Auction Item Details

Lot 89

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Lot Number: 89

Description: Significant Lou Gehrig autographed and inscribed baseman’s mitt c.1935. Shortly after discovering he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig removed himself from the Yankees lineup on May 2, 1939. On July 4th of that same year the Yankees honored Gehrig with an incredible on field celebration attended by teammates, former colleagues, and dignitaries alike. It was on this day that Gehrig delivered his famed “Luckiest Man” speech. In his remarks, Gehrig expressed concern not for his own well-being, but for his team, his teammates, and his wife, concluding with, “When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that’s the finest I know. So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for...” His humility in the face of such an insurmountable adversity was regarded by his peers as virtually immortal. Fitting for a man of Gehrig’s integrity, the “Iron Horse” succumbed to the horrid disease on June 2, 1941, at 10:10 p.m., sixteen years to the day after he had first replaced Wally Pipp as first baseman for the New York Yankees. The model by which Gehrig played the game, and more importantly, lived his life, is a standard that even many of the greatest players in history have not achieved. It is for those reasons that treasured pieces of Lou Gehrig’s garner such passionate interest from the collecting public. As we recognize with great reverence the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s iconic July 4th, 1939 address to the Yankees faithful we are honored to present one of the most significant pieces of Lou Gehrig related equipment to have been offered for public sale. This Reach first baseman’s glove is one of the highest professional quality retaining its original manufacturer’s labeling on the back of the thumb as well as finest quality reinforced leather backstrapping. Leather piping is of professional quality as well, retaining its original stitching with period lacings remaining intact between the thumb and body of glove. Additionally, the interior finger “pockets” each feature individual dividing receptacles commonly found on professional model mitts of the period. The back panel of the mitt has been inscribed and autographed, “To Howard, May you have as much luck with this glove as I did-Lou Gehrig”. Gehrig executed signature and inscription with an electric pyrography pen, which presents nicely against the dark patination of the leather not commonly found with a more typical fountain pen autograph. Both signature and inscription rate 7 out of 10 with some variation to a few words that were signed over a crease in the glove. Pyrography, sometimes referred to as “pokework”, became extremely prolific in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Frequently used to decorate leather and wooden mediums pyrography pens were available in a wide variety of sizes and styles. The glove itself exhibits evident use most notably to the interior area with appropriate surface wear and pocket formation from repetitive use. The history of the glove traces its roots to a man by the name of Ray Brost who adopted the name Ray Henderson in 1920 as a young songwriter. Henderson gained prominence during the 1920-30s in tandem with co-writers Buddy DeSylva and Lew Brown. The trio earned fame as songwriters, publishers, creators, and producers of many hit Broadway shows as well as several early motion pictures. Along with Ray’s wife, Florence, the Hendersons became acquainted with numerous notables of the time in the New York area including Jimmy Durante, Bert Lahr, Bob Hope, and Mayor Jimmy Walker. In particular, through a mutual acquaintance with Fred Fisher (well know song writer), Ray and Florence Henderson were introduced to Lou and Eleanor Gehrig. Sharing German heritage and an affinity for the opera, the Fishers and Gehrigs would frequently attend functions at the Henderson home in Bronxville, NY, which was not far from New Rochelle where the Gehrigs resided. Fisher, in fact, co-authored “I Can’t Get to First Base With You” with Eleanor Gehrig herself. According to family history they also attended the opera together on occasion. During a visit by Eleanor and Lou Gehrig in 1935 the Henderson’s son, Howard, enjoyed the incredible opportunity to have a catch with Gehrig in the front lawn of the family property. Howard Henderson, like Gehrig, was left handed and as such loaned Lou a fielder’s glove while Howard used a first baseman’s glove which he owned as well. During the catch Lou Gehrig noted to young Henderson that his glove was not in very good condition and that the next time he came to the Henderson home he would bring one