As the sun peeked in between the raindrops a couple of weeks ago, New Yorkers braced for a weekend of bragging rights as major league baseball interleague play began and yet another Subway Series captivated the area.
The struggling Yankees took on the medical-leave Mets, who were taking numbers at the Hospital for Special Surgery. David Wright and Ike Davis out of the lineup, and Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes healthy. When is the last time that happened?
Every day is a sports fan's dream when you walk into MLB's Fan Cave, which combines baseball with celebrity, entertainment, pop culture and technology. But first, wipe a tear from your eye in memory of Tower Records at Fourth and Broadway in Manhattan; this New Yorker can't help but think about thumbing through Bruce Springsteen vinyls and colorful Rolling Stones album covers.
May 20 was far from an ordinary day at the Fan Cave. I hustled in to a waiting James Denton, a megasports fan of "Desperate Housewives" fame. He paused from autographing a plumber's wrench, to be on TV again for "What's It Worth?" and brought an early example of a Frank Thomas first baseman's glove with a ton of wear and the Big Hurt's name embroidered in block letters.
Denton and I started swapping stories, and the Sunday night TV star smiled as if he had struck gold when I crowed that the glove was indeed rare and could fetch $3,000-$4,000 pre-Hall of Fame. This was a wow.
Next up was New York businessman Richard Baumer, who sprang a 1955 Yankees team ball with a beautiful Casey Stengel sweet spot, but slightly faded. After all, the ball was more than 50 years old. I did get emotional looking at the ball, as it brought back memories of Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle and other deceased players I got to know personally over the years. The Mantle was pre-autograph circuit, as he signed his M's with rounded loops. I valued the ball at about $2,500.
"Who's next?" I said, never thinking it would be Ken Rosenthal and Tim McCarver of Fox with McCarver's 1964 Cardinals World Series championship ring. After lots of yuks and a skit for Fox's MLB broadcast, we got down to the business of "What's It Worth?" McCarver also quipped to me how hard it was to get that ring!
I took a good hard look, and explained to McCarver and Rosenthal how valuable players rings are and how red-hot the market is right now for player rings. I estimated the ring at $50,000.
Getting back to the fans … up came a fellow with a beautiful display piece with matted index cards signed by Pittsburgh Pirates stars Bob Friend, Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente.
The Clemente example was extraordinary, and the client explained that he had waited in line at a bank opening as a young boy. I estimated $2,500 to $3,000. I also detailed that Clemente's life ended with him having exactly 3,000 hits, something that likely will never happen again. No player before or since has ended a career stopping exactly on that milestone.
The day was amazing already, and along came another client, this one sporting a partially signed 1978 Yankees team ball with vintage even toning. This Lee MacPhail example had a large Reggie Jackson on the sweet spot. Then I witnessed maybe the toughest autograph in all of sports, a beautiful Thurman Munson gracing the side panel. I then reflected on my collecting as a child, and two of my first autographs were found on the ball, Roy White and Munson. I appraised it around $4,000.
You can tell, if I had my druthers, I would move into the Fan Cave, hold office hours, just share stories with fans and discuss America's pastime.
At the end of the day, all the clients left realizing that their treasure was worth more than just the great memories from owning it.
Now let's take a look at one of the submissions from ESPN.com readers:
I own Austin Jackson's first MLB bat. It was used in his first 17 MLB at-bats and was used to record his first five major-league hits. It was used to record his first hit, first single, first double and first triple. It is photo/video matched to these first 17 at-bats. I'm curious what it could be worth because people always ask me what I think it's worth. Just looking for an expert opinion on this special/rare item.
This is an interesting bat.
With great photo matching and the fact that Jackson is such a young talent with extraordinary potential, the bat is probably worth $1,500 to $2,500 now, and its worth can fluctuate a tremendous amount based on his future performance.
This is a great item as every player only has one first major league bat, and you own this one!