Chris Chambliss finally is ready to part with the bat and ball that ensured his place in baseball history, and he does not expect to be all that sentimental about it.
“I don’t think so,’’ he said of an auction scheduled for Tuesday at the All-Star FanFest at the Javits Center. “It’s a memory that will still be there for me. It doesn’t change what happened.’’
What happened was a home run leading off the bottom of the ninth against the Royals’ Mark Littell in Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS that sent the Yankees to their first World Series since 1964.
Per the custom of that era, fans stormed the field, preventing Chambliss from reaching home plate. In the chaos, teammate Graig Nettles saved the bat for him, and a security guard retrieved the ball.
Why sell them now? “I just felt like it was time to kind of share the items with the fans,’’ Chambliss said. “Also with the All-Star Game in New York, it just seemed like real good timing for that . . . I think it will just be a pleasure to know that it’s in the hands of a true Yankee fan.’’
There is no guarantee of that, and no clear notion of what price the items will bring. Regardless, Chambliss has had no second thoughts. Did any of his friends, relatives or former teammates try to talk him out of it?
“It’s my stuff and my decision,’’ said Chambliss, 64, who has kept the items at his home in Atlanta.
Chambliss said a day rarely goes by in which the 1976 home run does not come up. He is just happy that he is best known for something good, unlike a fellow first baseman and contemporary – Bill Buckner.
“It’s so unfair,’’ he said. “We all know the kind of player he was, a great hitter and a great fielder. Balls have gone through my legs before, too.’’
Chambliss’ lone lament about the 1976 home run is that he was denied an opportunity for a proper celebration on the field.
“I’ve said many times if there was any regret it was not to have my teammates huddled around home plate [to greet me],’’ he said. “That would have been a tremendous thrill, there’s no doubt about that. But it was what it was. It was just a different time.’’
Chambliss’ bat and ball are among several items to be auctioned Monday and Tuesday beginning at 11 a.m. each day, including a game worn Ted Williams jersey, bats used by Babe Ruth and a ball from Jackie Robinson's first major league game in 1947.
Friday through Sunday, fans can get free appraisals of sports memorabilia at the Hunt Auctions Appraisal Fair at the Javits Center.