- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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More than 85 years after it was signed, one of history's most famous autographed baseballs is hitting the auction block.
Grey Flannel Auctions says it has the ball signed by New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth and five of his teammates that was given to 11-year-old Johnny Sylvester, who was injured after falling off a horse in the summer of 1926.
The ball, which was sent by air mail to Sylvester's home in New Jersey from St. Louis, where the Yankees were playing in the World Series, was famously inscribed with the words "I'll knock a homer for Wednesday's game" by Ruth.
After Ruth hit three home runs that Wednesday, in Game 4 of the World Series, and accounts portrayed that the boy's condition had dramatically improved, Sylvester instantly became the most famous child in America. One newspaper featured a picture of Sylvester with a headline, "CURED! BY HOME RUNS."
The ball was in the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore for 25 years and was consigned to Grey Flannel Auctions by Sylvester's son, John Jr. The online auction, which includes other items in Sylvester's collection, begins Friday and runs until Feb. 6, which would have been Ruth's 119th birthday. A reserve price has not been set.
The record for the most paid for a signed Babe Ruth ball is $388,375 in 2012.
There have been many doubts Sylvester's exact condition at the time, and Hollywood didn't do help in terms of factual accuracy. In the film "The Babe Ruth Story," produced in 1948, Sylvester lives in Gary, Ind., and Ruth delivers the message in person. For dramatic effect, the film combines the Sylvester story with Ruth's "called shot" off the Chicago Cubs in the 1932 World Series.
Ruth visited Sylvester after the Yankees lost the Series and remained in touch until Ruth's death in 1948, according to a recent documentary called "I'll Knock A Homer For You," produced by Sylvester's great-nephew Andrew Lilley.