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One down, 4,255 to go...1963 Pete Rose First Career Hit Baseball. The twelfth time was the charm for the man who would be King, as the eventual 1963 Rookie of the Year posted a zero-for-eleven start to the season before tripling off Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Bob Friend to take the first step of the sport's longest march. He would rarely see slumps like that which launched his peerless career again, barreling his way to fame and infamy over the course of twenty-four Major League seasons. While several of Rose's milestone hit baseballs have found their way into the collecting hobby--our February 2015 Platinum Night auction saw his 3,000th hit ball sell for $47,800--we believe this to be the very first auction offering of the baseball that recorded career hit number one.
An eleven-year old Cincinnati resident by the name of Dale Hettersheimer held the enviable position of Reds bat boy on April 13, 1963, though the dugout had been rather sullen most of the afternoon as the visiting Bucs led off the first with three runs and had expanded their lead to six by the time the hitless rookie second baseman led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a triple to left field. As remains custom for milestone hits, the ball made its way back to the dugout, where the young bat boy took possession, later printing the significance in black ink on the sweet spot: "First hit in the Majors off Bob Friend, Triple, April 13, 1963."
Hettersheimer retained the ball as a souvenir and then, realizing he would not return to the team after the following season, presented the ball to the '64 Reds for signing. Twenty-five autographs include Rose, Frank Robinson, Pinson, Sisler and more. Autographs average 6/10.
Dale willed the ball to his brother Vern Hettersheimer upon his passing in 1989, and it is Vern's letter of provenance that tells the special tale of a moment of significance that would take decades to come into sharp focus. Rarely does a "first" of any towering record of sport become available in the collecting community, and very few firsts carry such massive import. Letter of provenance from brother of Cincinnati Reds bat boy. LOA from Heritage Auctions. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.
Guide Value or Estimate: $20,000 - up.
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