SCP Auctions April 2008 Live Auction


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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/15/2008
"I'm just a ballplayer with one ambition, and that is to give all I've got to help my ball club win. I've never played any other way." Joe DiMaggio

From 1936-1951, less three years in the service during Word War II, Joe DiMaggio gave his all to the New York Yankees, helping them win 9 World Championships.

Joe began his pro career with the San Francisco Seals in 1933, where, as an eighteen-year old rookie, he set a Pacific Coast League record by hitting safely in 61 consecutive games, a portent of his future success. "Baseball didn't really get into my blood until I knocked off that hitting streak," DiMaggio said. "Getting a daily hit became more important to me than eating, drinking or sleeping. Overnight I became a personality."

After the 1934 season, the Yankees bought DiMaggio for a reported $25,000 and five players. They kept Joe in San Francisco for another year of seasoning, where, in 1935, he starred with a .398 average, 34 homers and 154 RBI.


While DiMaggio was tearing up the PCL, the Yankees were struggling to recapture their championship identity. In the spring of 1936, they were a team that in the past seven years had won only one pennant and World Series. They had played the 1935 season without Babe Ruth who, after being insulted by Jacob Ruppert's $1 offer, left to play briefly for the Boston Braves before retiring for good. While Lou Gehrig continued his quiet excellence and George Selkirk picked up a bit of the Bambino's slack with 94 RBI's, in 1935 the Yankees once again finished second to the World Champion Detroit Tigers, led by their quartet of slugging Hall of Famers, Cochrane, Greenberg, Goslin and Gehringer. Could the San Franciscan rookie lead the Yankees back to the World Series?

The anticipation that surrounded DiMaggio's debut with the Yankees was without precedent. The frenzy, perpetuated among fans, team officials, and especially the media, was heightened by an unexpected delay as a result of a foot injury that kept DiMaggio sidelined for the first few weeks. While the star rookie mended what one New York paper dubbed "The Most Famous Hot-Foot in Yankee History" the Yankee Box office got hundred of letters asking: When would DiMaggio play? The papers covered his medical exams, his every appearance at the ballpark, even satirically speculating on the new layers of skin on his foot. The New York Times ran a lively exchange of letters from readers arguing out the pronunciation of "Dee-Mah-Jee-O". The Yanks were playing well, but not well enough: after eighteen games, at eleven and seven, they were just where they'd finished the last three years-second place.

Finally the papers trumpeted the glad news: the kid would play on Sunday, May 3 against the St. Louis Browns. A crowd of more than twenty -five thousand (by far the largest since Opening Day) braved cool and showery weather to cheer the debut. "An astonishing portion of the crowd," said the New York Post "was composed of strangers to sport-mostly Italians- who did not even know the stadium subway station." Perhaps it was these fans who rose to their feet along with the rest, whose cheers were heard above all others when young Joe, wearing number 9, made his first plate appearance-with Yankee runners on first and third. Even as Joe grounded a tame "fielder's choice" to third, the electricity of the moment was sustained. Later, in the sixth, Joe got a hold of a pitch from "Chief" Elon Hogsett and drove it, as the Post remarked, "like a cannon shot between the center and left fielders," and DiMaggio had his first big-league triple. The game as a whole was never in doubt: the Browns' pitching was awful; but who cared? The daily news ran DiMaggio headlines three inches high, but in the lead tried to keep matters in perspective: "This is the story of Joseph DiMaggio, a kid from San Francisco, though it might be proper to mention that the Yankees beat St Louis 14-5, at the stadium yesterday."

From the moment DiMaggio first put on his pinstripes, he made the Yankees "his" team. By late May, Joe was leading the league with a .411 average, and the Yankees were streaking. On the last day of May, they won their fifth straight, to sweep the Red Sox (whom they now led by four and a half games), when DiMaggio singled in the seventh to tie, and tripled in the twelfth to win the game. Almost forty-two thousand fans, including Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, left Yankee Stadium to tell of the rookie's glory. Young Joe had to leave the ballpark in a phalanx of cops, to protect him from adoring fans. It was seldom mentioned all year that Gehrig was having an AL MVP season, that Dickey was pounding the ball flat: or that the whole Yankee offense was producing runs at the rate of the mighty '27 Yanks. The story was painted in bold black and white: The Yanks, resurgent, were racing toward a pennant. And the reason for the resurgence was Joe.

DiMaggio and the Yanks were the story everywhere in the country. Writers in every AL town used the coming of the rookie wonder to build attendance for their local clubs. In the month before the All-Star Game, the AP baseball feature named the rookie DiMaggio seven times (Dizzy Dean, with four mentions, ranked a distant second.) Little wonder, in the count of two million ballots from fans in forty-eight states and Canada, Joe led the voting for the 1936 AL All-Star outfield. And in case anyone had missed the story, in its July 13th issue, Time Magazine took the occasion of the All-Star Game to look in on baseball- and on the cover there appeared a full length photo of DiMaggio, swinging ferociously in his rookie pinstripes.

The 1936 Yankees won the pennant by a whopping 19 ½ games over the Tigers, largely due to Joe's .323 average, 29 HRs, and 125 RBI and league leading 22 assists. Had there been a Rookie of the Year Award in 1936 it would have been Joe's. In the 1936 Series match up with the cross town Giants, Joe added the exclamation point on his extraordinary rookie campaign, hitting .346 in the six game series, helping secure a World Series title for the Yankees, the first of four consecutive championships.

