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No Pennant, No Problem When it Comes to '54 Yanks Ball Value

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
September 7, 2005

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Dear Babe: A while ago, I briefly talked to you about an old Yankee's signature ball that I had from my dad. I have traced the signatures (28) to the year 1954. Harry Byrd only played for the Yankees in '54. It has all the main players such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford (signed as Ed Ford). It probably doesn't help that 1954 was the oddball year that they didn't go to the World Series.
Mike Quinn, Redding, Calif.

Da Babe always appreciates readers helping with the research. Finding that lesser-known player who played but one year with a club is often the key to dating a baseball. Byrd's claim to fame may be that he was included in a two-part, 18-player deal involving the Yankees and Orioles, who were in their first year in Baltimore. The trade included, among others, Bob Turley and Don Larsen going to New York. All that aside, 1954 team-signed Yankees baseballs have sold in the $400-$2,000 range in Mike Gutierrez (May 2005) and (December 2004) auctions. I'd say that's a pretty good range, keeping mind the high end goes to a pristine white baseball with bold signatures. Even though '54 along with 1959 are the only two years in that decade that did not see the Yankees win the pennant, the key players, as you noted, are there, so that ball still has value.

Dear Babe: Your answer about a Sugar Bowl watch from 1954 in a recent article was quite interesting, but not quite accurate. I was co-captain of the Georgia Tech football team in the 1954 Sugar Bowl game. We beat West Virginia, 42-19. I also have the "blue face" watch referred to, but it's an Elgin not a Bulova. Three football icons for the numbers 3, 6 and 9 supplement the nine letters in Sugar Bowl. I also have the identical watch for the '53 Sugar Bowl (GT 24, Ole Miss 7) and a really "neat" self-winding, Swiss-made watch from the 1952 Orange Bowl (GT 17, Baylor 14).
Ed Gossage, Duluth, Ga.

All right, it's nice to know someone out there is really reading the questions and answers. First off, Georgia Tech was a powerhouse during your three years there, going 32-2-2; including the bowl victories. The team was 10-0-1 in 1951. The Ramblin' Wrecks followed that up with an 11-0 season. Although Michigan State went 9-0 and was named national champions in most polls, the International News Service voted Georgia Tech the top team in its poll. In 1953, Tech "fell" to 8-2-1. That gave you quite a varsity career record.

As for the watch brands, the mystery is solved thanks to Mike Heffner, president of auction house in New York. The watches were given to the players by their schools and not the bowl committees. Georgia Tech players received Elgin watches, while the West Virginia players received Bulovas. Heffner did revise his earlier estimate to say that the watches were probably worth $1,000-$1,500 each.

Dear Babe: I recently discovered a pair of Brooklyn Dodgers rain check ticket stubs from Game 3 of the 1949 World Series at Ebbets Field.
Craig Edwards, Swoyersville, Pa.

Nice find. The stubs are worth around $100 each, said Mike Heffner, president of auction house in New York. For the record, the Yankees won the game 4-3 thanks to a two-run, pinch-hit single in the ninth by Hall of Famer Johnny Mize. The Yankees took the Series in five games.

Dear Babe: I have a 1949 Notre Dame national championship tie clip from back in the days when they were worn. It is gold plated and says "National Champions" on a half football that is mounted on the clasp along with the year - 1949 - and my name as senior football manager - "J. Finnegan, mgr." (which is worth nothing).
Jack Finnegan, Menifee, Calif.

Wait a minute. Let's not trash team managers. Da Babe spent seven years in high school and college as a team manager, mostly with baseball teams. That aside, the tie clip is probably worth $300-$500, said Brian Marren, vice president of acquisitions for the auctions in Chicago. And yes, you are right, the clip would have been worth more had it belonged to a star player.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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