ATLANTA -- Earlier this year in a southern California storage facility, an aged leather football was pulled out of a box and handed to auction-house officials. Handling the dimpled leather, they immediately recognized the ball’s inscription and its significance.
“GA. TECH. 222 CUMBERLAND U 0.”
“I don’t know if ‘shivers up my spine’ is the right description,” said Terry Melia, a spokesman for California-based SCP Auctions, “but certainly goosebumps to know that I was holding a piece of history” that was once owned by John Heisman, the Tech coaching great.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the ball believed to be used in Tech’s historic 1916 rout of Cumberland will go up for bidding today on the auction house’s Web site until Aug. 23. Bidding will start at $5,000.
The ball belongs to the LA84 Foundation, a non-profit that funds youth sports in southern California and studies the role of sports in society. The foundation inherited it as part of a vast collection of artifacts from a sports museum opened in the 1930s — the Helms Athletic Foundation — by a man named Bill Schroeder. His collection reportedly included boxing gloves worn by Jack Dempsey, a uniform worn by Babe Ruth and a bat used by Ty Cobb.
When the museum moved locations in the early 1980s, boxes of items went into storage, including the 222-0 ball. They had remained there until June, Melia said, when the LA84 Foundation decided to put them up for auction as a fundraiser. Other items from the collection include a 1906 World Series game ball, gloves worn by Dempsey and a pair of football cleats worn by Jim Thorpe in the filming of a movie about his life.
The LA84 Foundation does not have information about how Schroeder, who died in 1987, came to possess the ball. In an e-mail, foundation spokesman Wayne Wilson wrote that inventory records indicate that Schroeder donated the ball to the museum.