Hunt Auctions is hosting a glittering event during Baseball’s All-Star Week in Los Angeles
It’s one of the most famous baseball moments in the sport’s long history when lanky New York Giants outfielder and third baseman Bobby Thomson shot a 0-1 fastball from Ralph Branca into the left field stands at the Polo Grounds for a Three-run home run to win the 1951 National League pennant.
“The Giants win the pennant!” Sportscaster Russ Hodges yelled several times as Thomson rounded the bases before jumping onto home plate and being mobbed by his Giants teammates, including Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who was on deck , when Thomson connected for the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”.
“If you’re a baseball fan or a Giants fan, it’s way up there,” said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions.
On Tuesday in Los Angeles – where the 2022 All-Star Game will be played at Dodger Stadium – Hunt Auctions will be hosting a unique event at the LA Convention Center (and online): the 2022 All-Star Auction featuring numerous sports memorabilia, including the cleats Thomson was wearing when he hit that 51 homer.
“One of those shoes touched home plate (on the polo grounds),” says Hunt, who has been in the memorabilia business for over 30 years. “It’s such a famous story, one of those moments that will be talked about for decades to come.”
Despite inflation fears and the turbulence of the past two years, the memorabilia business continues to attract big lenders, and Hunt says prices for famous baseball artifacts “have only gone up.”
“It’s nice to see how this industry has matured,” says Hunt. “People are gaining a much better understanding of these memorabilia, especially the historical pieces, almost as an asset class. The beauty is that (items) have gained prominence in the general market as a phenomenal asset class.”
The forthcoming auction will feature a sizeable treasure trove from the Stoneham family. Charles Stoneham and then his son Horace owned the Giants for 57 years (1919-76), a time that spanned John McGraw’s tenure as manager and later the Mays era and the club’s 1954 World Series title. Horace Stoneham famously moved the Giants west to San Francisco after the 1957 season. One of the other items up for auction is a 1972 Mays home and away jersey.
Mays’ last season with the Giants was 1972 and he was traded to the Mets in early May of that year.
“The Stoneham family collection is very prestigious and we are honored to be a part of this representation,” says Hunt. “It’s ideal from an authenticity point of view, it’s the pinnacle. What you want is that first primary source. I’ve never had a collection with this breadth of items.”
The authenticity element of the memorabilia business has been at the heart of several past scandals within the industry. Bill Mastro of Mastro Auctions was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2012, and among the charges in the indictment was that Mastro altered the legendary Honus Wagner T206 trading card. In August 2015, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced that Mastro had been sentenced to 20 months in prison for his role in a shilling offer scam.
The industry has recently seen a resurgence in the modern card category, although Hunt says that segment has declined somewhat during the pandemic. However, the older baseball and sports artifacts only continue to grow in popularity and value.
Hunt Auctions partnered with renowned auction house Christie’s last fall to host a baseball memorabilia event that resulted in sales of over $15 million. It’s a far cry from the early days of what Hunt calls a “mall show environment with baseball card table shows.” Nothing wrong with that. That’s where I started.”
“The main reason we are committed to esports is that I believe the potential growth for sports-related artifacts has been much higher than for a fine art category or an obscure china or furniture category,” adds Hunt. “There are so many more people who appreciate sport. We teamed up with Christie’s and it was one of the most successful sales we’ve ever had. You go down to 30 Rock Plaza and you look up and there’s a 40 foot picture of a Babe Ruth Ball that we’re selling. It went perfectly with a Van Gogh painting next to it.”