MLB Inside Edition: Ranking the Most Desirable Dirty Dozen Artifacts
Last week, a historic piece of baseball memorabilia officially was put up for auction to the highest bidder. The 34-inch Mizuno bat was used by banished former star Pete Rose in 1986 when he recorded his final and major league record 4,256th hit of his career.
The auctioneer, Lelands.com, expects that the collector's item could potentially fetch the highest price ever obtained for a baseball bat, perhaps exceeding the $1.3 million paid for the one Babe Ruth used to hit his first home run at Yankee Stadium.
It is interesting that the fallen star's bat could command a greater price than that of the universally acknowledged greatest player in baseball history.
Although Rose broke another legend's all-time record when he passed Ty Cobb on his way to establishing his hit mark, the former Reds and Phillies player quickly fell from grace after his playing career ended. The gritty, gamer led a checkered existence and, of course, was ultimately banned from the National Pastime for betting on his own team's games.
Many baseball artifacts have commanded large prices through the years— from Lou Gehrig's $451,000 uniform to Honus Wagner's $2.35 million baseball card to Mark McGwire's $3 million record 70th home run ball. Other more unusual items such as Babe Ruth's Sale Contract garnered almost $1 million and Joe DiMaggio's personal journal was listed with a $1.5 million starting bid.
But, seeing the Mizuno bat used by the controversial Rose listed for sale evoked thoughts of what other— shall we say, less conventional— artifacts might be in great demand?
Although these baseball memorabilia items may not commemorate a historic milestone, they surely would draw a great deal of interest due to the controversy surrounding them.
Here is a countdown of the 12 most desirable, off-beat baseball memorabilia should they be made available. Think of it as the list of items that would provide countless content for an MLB show produced by "TMZ" or "Inside Edition."
12 Mike Scott's Emery Board
Mike Scott was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the second half of the 80's. The Houston Astros right-hander went 86-49 during that period and won the NL Cy Young in 1986 when he went 18-10 while leading the league with a 2.22 ERA and 306 strikeouts.
That same season he was reportedly involved in a now infamous incident. Spurred by growing suspicion from opponents about his on field mastery and an inordinate number of scuffed up baseballs, umpires confronted him on the mound to search for the baseball doctoring source.
Demonstrating quick thinking or a well thought out plan, Scott reached into his back pockets and animatedly pulled the insides out while throwing his hands into the air as if to say "who me?" Somehow umpires missed what cameras and fans picked up— Scott had also tossed a small, white emery board behind him in the process.
11 Herman Franks' Telescope
In 1951, the New York Giants found themselves hopelessly 13 1/2 games behind the arch rival Brooklyn Dodgers in August. Somehow, though, the Giants went on a tear and ultimately clinched the National League Pennant on Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world" on the season's last day.
Recently, former players admitted to an elaborate sign stealing system that may have provided a big boost that season. The scheme was keyed by coach Herman Franks using a telescope behind the center field fence to read opposing catcher's signals to begin a relay process to the batter.
It is unclear whether Thomson was aided by the Franks system, but it seems clear that at a minimum, arguably the most famous home run and moment in baseball history would likely have been reduced to just an exciting way to end the regular season.
10 Graig Nettles' Superballs
Graig Nettles enjoyed a long, accomplished career for six different teams, but gained most fame during his 11-seasons with the New York Yankees. Besides playing on four pennant winning Bronx Bomber clubs, the six-time All-Star third baseman also gained notoriety for an infamous incident in 1974.
After hitting a home run in his first appearance to provide the Yankees 1-0 margin of victory that day, Nettles shattered his bat the next time up. Interestingly, six superballs shot out of the barrel onto the field that were quickly gathered up by Tigers' catcher Bill Freehan.
After the incident, the Yankees slugger claimed that he had no idea the bat was doctored and that it had been given to him by a fan. Apparently his proclaimed innocence influenced baseball executives as Nettles was never suspended for using an illegal bat.
9 Catcher's Reflective Tape Used in Dock Ellis' 1970 No-Hitter
The late Pittsburgh Pirates hurler joined baseball immortality by tossing a no-hitter in 1970. Later, Dock Ellis admitted to being high on LSD during the game and battled in his mind everything from distorted vision to the baseball changing in size.
Ellis was particularly wild that day, walking eight and hitting a batter during the "masterpiece." Due to his pitcher's altered consciousness, Pirates catcher Jerry May wrapped his fingers with reflective tape to help Ellis determine the pitch call.
Animator James Blagden created the following short video to tell the amazing, infamous story.
8 A-Rod's Little Black Book
New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez has reportedly had—shall we say—an active social life. The multimillionaire heart throb has parlayed his "GQ" looks, record contract, "Big Apple" headliner status and inclusion on "People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful" list into an abundance of admiring women.
A-Rod has been linked to well known stars such as Madonna and Kate Hudson. The Yankee "third sacker" has also been rumored to be involved with "B and C-List" celebrities such as fashion, fitness and bikini models. And, to his chagrin, New York Post's Page Six has reported involvement with more discreetly famous women such as Eliott Spitzer's madam and night club "dancers."
Should it exist or be made available, Rodriguez's "Little Black Book" would surely command a great deal of interest. Besides providing confirmation on previously rumored relationships, some other very interesting names could very well pop up.
7 Sammy Sosa's Corked Bat
The Chicago Cubs former star helped re-invigorate interest in the National Pastime after Major League Baseball's strike in the mid-90's with his prolific power display. During that period, Sammy Sosa was both the toast of Chi-Town and a league-wide fan favorite.
Unfortunately, the slugger began a fall from grace when he was caught using a corked bat in 2004 and then later when his name was linked to performance enhancing drugs.
