Auctions | May 13, 2015

Baseball Signed by Franklin Roosevelt the Day Babe Ruth “Called His Shot”


On May 28th, 2015, PBA Galleries in San Francisco will offer at auction a rare baseball signed by then-Presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt and by six members of the 1932 Chicago Cubs, almost certainly signed at the World Series game between the Cubs and the New York Yankees where Babe Ruth famously “called his shot” before hitting a home run into the center-field bleachers. The baseball is an official National League ball, evidently “game-used” before it was signed. The six Cubs who signed it were all on the Chicago ball club at the same time only during the 1932 season, which was the only year they were all on the same team, confirming the 1932 date. Franklin Roosevelt, an avid baseball fan, had traveled to the Midwest from San Francisco at the end of September, 1932, in an effort to increase his profile in the American heartland where his rival Herbert Hoover still had a fairly robust following. With Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, FDR attended the October 1st opening game of the series in Chicago following two losses by the Cubs in New York. Roosevelt would throw out the first ball, but that action would be little-remembered when contrasted with the heroics of George Herman “Babe” Ruth, the Great Bambino. With the scored tied 5-5 in the fifth inning, and the Babe at the plate, he made a gesture toward center field, some say pointed, and then launched a solo home run into the bleachers to break the tie. Lou Gerhig, next up, hit a second home run, the Yankees won the game 7-5, and went on to sweep the series. This would be the last home run Ruth hit in the post-season.

Franklin Roosevelt was not alone among U.S. Presidents with a love for the American pastime, but he was definitely among the more enthusiastic of fans. He, along with other presidents (or in this instance, presidential candidates), was not averse to signing souvenir balls, but the association of this ball with not only the longest-serving president in American history but also with one of the most famous episodes in World Series lore, make it a unique and extraordinarily desirable memento. The baseball is conservatively estimated at $2,000 to $3,000, but might very likely sell for a good deal more. 

The baseball will be sold in PBA Galleries’ auction of Rare Books & Manuscripts with The Paulette & Stephen Modiano Roycroft Collection, on May 28, 2015. The sale comprises a select grouping of just under 300 lots of rare books, manuscripts, photographs and related materials. It includes the superb collection of fine books printed and bound by the Roycrofters of East Aurora, New York, gathered over several decades by Paulette and Stephen Modiano, one of the finest Roycroft collections in private hands. Other items in the auction range from early printed monuments such as the Nuremberg Chronicle of Hartmann Schedel, 1493, to a book by John Lennon signed by all four Beatles.

PBA Galleries holds sales of fine, rare and collectible books and manuscripts every two weeks.  For more information regarding upcoming sales, consignments, or auction results, please contact PBA Galleries at (415) 989 -266 or