions) July 13, 2014
This document is illustrated in the post sale release posted by Auction Report.
1919 George H Ruth available for Sale
2017 SOLD for $ 2.3M including premium
Until 1918 the Boston Red Sox team dominated the prestigious World Series of Major League Baseball. The 1919 season is bad for the Red Sox and the club owner Harry Frazee decides to change his strategy, preferring to build a consistent team rather than relying on a star player. The larger than life behavior of Babe Ruth and his growing demands of salary do not please Frazee : the player George H. Ruth is now available for sale !
Frazee who is also a theater director is in a urgent need of money. He accepts the proposal of the New York Yankees of a $ 300K mortgage loan hiring his Boston ballpark and sells Ruth to the Yankees for $ 100K.
The contract selling the player is signed with a notary in New York City on December 26, 1919. Cautiously some clauses are added on how both parties shall handle a probable new demand of salary increase by Ruth or a possible deficiency of the player to work for the Yankees.
Three copies of this contract have been established. Frazee's document was sold for $ 1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 10, 2005. The document attributed to Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert is offered as lot 2 in the online sale opened by Lelandswith a closing date on June 30. Here is the link to Lelands.com. The third copy did not resurface.
Babe Ruth signed with the New York Yankees in the following month. The most brilliant part of his exceptional sporting career was beginning.
From a sporting point of view, Frazee's decision is a disaster for the Boston club which disappears until 2004 from the list of the World Series winners. This long period is assimilated with a curse in the legend of baseball under the name of Curse of the Bambino.
1922 A Businessman named Babe Ruth
2016 SOLD for $ 550K including premium
Three major contracts mark the progress of the fame of Babe Ruth.
On January 16, 1918, Ruth signs with the Boston Red Sox for a salary of $ 5,000 per year which is an increase by 43% compared to his previous payment. A signed copy was sold for $ 1,02M including premium by Goldin on July 12, 2014.
The champion is not directly involved in the contract signed in 1919 by the Red Sox and the Yankees for his transfer to the New York team because the contract defining his salary is still valid. A copy of the contract between the two clubs was sold for $ 1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 10, 2005.
Babe Ruth is eager to renegotiate his salary. Thanks to his skills the Yankees can compete with their rivals the New York Giants. Crowds rush to watch the champion on the field and the Yankees will soon decide to build the Yankee Stadium.
Ruth is in a strong position. He refuses the offers by the Yankees at $ 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 per year before concluding at $ 52,000 stating that this number suits him because it corresponds to one grand per week. The contract is signed on March 10, 1922. Unable to oppose the unprecedented salary expectations of the champion the Yankees had obtained that Ruth refrains from drinking liquors and does not stay up after 1 A.M. during the playing season.
A signed copy of the contract is estimated $ 750K for sale by Goldin in New York on April 30, lot 43.
1924 The Salary of a Stocky Man
2017 SOLD for $ 480K including premium
From that first phase his records are sensational. As early as 1920 he attracted attention by scoring in front of 10,000 spectators one of the most prestigious and rarest points of baseball, a grand slam whose he will be the best specialist throughout his long career.
Lou was born in New York City. His skills very logically appealed the leaders of the New York Yankees with whom he plays his first match in Major League on June 15, 1923.
At that time the star player of the Yankees is Babe Ruth, strong enough to grab a weekly salary of $ 1,000 in 1922. An original copy of that contract was sold for $ 550K including premium by Goldin on April 30, 2016.
The president of the club, Jacob Ruppert, who accepted the exorbitant conditions of Ruth, is definitely a competent manager. On August 30, 1924 Gehrig signs his first contract with the Yankees for a monthly salary of $ 800, well below Ruth's salary but nevertheless quite attractive for a rookie. An original copy of this document signed by Gehrig, Ruppert and two other officials is for sale by Heritage in Dallas on August 19 with extended bidding, lot 80093 estimated $ 500K.
Lou proved himself. From 1 June 1925 he played 2,130 consecutive games with the Yankees. This stunning record will be surpassed in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr of the Baltimore Orioles and will never be approached by any other player in Major League.
1930 A Great Deal of Money
2017 SOLD for $ 384K including premium
2018 SOLD for $ 244K including premium
An original signed copy of the 1930-1931 contract between Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees was sold for $ 384K including premium by Heritage in Dallas on February 25, 2017, lot 80062. The same lot that also includes a news photo of the act of signature by Ruppert and Ruth is now estimated $ 400K for sale by the same auction house online on August 18, lot 80038.
I narrated it as follows in 2017.
The New York Yankees have raised baseball to an unprecedented level of popularity. This achievement is the work of Jacob Ruppert, co-owner of the club from 1915 to 1923 and sole owner until his death in 1939. During his period the Yankees acquired the three most emblematic players of the inter-war period, Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio, and built the monumental Yankee Stadium for 58,000 seated spectators.
Ruppert, the heir of a successful brewery business, had an enormous investment power that he used wisely. His personal fortune inherited from his father in 1915 was $ 6.3M. His own estate in 1939 had grown to $ 40M. With his partner he spent in 1922 and 1923 more than $ 3M for the ground and the construction of the Stadium, before he purchased for $ 1.5M all the shares of his co-owner.
On a sporting level, the Yankees manager was Miller Huggins. The successes of Babe Ruth brought the player to a growing indiscipline that Huggins had managed to curb. It was not by chance that the contract signed in 1922 for 52,000 dollars per year was accompanied by a commitment from Ruth to drink less and to go to bed early. An original copy of the 1922 contract was sold for $ 550K including premium by Goldin on April 30, 2016.
The contracts were renegotiated at regular intervals. In January 1930 the club offered to the player a salary of 70,000 dollars for one year followed after a first reject by a second proposal at 75,000 dollars per year for two years. Ruth refuses also this second offer which corresponds to the annual salary of President Hoover. He asks for 85,000 dollars per year over three years, boasting that such a contract duration is shorter than the presidential term.
The contract between the Yankees and Ruth was finally signed on March 10, 1930 for 80,000 dollars per year over two years. Both sides were winners. With this small concession the Yankees got from the bulky Ruth that he renounced to succeed Huggins who had suddenly died a few months earlier.
This figure of 80,000 dollars per year over two years is the highest salary earned by Babe Ruth throughout his career and at that time an absolute record for a professional athlete. This record will be exceeded by the money received by DiMaggio in 1949 including bonuses.
1939-1941 Lou Gehrig Disease
2020 SOLD for $ 450K including premium by Christie's and Hunt
narrated in 2021
Medical testing in performed in June at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. The diagnosis is terrifying. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is incurable and the paralysis is progressive and inexorable. It is not contagious. Mental functions are not affected by this partial destruction of the brain. The champion's life expectancy is three years. He will not reach it.
Lou is courageous. On July 4, 1939 in the Yankee Stadium, the Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day is added to the Independence Day ceremonies. Lou delivers with extraordinary dignity in front of 62,000 spectators the most poignant speech in the history of sport : "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans ".
On December 16, 2020, Christie's in association with Hunt sold at lot 87 for $ 450K including premium the letters exchanged by Gehrig throughout his final phase with Dr O'Leary of the Mayo Clinic : original letters sent by the champion and carbon copies of the doctor's answers. Lou remains lucid with a few bursts of hope and follows the considerations from the medical world about this pathology. He is informed of experiments on monkeys but fears being effeminated by injections of hormones.
Lou died on June 2, 1941, 17 days before his 38th birthday. In the United States, his disease, also called Charcot disease, is now named the Lou Gehrig Disease. He was not autopsied, and the cause and triggering factor have not been identified.