|Thursday, July 18
What price is perfection?
By Darren Rovell
After years of keeping them for himself, Don Larsen is selling his collection of memorabilia that includes items he used while pitching the only perfect game in World Series history.
Looking to finance his grandchildren's college education, Larsen, 72, said he will auction off items that include the final ball used in the game, his glove and cleats. Bidding for the entire collection will open at $100,000. MastroNet, one of the largest sports auction houses, will oversee the sale that will run from Aug. 5 to Aug. 23.
After the memorable fifth game of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Larsen kept the ball for five years and then lent it to the San Diego Hall of Champions. It remained in San Diego until 1971. He had it in his home until a month ago when MastroNet brought it to the company's Chicago office.
"I'll miss the piece a lot," said Larsen, who was 81-91 throughout his 14-year major-league career. "It has to be one of the greatest conversation pieces."
Since the game, Larsen added his signature to the ball and had his glove and cleats silver-plated. A cap -- not used during the perfect game -- is also in the display case.
"The hat I was wearing when the game ended was taken off my head," Larsen said.
If the auction doesn't command what he considers a fair price, Larsen said he may keep the items. "I've gotten $20,000 offers for the ball alone, but it's gotta be worth more than that," said Larsen, who says he's made more signing autographs in recent years than he did during his career. "The Bill Buckner ball sold for $85,000."
Larsen said he expects to get at least $300,000, which he says will help pay for the college education for his grandchildren, Justin, 10, and Cody, 4.
"Whenever we sell something unique, it has no precedent," said Doug Allen, president of MastroNet, which will auction off $25 million in sports memorabilia this year. In 1999, a signed ball used in Larsen's perfect game sold for $17,435. "But it's the last ball -- the one that the pitcher keeps -- that's the important one."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org