On an international mission to promote baseball across the Pacific Ocean, Major League Baseball’s cream of the crop had a simultaneous (and unofficial) task to strut their diamond prowess and dominate their Asian opponents during a 1931 tour. With unwavering confidence, the big league stars swept 17 straight games. And while the American heroes rolled to triumphs as lopsided as 20-3, 22-4 and 19-1, they saw fit to autograph this baseball. Symbolic of Western dominance and the unsuppressed popularity of a sport that thrived in spite of the Great Depression, the medium-toned sphere is quite breathtaking in that it has visible evidence of diamond use (with high probability, in Asia). A metallic appendage remains, having long-since facilitated proud display. A series of small indentations and a weighted insert cannot impinge upon the majestic nature of the autographs. All told, (13) black-ink fountain pen scriptings that read like a roll call for the daily victories. Covered by a uniform layer of period shellac, the autographs range from (“8”) to (“4”) in terms of strength and clarity. Occupying a side panel, the humble signature of Lou Gehrig projects (“5”) quality with very minor surface abrasions preventing higher assessment. Gehrig personalized the signature and added a “Sincerely” salutation and an inscription reading “Japan Tour 1931.” On the next panel are the bold signatures of: Rabbit Maranville (“7” strength); Mickey Cochrane (“6” strength); Muddy Ruel (“7” strength); and George Kelly (“4” strength). The next panel is home to: Lefty Grove (“6-7” strength); Larry French (“5” strength); Tom Oliver (“8” strength) and Al Simmons (“7-8” strength); the final panel features: Frank Frisch (“6” strength); Willie Kamm (“7” strength); Frank O’Doul (“5-6” strength); and Billy Cunningham (“5-6” strength). This precious keepsake is a scarce survivor from that memorable journey and its iconic participants. Full photo LOA from JSA.
Six seasons and 898 games into his consecutive games streak of 2,130, Gehrig was hit by a pitch in a game against Keio, suffered two broken bones in his right hand and sat out for the rest of the tour. Even Gehrig missing action failed to draw attention in the wake of American dominance. A major proponent of baseball in Japan, O’Doul, too, was injured and sidelined (the day after Gehrig’s injury) for the remainder of the tour. But the glorious rout was on.