This Month in Sports Collecting History - April 2017
By Mike McLeod and Marla McLeod

April 2, 1931: Jackie Mitchell, a female pitcher for the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league team, struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in order in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. Jackie fanned Gehrig with three pitches; she was just 17 years old at the time. Jackie was pulled after walking the third batter she faced (, “the Girls of Summer”), and the Yankees went on to beat the Lookouts, 14-4.

In 2005, a rare wire photo (transmitted by telegraph) of Gehrig and Ruth watching Jackie Mitchell warm up sold for $403 at Cowan’s Auctions.

Don't you love the look of satisfaction on Jackie's face? Ruth, not so much. (Wire photo of Ruth, Gehrig and Mitchell courtesy of Cowan's Auctions)

April 3, 1928: The birth of Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in the NBA. Drafted by the Washington Capitols in the ninth round, Lloyd’s first game was on October 31, 1950. He was also the first African American assistant coach, working for the Detroit Pistons. Over the decade of his career, he scored 4,682 points in 560 games. Earl Lloyd was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 (, “Earl Lloyd”). He passed away in 2015.

In 2014, Grey Flannel Auctions sold a 1959 Detroit Pistons warm-up fleece jacket worn by Earl Lloyd for $1,562.

Photo Right: Earl Lloyd (r.)

April 8, 1963: Pete Rose stepped to the plate for the first time in his Major League career. In 2016, a 1963 Topps Pete Rose-1963 Rookie Stars #537 rated PSA Gem Mint 10 hustled up $717,000 at Heritage Auctions. Also on the card with Rose were Pedro Gonzales, Ken McMullen and Al Weis.

Pete Rose is the all-time hit leader with 4,256; he tops Ty Cobb’s 4,189 and Hank Aaron’s 3,771 (baseball-almanac, “Career Leader for Hits”). He was an All-Star 17 times, a World Series champion three times and World Series MVP once, Rookie of the Year in 1963, and a member of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. Pete Rose said: “I'd walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball,” and “Somebody's gotta win and somebody's gotta lose, and I believe in letting the other guy lose” (

Photos Above: The 1963 Topps Rookie Stars card, front and back
(Photos courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

April 8, 1974: With his 715th home run this day, Hank Aaron beat Babe Ruth’s home run record. Aaron hit 755 homers in his career. In 1999, his 755th home run ball sold for $650,000 at Guernsey’s (, 7/25/07).

Photo Right: Hank Aaron holding his 755th home run ball.
(Photo courtesy of Guernsey’s)

April 10, 1896: The first modern Olympic Summer Games marathon was run from Marathon to Athens, Greece, and won by Greek Spyridon Louis. He was awarded the Brèal Silver Cup, which was designed by French author Michel Brèal who also recommended the marathon be run in the footsteps of the Greek messenger Pheidippides.

A Brèal Silver Cup went for $860,000 at Christie's in 2012. Spyridon competed in no other running events afterwards.

Photo Right: Spyridon Louis

April 10, 1913:
Walter “The Big Train” Johnson began a pitching streak of 55 2/3 scoreless innings that ended on May 14, 1913. His record was unbroken until 1968 when Don Drysdale threw 58. Currently, Orel Hershiser holds the record with 59 innings in 1988 (, “The 10 longest scoreless-inning streaks”).

In 2013, Walter Johnson’s 1939 Presentational Hall of Fame plaque presented to him at the induction ceremony grabbed $47,800 at Heritage Auctions.

Walter Johnson’s Hall of Fame Presentation plaque (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

Walter Johnson

April 15, 1947: Jackie Robinson’s first game in Major League baseball. A ticket stub from that opening day game in 1947 at Ebbets Field with the Brooklyn Dodgers for a seat in the lower stand auctioned for $16,730 in 2015 at Heritage Auctions. A second ticket from the same game, but for the upper stand, sold for the same price. Slightly different that the ticket price on that historic opening day—the original cost was $1.25 for the lower stand ticket and $1.75 for the upper stand. The Dodgers beat the Boston Braves 5-3; Robinson scored the fourth run (, “Jackie Robinson’s First Game”).

