A die-hard Yankees fan purchases the 1919 document.

NEW YORK (AP) – The “cursed” 1919 contract that shipped Babe Ruth from Boston to the Bronx sold at auction Friday for a staggering $996,000, delighting its new owner – a die-hard Yankees fan – and a hunger-relief group designated to receive a financial windfall from the sale.

“I was prepared to pay almost whatever it took,” said Pete Siegel, head of Manhattan-based Gotta Have It Collectibles, after his winning offer. “I’m not saying a billion dollars, but whatever price I needed to secure it.”

The crowd at Sotheby’s burst into cheers when the final hammer came down after 15 minutes of intense bidding. The five-page typed contract recorded the unprecedented deal blamed for dooming generations of Red Sox fans to heartbreak as victims of “The Curse of the Bambino.”

The price was nearly double the presale estimate for the Dec. 26, 1919, contract, signed by owners Harry Frazee of the Red Sox and Jacob Ruppert of Yankees, and nearly 10 times the $100,000 cost of purchasing Ruth.

It was a deal that had lasting repercussions in both cities. The Red Sox, with Ruth, had won the World Series one year earlier. They wouldn’t taste a title again until last year, when “The Curse” was finally broken with their World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

In between, the Yankees won 26 championships while Boston suffered some of the most agonizing defeats in baseball history. Ruth went on to become one of the most dominant and recognizable figures in all sports.

“This, to me, is the most important sports document,” said Siegel, who had no immediate plans for the contract other than to keep it in a safe place. “Besides sports, it crosses over into American history. It has a lot going for it.”

Proceeds from the sale were donated to the hunger-relief organization America’s Second Harvest, which provides food for 23 million low-income Americans each year. The contract was previously owned by Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein.

The cost of the contract fell short of the priciest bit of Babe memorabilia, a massive 46-ounce Louisville Slugger used by the Bambino to drill the first home run in Yankee Stadium history. It sold in December 2004 for the Ruthian price of $1.26 million, the most ever paid for a baseball bat.

Another prime bit of Boston baseball memorabilia sold Friday for $132,000 – the first ball thrown at the April 20, 1912, debut of Fenway Park. Umpire Tom Connolly held onto the future collectible, inscribing it with the message, “Fenway Park, First Ball Pitched.”

The baseball sold for more than double its presale estimate of $50,000. The identity of the winning bidder was not released.

A London-based online gambling operation paid $102,000 for the 700th home run hit by the player closest to Ruth on the career home run list, Barry Bonds. Only Bonds, Ruth and all-time leader Henry Aaron have eclipsed the 700-homer mark.

Bonds, who has yet to play this season because of an injured right knee, has 703 home runs. Sportsbook.com said it intends to donate the ball to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

A baseball signed by Ruth and Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig sold for $42,000, well above the presale estimate of $5,000.

One of the other big baseball sellers: a 1911 Honus Wagner baseball card, one of only about 50 still in existence, sold for $132,000. While above the presale estimate, the purchase still paled next to the $1.265 million paid for a 1909 Wagner card in 2000.

The auction prices include the house premium of 20 percent on the first $200,000 and 12 percent thereafter.

AP-ES-06-10-05 2028EDT


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