of the gloves he had already used and broken in previously. True to his word, Gehrig did in fact bring one of his gloves and presented it to Howard Henderson on his next visit to the property. Howard had a catch with Gehrig again that day using the glove that Gehrig had presented to him. Upon Gehrig’s departure that day Henderson’s mother suggested that since Lou was a well known athlete that he should not use the glove again and in fact have Gehrig sign it for him when they next returned for a visit. Understandably enthused over the encounter with one of baseball’s greatest stars, Howard Henderson took his mother’s advice and had Gehrig inscribe the glove during his next visit on the table in the library of the family home. The scarcity of personal gloves with attribution to Hall of Fame player use is incredibly high. Gehrig is documented to have utilized Reach and Spalding baseman’s mitts of the nearly identical construction and manufacture quality during his career. A subsidiary of Spalding, the Reach company brand was fully enveloped in 1934 lending support to period images picturing Gehrig primarily wearing gloves with the Spalding label during the late 1930s. The offered mitt is extremely similar to one pictured being worn by Gehrig during Opening Day of the 1935 season with special note to the Reach brand label positioning on the back of thumb versus Spalding label positioning traditionally found on the back of the body of the mitt itself. Distinct pattern of the leather piping around hand area and the stitch patterns around the “horseshoe” piping on back also mirror gloves worn by Gehrig in period imagery. Also accompanying the glove is a superb Lou Gehrig autographed original photograph personalized to Howard Henderson himself. Original 7”x9” sepia tone wire service photograph signed across the front in black fountain pen, “To Howard, With My Kindest Personal Regards, Lou Gehrig.” Black ink signature and salutation remain in outstanding original condition rating 9/10 out of 10. According to Howard Henderson the offered photograph was obtained from Gehrig at a different date then the glove itself. Subsequent to Henderson’s original meeting with the Iron Horse he became very fond and appreciative of the time spent with Lou. Howard recalls two other specific recollections of meetings with Gehrig including a time whereas he visited with Gehrig in the dugout during a Yankees game and noticed a case of 6oz. Coca Cola bottles to which Lou was enjoying one of the same. Gehrig commented to Howard, possibly in jest, that “by the time the game was over he’d finish the case.” The final recollection of Lou Gehrig by Henderson occurred in early 1941. Gehrig had long retired from baseball and was dealing with the catastrophic diagnosis he had received regarding his illness. Henderson visited him only once at his Riverdale, New York location at which point he was old enough to drive himself. Upon arrival, Henderson recalls Eleanor Gehrig taking him aside instructing him what not to say and to “keep it cheerful, don’t mention his illness, and don’t stay too long.” Howard entered the dining room where Gehrig was seated in bathrobe and slippers. A comedian, Pitzy Katz, was also present (Gehrig’s acquaintance with Katz is documented within his own writings from 1941 including the referenced visit). Katz was telling jokes and eating flowers out of the table arrangement as if they were peanuts. It was at this point that Henderson recalls Gehrig laughing and then, sadly, remarking, “stop making me hurts too much.” Ideally, a period image would exist of this precise glove on Gehrig’s hand during game play but to date has not been located. Based on comparisons with other nearly identical professional model baseman’s mitts as worn by Gehrig in the 1930s era we are able to present a strongly based attribution as to the offered glove having been worn and used by Lou Gehrig. The comparison to other Gehrig gloves is also accompanied by the numerous pieces of supportive evidence referenced within the catalogue description including the autographed photograph of Gehrig to Henderson himself. The lot will also include a detailed notarized letter of provenance from Howard Henderson who today counts himself as 92 years young. Ironically, Howard Henderson was born on July 4th, 1922, 19 years to the day before Gehrig would give his famous farewell speech. Monumentally significant Lou Gehrig related game equipment item with primary source being offered for the first time publicly. Includes LOA from Hunt Auctions (glove), LOA from JSA (signature and inscription), and letter of provenance from Howard Henderson: Glove: VG-EX, Signature/Inscription: EX

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