Some Lost Balls of Baseball History

Every baseball put to full use itself also is ready to reveal a larger world to the user.

Christmas always does this to me. I simply don’t write about it every Christmas. This year I will.

It’s my list of the lost significant baseballs in history that could have been retrieved, saved, and collected, but were not.

Why they weren’t collected is easy enough to explain. During most of the early 20th century, baseballs were little more than game equipment. The umpire would roll one out to start a game and it would stay in play pretty much as long as it was find-able,  no matter how brown, grass-stained, or scuffed its cover became from contact with bats, walls, the ground, and various tools the pitchers may have used to make it float to the plate funny.

As for foul balls, some clubs even used staff to pursue the return of foul balls in the name of economy. The rest fell into the hands of fans, along with the few home runs that left the parks in flight early on – and many of the latter group were street kids who continued to play with them until their covers disappeared.

As a result, some famous balls in baseball history, as we only recently have proclaimed them to be, are now lost to wonderment over their current whereabouts, indeed, if they even have any such survival as material entities.

The Merkle Boner Play ball is a shining example. When Fred Merkle of the Giants failed to complete his run from 1st to 2nd on a hit up the middle that appeared to have won the game for his club over the Cubs, just to save time getting off the field, Evers of the Cubs called for the bal so he could make a force play on Merkle and negate the fatal play. Evers succeeded, but there was a level of doubt as to whether the ball used was actually the true game ball. Some Giants said that they saw on of the Cubs throwing the true ball into the stands – where a fan supposedly grabbed it and ran away. As you probably know, the Cubs won the argument and the replay game that gave them the 1908 pennant, the World Series, and possibly a curse against the Cubs winning again for another 108 years. I’ve always just wondered about the fan who may have gotten the real ball. If he did, what did he do with it? Did he give it to his kid for street ball destruction? Did he throw it in the garbage? Or is it sitting in a nest of cobwebs and dust on an attic shelf in someone’s ancient NYC domicile to this very day. If it is, we’ll never know. The thing can’t speak for itself without help.

At any rate, here’s my list. I would exprect you list, longer or shorter, would include some of these, but be different from my picks:

PECAN PARK EAGLE LIST OF LOST SIGNIFICANT BASEBALLS

1) (1903) FIRST PITCH OF THE VERY FIRST WORLD SERIES

2) (1908) FRED MERKLE BONER PLAY GAME

3) (1927) BABE RUTH’S 60TH HOME RUN

4) (1932) BABE RUTH’S CALLED SHOT IN THE WORLD SERIES

5) (1938) LAST PITCH IN EACH OF JOHNNY VANDER MEER’S BACK-TO-BACK NO HITTERS.

6) (1951) BOBBY THOMSON’S SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD

7) (1956) LAST PITCH IN DON LARSEN’S PERFECT WORLD SERIES GAME WIN

8) (1960) BILL MAZEROSKI’S WALK-OFF HR BALL IN WORLD SERIES GAME 7

9) (1962) BOBBY SHANTZ’S FIRST PITCH FOR HOUSTON AS AN MLB CLUB

10) (1965) MICKEY MANTLE’S FIRST HR IN ASTRODOME

11) (2005) FO-9 TO JASON LANE THAT CLINCHED HOUSTON’S FIRST PENNANT

12) (2007) CRAIG BIGGIO’S HIT # 3,000

13) (2017) MARWIN GONZALEZ’S HR IN GAME 2 OF WORLD SERIES

14) (2017) ALEX BREGMAN’S WALK-OFF SINGLE IN GAME 5 OF WORLD SERIES

15) (2017) GEORGE SPRINGER’S HR IN GAME 7 OF WORLD SERIES

16) (2017) ALTUVE-TO-GURRIEL 4-3 PLAY THAT CLINCHED ASTROS 1ST WS WIN

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO THESE ITEMS?

Although much more may be known separately about each, we have nothing concrete to present you here today. We have read reports about the 1908 Merkle ball being thrown into the Polo Grounds stands and carried away by an assumed fan, but we’ve never run across any leads that connect from there. – Even if there had been, the lowly baseball wasn’t valued as a collector’s item in those early days. It was an item of utility. If it made it out of the ballpark at all that zany day in New York, it probably lived out the rest of its brief life collecting scuff marks from the sidewalks thereof.

I did read an article a few years back that the Mazeroski ball ended up in the hands of a Pittsburgh kid, the piece said – and with the results being exactly what you suspect. It was used up to the nub as a useful play ball – and then reported to the Pirates, I think. If the Pirates got it, I have no idea of what they might have done with a thing that looked like any other old kid’s game nubber.

Perhaps the Hall of Fame or some arcane SABR researcher will know what happened to the monumental HR and pitcher record balls. And, we also suspect that our wonderful Mr. Mike Acosta, the Authentications expert for the Houston Astros may even exactly know what happened to all those balls associated with the club’s 21st century achievement.

I see little hope that we shall ever see the first pitched ball from the first 1903 Modern Era World Series. People didn’t waste a perfectly good-to-go game ball for the laughable sake of history back in those early times.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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4 Responses to “Some Lost Balls of Baseball History”

  1. David Munger Says:

    My guestion for where did it go, is where is the Finger’s Baseball Museum Collection? I remember my father donating items to be seen not stored away somewhere. Anyway, this article picked my curiosity…. Happy Holidays to all.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      David, The Finger Museum “Sports” Museum is gone forever. It had outlived the family’s support and business needs. We understand that most of the baseball items have been sold or transferred to the Astros for their discretionary use in whatever plans they finally form and act upon for some kind of team or Houston Baseball History venue at Minute Maid Park. No word at present on how soon, if ever, that project gets on the actual commitment page. We will all do our best to keep everyone posted as time goes bye for the appearance of any action phase.

      Happy Holidays to the Munger family too.

  2. David Munger Says:

    Thanks Bill, I was just curious. I thought it was an awesome tribute to the city of Houston and her legacy of professional baseball both to the players and the teams.

  3. Mark W Says:

    I’ll put in a plug for the LAST pitch in the top of the 9th by Bobby Shantz to clinch Houston’s first win as an MLB franchise on April 10, 1962.

    Re: the Fingers museum, I came THIS close to donating something a few years ago, but never got around to it. I’m wondering if it’s possible for people to view that material wherever the Astros have it stored.

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