Description1908 Chicago Cubs World Series Championship Last Out Baseball. As this lot makes its late entrance into our November 2016 Signature auction, the Chicago Cubs have just pulled even with the Cleveland Indians at one game apiece, heading back home to Wrigley Field for the first World Series game hosted by the ancient and storied ballpark since 1945. By the time the final bid is cast on Saturday November 19th, the longest World Championship drought in American sports history will either have been laid to rest at a geriatric 108 years of age, or it will have slipped its noose to live on for another year, another decade, another century--it can't be known.
Either result will validate a certain widely-held dogma of our national pastime--either that hope is never in vain and that "next year" will always come eventually to the virtuously patient, or that curses are real and stronger than the bloodless laws of mathematical probability.
There are surely few baseball fans alive who cannot identify 1908 as the vintage of the Chicago Cubs' last World Championship, but only a fraction could describe the moment that clinching victory was sealed. One might expect that a drought of such epic proportions would have begun with a final play drenched in drama--a walk-off home run blast, or a bases-loaded strikeout in the bottom of the ninth to preserve a razor-thin lead.
But this is not how it happened.
In what remains the shortest World Series game ever contested at just one hour and twenty-five minutes, Game Two winner Orval Overall continued his stifling dominance of Ty Cobb and his Detroit Tigers offense in the clinching Game Five, scattering three hits over nine complete shutout frames as the Cubs plated single runs in the first and fifth. The last Tiger to fall was Charlie "Boss" Smith, Detroit's pugnacious backstop, remarkably the final victim of the 1907 Fall Classic as well.
With no Tigers on base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth at Detroit's Bennett Park, Schmidt caught the edge of an Overall delivery, precipitating a weak dribbler just feet in front of home plate. Cubs catcher Johnny Kling leapt from his crouch to retrieve the ball and slung it into the first baseman's mitt of Hall of Fame player/manager Frank Chance for the force out, sending the paltry crowd of 6,200 Tigers fans--the smallest audience in World Series history--for the exits, and the unwitting Chicago Cubs franchise into a desert of unimaginable expanse.
Heritage Auctions is honored and privileged to present to the collecting community the baseball that recorded that final out, a dividing line of horsehide and wound rubber that forms the border between those disparate landscapes of glory and despair. We risk no hyperbole in declaring it one of the most significant artifacts of baseball history that exists.
The baseball itself is something of a collecting marvel in its own right, absent any role in the biography of the Chicago Cubs. The Official American League (Johnson) sphere is a single-season format so absurdly scarce that even Brandon Grunbaum's essential hobby text, "Official American League Baseball Guide" lacks a quality photograph thereof. Just beneath the stamping of Ban Johnson's facsimile signature appears a bold "1908," the first of only two seasons that Junior Circuit balls were branded in that manner. Without a hint of attribution to any particular event, this rare format would command five figures in any major sports auction.
But the elite significance of this exceedingly endangered species is supplied by the distinctive handwriting of Hall of Fame Detroit Tigers manager Hughie Jennings, one of Major League Baseball's earliest souvenir hounds, who retrieved the ball from his friend and warring general Frank Chance in the moments after the final out was recorded. Many of Jennings' baseballs were gifted to his girlfriend Nellis Pearl, whose name appears on two other ancient orbs that have sold in past Heritage auctions, and from whose collection the offered historic relic derives.
We invite interested bidders to review the images and the inscriptions on those Jennings baseballs below, as well as those of a Jennings baseball from the 1907 World Series sold by another auctioneer that may well have been the last out of that Fall Classic. Jennings only lists the date, game number and pitching match-up for the 1907 ball, however, leaving last out status in question, but establishing that the losing manager was not averse to retaining souvenirs of historic defeats.
Jennings' handwriting upon the offered 1908 baseball leaves no such uncertainty, reading, "World Series, Tigers & Cubs, Oct. 14, 1908, From Charlie Schmidt." The date assures use during the Cubs' Championship-clinching Game Five, and the reference to Schmidt (who went zero-for-four) has no logical explanation other than as identification of the last man retired. A bold autograph from Ty Cobb on the ball's northern panel dates to 1942, documenting a reunion that surely inspired a mixture of nostalgia and regret for the three-time World Series runner-up.
Whether the closing bookend of Cubs tribulation is installed in the coming days, or if the exhausting vigil persists, the extraordinary significance of this offering remains unaffected. It's a relic as improbable as the drought itself, and as glorious as its beginning and its (possible) end.
|1907 Chicago vs. Detroit World
Series-Deciding Game 5 Baseball - Signed twice by
Inscription: "Brown vs. Mullin 1907", "Detroit Oct. 12 1907 Worlds Series Game 5"
|1908 Hughie Jennings Single Signed
Game Used Baseball - Signed by Jennings
Inscription: "Compliments of Hughie Jennings, Detroit B.B. Club", "May we be the same to each other as we are at this time, HJ & NP", "Detroit 10, Chicago 5, June 28th, 1908", "Pitchers Detroit Mullin Summers, Chicago [illegible] Walsh."
|1909 Hughie Jennings Single Signed
Game Used Baseball - Signed by Jennings
Inscription: "Hugh Jennings, Boston, Pennant, Sept 9-09", "Ball in game of [illegible]", "Pennant 1909", "To Nellis from Hugh"
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