The Elusive Elston Howard Single-
PSA Near Mint 7
A major key to completing a number of single-signed baseball ball sets, this extremely scarce orb consistently appears on collectors' want lists. Along with the Roger Maris, an Elston Howard single signed baseball is essential to finishing the full set of 1961 Yankees, as well as the set of Retired Yankee Numbers (Babe Ruth is significantly easier to locate, for example). In the late 1980's, there was a 1961 Yankees Reunion Card Show, but of course neither Maris or Howard attended. The rest of the players from that team were there to sign baseballs (save Tony Kubek).
While Elston Howard singles are virtually non-existent, we have been fortunate to own two others in the past (few dealers have), both of which sold well in excess of $10,000 each. The last example to appear in auction, one we were not interested in purchasing due to its inferior condition (we demand quality) sold for $6,600 in 2017. That is how much demand there is and how little supply!
This wonderful example is graded 7/10 by PSA/DNA and features a full 3-inch sprawling example of his elaborate signature, which he placed in felt pen on the coveted sweet spot of a clean, snow white Wilson Little League Baseball. The black ink stamping and labeling is as dark as the day it was removed from its original box. We suspect the ball was signed during a game that he attended as a spectator while watching his son play youth ball.
Elston Howard autographed memorabilia is perpetually in demand. This important Yankee passed away unexpectedly in 1980 at the young age of 51, long before baseball card shows and private event signings came to the hobby. Hence, the vast majority of autographed items extant are a result of those he gratuitously scripted for fans that waited for him after a game or hotel. Keep in mind that autograph collecting was not as popular as it became decades later. Virtually all of those autographs were on "flat" items, not baseballs - flat items were the easier medium.
About Elston Howard
"Ellie" Howard spent his early years catching for the K.C. Monarchs of the Negro League. Interestingly his roommate was Ernie Banks. The Yankees were "late to the party" in signing an African American player, which they finally did in 1955. Howard immediately made his mark, stepping into the lineup and batting .290 that season. By 1958 he was a .300 hitter, and by 1963 he was the American League's Most Valuable Player. In 1967 Yankee fans were disheartened when he was suddenly traded to the Red Sox during their famous "Impossible Dream" season. Elston played an important role and helped lead them to the World Series in which he caught all seven games.
His playing career ended in 1968 and the Yankees immediately hired him as their first base coach for the 1969 season. He held that position until 1979, outlasting the firing and hiring of managers and general managers. He was their mainstay of the team during those turbulent years (remember that famous Reggie Jackson - Billy Martin confrontation during a game in Boston in 1978?). After his passing in 1980 the Yankees dedicated a plaque in Memorial Park at Yankee Stadium and retired his number 32. The team also wore a black armband in his honor during the 1981 season. That plaque reads," A man of greatness and dignity" and " one of the truly great Yankees". That is how important Elston Howard is to the Yankee organization. He appeared in 12 all star games, won gold gloves, holds a career .993 fielding percentage, a .274 lifetime avg. and earned 6 world series rings.
Scarce indeed, it will be sometime before another one of these surfaces!
An important baseball signed by an important Yankee, accompanied by graded a letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA, as well as a letter from JSA.