NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The 84-year-old baseball has been sitting in Elizabeth Gott's drawer for years, but now she's hoping it will pay off her son's medical school debt.
New York Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig smashed the ball into the bleachers for a home run during the 1928 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Gehrig hit the homer off Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander while teammate Babe Ruth was on base and called it his most significant homerun at the time, according to a newspaper account.
Hunt Auctions plans to sell the ball Tuesday at the All-Star FanFest in Kansas City, Mo., and predicts it could fetch $100,000 to $200,000. Online bidding has already begun, with the top bid at about $37,000 as of Thursday.
Gott, a 57-year-old Stamford resident, said she's selling the ball on behalf of her 30-year-old son, Michael.
"I'm just sort of floored by the whole thing," she said. "It has a lot of history. It's a lot about America. To think that it's possible the team that we rooted for could actually help my son pay off some of his medical school debt, any amount would be fine."
Michael Gott, who is in his last year of residency, said he was surprised at the potential value of the ball. He said his medical school debt was nearly $200,000.
"I'm extremely fortunate that this occurred and definitely I'm extremely thankful that something so lucky would happen to me," Gott said. "I'm ... very appreciative that someone in my family was able to contribute to something I worked so hard for."
Gott said the ball was a gift to him from his uncle, who received it from other relatives of Buddy Kurland, who is Elizabeth Gott's great-uncle.
Kurland, who lived in Manchester, had gone to the game with his friend Scotty Stevenson. Kurland nearly caught Gehrig's three-run homer, but a fan knocked his cap over his eyes and he dropped the ball, according to a newspaper account. Stevenson picked up the ball and gave it to Kurland.
"There she goes right into the bleachers in center field," broadcaster Graham McNamee said, according to the account. "He's got it. No, he hasn't. It's his error, the first error of the day. It has fallen from his hands and everybody else is trying to find it."
Kurland, who was quoted as saying he wouldn't sell the ball for $1,000, proudly displayed it in his store in Manchester called Metter's Smoke Shop on a black velvet cloth. He said at the time he did that "because the ball is dead. It will never be played again."
David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, said the ball's value is driven by the fact that the ball was kept in the same family, has a corroborating newspaper article and involves the best players of the era.
"I think what really we enjoy about handling pieces like this is they really ... bear the significance of baseball within American culture in the last 100-plus years," Hunt said. "Unlike any other sport, baseball has that just unbelievably storied history."
Gehrig's Hall of Fame career ended suddenly in 1939. Two years later, he died at 37 from the disease that would later bear his name.
Elizabeth Gott said it was a tough decision to sell the ball, but she felt the timing was right.
"It should be in the hands of someone that really loves it and has passion for it," Gott said. "Right now we have passion for my son and his career."