LISTEN LIVE: Loading...



Ted Williams' Personal Collection Up For Auction

This article is more than 11 years old.
Ted Williams (AP)
Ted Williams (AP)

For fans as young as grade school kids to those old enough to remember Ted Williams on the field at Fenway Park, getting to see the slugger's bats, awards and even fishing poles up close is about as good as it gets.

For Lois Dominque of Newton, it's one photo in particular.

"Him kissing the bat," Dominique said. "That to me is just like true appreciation of the game, and true appreciation for what he stood for and all the hard work that he did."

A baseball signed by Babe Ruth for Ted Williams. (Courtesy Hunt Auctions)
A baseball signed by Babe Ruth for Ted Williams. (Courtesy Hunt Auctions)

For sports memorabilia collectors, the next week will be one of both anxiety and sheer elation. It's the first time items from Ted Williams' personal collection are up for auction. Williams, one of the greatest hitters of all time, played for the Red Sox his entire career — from 1939 to 1960.

Some of the proceeds will go to Williams' favorite charity, the Jimmy Fund. Online bidding has already begun in advance of next week's live auction, which will take place at Fenway Park, where some of the memorabilia is currently on display.

David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, showed off one of the most valuable items up for sale: A baseball Williams received from Babe Ruth signed: "To my pal Ted Williams."

Hunt worked with Williams' daughter, Claudia, over several years as she arrived at the difficult decision to sell some of her father's treasured belongings.

David Hunt: It's been a long process for her to decide how to do this, when to do it. What things not to sell. It's just as important as what is being offered. What things should remain in museums, as she did some very significant pieces. What things she should keep? And having the portion of the proceeds go to the Jimmy Fund. And it just felt like the right time. I can't speak for her. And then obviously, maybe most importantly, doing it here where it really is appropriate to do it, in Fenway Park.

Bob Oakes: From the point of view of the timing of a sale, it seems like it couldn't be more perfect — Fenway's 100th birthday and all the hoopla surrounding that.

Well, I mean, if you're going to talk about the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, if you're going to talk about the greatest players that played in Fenway Park, you have to start and finish with Ted Williams. I mean, and that's not really an opinionated thing. I think it's pretty fact-based. So it's neat to see people come through here and see the things. We had this morning a group of kids come in — there must have been 20 kids crowded around a case looking at Babe Ruth's ball — that's part of it. That's part of the fun of the event.

From the personal Williams collection, what's sparked the most interest so far?

I'll tell you what's very interesting to me, and I'm glad to see it, is his military things have had probably, actually pound for pound, as much interest as anything in the sale. His military ID, his amazing flight logs he that carried with him. These are his actual logs that he used in World War II and the Korean War to record his flights. It's nice to see people recognize that a player of his stature served almost five years and lost five of the prime years of his career to serve his country in two different wars.

 Some of Williams’ military mementos, including a book in which he logged his flights during World War II and the Korean War. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)
Some of Williams’ military mementos, including a book in which he logged his flights during World War II and the Korean War. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)

Let's walk over and take a look at something that relates to baseball first. We're standing in front of a display case right now that holds his MVP award from 1949.

Yeah, I mean, a very special piece. Obviously for a Major League Baseball player, this is the pinnacle. This is the highest accolade you can receive, which is the Most Valuable Player in the league. And in the collecting world, these are also the pinnacle of awards as well.

Before we came over, I looked at the online bidding, and this was up to $146,000 online, well before auction day. How high do you think this might go?

I think that's what's always fun is to see where it's going to go. Sometimes you'll see that initial bidding burst, and then it'll sort of slow down. Other times we'll have something like that occur, and then the day of the auction it'll literally double or triple.

Just below the MVP award is a Red Sox jersey worn by Williams. Tell us about that.

Yea, this is a 1954 home jersey. And you sort of see all the classic black and white photos. You can almost picture him in it. Sort of the shorter sleeves. You know, he liked to cut his tail out, he didn't like the uncomfortable part of how it felt on his tail. And the chain stitching down at the bottom that says the year, and his famous No. 9, of course, on the back.

Not everything that you’re selling in the auction is from the Ted Williams collection. There are many other items that are from outside the family, so to speak, including a first pitch baseball. We’re standing in front of another case. And inside that case is a small glass case holding lot No. 335, which was a first pitch baseball from the first day Fenway opened in 1912.

It sort of speaks for itself. We had been fortunate to become acquainted with the collector that had it in his collection. And I sort of talked to him, and I said, "You may or may not want to sell this piece, but if you ever do in our lifetime, this is the time to do it." He certainly agreed, and we're glad he did.

The first baseball pitched at Fenway from opening day 1912. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)
The first baseball pitched at Fenway from opening day 1912. (Lynn Jolicoeur for WBUR)

The current bid on that now as I looked at your website a little earlier was $140,000. That should go for a lot more than that.

I like the way you think, and we certainly hope it does. I think that's the beauty of an auction. You really don't know until you get to that day when it goes up in the air.

And what can be interesting about selling collectibles is that it just doesn't seem like the state of the economy matters that much, because it's passion that rules how much you want to spend that day, as opposed to what it says in your financial portfolio.

It does. We've always found that to be very interesting. And right or wrong, sports always transcends just about everything, and the interest in sports.

Think there'll be any bargains?

There will always be bargains. Because there's always that one moment where for whatever reason, nobody else bid, and you win it, and 20 minutes later they all want to buy that piece. I've seen it happen at  every auction I've ever been involved with.

The live auction, which will include more than 800 items from Ted Williams' personal collection, will take place Saturday, April 28 at Fenway Park — with a preview at the park the three days before that.

This program aired on April 20, 2012.


Listen Live