The "cursed" 1919 contract that shipped Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees sold on Friday for a staggering US$996,000, auction house Sotheby's said.
"I was prepared to pay almost whatever it took," said Pete Siegel, head of New York-based Gotta Have It Collectibles, after his winning offer. "I'm not saying a billion dollars, but whatever price I needed to secure it."
The crowd at Sotheby's burst into cheers when the final hammer came down after 15 minutes of intense bidding. The five-page typed contract recorded the unprecedented deal blamed for dooming generations of Boston fans to heartbreak as victims of `"The Curse of the Bambino.'"
The price was nearly double the presale estimate for the Dec. 26, 1919, contract, signed by owners Harry Frazee of the Red Sox and Jacob Ruppert of Yankees. The paper recorded the US$100,000 sale of Ruth to the Yankees, a transaction that altered major league baseball history.
The Red Sox had won the World Series one year before peddling Ruth. They didn't win again until last year. Meanwhile, the Yankees won 26 championships.
Proceeds from the sale were donated to the hunger-relief organization America's Second Harvest, which provides food for 23 million low-income Americans each year. The contract was previously owned by Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein.
The contract fell short of the priciest bit of Babe memorabilia, a massive 1.3kg Louisville Slugger used by the Bambino to drill the first home run in Yankee Stadium history. It sold in December 2004 for US$1.26 million, the most paid for a baseball bat.
Also sold was the first ball thrown at the April 20, 1912, debut of Fenway Park, for US$132,000, more than double its presale estimate of US$50,000. The identity of the winning bidder was not released.
A London-based online gambling operation paid US$102,000 for the 700th home-run ball hit by Barry Bonds. Sportsbook.com said it intends to donate the ball to the US baseball Hall of Fame.
A baseball signed by Ruth and Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig sold for US$42,000, well above the pre-sale estimate of US$5,000.
One of the other big baseball sellers: a 1911 Honus Wagner baseball card, one of only about 50 still in existence, sold for US$132,000. While above the presale estimate, the purchase still paled next to the US$1.265 million paid for a 1909 Wagner card in July 2000.