Aaron Judge’s 62-homer season for the Yankees helped him secure the largest contract awarded to a player in this off-season, but the baseball from that last home run was somewhat of a disappointment at auction.
Caught by a spectator at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 4, the ball was predicted by Goldin Auctions to set a record by selling for more than $3 million. Instead, it sold for $1.5 million to an anonymous bidder who was described in a statement by the auction house on Sunday as a “prominent Midwestern businessman and collector.”
In a statement released by Goldin, Cory Youmans, the seller of the ball, repeatedly referred to the buyer as “Joe.”
As a result of the sale price coming in lower than expected, the record for a game-used ball at public auction will continue to be the $3,005,000 fetched by the ball from Mark McGwire’s record-setting 70th home run in the 1998 season.
That sale came shortly before the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs became public knowledge. McGwire later admitted to using steroids. Fallout from connections to performance-enhancing drugs cost Barry Bonds a chance to eclipse McGwire’s auction record despite surpassing McGwire’s single-season record by hitting 73 home runs in 2001 and Hank Aaron’s career record of 755. Bonds’s 73rd home run ball initially sold for $450,000, and his 756th home run ball went for $752,467. (No. 756 was eventually donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame after the fashion designer Marc Ecko had branded it with an asterisk.)
Judge, who has never been connected to performance-enhancing drugs, was praised by many, including Roger Maris’s family, for breaking the American League single-season record without controversy.
“The fact that this is the second-highest total ever paid for a baseball speaks to the respect that fans and collectors have for Aaron,” Ken Goldin, the founder of Goldin Auctions, said in a statement. “That’s the magic of sports — this ball didn’t only change Aaron’s life, it changed the life of the fan who was in the stadium that night, too.”
While the sale price was a huge payday for Youmans, it yielded far less than people around him had suggested it might.
In an interview with ESPN that was posted on Nov. 17, Dave Baron, a lawyer for Youmans, said, “We’ve already had an offer for $3 million.” That was after J.P. Cohen, the president of Memory Lane, a dealer of collectibles, told The Associated Press in October that he had offered Youmans $2 million for the ball, describing the offer as “way above fair.”
The enthusiasm for Judge, combined with statements like that, led to sky-high expectations from the auction house.
“The ball has the potential to become the highest-priced baseball ever sold,” Goldin said in a telephone interview with The New York Times shortly before the auction went live on the company’s website. “Three million plus would be my estimate.”
Instead, Youmans, who is a financial adviser for Fisher Investments in Dallas, got half of that at the auction, which had six recorded bids, the final of which was for $1.25 million. Combined with a $250,000 buyer’s premium, that resulted in the final price. Youmans did not comment on the sale price in his statement.
“As this chapter comes to an end and I reflect on catching home run ball No. 62, I’ll always remember the kindness of the fans around me on that exciting night in Arlington,” he said. “It was the epitome of how sports brings humans together, and I’ll cherish that memory forever.”