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BASEBALL Babe's 1919 pact to be auctioned



Published: Sat, June 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A hunger relief charity will benefit from the sale.

NEW YORK (AP) -- This is all that remains of "The Curse:" five neatly typed pages, two bold signatures, and the scars from 86 years of torment.

The torment was free. But the original 1919 contract delivering Babe Ruth from Boston to the Bronx, forever altering baseball history and the pysches of countless Red Sox fans, is expected to draw bids of more than $500,000 when it goes on the auction block Friday.

Signed by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee and his Yankees counterpart, Jacob Ruppert, the Dec. 26, 1919, document was typed out on legal paper to record the $100,000 deal that spawned "The Curse of the Bambino."

The Sox had won the World Series one year before the sale. Once Ruth was peddled to the pinstripers, Boston wouldn't win another world championship until last year -- suffering some of the most painful defeats in sports history along the way.

In between, the Yankees won 26 world championships.

Other Red Sox memorabilia

The contract, currently owned by a Rhode Island philanthropist, is the featured item in an auction heavy on Red Sox memorabilia -- including the first baseball thrown at the 1912 opening of Fenway Park.

In all, the auction features more than 350 lots with an anticipated take of more than $5 million. At least the auction won't be held in the Bronx; the sale this coming Friday is set for Sotheby's in midtown Manhattan.

Despite its age, the Ruth contract remains in excellent condition, according to Sotheby's. There is some discoloration from aging, along with a rust mark where the five-page document was held together by a paper clip.

Philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein said the money generated by the sale of the contract will go to the hunger relief organization America's Second Harvest, which provides food for 23 million low-income Americans each year.

Priciest items

The priciest Babe memorabilia ever was the massive 46-ounce Louisville Slugger used to drill the first home run in Yankee Stadium history; it brought a Ruthian price of $1.26 million, the most paid for a baseball bat.

It was only the third piece of sports memorabilia auctioned off for more than $1 million, joining Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball ($3 million) and a 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card ($1.265 million).

The first ball thrown out at the April 20, 1912, debut of Fenway Park was expected to draw up to $50,000. Umpire Tom Connolly held onto the ball, which is inscribed in his handwriting: "Fenway Park, First Ball Pitched."

An opening day ticket stub from Fenway is also on the block, with bidding expected to reach $6,000. The ticket, for a bleacher seat at the ballpark, cost 25 cents back in 1912.

Other notable items available for bidding by Red Sox fans:

UA Ted Williams full game uniform from 1959, a lasting memento of the now-cryogenically kept Hall of Famer ($75,000-$100,000).

UA 1915 Babe Ruth rookie card, in his full Boston game uniform ($100,000-$125,000).

UA 1969 home jersey belonging to the doomed Tony Conigliaro, the one-time Red Sox prodigy whose promising career was derailed by a 1967 beanball to his face. "Tony C," as he was known to fans, died of a heart attack in 1990; the jersey, with its familiar No. 25, is expected to bring $6,000-$8,000.

UAnd for bargain seekers, a baseball signed by members of the pennant-winning 1946 Red Sox, including Ted Williams ($700-900).

UA reminder of Boston's bitter 1986 World Series loss is up for sale: Bill Buckner's American League championship ring, complete with a letter of authentication. It was the first baseman's error in Game 6 of the World Series that allowed the New York Mets to come back and win the title. Buckner's ring is expected to bring up to $30,000.




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