The folks at SCP Auctions announced yesterday that they are auctioning off Kirk Gibson’s jersey, bat and batting helmet from Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The question about where the famous walk-off home run ball is naturally surfaced.
Memorabilia experts have long considered the absence of Gibson’s home run ball in the marketplace as one of its greatest mysteries. David Kohler, SCP Auctions president, told me that he’s never even heard a single story of a person who claimed to have it.
Neither has Gibson.
“A lady sent me a picture of her leg,” Gibson said yesterday at a news conference to announce the auction. “It hit her like in the inner thigh, kind of high on her skirt, so to say…She was all black and blue. But I've never, ever seen the ball. I just have the picture of where it landed, which was on a young lady's leg.”
But if that woman had the ball wouldn’t she tell him? What about the scrum for the ball? Well, 22 years ago that didn’t happen.
“Think about it back then, 1988, there was nobody grabbing anything,” Gibson said. “People didn't even think about saving the ball.”
So did the Dodgers know where it was?
For that question, I turned to Mark Langill, the team’s historian.
“We know it landed in the right field pavilion, but the camera just showed the general area, it never zoomed in,” Langill said. “The only memorable shot, outside of what was happening on the field, was the lone car in the parking lot that was moving and when Gibson hit the shot, you could see the car’s brake lights. The bigger mystery at the time was who was that poor sucker, not who had the ball?”
Langill said it might be hard to understand, but that was a time before people knew that a baseball could be a ticket to their fortune. The memorabilia market probably hit its height a couple years later, thanks to the card boom fueled by Upper Deck. Then the home run chase of 1998 changed being in the stands at big moments forever. Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball sold for $3.1 million.
“This was before Major League Baseball had authenticators on the premises,” Langel said. “We’ve come a long way. For the last out in 2004, (Red Sox first baseman) Doug Mientkiewicz wasn’t looking at his parents when he had the ball in his glove. He was looking for the authenticator.” After a spat with the Red Sox, Mientkiewicz eventually donated it to the Hall of Fame.
So here we are, 22 years later—where is the Kirk Gibson ball? Do you know where it is? Are you holding it? We want to know. SCP Auctions wants to know. The Dodgers want to know. Send us an e-mail at email@example.com and tell us if you have the ball and your story.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com