(CN) – Sotheby’s auction house illegally sold historic baseball artifacts from a Hall of Fame umpire’s estate – including the first ball ever pitched at Fenway Park, which fetched $132,000 – the ump’s granddaughter claims in a Massachusetts state court.
The Estates of Margaret and Helen Connolly claim Sotheby’s sold several items from Thomas Connolly’s estate, including the first baseball pitched in the 1912 grand opening of Fenway Park.
Peggy Sill, Thomas Connolly’s granddaughter, says she sued because her brother, Bernard Kilroy, the executor of the estates, refused to do so. Sill is not named as a plaintiff – only the estates are; she sued as one of the heirs of the estates.
Sill seeks “to recover possession and control of the memorabilia, or alternatively, its value.” She sued in Middlesex County Superior Court, Woburn, Mass.
Thomas Connolly, who acquired the memorabilia, was born in Manchester, England, and immigrated to America when he was young. He transferred his love of cricket to baseball, and “soon became an expert on the rules of baseball and eventually became a professional baseball umpire, during the infancy of Major League Baseball,” according to the complaint.
The American League hired Connolly as one of its first umpires in 1901 and he called games for 31 years, retiring in 1932. He umpired in the first modern World Series, in 1903, and in seven other World Series.
Sill claims that “at no time did [her] grandfather ever give away or sell any items contained in his baseball memorabilia collection,” nor did any of her uncles or aunts do it.
Also named as a defendant is SCP Auctions, of Laguna Niguel, Calif.
SCP Auctions described one item in its June 2005 auction as “‘Fenway Park, First Ball Pitched, April 20, 1912,'” the complaint states.
“SCP Auctions, Inc.’s press release also describes selling from the grandfather’s estate a Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig signed ball for $42,000 as well as opening day baseballs signed by important figures such as President Woodrow Wilson and Vice President Calvin Coolidge.”
Sill claims Sotheby’s website posted a page detailing her grandfather’s career, along with items from his collection, including his personal baseball rulebook, his Hall of Fame pin and a pendant given to him by the winning team in the 1910 World Series. She claims that no one from her family ever pledged or delivered any of the items to Sotheby’s and that the items were sold without permission.
She says she asked Sotheby’s how it received the items, but Sotheby’s told her the donor’s identity could not be disclosed.
Sill wants the memorabilia or its value, and wants Sotheby’s ordered to turn over any information it has on the identity of the person or people who consigned the items, and other damages.
She is represented by Laurence Richmond with Richmonds & Co. of Wellesley Hills, Mass.