I knew I’d get lots of e-mails
during the past week, and I was correct. My not writing about Bionic Bonds was
conspicuous by its absence. Now I’ll put a closure on August 7, a date that will
live in infamy for true sports fans.
Fay Vincent, former MLB commissioner, summed it up best when he said that he doesn’t recognize illegitimate records, and as far as he’s concerned, Henry Aaron is still the career home run king. I fully agree, and I'll add to Fay Vincent's comment by stating that I still recognize Roger Maris as the home run king for one season, and not the frauds who broke that record, namely Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.
When Bonds played for Pittsburgh, he looked like a jockey; now he looks like a horse. It wasn’t shrimp louie salad at Scoma’s on Fisherman’s Wharf that did that.
Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA scoring records are legend, but let’s talk rebounds. Wilt led the NBA in rebounds in 11 different seasons, has the most career rebounds in the regular season (23,924), the highest career average (22.9 rpg), the single season rebounding records in total (2,149) and average (27.2 rpg), most rebounds in a regular season game (55) and playoff game (41) in the NBA, and has the most career All-Star Game rebounds (197). The 55 in one game took place on November 24, 1960 in a game between Philly and Boston. I laugh when someone writes or states that Bill Russell could handle Wilt Chamberlain. Russell couldn’t and didn’t! No one could and no one did!
The lighter the weight class, the greater the action. I recently saw a replay of the classic 122-pound Super Bantamweight Championship fight of 2000 between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. I have never seen a better fight. When I watch a fight, I like to score it. I couldn’t score this one. Each round had different story lines and power shifts. The action was so constant and furious and even, and the eventual split-decision merely confirmed same. Watch for it again on HBO.
The Feds are going about it all wrong in their case against Michael Vick. They should let a couple of pit bulls do the job. The pit bulls have earned it.
Story of the Week
This very interesting article, written by Tom Van Riper of Forbes.com on 8-8, was sent me by Scott Tobman.
Sports memorabilia collectors aren't exactly looking ahead with rabid enthusiasm to Barry Bonds' record 756th home run ball hitting the auction market.
Now that Bonds has passed Henry Aaron's career home run mark, memorabilia dealers are resigned to the reality that the historic ball won't be worth nearly what they would have expected a few years ago. And steroid suspicions, which have cast a pall over the accomplishments of the recent crop of home run hitters, are only part of the story.
A market that was already bubbling over thanks to the dizzying pre-steroids hype that surrounded the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa chase of Roger Maris' single season home run record in 1998 has crash-landed with a loud thump.
The $3 million that McGwire's 70th home run ball fetched that year is now estimated at less than a million. The fastball that Bonds smashed over the fence in right center field at AT&T Park for career homer No. 756 figures to go for about $500,000, according to auction house experts. That's far less than what they would have guessed a few years ago, not to mention $150,000 below what Aaron's 755th went for in the mid-'90s.
The Bonds ball was retrieved by Matt Murphy, a 22-year-old from Queens, New York. Experts say that if he wants to make maximum bank on it, the time to sell is now. As Bonds' retirement nears, speculation will rest on what number homer will be his last. And that ultimate record ball will hold the most long term value, just as Aaron's 755th home run ball outweighs his 715th, the one that broke Babe Ruth's record.
That doesn't mean money can't be made from bats and balls from the recent homer-happy era. But bids figure to come from aggressive investors willing to bet that the market will eventually rebound. To some, the late-'90s hype over home runs had the market overheating, leading to the $3 million sale of McGwire's historic ball.
In the world of sports memorabilia, old classics are the safe bet. Think of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio or Lou Gehrig bats and balls as Hamptons real estate or blue chip stocks. Their value will fluctuate every now and then, but will steadily climb over time.
"For those guys, the market is set, while for guys still playing, it's more volatile," says Chris Ivy of Heritage Auction Galleries. Indeed, there's always image risk involved with an active player, whether it's Barry Bonds fighting off steroid accusations or Kobe Bryant defending himself on a rape charge.
Most of the credit for old-timer strength goes to Ruth, an almost mythological figure who represents the dominance of baseball in America's sports history. While the NFL and NBA have largely caught up to the national pastime in terms of current popularity, no memorabilia item goes for anything close to the top baseball items. Only a few Heisman Trophies, according to Allen, come close to matching top baseball merchandise. ESPN may have dubbed Michael Jordan the greatest athlete of the 20th century, but he's got a long way to go before his game-worn uniforms catch up to Ruth's in value.
"Our industry is driven by baseball," says Allen. "A longer history, more games, all driven by Babe Ruth."
Another reason, ironically, is that the notion of a lucrative sports memorabilia market didn't really exist years ago, so players and collectors weren't saving artifacts. That makes them more rare and, in turn, more valuable. For example, Heritage recently sold a 1950s Mickey Mantle jersey for $141,000, a price it could get based on players having only two home and two road jerseys to use during a season back then.
Today's memorabilia-conscious era saw Roger Clemens change jerseys in the middle of a game in which he was going for his 300th win, creating more overall cash but diluting the value of each individual item.
Popular Ruth artifacts aren't limited to Yankees gear. Two years ago, the Babe's 1934 World Tour uniform was sold, the uniform he wore during an off-season barnstorming trip that year, and occasionally dusted off for other various exhibition games. It sold for $771,000.
Altogether, the Bambino accounts for five of the 10 most expensive sports items ever sold. His fellow baseball legends--and fellow Yankees--Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio are also perennial blue- chippers.
A 1939 Gehrig uniform went for $451,000 at Leland's auction house recently, up from $306,000 two years ago. A bat used by DiMaggio during his 56-game hitting streak in 1941 was sold for $345,000, while a personal diary he kept long after his playing days is being put on the block by Steiner Sports with bids starting at $1.5 million. And that's for a reportedly bland set of notes in which DiMaggio does little more than complain about signing autographs and the cost of food.
Then there’s the St. Louis Shower Door Co. uniform I wore (#42, of course) in the B’Nai B’Rith League many years ago. I wish I’d have kept it. As a legend of that league in my own mind, I can only imagine what it would be worth today at auction. “The bidding will begin at $1 million. Do I hear $1.1 million?”
Last Week’s Trivia
The NHL began its expansion in 1967. Name the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. When? In 1973-74, the Philadelphia Flyers became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. Proving it was no fluke, the “Broad Street Bullies” repeated the feat the very next season.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was Harry Frazee and what was his ominous claim to fame? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.