The 1992 United State men’s Olympic basketball team is known – with good reason – as the “Dream Team.” Head coach Chuck Daly headed to Barcelona with arguably the most talented roster in the history of any sport; 11 of the 12 players are in the Naismith Hall of Fame. The Americans destroyed six opponents – their closest victory, over Puerto Rico, was by “only” 38 points – en route to winning the gold medal with immeasurable ease. If ever there was a team that could not lose, the Dream Team was it.
Other teams have tried to compile something similar. Professional sports are different than representing a nation in international competition, of course, but there are deep-pockets owners – see Rupert Murdoch, Jerry Jones, Mikhail Prokherov, Dan Snyder and of course George Steinbrenner – who have tried to money-whip every top free agent into joining stacked rosters in an effort to all but guarantee championships.
But before any of those, there was Connie Mack. Known best as a Hall of Fame manager, Mack spent 50 of his 53 seasons skippering the Philadelphia Athletics. As manager and owner, Mack took aim at baseball supremacy by compiling a roster of some of the finest players the game has ever known, seven of whom – Mack, Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons and Tris Speaker – ended up in the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame.
At least five of those – Cobb, Speaker, Cochrane, Foxx and Mack – signed this 1928 Philadelphia Athletics Team-Signed Baseball, which will be available May 11-13 in Heritage Auctions’ Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction in Dallas. It’s possible that the ball has autographs from more of the team’s Hall of Famers, but time has faded some signatures past the point of verification.
Had these players been teammates five years earlier, it might be revered as one of the greatest collections of talent in the history of the game. But by the time the season ended, three of the players were greybeards playing out twilights of their careers: Cobb was 41 and playing his 24th and final season, Speaker was 40 and playing his 22nd and final season, and Collins also was 40, playing the 23rd of his 25 seasons.
While the effort to create the first “Dream Team” in sports backfired, as it turned out, the effort by the A’s to stockpile talent was not without positive results, as they won the World Series the following two years, albeit without Cobb and Speaker.
For collectors, however, this ball represents an extraordinary opportunity to acquire autographs from some of the greatest players who ever played.
Written by: Steve Lansdale
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