Rotary to raffle Hall ball featuring DiMaggio autograph

The baseball to be raffled by the Cooperstown Rotary Foundation is from the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 1983 induction dinner. It is signed by 24 inductees, but only four of them are still alive.Contributed

With the National Baseball Hall of Fame beginning the “Yankee years” with the 2019 induction of Mariano Rivera, this year’s Cooperstown Rotary Foundation’s Amazing Autographed Baseball Raffle has an appropriate headline signature: New York Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio.

“What’s interesting is there are 10 or 11 baseballs and they are all from different years,” said Jeff Katz, the former mayor of Cooperstown and a longtime Rotary Club of Cooperstown member who helps run the baseball raffle every year. “We thought we’d start with the Ted Williams ball (which was auctioned last year), and with this year being Mariano Rivera, we thought we’d go with DiMaggio.”

The cache of signed baseballs was donated by Rotary member Tom Heitz, who worked for more than a decade at the Hall, and had signed balls from induction events from 1983 to 1992.

This year’s baseball is from the 1983 induction of Brooks Robinson, Juan Marichal, Walter Alston and George Kell. Alston did not sign the ball for some unknown reason, but it does feature signatures from DiMaggio, Robinson, Kell and Marichal, as well as 21 other Hall of Famers: Burleigh Grimes, Johnny Mize, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Robin Roberts, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Billy Herman, Bill Dickey, Sandy Koufax, Luke Appling, Judy Johnson, Al Kaline, Al Lopez, Charlie Gehringer, Cool Papa Bell, Joe Cronin, Duke Snider, Joe Sewell and Ralph Kiner.

Only four of the players who signed the ball, Robinson, Marichal, Koufax and Kaline, are still alive.

Katz said he is always fascinated to look at the signature baseballs and imagine the Hall of Fame banquets where they were signed.

“I think it gives it a lot of character,” he said. “It gives a glimpse of them as a group. It is like a little slice of baseball history.”

Only 100 tickets will be sold. Tickets cost $50 each. The money goes to the CRF, the 501(c)3 division of the Rotary Club, and helps fund the group’s scholarships and other charitable activities.

“Raffles are fun, and if you win, you win,” Katz said. “It is a gift to the foundation, because you can always buy an autographed baseball somewhere. But with the DiMaggio signature on it, we think this year’s ball is special.”

The drawing will take place Tuesday, July 30. Tickets will be available at the Rotary Spring Fling, which will be Saturday, May 18 at The Clark Sports Center in the town of Middlefield. Sales will continued until all 100 tickets are sold or until the July 30 drawing.

Email cooperstownrotaryfoundation@gmail.com for more information.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7211.