John Lackey always had a reputation for being one of the more generous guys in the Red Sox clubhouse when it came to picking up a tab or two.
But the former Red Sox righthander outdid himself in St. Louis when he offered something special in exchange for his longtime No. 41 this week — the same number that was being worn by teammate Pat Neshek when Lackey joined St. Louis on July 31 after the Sox dealt him away.
Pat’s prize? Lackey gave Neshek an autographed baseball with Babe Ruth’s signature, continuing the tradition of bribing a teammate in order to procure a favored number.
Huge Thanks to John Lackey for the incredible gift for changing my uni # pic.twitter.com/SFnuTh2d7x
— Pat Neshek (@PatNeshek) August 20, 2014
Baseballs with Ruth’s signature are typically worth anywhere from $5,000-$40,000 depending on the condition, date, and other factors. One of the most famous autographed baseballs in history — the one signed by Ruth with a promise to hit a home run for an ailing 11-year-old boy — was sold for $250,641 by Grey Flannel Auctions in February. In 2012, a ball with a perfect Ruth signature sold for a record $388,375.
Some other famous pay-for-numbers scenarios include Darelle Revis paying Mark Barron a reported $50,000 for jersey No. 24 when he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. In March 2013, Adrian Wilson of the Patriots came through on his promise to trade a year’s supply of diapers to new teammate Kyle Arrington in exchange for rights to wear jersey No. 24. In 2004, punter Jeff Feagles of the Giants traded his No. 10 to new quarterback Eli Manning in exchange for a paid family vacation in Florida. Feagles later gave up No. 17 to wide receiver Plaxico Burress in exchange for a new outdoor kitchen for his Arizona home… but Feagles reportedly never received the payment from Burress.
In 2011, Julio Borbon gave the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre his customary number 29 in exchange for a watch. In 2010, Jim Thome gave Alexi Casilla a Rolex in exchange for his number with the Twins. In 2012, newly-acquired Pirates starter A.J. Burnett gave Daniel McCutchen a college fund for his unborn daughter in exchange for No. 34.
The move was a bit of a good luck charm for Neshek, who picked up the win in the Cards’ 5-4 victory over the Reds by throwing a scoreless ninth inning after the Red Birds scored single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to take the lead.
Neshek made the NL All-Star team for the first time this season wearing No. 41. But now he’s wearing No. 37 on his back — and he’s got a valuable Babe Ruth baseball to add to his collection.
The starter for St. Louis last night? John Lackey, who pitched six innings and gave up four runs.