Dave Cingle has gotten to know the officials at his bank pretty well over the years.
He goes there regularly to check on “the ball.”
Cingle (pronounced single) owns a baseball signed by 18 members of the 1918 world champion Boston Red Sox, including Babe Ruth. He loves that ball, though he'd be willing to part with it — for $175,000.
For the third time, the 67-year-old Papillion resident has put the historic baseball up for sale on eBay. Each time has coincided with the Red Sox reaching the World Series, and Cingle, a longtime fan, thought the time was once again right with Boston playing the St. Louis Cardinals in the fall classic.
“The fact I was a Red Sox fan made me want the ball in the first place,'' he said. “But it just seemed like it was time to see if anyone else wanted to have it.''
Ruth pitched for Boston and won two Series games in 1918 before being traded the next year to the New York Yankees.
“To think that the Babe once held this ball and signed it is amazing,” Cingle said. “I get shivers when I think about that.''
Boston pitcher Carl Mays had his fellow team members sign the ball after the Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to two. Mays was the winning pitcher in that final game, and the ball stayed with him for a long time.
Fast-forward to the day that Nebraska native and former major leaguer Adolph “Ad” Liska was soliciting auction items to raise money for the town of Dwight, Neb. A member of the Mays family donated the ball, and it was sold to a Nebraskan at the 1982 auction for $130.
Cingle eventually heard about the ball through sports collectible circles and offered to buy it. His first offer was rejected, but he bought the ball in 1990 for $570.
“I bought it not knowing if it was real or not,'' he said. “But I knew if it was real, it could be worth more than that.''
Perhaps a lot more. Cingle took the ball to a local collectibles dealer in 1995 to have it inspected. He still remembers the dealer's reaction.
“His hands started to shake,'' Cingle said. “He offered me $2,000, but I decided to keep it.''
Cingle moved the ball from his house to a safety deposit box at the nearby bank, though nobody seemed to know exactly how much it might be worth.
“It's a one-of-a-kind type of thing,'' Cingle said.
About that time, in the mid-1990s, eBay was founded. Cingle had another outlet to showcase his baseball, and a prime opportunity came in 2004 — Boston's first trip to the Series since 1986.
Shooting for the moon, Cingle put the ball up for sale on the auction website for $960,000.
“To be honest, I just wanted to see how much interest was out there,'' he said. “I did get an offer for $50,000, but I didn't sell.''
He put the ball up for sale again on eBay when Boston reached the Series in 2007, this time dropping the price to $920,000. But there were no takers, perhaps, in part, because the ball had no letter of authenticity, a must for serious collectors.
Cingle contacted an authentication firm in New Jersey and sent the ball there for inspection. He waited about a month before he got the good news.
“They said it was real and sent me the letter to verify it,'' he said. “I'd been on pins and needles all that month waiting to hear back.''
Knowing there were no more questions about the ball's authenticity, Cingle put it up for auction earlier this month. His asking price has been reduced to $175,000, money that he hopes to use toward helping a son with health problems.
“Judging by other baseballs signed by Babe Ruth that have sold online, I think $175,000 is a fair price,'' Cingle said. “I hope it draws some interest.''
Cingle has tried to contact one of the more famous Red Sox fans in Hollywood about the ball — actor Ben Affleck.
“I left a message for someone at his office to see if he'd be interested,'' he said. “I haven't heard back from anyone yet, but I thought it was worth a try.''
Cingle on Friday visited his prized baseball at the bank, carefully taking it out of its plastic case before inspecting it. The ball has darkened in color over the years, though the autographs — including the one by Ruth — are still visible.
The eBay auction will run until Nov. 22. Cingle then will know whether he and his wife, Colleen, will continue to make those trips to the bank, checking on their piece of history.
“If the ball sells, I'm going to miss it,'' he said. “I'll definitely have a tear in my eye.''