Two years ago, a 9-year-old boy was astounded when his great-grandmother mentioned she had a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.
But that wasn't all -- she said it was the first home run ever hit at Yankee Stadium. It was researched, authenticated and is now up for sale.
It could fetch an estimated $100,000 when auctioned Thursday. Not bad for 5.4 ounces of horsehide and twine that's been in a cardboard box in Viola Bevilacque's Irvington, N.J., attic for nearly 50 years.
This is all very exciting to great-grandson Chris, now 11. Not to mention his father, Mark Scala, who owns the ball and stands to get most of the money.
The ball, which bears Ruth's signature and the inscription "First Home Run Hit At Yankee Stadium April 18, 1923," was all but forgotten until Chris dressed up as "The Babe" for a school project.
Mrs. Bevilaque told him she had a ball signed by the Yankees slugger that was given to her late husband, Charles, as a prize in 1927. No one knows for sure who caught the ball.
"I loved going up in that attic," Mark Scala said at a news conference Friday. "I played there as a kid."
The attic was full of clothes, lamps and furniture. And one very important cardboard box that housed the Ruth-signed ball and three other beat-up baseballs.
Scala did some research and eventually took the ball to his lawyer. He later contacted Leland's, a sports memorabilia seller, which used the ball's "Reach" logo, its alternating red and blue stitching, and Ruth's own handwriting to determine its authenticity.
Now Mark Scala, saying he has to think about his family's future and the education of his two children, has put the ball up for sale with Leland's.
Peter Clark, curator of collections at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., said he had not seen the ball and could not vouch for its authenticity.
"We would have to do some investigation on our own," he said, adding such a procedure normally is not done unless the memorabilia is donated to the Hall of Fame.
Bidding on the Ruth ball is already open by telephone, fax and e-mail, but the ball won't actually be sold to the highest bidder until Thursay.
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