The very first of twenty-seven Yankees Championship awards!1923 New York Yankees World Series Championship Pocket Watch Presented to Benny Bengough. His Major League debut came just four weeks before that of fellow 1923 rookie Lou Gehrig, so the college-educated pair was assigned to be roommates for the pinstriped campaigns to come. Soon Bengough had become a personal favorite of Babe Ruth as well, the legendary slugger charmed by the humorous self-deprecation Bengough showcased whenever he flipped the catcher's mask off of his head to expose his premature baldness. After completing the play, Bengough would shake his head as if to toss a non-existent mane from his eyes, a gag always good for a laugh from teammates and fans alike. "Ball players are entertainers," Bengough would explain. "The main idea is to entertain the fans with a good ball game. But all games can't be good. So, when games are dull, you should offer them something else to keep them interested." Quickly Bengough became a part of Ruth's inner circle, a regular participant in late night benders, hunting trips, and the popular Bustin' Babes vs. Larrupin' Lous barnstorming tours.
But while Bengough's best pinstriped pals were the game's greatest sluggers, the slightly-built backstop retired after a decade of Big League ball without a single long ball to his credit. He instead earned his keep as a defensive specialist, claiming the job as starting catcher on July 1, 1925, the same day his buddy Lou Gehrig began his famous 2,130 game streak at first base. Like Gehrig, Bengough saw fewer than twenty games of action during the World Championship season of 1923, but (unlike Gehrig) his name appears in correspondence between the team and the Baseball Commissioner's office as one of twenty-six Yankees eligible for "1923 World Series mementos."
And here, ninety-two years after the Yankees claimed the first World Championship in franchise history, we present that memento, a gorgeous Gruen Verithin Pentagon pocket watch consigned to auction by the Bengough family. While its status as the inaugural Championship award for the most successful baseball franchise in history alone is sufficient to establish it as one of the most important relics to emerge from the Major Leagues' trophy case, it is also noteworthy as the sole primary Yankee Championship award that is not the standard ring format adopted in 1927 and used for each of the twenty-six Fall Classic victories to follow.
It was just one year ago, in our February 2014 New York City Platinum Night auction, that Heritage presented the watch issued to Babe Ruth for the achievement, a supremely important artifact that commanded $717,000 for ownership. The watch is identical in design to that model, crafted in fourteen karat (14k) gold in unique pentagonal format. The case's verso is masterfully engraved with a miniature scene of a pitcher, hitter and catcher, and a ball in flight in their midst. Framing the scene are the historic words, "Yankees, World's Champions 1923." The rear case pops open to reveal further engraving, "Presented by Baseball Commissioner to Bernard Bengough." The case bears a serial number of "1060730," just eight removed from Ruth's model. We also note that a five-digit hand-scratched jeweler's notation just under the serial number beginning with the number "46xxx" is present here, as found on all other known models, including Ruth's.
Heritage Timepieces department head Jim Wolf has examined the watch and determined it to be 100% original and unaltered, in running condition but likely needing a horologist's tune-up to keep proper time. The watch face has taken on a green hue as is typical of period plastics, but this does no harm to the gorgeous aesthetics. Otherwise we can report no faults beyond the most innocuous effects of storage over nine decades in the Bengough family home. Letter of provenance from the Bengough family.
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