To mark the 100th Anniversary of baseball, eleven of the greatest players of all-time congregated in the little hamlet of Cooperstown, New York. The concept of a baseball “Hall of Fame” had originated three years earlier when a Cooperstown hotel owner came up with the idea of a central museum located in the purported birthplace of baseball. Baseball writers were selected to choose the ballplayers deemed worthy for enshrinement in the Hall. The first vote was held in 1936 as Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner were elected. Over the next two years, 21 additional players, executives and pioneers were chosen for enshrinement.
Construction began on a museum in Cooperstown in which to house the greatest treasures of the National Pastime, and in June of 1939 the National Baseball Hall of Fame was ready for visitors. At that date just eleven of the original players elected were still living and an invitation was extended to each of them to attend their formal induction to the Hall. Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Connie Mack, Ty Cobb, Pete Alexander, Cy Young, George Sisler, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Eddie Collins and Nap Lajoie made the trek to Cooperstown on June 12. Lou Gehrig, who some consider the twelfth original living inductee, was added later by Special Election in December.
Among the throng of fans on hand for the June 12, 1939 weekend festivities in Cooperstown was Thomas Michael Cullen. Cullen, a 22 year-old baseball enthusiast, along with two friends, Irv Epstein and Buddy O'Connell, set out from West Orange, N.J. to upstate N.Y. to experience the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring the baseball legends they grew up idolizing. With baseball in hand Tom was able to meet and have Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and all eight other original inductees sign the offered baseball which would become a cherished keepsake in the Cullen family for almost eighty years. Over that period of time the ball was kept secured away only to be taken out when needed to substantiate Tom's story that he proudly told about meeting those legends. Tom later passed his treasure down to his two sons, Tim and Mike, who had repeatedly heard the story and knew how much the baseball and the experience meant to their dad. While these memories will always live on in the hearts of the current and future Cullen family members, they have now decided to share their story and pass the ball on to someone who will appreciate it as much as Tom did.
The Reach OAL (Harridge) features all eleven original Hall of Famers signed in black fountain pen. The signatures mostly fall in the 7/10 range with several better including a strong Ruth and a stunning Cobb that rates a 10. A baseball centennial postage stamp is adhered to the east panel and an even coat of shellac was applied to the ball, which shows moderate even toning throughout. This fresh to the hobby specimen is the second finest example of a 1939 Inaugural HOF autographed baseball we’ve seen, ranking not far behind the finest specimen recently sold by SCP Auction in August, 2018 for a record price of $623,368. Full LOA from PSA/DNA.
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