BOSTON – RR Auction’s Feb. 21 Sports Auction features the most significant collection of history-making baseball player contracts ever offered at auction, along with graded cards, a fantastic collection of signed baseballs and autographed vintage photographs. Among the player contracts is Ted Williams 1960 Boston Red Sox signed contract for his final season with the team. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
The four-page contract (above), signed “Theodore Williams,” dated March 1, 1960. Ted Williams’s last contract, in which he agrees to render “skilled services as a baseball player during the year 1960” for the Boston Red Sox, for a salary of $60,000. It is signed at the conclusion in ink by Ted Williams; American League President, former Red Sox star and fellow Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, “Joseph E. Cronin”; and Boston general manager and fellow Hall of Famer Bucky Harris, “S. R. Harris.”
After a disappointing 1959 season in which Ted Williams hit .254 with 10 homers, nearly everyone—including Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey—expected him to retire. However, the great hitter didn’t want to end his career on a sour note and opted to return for a swan song in 1960. In signing this deal, he insisted on taking a 30 percent pay cut because of his recent underperformance.
In 1960, he had a far more successful season, batting .316 with 29 homers, earning a spot on the All-Star team by merit rather than recognition as he had the year before.
The most memorable moment came in in his very last at-bat on Sept. 28, 1960, when he fittingly hit a home run—the 521st of his career.
“As the capstone contract from the Ted Williams’s legendary Hall of Fame career, this is a truly remarkable piece of baseball history,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction.
Additional Highlights include; a Babe Ruth 1932 New York Yankees contract (below) in which Ruth takes a pay cut signed amid the Great Depression.
In early 1932, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert the said that he couldn’t afford Babe Ruth’s salary. He maintained that Ruth was “a good asset” but he wasn’t the only drawing card on the club. Lou Gehrig also brought out the fans, he said and earned only $25,000, less than one-third of Ruth’s salary. A few days later, Ruth was chewing on a big ham steak at the breakfast table when the mailman came. Ruppert had sent him a one-year contract for $70,000.
“What’s a guy gotta do in this league to satisfy people?” Ruth said to his wife, Claire. “I hit 46 home runs, I’m second in the league in batting, and they want me to take a $10,000 cut!”
Ruth would later put his signature on the contract being offered, which was for $75,000 a year, plus 25 percent of the net receipts from Yankee exhibition games. It was the first time in Ruth’s long career—since the day in 1914 when he signed for $600 per season—that he had ever taken a cut in pay.
Lou Gehrig 1935 New York Yankees contract: estimate: $200,000+
After winning the Triple Crown in 1934 with 49 home runs, 166 RBI, and a .363 batting average, Lou Gehrig was awarded baseball’s highest contract for 1935 with a salary of $31,000.
A disgruntled Babe Ruth had left for the Boston Braves in the offseason, making Gehrig the undisputed star of the team. Manager Joe McCarthy recognized Gehrig’s quiet leadership by naming him team captain on April 21, 1935, a role which baseball’s “Iron Horse” reluctantly accepted. In the weakened Yankees lineup, Gehrig had a “disappointing” statistical season, hitting a mere 30 home runs on a .329 average, while collecting 120 RBI and maintaining his historic consecutive game streak.
Christy Mathewson 1902 New York Giants contract
Signed at the end of his first full season, Mathewson’s New York Giants contract for 1902 has a $75,000+ estimate.
This incredibly rare contract was signed as the 1901 season—Mathewson’s first as a regular in the New York Giants’ rotation—neared its end. In his second season, the 20-year-old hurler proved himself as the team’s best pitcher, compiling a respectable 20-17 win/loss record on a bottom-dwelling team that went 52-85. He continued to vex National League batters in 1902, performing under the terms of this contract, throwing a league-best eight shutouts despite accumulating a 14-17 record. Mathewson emerged as a truly dominant force a year later in 1903, winning 30 games and leading the league in strikeouts for the first time.
This is one of only just a few Mathewson contract examples extant, predated only by his 1900 New York Giants contract. At the time Mathewson signed this contract (the tender age of 21), baseball was considered a rough and tumble sport, and Mathewson was the antithesis of what a ballplayer was at the time. While almost every ballplayer was a product of the streets, alleys and coal mines, Matty was a college graduate who spoke well, was mild-mannered and had high moral convictions. These characteristics plus his stellar abilities on the field were some of the reasons for his extremely high popularity.
The offered contract would easily be the pinnacle piece of the most advanced collection. Mathewson’s 1900 rookie contract was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2005, and again in 2008, finding its way into a permanent collection. His 1903 contract has not been seen again since Legendary auctioned it in 2000 when it went for $27,000.
Joe DiMaggio 1938 New York Yankees contract: estimate: $25,000+
DiMaggio had debuted for the Yankees in 1936 and made an immediate impact in the heart of the lineup and in center field—in his 1936 rookie season, he hit 29 home runs and batted .323. In 1937, he led the majors in home runs (46) and runs scored (151), alongside a high .346 batting average. DiMaggio understandably felt that he deserved a hefty pay raise for the 1938 campaign, declined to sign his $15,000 offer, and held out for a $40,000 salary. While Ruppert’s Yankees raised their offer to $25,000, spring training came and went without DiMaggio’s presence, and the regular season began on April 18. Still, DiMaggio refused to report for duty. As the press and fans began to turn against him—and after witnessing his beloved team lose two games to their rival Boston Red Sox—DiMaggio realized that he could accept the offer or not play at all. On April 25, one week into the season, DiMaggio buckled and took the $25,000 deal.
Mickey Mantle 1953 New York Yankees contract: $50,000+
American League uniform player’s contract in which Mickey Mantle agrees to render “skilled services as a baseball player during the year 1953” for the New York Yankees, for a salary of $17,500.
Nicknamed “The Commerce Comet,” Mantle broke into the big leagues with the New York Yankees as a 19-year-old in 1951 and quickly established himself as a star in the outfield. He moved to center field in 1952 to replace the retired Joe DiMaggio, and managed to capably fill his shoes—Mantle made his first All-Star team and hit .311 with 23 homers during the ’52 campaign, leading the Bronx Bombers to their fourth consecutive World Series championship. He would do the same in 1953 after signing this contract in the offseason, helping to firmly establish the Yankees legacy with their fifth consecutive World Series victory, a record which still exists today. As one of Mantle’s early Yankees contracts from a World Series season, this is an absolutely spectacular, museum-quality piece.
Also featured is a rare 1964 New York Mets 10K gold ring presented to Ralph Kiner to commemorate the opening of Shea Stadium. In 1962, the expansion New York Mets hired the former slugger to do their television broadcasts. Kiner spent more than 40 years in the booth for the Mets. Upon his death, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stated, “Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history.”