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Buckner ball back on block

Posted Apr 10, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Apr 10, 2012 at 09:44 PM

It’s one of the most famous baseballs in major-league history. Mention “Buckner ball” to any true baseball fan, and they know what you’re talking about.

The baseball that Mookie Wilson hit in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a grounder that inexplicably rolled through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner and gave the New York Mets an improbable comeback victory, is back on the auction block.

The ball will be auctioned off without reserve during Heritage Auctions’ May 3-5 Vintage Sports Collectibles Signature Auction. The ball currently is part of the collection of Seth Swirsky, a songwriter, author and collector of baseball memorabilia.

Quick detour here, because Swirsky is a fascinating guy. In 1980 at age 20, he wrote the national jingle for Thomas’ English Muffins. Question: Did you know there was a jingle for Thomas’ English Muffins? I can’t recall. And I love Thomas’ English Muffins.

He is more famous for co-writing the song “Tell It To My Heart,” recorded by Taylor Dayne in 1988 and nominated for a Grammy. Swirsky later wrote three books about baseball — “Baseball Letters,” a 1996 work consisting of handwritten letters Swirsky received from retired major-leaguers who were responding to his questions about their careers. His second book in 1999 has the very witty (and Rod Stewart-inspired) title of “Every Pitcher Tells A Story.” More handwritten letters from — you guessed it —major-league pitchers. His third book, “Something to Write Home About,” included not only players, but also fans of the game like former president George W. Bush, Paul McCartney and journalist Tim Russert.

His latest project is “Beatles Stories,” which will be released on DVD on June 6 — the 50th anniversary of the day the Beatles signed their first recording contract with EMI’s Parlophone Records.

While writing his baseball books, Swirsky became interested in baseball memorabilia. In addition to the Buckner ball, Swirsky is putting these items up for bid — the baseball hit by Reggie Jackson for his third home run of Game 6 of the 1977 World Series; the ball hit by Babe Ruth in 1921 to become the career home run leader (that was home run No. 126); and the home pinstriped jersey Tom Seaver wore on the mound during Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. Seaver was the winning pitcher at Shea Stadium, thanks to a miraculous diving catch by Ron Swoboda and a ball that glanced off J.C. Martin in the 10th inning that allowed the winning run to score.

And now, back to the auction. The Buckner ball is certain to generate some buzz. The ball was originally given to Mets’ traveling secretary Arthur Richman by Ed Montague, the right-field umpire in Game 6 who retrieved the ball. The ball eventually went to private auction, where Charlie Sheen bought it for somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000 in 1992. Swirsky bought the ball from Sheen about a dozen years ago for approximately $64,000.

It is presented within this auction with individual 1992 letters of provenance from Richman, Montague and Wilson, a letter from Red Sox manager John McNamara, and digital images of the ball’s more recent travels and appearances including a 2003 “photo op” with Vin Scully and its display at the twenty-year reunion ceremonies for the 1986 World Champion New York Mets.

Included with the ball are three letters written in 1992 vouching for the authenticity of the ball — from Wilson, Montague and Richman. No letter from Buckner, though. Did you really expect one? There is also a letter from John McNamara, the Red Sox manager in 1986, that Swirsky used in his first book. McNamara absolves Buckner and cites the “wild pitch or passed ball” that allowed the tying run to score as the more damaging play.

Buckner was an excellent player in his own right. I’ve made the same type of error in youth baseball, as I was also a left-handed first baseman and let a ground ball go right through my legs in one game. It didn’t have the same ramifications as it did for Buckner; I daresay the ball I never saw probably wouldn’t even fetch face value on eBay, even 35 years after the fact.

So, if you have the cash and want to get in on the auction, check out this link for the Buckner ball (does anyone ever refer to it as the Mookie ball?). As of Tuesday night, the bidding already has reached $55,000 before factoring in the buyer’s premium (19.5 percent of the winning bid).

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