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1961 Ty Cobb Single-Signed Ball - Possibly the Last Ball He Ever Signed
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $1,645
This Ty Cobb single-signed ball dates from the last month of his life and has a unique and extraordinary provenance that suggests it might even be the very last ball he ever signed. Cobb has inscribed the Spalding "League Special" ball in his customary green ink on a side panel, "To Hugh from Ty Cobb 6/20/61." Both the text and the signature grade "7." Cobb was a patient at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time this ball was signed. Suffering from an advanced case of prostate cancer, Cobb checked into Emory on June 5, 1961, and remained there until his death nearly six weeks later, on July 17th. This ball was obtained by Dr. R. Hugh Wood, former dean of the Emory University School of Medicine, and one of Cobb's primary physicians during his final years. However, the "Hugh" to whom the ball is addressed is not Dr. Wood, but his nephew (our consignor), who had just been born a few days earlier. Dr. Wood thought that years later this signed ball would be a special keepsake for his nephew, especially after he was old enough to understand who Ty Cobb was and appreciate his greatness on the ballfield. Dr. Wood also realized that it would probably be his last opportunity to get a ball signed by Cobb, as his health was deteriorating quickly. In his accompanying letter, our consignor relates the history of the ball:
To Whom It May Concern: The autographed "Ty Cobb" baseball that is being sold at auction by Robert Edward Auction was signed for ME, Hugh Wood, shortly after my birth in 1961. My "Grandpa," Dr. Richard Hugh Wood (who went by "Hugh") a great uncle by marriage in actuality, was Ty's personal physician when he was at Emory University Hospital at the end of his life. It was my Grandpa who asked Ty to sign the ball for me, his "grandson" shortly after I was born. My birthday is June 5, 1961 and that was the day that Ty was admitted to Emory Hospital. He never left the hospital and his contact with Dr. Wood, my Grandpa, is well documented...Due to the nature of Ty's illness and the short period of time he had left, it is quite possible that this ball is the LAST ball that Ty Cobb signed before his death on July 17, 1961.
Cobb's final days in the hospital were not pleasant and he suffered greatly as the cancer slowly overcame him. It seems unlikely that Cobb signed very many balls during his final hospital stay, especially given his increasingly failing health. Cobb knew when he entered the hospital that he was never leaving, and this ball was obviously a final and very personal parting gift to his primary doctor and friend, who had taken care of him the past few years. Twenty-seven days after signing this ball, Cobb passed away. Legend has it that when Cobb finally succumbed he had at his side only two items: a paper bag with over one million dollars in negotiable bonds and a pistol. While it is impossible to say with certainty whether or not this is the last ball Cobb ever signed, we have never seen another example dated later (Cobb customarily dated his balls), and, until such time arises, this ball certainly ranks as the leading candidate for such a monumental claim. The ball displays only modest surface wear and is in Excellent to Mint condition. This is an exceptional Cobb ball on its own right, accompanied by impeccable provenance, with the added appeal of possibly being the final baseball ever inscribed by the legendary "Georgia Peach." LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,645
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