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Family of Walter Johnson to sell memorabilia at auction

02/20/2013 1:50 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Walter Johnson, seen at lef standing next to Ty Cobb, won 417 games over a 21-year MLB career.(AP)
The last year has seen all kinds of baseball memorabilia, from 1920s-era jerseys to a rare lot of baseball cards, fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. On Saturday, the family of Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson will join in the craze, auctioning off a large lot of Johnson memorabilia during a live event at Heritage Auctions in New York City.

Among the items to be sold include a personalized framed copy of Johnson's plaque from his Hall of Fame induction and the "Notice to Player of Release or Transfer" signed by Senators owner Clark Griffith after Johnson's final season in 1927, but perhaps the gem of the lot is a near-mint ticket from Game 7 of the 1924 World Series at Washington’s Griffith Stadium – a game then Senators-star Johnson won to bring the nation’s capital it’s only World Series title to date.

The memorabilia has been kept by Johnson’s now-90-year-old daughter, Carolyn Thomas, who had the ticket in one of many scrapbooks created by her mother. Thomas’ son, Hank, said he and the family “loved” having the memorabilia, but decided to part with a handful of items to benefit the “next generation of collectors.”

"It's always just been around, and the few times you'd haul it out of the closet and look at it, mostly just to show somebody else, I always enjoyed it. I loved having this stuff, but I'm going to enjoy seeing these guys - because it's a live auction - the guys that win it are going to be so thrilled,” Hank Thomas said. “There are some real Walter fans out there. It's going to take some money, but they're going to win it and they're going to be so happy. … So let's get the stuff out of the closet, let's get some money that we can use from it, and let's turn it over to the next generation of collectors. We're all temporary custodians of this stuff."

The Game 7 ticket, which is for Row 1, Section B, Seat 7 of the Lower Grand Stand at Griffith Stadium, has all of its perforations intact and is the only one of its kind still known to exist. No one in the family knows for sure, but Hank Thomas offered his own theory as to how his grandmother avoided getting the ducat ripped by a ticket-taker.

"My theory is that the ticket was hers and she walked in with him. Who's going to ask her for her ticket? She's Walter Johnson's wife," he said. "She just walked into the stadium and never had to use her ticket. She brought it back and put it in the scrapbook."

Johnson, who won 417 career games, was 23-7 for the Senators in 1924, but had lost Games 1 and 5 of the World Series before his October 10 heroics. That night, the Hall of Famer pitched four scoreless innings of relief against the New York Giants, and he was also on base when center fielder Earl McNeely delivered the walk-off double in the bottom of the 12th inning that won the game and the Series for Washington.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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