On an innocent ground out against the Tampa Bay Rays, Slammin' Sammy's bat shattered. When umpires gathered the broken pieces they discovered exposed cork and immediately ejected Sosa.
The broken pieces somehow disappeared and the Cubs slugger explained that he mistakenly used the bat which was altered for batting practice displays to entertain fans. The shattered bat of baseball's sixth leading home run hitter of all-time would surely be a treasured artifact if it somehow turned up.
6 Jason Grimsley's Grease Stained Uniform
Throughout the 10-year period from 1991 to 2000, Albert Belle was one of the most feared sluggers in the big leagues. His injury shortened career was also tainted by controversy, including an infamous incident in 1994.
After growing suspicion led the White Sox to request that Belle's bat be examined, umpires confiscated it. Although the actual blackened lumber is a desired artifact, the sequence of events that transpired afterward made for an even better memento.
With the rest of his Cleveland Indians teammates knowing that all of Belle's bats were corked, Jason Grimsley snaked through a ceiling crawl space into the umpires' locker room to swap out a replacement bat for the one originally confiscated.
Both players were busted when umpires found a "Paul Sorrento" model bat where they had left the "Albert Belle" model. Although Grimsley was spared suspension, his soiled uniform would make for the more interesting symbol of the "Batgate" caper.
5 Bill Buckner's First Base Mitt
Bill Buckner accumulated 2,715 hits and more than 15 thousand putouts in his 22-year major league career; however, the ball that he did not touch is the one that is most remembered.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning and the Boston Red Sox poised to end the "Curse of the Bambino" in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson's topped ball rolled under the first baseman's glove to allow the New York Mets to turn a 5-4 loss into a 6-5 victory.
Of course, as Murphy's Law would have it, the Mets went on to win Game 7 and keep Boston's World Series title drought going until 2004. The slow grounder that eluded Buckner's grasp makes the glove a highly interesting artifact that kept an entire city's misery intact.
Additionally, the batting glove that Buckner wore beneath his fielder's mitt provides an interesting accessory. A close look at the glove reveals that it bears the Chicago Cubs logo— baseball's other cursed team.
4 Gaylord Perry's 300th Victory Vaseline Jar
As a journeyman pitcher who donned eight different uniforms in his 22-year MLB career, Gaylord Perry racked up 314 wins and went onto be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Along the way, his name became synonymous with the art of pitching using assorted "foreign substances."
Perry allegedly experimented with all different types of slimy matters, but Vaseline was rumored to be his substance of choice. The secret to his sinker became such common lore that the petroleum jelly manufacturer once offered him a contract to be the company's poster boy.
Perry-signed jars of Vaseline have periodically been auctioned on eBay— but the actual container used by the pitcher when he recorded his historic 300th career victory that likely landed him in Cooperstown would be one heck of a conversation piece.
3 Pete Rose's Bookie Records
Although his bat is currently on the auction block and could command a price in the seven figures, another piece of Pete Rose memorabilia might be the most interesting.
Baseball's all-time leader in hits finds himself remaining on the outside looking in at the famous Cooperstown, New York shrine. Although he spent five months in prison for tax evasion, the reason that Rose has been banned from the game was accusations that he gambled on both his own sport and team.
More recently, the exiled former player and manager finally admitted to betting for his Reds team— but never against them.
Of course, either breaks the sanctity of the sport; however, the actual gambling records would provide a highly enlightening account of the depth and breadth of the transgressions that separate the most prolific hitter from baseball's highest honor.
2 BALCO's Client List
The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or "BALCO", has long been a fixture in baseball news. Many big league players were reportedly clients of the San Francisco area company accused of supplying performance enhancing drugs.
The most prominent and routinely linked player is Barry Bonds— MLB's all-time leader in home runs with 762 for his career as well as 73 in a single season.
Although he does not become eligible until 2011, debate continues to ensue whether the controversial player should be enshrined. Various speculation and testimony have strongly suggested that Bonds used steroids to fuel his phenomenal accomplishments, but he has skirted the topic for many years.
The BALCO client list would certainly be a highly intriguing document— both as it relates to the game's most prolific power hitter and possibly a whole host of other prominent players.
1 Mark McGwire's Andro
One of the most compelling story lines in MLB history occurred in 1998 when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire engaged in a home run battle that destroyed Roger Maris' magical 61-homer single season mark.
Both sluggers generated tremendous fanfare as they surpassed one of baseball's most hallowed records and then jockeyed to see who would own the newly established mark. Ultimately, McGwire's 70 dingers would top Sosa's 66 big flies that season.
The real-time home run derby generated tremendous media attention, with reporters routinely mobbing each player's lockers after each game in hope of getting nuggets of wisdom and entertaining sound bites.
Interestingly, along the way during a routine "Q&A," one reporter spotted a now infamous bottle of "Andro" in McGwire's locker. Although the substance was banned from other sports, Major League Baseball did not have a similar prohibition.
The incident led to the substance being included as a banned "PED" and set in motion suspicion about McGwire. After many allegations and his infamous 2005 Senate testimony, the brawny slugger finally admitted that he used more than Andro through the years (although he alleges all were for medicinal purposes.)
That famous little bottle is somewhat of a symbol of the fallen heroes of an entire era in baseball.
The Final Word
These 12 artifacts are not the typical items that would be found in Cooperstown or up for auction to be purchased by avid baseball collectors.
This is not to say that there is a total void of somewhat off-beat items already on display. For instance, George Brett's pine tar bat and Curt Schilling's bloody sock now reside in glass cases in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
We will likely never know what those items might command on the open market. But what if this dirty dozen set of controversial memorabilia made its way to eBay or Lelands?
They would surely arouse a great deal of curiosity and interest. Where would the bidding begin and ultimately what price would these items command?