Visalia resident Dale Ball says he has plans to mount card next to Babe Ruth statue at Yankee Stadium

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By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

VISALIA – Visalia resident Dale Ball made national, and local, headlines in February when he realized he bought a Babe Ruth baseball card potentially worth $2 million for just eight bucks.

Now that the dust has settled, auctioneers have told him he could sell the things off for anywhere between $4 and $11 million. But this fortuitous card owner has other plans in mind.

Ball’s card authentication and subsequent auction house jockeying has only cemented his plans to what he is actually going to do with it. Between finding the card and verifying its value, Ball knows he wants to retain its rights, but he also wants the fans of baseball lore to enjoy it.

Coming from upstate New York, Ball grew up a Yankees fan. So finding one of the rarest cards in baseball history is only fitting for the Visalia resident. More fitting though, is mounting the card next to Yankee Stadium’s statue of Babe Ruth.

“At least that is where it’s supposed to be,” Ball said. “That’s one of my fondest desires. I look forward to taking it up there with my wife and kids, mounting it next to the statue, and giving that statue a big hug.”

For now, Ball is allowing his publicist and the Yankees to decide his compensation and when they’ll be able to get the card to its rightful place to be regarded.

How Ball came into possession of the ultra-rare card is the result of a stroke of luck as a result of an act of kindness. On his way to Nevada last month he saw a car pulled over to the side of the road. When he pulled over to see what was wrong, he noticed the woman driving had wrapped her snow chains around her axle. Naturally Ball offered to help. After he had fixed her chains the woman paid him $20, and then stuffed a cigarette pack into his pocket.

Ball said he didn’t smoke but the woman said there was more money in there for him.

Inside the pack was a Sacagawea dollar, valuable in its own right depending on the type. When Ball got to Sparks, Nevada he paid a visit to Action Sports and Coin to ask about the value of the dollar piece. While he was there, he noticed a Brett Favre rookie card for $10. Underneath it was the Babe Ruth card. Ball could not believe what the shop was selling it for.

“I asked why is it only eight dollars and he says, ‘I can’t find it anywhere in the magazines. I think it’s a remake.’”

Ball decided to take it anyways after coming to the conclusion that the store owner did not realize he might be in possession of a Shotwell W-575-1 Babe Ruth card. An ultra-rare card with only two known copies to have ever been made in 1921 before the company collapsed in the 1950s. It was believed that everything Shotwell made had been destroyed.

Ball has been collecting cards since he was a kid, and had developed a knowledge about baseball cards, including how remakes are produced. After he bought the card and left the store, Ball examined it in the sunlight.

“I’m looking at this card and feeling this paper and this is not how remakes are made,” Ball said.

After five days of researching the card he began to get frustrated at the thought it could be a remake. It was only after he Googled the Shotwell label on the back that he began to get some results.

“Nobody had ever seen a Shotwell card,” Ball said. “The only thing anyone would tell me is, ‘I don’t know.’”

Attempts to authenticate the card led him all the way to Beverly Hills where he consulted an antiques expert. Ball’s enlightening conference with the expert gave him the answer he was looking for: it was genuine. The ultimate tell was if the card were a remake or fake the print on the front and back of the card would be centered. To Ball’s delight, the Shotwell Company information on the back of his card is slightly off-center.

Since the card’s authentication through the Heidelberg Company, which printed the cards from 1890 to 1930s, the last task for Ball was to grade it. Ball got it’s official status in February, and then mulled of his next move. Now just a few months later he decided it was time to pay homage to the team that made Babe Ruth famous.

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