Grant DePorter’s ten favorite pieces from his extensive Chicago sports memorabilia collection as photographed by Maggie Rife Ponce (except Nos. 5 and 10, which were submitted)
1. 1973 — signed ball by Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron: Grant’s family briefly moved to the West Coast in ’73, where his father opened the doors of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. That year, his father met Atlanta Braves superstar Henry Aaron and had him sign a ball to his son. The following year, the slugger would break Babe Ruth’s coveted career home-run record.
2. 2003 — The “Bartman Ball”: Bought in DePorter’s first attempt at an online auction; he remembers going bid-for-bid with an anonymous bidder late into the night. Of course, he eventually won, spending nearly $114,000 on the controversial ball. He found out later that his web-auction nemesis was Canadian comics mogul, Todd McFarlane, best known for his Spawn comic. (For more on the Bartman ball, see page TK.)
3. 1981 — Basketball signed by NBA award winners: When DePorter was a sophomore in high school, the National Basketball Association’s annual awards night banquet was held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. He remembers meeting Boston Celtics stars Chris Ford (who sunk the first three-pointer in history) and future Hall of Famer John Havlicek (inducted three years later). That night, Grant’s father was given a basketball signed by every player at the event, including the top two picks from the 1981 draft, Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Aguirre and future Detroit Pistons Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas, both out of Chicago. The elder DePorter then handed it over to his son. One signature missing from the ball? That year’s Most Valuable Player, Philadelphia 76ers’ superstar Julius “Dr. J” Irving, who was a no-show.
4. 2013 — Game-worn stitches from Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup finals: After Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw took a puck just below his right eye in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, the player was helped off the ice, had the wound stitched up in the locker room, and miraculously went back out to help his team clinch. He later put the stitches up for auction for a cancer research charity, and Grant came through to the tune of $6,500.
5. 1987 — Walter Payton’s final career touchdown football: Chicago Bears’ running back Walter Payton earned the nicknamed “Sweetness” for good reason: In his day, he rushed for a record-breaking 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns over his legendary 12-year career (both records were later broken). Although that final TD was just a five-yarder, it couldn’t have come on a more meaningful day: December 20, 1987, when The Bears retired Payton’s number, 34, at home. After scoring, Payton launched the ball into the stands, putting a stamp on a soon-to-be-Hall-of-Fame career—and giving one lucky fan a priceless memento. When the ball recently materialized at auction, DePorter reached into his deep pockets and split the uprights.
6. 2003 — Sammy Sosa’s corked bat: On June 3, 2003, Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa, who had famously gone toe-to-toe with St. Louis Cardinal, Mark McGwire, in 1998’s race to best Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record, found himself on the other side of fans’ favor. After breaking his bat on a ground out in the first inning, it was revealed that he’d been using one with a corked center. (He was ejected, and Cubs pitcher Mike Remlinger picked up the broken bat in question.) DePorter bought it at auction and later had it CAT-scanned to show the trouble Sosa had gone to doctor it.
7. 1945 — “Last Out Ball” from the Chicago Cubs last World Series bid: As its name notes, this is the baseball used in the final play of the 1945 World Series, the last time the Cubs made an appearance in the Fall Classic (they lost). In 2015, DePorter and special-effects man Michael Lantieri — who electrocuted the “Bartman ball” — put the “Last Out Ball,” some Cubs tickets from favorable years like ’69 and ’84, and a can of Budweiser into “Mr. Fusion,” the device which powered the time machine in Back to the Future II. Smoke billowed out and the room shook. The idea was to give the team some good karma. As it were, when Marty McFly goes “back to the future” in the 1989 movie, he lands in 2015, where a headline reads that the Cubs have won the World Series.
8. 2005 — Bat that made final out of Chicago White Sox World Series victory: When the Houston Astros (then of the National League) met the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series, it gave the Windy City team a chance to win its first World Series since 1917. Sox closer Bobby Jenks provided the final pitch to Astros pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro, who grounded out to shortstop, Juan Uribe, who threw the ball over to first for the final out. Palmeiro actually thought to sign and inscribe the bat with the message: “My bat used in the last out of the 2005 World Series, White Sox vs. Astros, October 26, 2005.” The handwritten provenance—and historical nature of the bat—made it an easy sell to DePorter.
9. 1998 — Baseball autographed by Cubs’ Kerry Wood from 20-strikeout game: On May 5, 1998, 20-year-old Cubs ace Kerry Wood faced the Houston Astros in only the fifth start in his young career. The top prospect would end up striking out a staggering 20 batters in nine innings, tying a Major League record, and DePorter snagged one of the balls Wood used to K his competitors, signed by the pitcher. Gives a whole new meaning to cash-and-carry, no?
10. 1998 — Michael Jordan “Last Shot” backboard, basket, and net: Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan made a career of jaw-dropping dunks and breathtaking feats of greatness on the basketball court. But maybe Jordan’s most memorable moment came on June 14, 1998, when he hit a game-winning jumper with 5.6 seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to clinch a sixth championship for the Bulls. It would also be his last shot for the Chicago team. Of course, when the backboard, basket, and net — currently on display at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts — went up for auction recently, DePorter employed some late-auction heroics of his own, landing the one-of-a-kind piece.