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Baseball's Sale of the Century

by John Gettings

Just because the baseball season is over doesn't mean Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have to stop breaking records.

Baseball fans can expect more outrageous numbers from the home run record breakers next week when some of their most important home-run balls, including McGwire's #70 and Sosa's #66, go up for sale at what is being billed as "the sports memorabilia auction of the century."

On Tuesday in New York City, fans who missed out on catching a historic home-run ball and high-rolling collectors from around the world will converge on Madison Square Garden where New York auction house Guernsey's will host "The Baseballs of 1998", the year's most talked about sale.

Among the items up for sale are:

  • McGwire's 16th (longest), 63rd , 67th, 68th and 70th home-run balls.
  • Sosa's 61st, 64th and 66th home-run balls
  • A ball autographed by the 1927 Yankees
  • A ball autographed by the 1915 Red Sox, including rookie pitcher Babe Ruth
  • Hank Aaron's 755th home-run ball
  • Mickey Mantle's 500th home-run ball

And the list keeps growing as collectors scurry to enter their obscure baseball mementos. Anticipation for an auction of the home-run balls has been building since shortly after the World Series. On November 3, McGwire's 50th home run ball, expected to fetch $12,000 — $15,000, was sold for $40,000 plus a $6,000 buyer's premium at an auction at Christie's in New York. And a St. Louis lawyer representing three collectors has already offered $1 million for McGwire's 70th, and final, home-run ball of the historic 1998 season.

"This type of response over months and months would not be unusual, but [in] so short a time is amazing," said Amye Austin, director of special events at Guernsey's. "We're unearthing some of the most amazing pieces of memorabilia we've ever heard of."


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