A Tour Of History With ‘Hawk’ and Christie’s

LaTroy Hawkins (l) and Simeon Lipman
LaTroy Hawkins (l) and Simeon Lipman

In his home, above a second-floor pool table, 21-year Major League pitcher LaTroy Hawkins has a mural featuring Negro League stars, including Josh Gibson, Hilton Smith and others. Among the players most cognizant of baseball history, Hawkins met up this week with Simeon Lipman, pop culture consultant for Christie’s (and you may know him as the sports/pop culture expert on “Antiques Roadshow”) to review some highlights of The Golden Age Of Baseball, Selections From The National Pastime Museum, which the famed international auction house will be conducting Oct. 19-20 at its 20 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters.

Hawkins shared the story of the Hall of Famers who look over him in his gaming room, and one about how his trips to Kansas City during his career, which concluded with his retirement following the 2015 season, included side stops at the Negro League Hall of Fame with young players in tow. Even someone as in tune with baseball history as Hawkins, who will serve as coach for the Brazil team in next weekend’s World Baseball Classic qualifier in Brooklyn, was taken aback at the breadth and depth of the pieces Lipman displayed.

Among those were a Jackie Robinson signed ball, in about as good a condition as any available, along with bats, balls, photos, contracts and other ephemera from stars spanning more than a century. Hawkins took a few practice swings with Shoeless Joe Jackson‘s bat, one of only two game-used Black Betsys known to exist, leafed through Sol Adams‘ History of Colored Baseball (1907) and pored over 20 or so choice photos while Lipman dutifully provided historical narrative on many.

Comprised of a remarkable assemblage of game-used bats, letters, contracts, memorabilia and a treasury of vintage baseball photography, Part I of the sale is devoted to memorabilia and Part II is devoted to photography. With 485 lots in total, estimates start at $300-500 for photographs and memorabilia, while the top lot of the auction is the Jackson bat, estimated at $500,000-700,000. The contents of the auction are from the National Pastime Museum, which is an online museum based on a private collection of baseball artifacts.

The public exhibition of the full collection will be open to New York area fans at Christies, Oct. 13-19.