Monday, February 21, 2011

Antique Store Find - 1973 Twins Team Ball

It was a snowy day here today.  My boys were at a Twins baseball camp way up in Blaine (the same location as TwinsFest this year) so my wife and I took some time to visit some antique stores in town.

In the back of the second store we went to, there was a large glass jar with a screw-on lid sitting on the floor.  Inside the jar were two baseballs.  I opened the jar to take a look.  The first one looked to be written on by a child, and was badly smeared and bleeding.  The second one looked okay and at first I couldn't tell who the signatures were but then I recognized Rod Carew's signature.  Also, I saw what appeared to be "Shalom" and then "Marilyn Carew".  I did a quick Google search from my blackberry and sure enough, Rod married a jewish woman, Marilyn Levy.

Based on those two signatures I decided that it was worth the $8.50 price that was on it ($10, but the booth had a 15% sale going on).

I got it home and identified several more signatures including Jim Holt, Dan Monzon, Bill Hands, Bob Darwin, George Mitterwald, Bill Campbell and Frank Quilici (who had signed the sweetspot).  Based on this set of names, I think this is from the 1973 team.  Quilici was manager (and managers typically sign the sweetspot of a team ball).  Dan Monzon didn't play on the team in 1974, and Bill Hands wasn't on the team in 1972.

There were still two signatures I couldn't make out so I posted a scan of them on  A couple of members helped identify another signature as Vern Morgan, a coach for the Twins, who passed away in 1975.

There is still one signature I can't identify and I'm hoping someone can help me identify it.  (Update: the last signature has been identified as equipment manager Ray Crump).  There's also another signature on the ball which is VERY strange.  It quite clearly appears to be "Jim Gilliam".  A player and coach for the Dodgers his entire career until he passed away in 1978.  I can't even imagine why his signature would be on this ball.  The Twins didn't even play the Dodgers back then as there was no inter-league play and the two teams didn't meet in the World Series (The Twins were third in the AL West that year).  So, if it's really his signature, I can't figure out how it might have gotten on there.  I have a hard time trying to look at it as anyone other than "Jim Gilliam".  There was a John Gilliam that played for the Vikings in 1973, but I looked at some examples of his autograph, and it's not even close to this one.

Any ideas?

This scan shows the Jim Gilliam signature, which is pretty light, towards the top along the seams.  Below that is Bill Hands, Bob Darwin and George Mitterwald.

This scan shows Bill Campbell, "Shalom", Marilyn Carew, and the last unidentified signature.

Here's Frank Quilici's autograph on the sweetspot (it's a little more legible in real life, the scan has quite a bit of light reflecting on it).

Finally, this side panel contains the signatures of Dan Monzon, Vern Morgan, Rod Carew and Jim Holt at the very bottom that can't be seen very well in this scan.

The ball itself is pretty interesting.  It's made by Tober and says "Regulation League Ball" on the sweetspot.  I tried to do a little research into the maker of this ball and found a bizarre story about the president of the company being shot and killed by an employee.  Not sure how accurate that is, but I'm trying to learn more about the ball itself.  It's made of leather, which I think has helped preserve the signatures, but it certainly isn't an official ball used in the majors.

I normally don't find anything sports-related in antique stores other than a few magazines here and there, so this is definitely my best find so far.  And at only $8.50, it was quite a bargain.


Tony said...

Yeah, that's strange. The only reference to the Twins was the 1965 World Series.

Fuji said...

Wow... that's a nice find. Looks like you did your research... good luck on finding the background info on why Gilliam is on there. I bet there's a cool story behind it.

cubsfan731 said...

Very cool find. And a great deal to boot.