Legacy From Perfect Series Game, Grandkids' College

Don Larsen Baseball Card.
Source: Bowman | Wikipedia
Don Larsen Baseball Card.

Timing is everything when it comes to pitching and personal finance. Yankee legend Don Larsen proves the concept. He is auctioning off a uniform he wore 56 years ago in baseball’s only World Series perfect game (27 straight outs – no opposing runners reached base.)

Memorabilia traders and retirement experts say he could not have made this move at a better time.

Recent sales of historic baseball uniforms have set records. Larsen decided to sell the uniform to pay costs of his grandkids college. With costs rising faster than inflation, student debt as soared to $1 trillion.

Will the auction be enough? Even in the red-hot market for baseball stuff there are no guarantees. But for a player whose top salary in the majors was $20,000 it will be a major win, sports memorabilia experts said.

Larsen wants his grandsons, Justin, 20, and Cody, 14, to go to the college of their choice. The cost of one college education at a four-year private university costs an average of $285,00 now. The cost for the two grandsons would be twice that, and more, since college costs are rising faster than inflation.

The jersey worn by Larsen's catcher, Yogi Berra, in the same World Series game, sold recently for $565,000 and baseball immortal Babe Ruth's uniform sold this year for a record $4 million-plus.

"Don's uniform might sell somewhere in between those two," said Larsen's sports marketing agent Andrew Levy. "He just wants to make sure his grandsons can get their college taken care of."

To pay the way for two, he will need a healthy sales price in the six-figure range like Yogi Berra's uniform fetched. The way college costs are going, a Babe Ruth-sized deal might be needed a few years from now.

Grandparents Paying More for College

Larsen’s generation-hopping generosity is not so as unusual as his perfect World Series game. The Web site Millionaire’s Corner said Larsen's largesse reflects growing interest of the over-65 generation in helping pay their grandchildren's' college. They are even more likely to pay for the new generation than their own offspring, the survey said. College 'sticker shock' is even causing deepening concern among families with $5 million to $25 million high net worth bracket, the survey said.

Grandparents are also moving quickly to make user of favorable tax treatment of estate and inheritance gifts set to expire this year. The affluent are using this as a one-time chance to shift money to the next generation. The exemption covers gifts of up to $5.12 million, the same level as the current estate tax break, also set to expire.

“I always tell people that they don’t have to leave their money in an estate if they don't want to,” said tax and retirement adviser Ed Slottof Ed Slott and Co. “If you can give it away and get enjoyment from doing it, go ahead. As long as you have enough to live on.”

"Don enjoys life in Idaho, enjoys spending time with his family," said Levy. The pitcher was a charter member was a charter member of the legendary fun-loving Yankee World Series teams with Mickey Mantle and Yogi, who was called Perfect Don or "GooneyBird" by teammates. Larsen, 82, was not a hall-of-famer like his teammates, or even a lifetime winner (his record of 81 wins and 91 losses is average; his 3.78 lifetime ERA is solid.)

But that day in 1956 he was unblemished. The suit he wore may be priceless to some people. The auction starts in October 56 years from the day. Larsen will be on hand at Gallagher's in New York this week to kick off theauction. It will run 56 days.