When I recently posted a picture of the world’s most valuable baseball that I had recently secured in a bidding war on the interweb thingy, and gave details behind some of the the autographs, I received a deluge of calls, e-mails, registered letters and personal appearances from rabid fans seeking to curry favor.
All were passionate pleas to see the ball, buy the ball—even touch the ball, which is like asking to touch the Mona Lisa to see if the paint’s dried! Preposterous. All offers were denied, with a ready supply of scorn and snide commentary.
Still, to appease the masses, I will give you another glimpse of some of the other luminaries who have inscribed this priceless relic.
Frank Zappa signed the ball in 1984 following a game in which he played centerfield for the San Francisco Giants. Zappa played the entire game on stilts, robbing batters of six home runs. He also stole four bases, Amazingly, the stilts had no cleats.
Ed Asner, the man who brought “Lou Grant” to fleshy dyspeptic life, signed the ball twice. The first, after umpiring a 1978 game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies, a game that is the only one in recorded history that ended in a tie, 0-0, after one inning of play. “Both teams played so well,” Asner said, “it seemed a shame that one had to lose.” So, he used his unlimited umpire powers to call the game (apparently Asner was a much softer touch than his Lou Grant character). The second autograph followed a 1981 appearance as a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins against the Cleveland Indians. He hurled a perfect game and ate 56 hot dogs with kraut in nine minutes and washed them down with 19 beers, a major league record.
Lady GaGa. The recording sensation played shortstop for the New York Mets in a game against the Atlanta Braves in 2009. She played flawlessly, turning six double players and throwing out five runners. Unfortunately, she was only one for five at the plate. “I probably could have gotten more wood on the ball,” she said after the game, “if I didn’t have this parrot sewn onto my uniform. Or these traffic pylons stitched on the front of my uniform. Oh, well, what are you gong to do– got to look good, right?”
James Joyce penned the ball after playing third base for the Cincinnati Reds in 1911. The legendary Irish scribe had an unassisted triple play, hit for the cycle and wrote a novella in the dugout waiting his turn at bat. “I like baseball,” he told reporters following his impressive game, “but I like writing me tales perhaps a wee bit more.” With that, he spat his chaw, grabbed his typewriter and never cast a shadow in a ballpark again.
Tony Bennett, the legendary Italian crooner, autographed the ball following his incredible performance singing the national anthem before the 1988 World Series game #3 between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bennett held the final note of the song for an incredible 16 minutes 42 seconds while juggling five baseballs and spinning a flaming hula hoop around his hips. Many believe this record may never be beaten.
Charo (A.K.A. María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Gutiérrez de los Perales Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Hinojosa Rasten). The “cuchi-cuchi” queen played right field for the San Diego Padres against the Montreal Expos on June 28, 1978. The game stands in the record books as being the only game ever played by a player in high heels, and one of two games in which a player sported a sequin dress instead of the official team uniform (trivia experts are challenged to name the other). Charo made many amazing plays and threw out three players at home plate with her incredible canon of a right arm. As a batter, she walked, hit two singles, a triple and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt.
Garth Brooks. The country superstar appeared as a Seattle Mariner in a 1995 game against the Detroit Tigers. In his first at bat, he was beaned, knocking his cowboy hat off his head. Brooks was awarded his base along with two Grammies and five CMA statuettes. He later collapsed.
Al Capone signed the baseball in 1926 following his appearance with the Chicago Cubs. He was a pinch hitter who batted appeared with the bases loaded. Capone stood in the batter’s box and gunned-down the pitcher with a Thompson submachine gun. He then waved the runners home and trotted around the bases as stunned fans and players watched. This is the only grand slam ever recorded where the bat did not touch the ball.
Julia Child inked the ball following her 1965 appearance as a Washington Senator. She was used as a pinch hitter in a game against the Cleveland Indians. Ms. Child was hit by a pitch, awarded her base and proceeded to steal second, third, and home plate scoring the winning run. “I couldn’t be happier,” she said in her sing-song voice after the game, “although I have a knot on my head the size of a pheasant egg. My goodness, that smarts like the dickens! I need four fingers of bourbon and a fistful of bennies to set me straight again.”
Ol’ “Hawkeye” Pierce, Mr. Alan Alda, signed the baseball following his appearance in a 1976 game in which he was a pinch runner for the Boston Red Sox in a tied game. Alda stole second base but felt guilty about it. Showing incredible empathy and compassion for the opposing team, the Chicago White Sox, he returned to first base. It is the only known incidence of a stolen base being returned. The Red Sox lost the game in extra innings. Mr. Alda has not been terribly popular in Boston since.
Secretariat, one of the world’s most beloved thoroughbred racehorses, was a pinch hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals in a game against the Houston Astros. Unfortunately, the Triple Crown winner had a poor showing, being called out on strikes. Many fans questioned the move by manager Red Schoendienst, thinking a horse with such great speed would have been better utilized as a pinch runner instead of a hitter. The Cards skipper said the move was “totally unexpected” and “brilliant” and that “had it paid off, the stupid fans would keep their idiotic yaps shut like they oughta.” As for Secretariat, he kicked dirt on the umpire following the called third strike and trotted off the field proudly leaving a trail of momentos.
Kim Novak, the “Vertigo” starlet, made big news when she appeared as the center fielder for the Kansas City Athletics in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. The batting beauty struck out in all four at bats and committed eighteen errors in the field, a record that still stands. “I guess baseball’s not my game,” she said afterward in a locker room interview. Her teammates consoled her and told her not to worry about it. They said she’d feel a lot better after a long, hot shower. A very long shower. And that’s what makes baseball great–– teammates who care!