In recent years, the price of authentic Beatles' autographs has escalated to new heights, affordable only to the most affluent devotees. The fans that were fortunate enough to capture the signatures of the "Fab Four," especially during their touring years of 1963-1966, had no idea that they were making a sound financial investment. Experts predicted, at that time, that The Beatles were a passing fad -- so much for the pundits. Obtaining these treasured signatures was not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. During their early years, The Beatles were gracious signers and did oblige when asked. The problem was finding a way to gain access. The security insulating The Beatles was surpassed only by the President of the United States. Naturally, the more common media that they signed were photographs, autograph books, record album covers and magazines bearing their image. It was not common for them to sign surfaces that didn't bear their likeness, nor were they often requested to do so.
However, in 2002, the first Beatles authentically signed baseball surfaced and was sold at auction. At the same time we learned that two more of these relics existed and were in the hands of private collectors. Two years later, the second of these was also sold at auction. It was then reported that the owner of the third baseball had no intention to sell. Now for the first time, however, this third baseball will be offered as part of American Memorabilia's March 16th auction.
On the evening of August 15, 1966, The Beatles were to play the fourth city of their North American Tour. The venue was DC Stadium (today RFK Stadium) in Washington DC. This was an off day for the Senators' who used DC Stadium for their home games. For this particular day the players were asked to remove all of their personal belongings so The Beatles might use the locker room in preparing for their performances. The only member of the Senators' organization authorized to occupy the locker room area was the equipment manager, Fred Baster. As the story goes, Mr. Baster had The Beatles sign three baseballs for him before the concert began. His recollection of the evening is that they graciously consented. Two of the baseballs signed that night were for the Baster family. The third ball was signed for Mike McCormick, the Senators Cy Young award winning pitcher. Prior to the The Beatles arrival, Mike asked Mr. Baster to have them sign a baseball for him.
The three balls that The Beatles signed were all Joe Cronin Official American League baseballs. Upon examination this one (along with archival photos of the two previously offered baseballs) we found that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr each signed a separate panel and, importantly, the color of the ink is consistent on all three balls. Recently, Steve Grad, Zach Rullo, and Roger Epperson of PSA/DNA, the nation's leading autograph authenticators, examined the baseball and unanimously agreed that the signings are positively authentic. The provenance of the baseball is iron clad as well; the consignor is former major league pitcher, Mike McCormick and the ball is contemporaneous to the period. Aside from the Letter of Authenticity issued by PSA/DNA, the baseball will come with a signed letter directly from Mike McCormick.
There is no mystery as to why Mike McCormick would choose the Las Vegas auction house, American Memorabilia, to broker the sale of this historic baseball. American Memorabilia's track record speaks for itself. This is not the first time they've conducted the successful sale of such important and historic memorabilia. Since 1994, American Memorabilia, with unsurpassed promotion and creative advertising campaigns, have been aligned with high profile sales and important collections. For instance they sold Mickey Mantle's 500th home run baseball for an undisclosed amount. To their credit they successfully auctioned Babe Ruth's 702nd Home Run Bat Signed by the 1934 Yankees Team for over $99,000. In 2000, they signed a contract with the agent of Mickey Mantle, Greer Johnson, giving them exclusive rights to the great slugger's collection, now known as the "Greer Johnson Charitable Trust Collection." This holding consisted of limited edition and many one of-a-kind pieces, and these exclusive treasures realized more then a half million dollars.
Other major collections conducted by American Memorabilia include: Former Capitol Records Senior Vice President, Bruce Wendell, one of the most influential figures in the music industry and friend of John Lennon; Retired National League Umpire Bob Engel; Blackie Powell, prominent retired casino host of Sahara Hotel and Casino; Rick Moser; Frenchy Fuqua; Dock Ellis; Amos Otis; Craig Morton; Bob Bourne, Mike "The Hit Man" Easler, Dominique Wilkins, and Mickey Mantle's brother, Ray Mantle, to name a few.
From the time The Beatles arrived in America in February 1964, their lives were everything but their own. Amazingly, with what seemed to be an endless string of appearances, press conferences, interviews, and other engagements, their craft didn't suffer. Their lyrics continued to evolve, becoming more sophisticated, while their music became more inventive and complicated. Their recording techniques pushed the technology of the time far beyond its bounds.
The 1966 tour was grueling for them. They were under such tight security in Japan; they felt like prisoners in a foreign land. In the Philippines, they snubbed the president and his wife, whereupon they were spurned from the country. On August 11, 1966, the eve of the North American Tour, The Beatles hosted a press conference at the Astor Towers Hotel in Chicago. The result of unrelenting attacks from the press forced John Lennon to make a public apology for his previous comment that "We're more popular than Jesus." This five word statement appeared in Datebook Magazine (July 29, 1966). Though taken out of context by interviewer Maureen Cleave, John accepted full responsibility for the statement. This comment had a ripple effect that was especially seen throughout America's Bible-belt. Clergymen, public officials and disc jockeys throughout the South urged their listeners to gather at select locations for public burnings of Beatle albums and commercial mementos. The Klu Klux Klan, in full force rallied in protest outside their concerts. The Beatles also received anonymous threats. Security was at its greatest wherever they performed or lodged. This prompted their decision to stop performing live and concentrate on their music. Since they were committed to complete the tour, they continued on through America. The final stop was San Francisco's Candlestick Park, on August 29, 1966. That night, after they finished playing, they took one last bow, and were whisked away to a waiting vehicle. Little did anyone suspect they had just witnessed the end of an era!
Autographs solicited during this tour were obviously more difficult to obtain and for The Beatles, it would be the last time they collectively traveled in America. This baseball holds a definitive place in not only the history of music, but in the history of the 20th Century. The Beatles were the most celebrated (and sometimes vilified) figures during the turbulent 1960's. Their message was simple, peace and love. The Beatles were crucial in many positive changes, both cultural and political. They tried to teach us that "all we need is love" and to "give peace a chance," a lesson we obviously haven't mastered.