"I've been doing this for 25 years, and this particular collection is indeed one of the greatest collections of sports memorabilia I've ever seen," said Simeon Lipman, Christie's consultant for pop culture. "It's the quality of the material, and it kind of encompasses the whole game. It starts in the 1860s, it goes to contemporary days, and within it has Negro League items, Cuban League items, Major League Baseball stuff. So you're dealing with the whole story, and I think that's the most unique aspect."
Several of the items were brought to the MLB.com studios in Manhattan on Thursday morning for a glimpse not only into the sport's past but of Americana as well. Here are five examples:
Last-out baseball from the 1909 World Series
Tigers batter Tom Jones lined out to Pirates left fielder Fred Clarke, ending the first Game 7 in World Series history and clinching Pittsburgh's first title. Clarke, a future Hall of Famer, kept the ball and signed it, and it stayed in his family for many years. "Then eventually it ended up in this collection. So it's the actual ball [Clarke] caught to finish that great World Series," Lipman said.
Mickey Mantle's 1952 Louisville Slugger
Playing in his first full season as the Yankees' sensation from Oklahoma, Mantle hit 23 of his 536 career homers, and he added two more in leading the Bronx Bombers past Brooklyn for his second of seven World Series rings. "So this bat is just the start of his career, and he signed it," Lipman said. "What's really cool about this bat, there's some great ball marks. He really slammed it."
1909 Philadelphia Giants team photo
"This was one of the great Negro League teams of all-time," Lipman said. "In the back row, you see John Henry 'Pop' Lloyd, one of the great players of all-time. They called him 'the black Honus Wagner' back then, Honus Wagner being one of the best players in the Major Leagues, and today [Lloyd] is considered one of the greatest players of all-time."
Lloyd was among the greatest Negro League shortstops, and the Hall of Fame plaque from his 1977 induction said he "personified best qualities of athlete both on and off the field."
'History of Colored Base Ball' book
This book was written in 1907 for Sol White, captain of the Philadelphia Giants. "He felt very strongly about recording the history of the Negro Leagues up to that point," Lipman said. "Today, it's one of the only reference works out there that has that history. It's extremely historic. It's one of maybe five known copies."
Connie Mack letter touting Shoeless Joe Jackson
"This is a Connie Mack letter, 1908, and he's writing to a friend of his," Lipman said. "He says, 'The season's not going too great, I'm going to bring up a couple of kids. One is a kid named Jackson.' Four days later, after this letter was written, Shoeless Joe Jackson made his Major League debut under Connie Mack. So that's pretty cool."
The Shoeless Joe bat -- a tremendous piece of lumber used during the "Black Sox Scandal" years -- will go hand-in-hand with this letter.
Another highlight of the auction will be the only known autographed photo of 1800s superstar Mike "King" Kelly, estimated at $200,000-$250,000. There's Jackie Robinson's bat used during the Dodgers' breakthrough 1955 World Series triumph over the Yankees, which he signed and gave to a kid back then. There's Josh Gibson's Puerto Rican league contract, which showed a $25 weekly wage.
The first public exhibition of "The Golden Age of Baseball" will be Monday and Tuesday at the JW Marriott in Chicago. For those interested in viewing great baseball artifacts, in addition to the obvious collections in Cooperstown, see the new Baseball Hall of Fame Tour, currently at the Mall of America in Minnesota.