“There’s a bit of magic to it,” said a recent visitor to Heritage Auctions as he eyed, with awe and reverence, the gray jersey adorned with “NEW YORK” on the front and “7” on the back. The slightly soiled, sweat-stained top belonged, of course, to Mickey Mantle — the No. 7. Of this, there is no doubt: It has been validated by myriad authentication and grading services. Mantle had also signed the jersey — inside, near the collar — just below the embroidered “M. Mantle.”
He wore it on the road during the 1954 season, his first in which he drove in more than 100 runs. The Mick also batted .300 that year, his fourth as a New York Yankee and his first full season back from injury. 1956 might have been Mantle’s “biggest year,” as he would later write. But ’54 was the season he began ascending from mere mortal to The Mick.
This historic jersey is but one centerpiece in a November event stacked with items either from or featuring immortals, legends, hall-of-famers, all-stars and countless other sports heroes whose doings made transcended their respective fields of play. This auction features several players’ collections, among them those from Mr. Tiger Al Kaline, St. Louis Cardinals great Lou Brock, Los Angeles Rams’ Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood, and Scott Williams, a member of the first Chicago Bulls team to win a title.
There are more than 4,200 lots in Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 18-20 Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction, ranging from iconic cards to important memorabilia, among them players’ uniforms and tools, their championship rings, their signed contracts and autographed balls, tickets to their landmark moments. The auction spans more than a century’s worth of sports history — and includes some items from moments that meant more than mere wins and losses.
Look no further than this extraordinary item that has never before been to auction: the pitching rubber from Yankee Stadium used during the 2001 World Series, which had been delayed that fall following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This is the very rubber from which President George W. Bush, clad in an FDNY jacket over a bulletproof vest, threw the ceremonial (and emotional) first pitch before Game 3.
As Bush recalled in the ESPN short film First Pitch, shortly before he took the field, Derek Jeter asked the president if he planned on throwing the first pitch from in front of the pitcher’s mound. Bush said during warm-ups, Jeter warned him, “It’s Yankee Stadium, you better throw on top of the mound or else they’ll boo ya.” Bush took the advice to heart, along with one more thing Jeter added as the shortstop walked away: “Don’t bounce it, or they’ll boo ya.”