Yogi Berra’s ‘Perfect Game’ Uniform Highlights Sports Memorabilia Auction
In this now-classic photo, an ecstatic Yogi Berra jumps onto teammate Don Larsen, who had just delivered the final pitch of a perfect game in the 1956 World Series. The uniform Berra wore in this game went “undercover” for more than half a century but now will be offered by Grey Flannel in their Summer Games Auction closing April 14, 2010. Copyrighted image licensed for use through Getty Images.
WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Grey Flannel Auctions’ Summer Games Auction, on which bidding will end onApril 14, is packed with desirable game-worn apparel, jewelry, trophies, and game-used equipment autographed by superstars of baseball, football, basketball and hockey. The centerpiece of the nearly 1,100 lots to be sold is the New York Yankees pinstriped uniform Yogi Berra wore while catcher during the World Series “perfect game” pitched by Don Larsen on Oct. 8, 1956.
“This is the same uniform Yogi was wearing when that famous photograph was taken of him running out toward the pitcher’s mound to hug Don Larsen after the final pitch,” said Richard Russek, president of Grey Flannel Auctions. “The photo is so iconic, we put it on the front of the catalog for this sale.”
The Berra uniform was out of the public eye for 50 years before being consigned to auction. It had been issued to a young Yankee prospect, Ron Stevenot, on the day in 1959 that he reported to Yankee Stadium to try out for the rookie team. Each new prospect was given a uniform that had been worn by a Major League Yankee in a prior season. Stevenot, a prospect catcher fresh out of high school, ended up the lucky recipient of a Berra home uniform from 1956, the year the Yankees won the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It had the year “1956” sewn onto the jersey’s shirttail along with Yogi Berra’s name, and on the jersey’s back was the number “8.” Although Stevenot did not end up pursuing a career in baseball, he treasured the Berra uniform throughout his life. When he consigned the uniform to Grey Flannel, he was in for a surprise.
“When I first examined it, I had a hunch it might be the one Yogi wore during the ’56 World Series,” said Russek. “We took it to our headquarters in New York and compared it first to blow-ups of the famous photo, then to DVD ‘stills’ of the perfect game. Every Yankee pinstripe is like a fingerprint to when the jersey was worn. We compared the way the pinstripes matched up to the ‘N’ and ‘Y’ on the front, how they matched up to the collar and sleeves, and it was an exact match. It was the uniform Berra wore as catcher during the perfect game.” The minimum bid for the uniform is $50,000.
Many coveted jerseys are entered in the current auction. A 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates home jersey that was game-worn by the great Roberto Clemente during the last season before his tragic death is accompanied by a team letter of authenticity. The jersey, with the now-retired number “21” and “Pirates” emblazoned on the front, requires a minimum auction bid of $5,000.
The appeal of a Derek Jeter 2008 New York Yankees game-used road jersey is enhanced by the “Yankee Stadium Final Season” patch on its left sleeve and “2008 All-Star Game patch” on its right sleeve. Accompanied by a Yankees-Steiner letter of authenticity, and with Steiner and Major League Baseball holograms present, this coveted jersey worn by the popular Yankees team captain is entered in the sale with a minimum-bid requirement of $9,000.
As hockey jerseys go, few can match the cachet of a circa-1986 example game-worn by Mark “the Moose” Messier as center for the Edmonton Oilers. On the front of the bright blue, orange and white jersey is the large “OILERS” logo, and on each sleeve and on the back is the player number “11.” Across the back is the name “MESSIER.” Accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Rich Ellis, Spirit of The Game, its minimum bid is $2,500.
A mid-1970s Dallas Cowboys jersey game-used by star quarterback Roger Staubach has the player number 12 on its front, back and both shoulders, while the name “STAUBACH” appears across the back. With a MEARS letter of authenticity and graded A10, it had an opening-bid requirement of $2,500.
One of the most important jewelry lots in the sale is Ben Kelly’s 2001 New England Patriots Super bowl Championship ring with original wooden presentation box. A big, solid 14K white gold ring weighing 2-1/2 ounces, it features a total of 145 diamonds plus a red and blue Patriots logo and the words “SUPER BOWL” and “WORLD CHAMPIONS.” Minimum bid: $10,000.
Another important piece of professional sports jewelry is Dennis Johnson’s 1986 Boston Celtics Championship player’s ring with presentation box and family letter of authenticity. The 14K gold ring with a beautiful green Celtics logo, 16 inlaid diamonds and one large central diamond representing a basketball was given to Johnson for playing in what would be his third and final career World Championship. Minimum bid: $5,000.
Yet another eye-catching item is the New York Yankees 1996 World Championship ring given to Ray Quinones of the team’s front office. The ring’s design includes 23 brilliant-cut diamonds and a large man-made sapphire, a large “NY” Yankees logo and the words “WORLD CHAMPIONS 1996,” “COURAGE,” “HEART,” “TRADITION,” and “QUINONES.” With its original felt-lined presentation box, it requires a minimum bid of $5,000.
An imposing team-size replica trophy commemorating the 2007 Boston Red Sox World Championship measures over two feet in height, with a 14K yellow gold base surmounting a chrome base that measures 10½ inches across. Featuring a two-tone chrome baseball “stitched” in 14K yellow gold and with 30 flags representing all of the Major League Baseball teams, the trophy is engraved: “2007 BOSTON RED SOX WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS” alongside the MLB logo. Minimum bid: $5,000.
As a follow-up to her original artwork titled “NBA Fifty Greatest Players,” artist Erika King created a follow-up collage titled “LEGENDS OF BASKETBALL – WE MADE THIS GAME.” The limited edition, which was unveiled during the 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, incorporates personally autographed action photos of 60 of the NBA’s greatest players, including many superstars of the last decade such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Yao Ming and Allen Iverson. Numbered 1/60, the 40-inch by 60-inch photographic collage comes with a JSA letter of authenticity. Minimum bid: $10,000.
Bidding in Grey Flannel’s Summer Games Auction will close on April 14, 2010. All forms of absentee bids will be accepted during the auction, including by phone and online through Grey Flannel’s Web site. For additional information, call 631.288.7800, ext. 223; or e-mail email@example.com.
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