The $1.25 Lower Stand ticket

The $1.75 Upper Stand ticket (Photos courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

Jackie Robinson in 1944 when he played for the Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs.

April 16, 1947: The birth of Lew Alcindor who grew to 7 feet 2 inches and played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years. Later known as Kareem Abdul Jabar, he was a six-time NBA Champion and Hall of Famer with 38,387 points (24+ per game on average) and 17,440 rebounds. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

A 1969 Topps Lew Alcindor #25 card, PSA Gem Mint 10, scored $501,900 at Heritage Auctions in 2016.

Photo Above: Lew’s 1969 Topps card (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions,

April 17, 1854: Adrian “Cap” Anson was born. In 2016, Christie’s auctioned his last bat from the 1897 season, graded PSA/DNA GU 10, for $427,500. It was 36 inches long and weighed 47.2 oz. Called “Cap” as captain of the Chicago White Stockings, Anson played first base and was the first player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits; that was in 1897. Honus Wagner was the next in 1914 (,”3,000 Hits Club”). Anson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939; he passed away on April 14, 1922.

An 1888-89 N173 Old Judge Cigarettes Cabinet of Capt. Anson, SGC 60 EX 5, went for $11,950 at Heritage Auctions in 2016. This card was never sold in stores (only through the mail), so less were distributed.

Cap Anson

Anson’s Old Judge card (Photo courtesy
of Heritage Auctions,

April 18, 1995: : Joe Montana announced his retirement from football. The only Joe Montana 1981 Topps #216 rated BGS 10 connected with $65,800 at Modern Marvels Auctions in 2009 (, “Pristine Montana RC Sells for $65k!”). His career stats are 273 TDs and 40,551 yards passing (, “Joe Montana”). He was Super Bowl champion four times and Super Bowl MVP three times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

April 18, 1998: Michael Jordan played his final regular season game. The Chicago Bulls jersey he wore then sold for $173,240 at Goldin Auctions in 2015. 

April 24, 2016: Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams’ 1857 Laws of Baseball document skyrocketed to $3.26 million at SCP Auctions. A player and president of the New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, Adam’s rules established the base paths as 90 feet, set the number of players per team and innings at nine, and eliminated the accepted rule of the day of a ball caught on one bounce was an out.

Photo Right: Doc Adams

April 24, 2008:
A complete set of 1915 Cracker Jack baseball cards, 176 total, in an original Cracker Jack album hit $157,000 at Sotheby’s. Eleven-year-old Ernie Gill of Canada sent 25 cents to Cracker Jack in 1914 to buy the entire set and an additional 10 cents for the album. Individual cards were the surprise in Cracker Jacks in 1914 and 1915, but the company also offered the complete 1915 set for a quarter.

Single cards from the 1914 series are very valuable in NM-MT 8 condition. Some start at about $2,000. Christy Mathewson’s card is valued at $150,000, Shoeless Joe Jackson’s is $135,000, and Ty Cobb’s at $100,000 ( “1914 Cracker Jack Baseball Card Values”).Of course, finding a NM-MT 8 card that came from a box of candy-coated popcorn presents somewhat of a challenge these days.

Photo Above: Two pages of the 1915 set of Cracker Jack cards; Shoeless Joe Jackson is bottom row, 2nd from left. (Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.)

April 26, 2015: Jim Brown’s NFL rookie contract with the Cleveland Browns signed by him and by Commission Bert Bell scored $21,228 at SCP Auctions. A legend and a Hall of Famer, Jim Brown is the only NFL player to average 100 yards rushing per game during his career. He retired a career leader with 126 TDs, 12,312 yards rushing and 1,863 single-season rushing yards in 1963 (, “Jim Brown”). From there, he ran into the movies with The Dirty Dozen, 100 Rifles, …tick…tick…tick, The Running Man, Mars Attacks, and 49 more (


All uncredited photos are public domain, PD-US.
Credit: and



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