In the world of sports memorabilia, there are countless autographed baseballs and bats in stores or people’s homes all over the world. Only once in a stroke of sheer luck does a truly unique piece of history enter space and catch the attention of collectors.
Someone recently walked through the doors of C’s Cards and Collectibles in Grosse Pointe.
“I had to sit down,” said Gary Buslepp, a C’s volunteer, of the first time he encountered the most unique item that ever entered the store.
The item was brought in by its owner, Kenya resident Maxi in Grosse Pointe. Wrapped in a plastic bag was a one-of-a-kind quilt woven by her 107-year-old grandmother, Grace Enlow. A longtime Detroit resident, Enlo lived in New York before moving to Motor City and has been a lifelong New York Yankees fan.
But one might guess that this is no ordinary quilt. Enlow created them to honor their beloved Bronx Bombers with 27 baseball-shaped patches sewn on them, each one signed by a member of the 1941 New York Yankees, including eight men who are now in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“She and her two sisters were always listening to baseball on the radio,” Maxi said. “They were always Yankees. I made this years before thinking about it, but I always grew up seeing it around the house. I’m not really a huge sports fan and was more interested in the quilt part of it. … For her, it was the love of the sport and the players.”
As it turns out, 1941 marks a landmark year in Yankees history. Not only did the team win the World Series that year, but it was also the year that Joe Dimaggio set the Major League record for hitting a hit in 56 consecutive games—a record many consider unbreakable. Joltin’ Joe’s signature, of course, is practically front and center on the comforter.
“It’s the only one out there, unlike the thousands of baseballs Joe Dimaggio has signed,” said Poslip. “He signed, as far as we know, only one linen quilt.”
Quilt was signed in 1941, during a game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, then known as Briggs Stadium, when the Yankees were in town. Enlow did not have tickets for the game, but waited outside the stadium near the visitors’ entrance and exit with quilts.
He caught the attention of Yankees manager Joe McCarthy, who stopped by to sign his space. Noticing how unique she was, he told Enlow to wait while he took the quilt back to the visiting club until the rest of the Yankees signed.
The only space without a signature is Lou Gehrig’s. Gehrig had retired from baseball two years earlier in 1939, and died in June 1941; Enlow made a space on the quilt in his honor.
Maxi had the autographs authenticated by endorser James Spence in September. The next step is to find the new owner of the quilt. Because the quilt has been a part of her life for so long, Maxi said selling it feels more like giving away a piece of her family than a simple piece of keepsake.
“It’s part of (my grandmother’s),” Maxi said. “I’m not connected to what that means, but she is. To her, it’s like what Prince or Michael Jackson or something like that was to me.”
However, selling quilts has an Enlow blessing. When will it be brought to market and its valuation remains to be determined. The main goal moving forward is to find someone who cherishes the item and the history behind it as much as its creator throughout its long life.
“Someone who probably has a love for the sport and the players like it and understands its value,” Maxi said. “The value I have is sentimental and not attached to the sport or to the players. I think that’s where the value lies – if someone is going to appreciate it and take it out of the bag, they actually keep it and show it.”