Family Selling Lou Gehrig's Home Run Baseball to Pay Off Debt

credit: Charlie Riedel/AP Photo

Eighty-four years ago, New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig hit a home run into the bleachers and the hands of a diehard fan at a 1928 World Series game. The three-run homer brought in Babe Ruth and led the Bronx Bombers to a 9-3 victory over their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, that historic ball is up for auction by a family hoping to help pay off their son's medical school debt.

Online pre-bidding for the famous baseball had already exceeded $33,000 Friday on the website for Hunt Auctions. It estimated that the ball would sell in the range of $100,000 and $200,000 based upon its condition and rich history.

Elizabeth Gott, who has had the prized ball in her family for generations, said selling it was a difficult decision.

"It was the right time," said Gott, 57. "My son needed money to start paying off some of the large debt he's accumulated from medical school. I had no idea how important it was. … I was sort shocked.

"Now, maybe somebody else that loves baseball will have the ball in their possession and will be able to treasure it," she added.

Gott's son, Michael Gott, a 30-year-old orthopedic surgeon in his final year of residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, has accumulated approximately $200,000 in debt from loans to pay for medical school, said his father, Steve Gott.

"He has $200,000 in loans that are coming due," his father said. "Either he had to go pay it off at 6 or 7 percent and never make any money or sell the ball. … We said, 'OK, let's go for it.'"

Michael Gott received the ball as a medical school graduation gift from his uncle five years ago and, since then, has kept it in a drawer at his parents' home in Stamford, Conn. The souvenir was originally a prized possession of Elizabeth Gott's great-uncle, Buddy Kurland.

For years, Kurland displayed the ball in the window of his news stand, Metter's Smoke Shop in South Manchester, Conn., according to local newspaper reports.

Kurland was seated in the right center field bleachers, rooting with his friend Scott Stevenson for the Yankees in game 2 of the 1928 series. When Gehrig's home run came flying into his section, Kurland's hat fell over his eyes and he fumbled the ball. Stevenson was the one who picked it up off the floor, keeping it in his pocket until the end of the game, when he gave the souvenir to Kurland, according to the Hunt Auctions website.

Kurland wasn't the only one who treasured the baseball. When asked about the three-run homer after the game, Gehrig himself reportedly said he'd like to have that ball for his personal collection.

Gehrig's history-making career was upended when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that took his life in 1941 and would later become known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The live auction for the ball takes place Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo. The Gotts can't wait.

"We are sitting here in suspense mode because we don't know what we're going to end up getting. We know what its perceived worth is," Steve Gott said.

He contemplated what it would be like to receive a $200,000 bid.

"[Michael] would be ecstatic and he would be able to start practicing medicine without this $200,000 burden," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.