His rookie year of 1936 was the first of many spectacular seasons for DiMaggio, in a career that would include a litany of feats and eight more World Series rings. When DiMaggio retired in 1951, he had a lifetime average of .325. He won two home-run crowns (1937 and 1948) on his way to 361. DiMaggio hit over .300 eleven times and won two batting titles - .381 in 1939 and .352 in 1940. In 1941, he hit in 56 consecutive games, a record to this day. He knocked in more than 100 runs nine times, leading the American League with 125 in 1941 and 155 in 1948 and finishing second with 167 in 1937. He won three Most Valuable Player Awards (1939, 1941 and 1947).

But for DiMaggio himself, 1936 would forever remain his most dear season in baseball. His fond reflections of 1936 later in his life are well documented. Those who knew him best have recalled that a picture of the 1936 Yankees team was among the few baseball-related photographs that hung in his home. And of all the rings, hardware, and other honors bestowed upon one of baseball's most highly decorated players, it was his 1936 World Series ring he cherished above all others, worn with pride until it was removed from his finger on the day he died.

Charles "Smoke" Mason

Growing up in the Ozarks area of southwest Missouri, Mason's live arm earned him the nickname "Smoke" and took him to the University of Missouri. After his final season there in 1938, he was approached by Yankees scout Bill Essick.

Signed in May of 1938 for $1,300, including $1,200 to pay off school debt and $100 for his pocket, Mason boarded a bus to Joplin, Missouri to play for the Yankees' Joplin Miners farm team. When he arrived in Joplin, Mason met the equipment manager, who chose a work out uniform for Mason from a mound of used uniforms that had been sent down from New York by the big league club as a cost saving measure. In a decision that took but a moment of thought, with consideration given only to size and shape, Charles Mason was handed what, unbeknownst to him, would someday be looked upon as a national heirloom.

Mason worked out in his designated uniform only for a few weeks before the Joplin season began and he donned the official Miners team uniform. He kept the pinstriped "workout uniform" in his locker throughout the 1938 season, with little use for it then and virtually no sense of its significance. It stayed with him through a second season with Joplin in 1939, during which he experienced the one and only encounter of his life with Joe DiMaggio in person. During spring training in Kansas City, Florida, DiMaggio, taking a break from preparing for his fourth big league campaign, paid a visit to the aspiring Yankee prospects. Mason recalled that he was seated in the dugout along with five other players when the Yankee Clipper strolled by, pausing to greet them casually. According to Mason he simply said, "Hello fellas", but the impact was lasting. The impression left by DiMaggio, whose legend was rooted, but far from fruition at that time, abolished Mason's obliviousness to the old uniform, which bore this man's name in red stitching. At seasons end, Mason asked Mr. Becker if he could keep it. Becker said "Well, what the heck are you going to do with it, Charles?" Charles said, "I need a uniform to wear when I go back to Willow Springs. We play a lot of ball down there in the hills." Years later, Mason would reflect that his being allowed to keep the uniform was not customary; attributing Mr. Becker's exception to his feeling that he had a good prospect on his hands in "Smoke" Mason.

Upon his return to Willow Springs in 1939, baseball became secondary in Mason's life. His father took ill, passing away shortly thereafter, and the uniform was relegated to a closet at his parent's house. The next drastic turn in his life came with World War II when Mason went to serve in Panama. After the war, he met and married Frances Cochran in 1950. The forgotten uniform lay dormant until sometime in the 1950's when Frances discovered it in the corner of the closet, while helping clean out his mother's house. Its fate resting in her hands, she opted to save what another might have deemed disposable.

Number Nine

Manufactured by Spalding, the uniform, consisting of a jersey and pants is one of only two home pinstriped uniforms issued to Joe DiMaggio for the 1936 season (He was also issued two road uniforms, one of which resides in the Hall of Fame). Tagged exclusively for DiMaggio, the uniform features red chain stitching in the collar that reads "Joe DiMaggio 9", while similar chain stitching in the pants reads, "Joe DiMaggio 9, 36" referencing the player, uniform number, and year of issue. DiMaggio was only assigned the uniform number 9 for his rookie season, after which he would don number 5 for the remainder of his career. It is important to note that in 1936, uniform numbers were issued based on a player's appearance in the batting order (ie: Gehrig's number 4 denoting his position in the clean-up spot). For incoming rookies who had not established such a position within the order, numbers were assigned in ascension based on their status as a prospect. DiMaggio was so highly touted that he was issued number 9, the lowest number available to a rookie.

Every technical aspect of this uniform is as it was when Joe DiMaggio made his Yankees debut with the exception of the sleeves having been cut and the customary removal of the "NY" logo from the front of the jersey, which was done upon its designation for minor league service. No other lettering was ever applied to the front, and the "NY" outline is still clearly visible on the left breast. The jersey and pants retain superb visual appeal, demonstrating substantial, but not excessive usage wear. Team repairs appear on the pants and a few rust spots on the uniform have been cleaned.

In addition to the jersey's documented lineage, it is supported by no less than half a dozen "photo matches". Every Yankee pinstriped flannel garment of this era is as unique as a snowflake because each jersey and pants were hand stitched, so the pinstripe patterns vary from uniform. The alignment of the pinstripes on both the pants and jersey (most readily apparent at the seams of the shoulders, collar, number, and 'NY' outline) and pants (waistband, belt loops, inseam) provide exact matches to several photos of DiMaggio from 1936, many of which are presented here. Among the most compelling photo matches is an image catalogued by Corbis as being taken during the 1936 World Series (shown), providing clear evidence that this jersey was worn by Joe during his first appearance in the Fall Classic. LOA from MEARS.
250,000 USD - 350,000 USD

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