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1974 Hank Aaron Signed "Home Run Derby" Ball Against Sadaharu Oh - Signed on the Day He Was Traded by the Braves!
Starting Bid - $500, Sold For - $1,058
This rare and possibly unique souvenir represents one of the most unusual Hank Aaron signed items in existence: a Japanese-brand baseball used during the historic home-run hitting contest waged between Aaron and Japanese home-run champion Sadaharu Oh on November 2, 1974. Its rarity aside, it is also accompanied by impeccable provenance in the form a handwritten LOA from Frank Scott, who was Aaron's off-the-field business agent at the time. (Scott represented many players over the years, including Mantle, Berra, Mays, DiMaggio, and Maris.) Aaron has inscribed and dated the Mizuno ball (the Mizuno Sporting Goods Co., Inc., logo is in English; all other lettering is in Japanese characters) in blue marker (grading "9") on a side panel: "11/2/74 - To Frank Scott/Hank Aaron." In his one-page letter (8.5 x 11 inches), dated June 8, 1994 on Frank Scott Associates letterhead, Scott attests to the ball's authenticity. In full: "This will confirm that the Japanese baseball signed by Hank Aaron during the time we were in Tokyo in November of 1974 for a Home-Run Hitting Contest against S. Oh who was the leading home-run hitter in Japan. The ball was removed from a bag containing the baseballs used in the contest. Respectfully, Frank Scott." What makes this ball all the more historically significant is the fact that it was signed on the very day that Aaron was unceremoniously traded by the Braves to the Milwaukee Brewers, thereby making it one of, if not the last, ball ever signed by Aaron as a member of the Braves. The irony of day was truly incredible. As Aaron was in Japan earning additional glory as the game's greatest all-time home-run champion, back in America the Braves were busy working on a deal that sent him to the Brewers for Dave May and the proverbial player to be named later. Thus, November 2, 1974, will forever be remembered as both one of the most glorious and lamentable days of Aaron's illustrious career. The ball displays minor age toning to a few small areas and light surface wear; otherwise in Excellent to Mint condition.
Despite the fact that Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's long-standing record of 714 home runs on April 8, 1974, it wasn't until November 2nd of that year that he could officially call himself baseball's "Home Run King." The reason for that was because another slugger, by the name of Sadaharu Oh, who played in Japan, also laid claim to that title. To settle the good-natured dispute, the two officially agreed to meet each other in a highly publicized home-run derby held at Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on November 2, 1974. The rules were simple: each player was given twenty swings; whoever hit the most home runs was the winner. The players alternated five swings each and when it was over Aaron reigned supreme by a score of 10-9. Aaron, as always, was gracious in victory, stating afterwards "I was happy to come to Japan and engage in the contest with Oh, but it doesn't necessarily prove that I'm a better hitter than Oh because it wasn't under game conditions and we didn't bat against pitchers that wanted to strike us out." The contest was broadcast by CBS in the United States (a clip can be found on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBVvNBinpgg ) and Aaron was paid a winner's fee of $50,000, while Oh received $20,000 for his efforts. It should be understood that there was never any real rivalry between Aaron and Oh and both players took part in the exhibition in the spirit of promoting baseball worldwide. Both Aaron and Oh remained good friends after the contest and in 1988 the two players helped found the World Children's Baseball Fair (WCBF), a nonprofit organization that attempts to foster an environment of world understanding and cultural exchange through the celebration of baseball. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,058
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