Better With Age: Baseball's Expensive Memories

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On the eve of the World Series, the jersey worn by Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista when he hit a home run and flipped away his bat during the American League Division Series sold at auction for $27,606.01. Bautista donated the money to his charity, the Bautista Family Education Fund.

Bill Littlefield wonders if the jersey would have brought an even better price if Bautista had held onto it for a while.

A baseball under glass is worth… how much? How do you tell?
If it embodies history, I guess its worth could swell
From what you’d first invested, even if that was a lot.
And then you’d feel quite smart, I guess, for getting what you got.

The baseball Mark McGwire hit, his 70th home run,
Which set the record some years back before most of the fun
Went out of records set that way, that is, through chemistry,
Sold for a great big bundle, so, as you can plainly see,
Though Mark McGwire earned complaints and shouts of rage and hollers,
The ball itself, unsullied, brought a cool three million dollars.
And now, of course, it isn’t what it was in days of yore,
For Barry Bonds eclipsed McGwire’s record by some four,
And, as investments, are the balls Bonds hit a better buy?
It’s math on steroids, surely, and a smarter man than I
Will have to do the figuring. But let us move along:
At some point ninety years ago or so, for just a song
You could have had a uniform Babe Ruth had lately worn,
And though I’m old, I’m not that old, for I was only born
The year the Babe departed life. But my dear father’s dad
Sat next to Ruth at lunch one time, and if he’d had a tad
More sense as a collector, maybe he’d have said, “My friend,
I’d love to have a jersey worn by you, and to that end,
I’ll pay the lunch tab. How ‘bout that?” And had Babe gone along,
My grandad would have had Ruth’s shirt, and had it for a song.
So what? You might be saying, and I’ll answer you this way,
Ruth’s jersey, circa grandad’s time, would realize today
Some four-and-one-half million dollars, give or take a buck,
So having such a shirt would quite decidedly not suck.

The trick, I guess, is knowing early where the value lies,
And which of many shirts or balls will, in collectors’ eyes
Emerge, much like a martyr’s bones or relics of a saint;
For good investments, well, they’re good; and bad ones, well, they ain’t.


Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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