The first vote for the Hall of Fame was held in 1936, with Cobb, Johnson, Ruth, Wagner and Christy Mathewson enshrined. Over the next two years, 21 more players, executives and baseball pioneers were elected.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame opened in June 1939, in Cooperstown, New York, and the 12 living Hall of Fame players were invited to the dedication ceremony. The only member to decline was Lou Gehrig, who was unable to attend, Sports Collectors Daily reported. Gehrig was in Rochester, Minnesota, where he would be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease he would die from two years later.
The ball belonged to Marv Owen, a third baseman for the Chicago White Sox. Future Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, who played with Owen in Detroit, brought two baseballs to the ceremony but told Owen he was too shy to ask the players for their autographs, SCP Auctions said.
When Owen got the players to sign the baseballs, Greenberg allowed Owen to keep one of them, SCP Auctions said.
Owen stored the ball in a fur-lined glove that was housed in a safety deposit box, SCP Auctions wrote in its listing. After Owen died in 1991, the family kept the ball. It was sold for $55,000 at a Christie's auction in 1997, Sports Collectors Daily reported.