The Debate Over the $1 Million Aaron Judge Baseball That Could Have Been

Unique sports collectibles that capture specific moments in time can sell for more than a typical house these days. Imagine waking up to news that a young man caught Aaron Judge’s 60th homerun baseball that tied Babe Ruth’s single-season record — and then gave the ball back to Aaron Judge for some other signed baseballs and a signed bat. And a solo photo with judge and a group photo with Judge and his friends.

Some may praise the 20-year old Michael Kessler for giving the ball back to Judge and the Yankees. It is pretty selfless and is a serious act of sharing, but… Would this have been a $1 million baseball? That seems high under reasonable thoughts, but who knows what happens in emotional auctions where time isn’t endless. There are some auctions where some people want to own a specific card or item at nearly any cost.

In evaluating that ball’s value, young Mr. Kessler may have just traded a potential gold mine for what he could have purchased for maybe $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 depending on what exactly he would have purchased. The Yankees have billions of dollars at their disposal. After all, Forbes listed the Yankees as the most valuable MLB team with a $6 billion price tag.

Aaron Judge’s last reported contract was a 1-year deal for more than $10 million — about $170K per home if that was somehow the only metric the team cared about. And Judge is expected to get an even larger contract going forward. And as for Judge’s need to have the ball back, keep in mind that he already has the uniform, the bat, the helmet and the other items he was wearing when he hit the 60th homer. Does he (or the Yankees) need the ball too?

Creating a spot auction may not be a simple task but any of the major auction houses could easily reach out to their top buyers and have the news out rapidly via social media and regular press. Any would-be buyer of this historic ball also knows that there are really high chances that Aaron Judge will hit homer 61, 62, 63 and so on.

This is still a ball that would come with considerable interest from the sports collectibles community. Would it be worth $100K? $200K? $500K? or would someone allow their emotions to get the best of them and offer $1 million? Who knows. And now we will never know. (Generic self-taken baseball image below)

Just a generic baseball photo self-taken for some filler.

Here are some of the highest price Aaron Judge items (not cards) that have sold at auction houses:

  • Goldin Auctions sold a 2017 Aaron Judge Game Used New York Yankees Opening Day Home Jersey Vs. Tampa Bay (used on 4/10/17) where Judge hit a home run (MLB Authenticated & Steiner) for $61,200.00.
  • Heritage Auctions previously sold a 2017 Aaron Judge Mother’s Day Game Worn New York Yankees Jersey & Cap in 2017 for $28,800.00.
  • Heritage Auctions also sold a 2017 Aaron Judge Opening Day Home Run Game Worn New York Yankees Jersey (in 2019) for $16,800.00.

Needless to say, this 60th HR ball would have to be worth more than those jerseys… Right? Ken Goldin’s response (from was that the ball’s value could be in the $200,000 to $250,000 range.

The all-time single-season home run record is now convoluted. Maris’ 61 HR was on a longer season than Ruth’s record. Barry Bonds had a record of 73 HR, but Bonds entire career has been under scandal for years. Ditto for the Sammy Sosa (60) and Mark McGwire chase (70) in 1998. So what are some other famous baseballs worth?

SCP Auctions has had some earth-shattering records for significant baseballs. SCP fetched about $750,000 for Barry Bonds’ HR 756 ball and his 755th HR ball tying Hank Aaron fetched $186,750 — and the HR 762nd HR ball fetched some $362,000.00.

According to Dillon Kohler of SCP Auctions regarding the Judge 60 HR ball:

I believe it is easily in the 6-figure range with a high ceiling. As with all milestone balls, the sky is the limit for determined collectors.

Depending upon how you view this situation, the young Mr. Kessler may have just missed out on what could have been a life-changing event. I have already been challenged about who should have done what here in this instance. Then again, maybe the Yankees will realize they should hire him in some sort of capacity. If that is the case, then maybe this golden opportunity gone south immediately turns back into a golden opportunity. In fact, after writing this, that may be the alternative solution — Perhaps the Yankees should consider offering young Mr. Kessler a job in some capacity.