Mark, a 36-year-old father of two in Connecticut, prides himself on his extensive collection of sports memorabilia. It’s quite a treasure trove: Mark has a signed Babe Ruth baseball and a Michael J. Fox–signed hoverboard. But last week, he entered a quasi-illegal auction and won his most prized possession of all: Mickey Mantle’s game-worn underwear from 1973, signed and framed, with an explicit note written by the Yankee slugger himself.
“Babe Ruth balls are the holy grail of baseball collectors, but I am confident I am the only person who can say they have a signed piece of Mickey Mantle’s underwear,” Mark tells MEL. (Due to the legal gray area in which this whole thing went down, he asked to use his first name only.)
A large portion of Mark’s collection was won in what’s called a “razz.” Basically, it’s a type of auction done by raffle that occurs in private Facebook groups. Mark took us through the murky underground of sports-memorabilia collecting and how he came to own the fabric that covered the Mick’s ass.
The underwear itself — I took it out to check — is 46 years old now. It’s been in a 3-by-5 piece of plastic for the better part of a decade or two decades. So it’s not really cloth anymore. It feels more like… not cardboard, but like a hard piece of paper. But knowing where the underwear has been and what he confessed to doing under the bleachers as a Yankee, I haven’t been brave enough to smell it. Let’s put it that way.
I don’t know if somebody ironed it or what, but at some point someone embroidered or ironed the “Mickey Mantle” label on it. Otherwise, it’s a small rectangle cutout of his underwear locked between two pieces of plastic.
Honestly, my question is, where’s the third part? If somebody cut 3.5 inches by 5 inches of Mickey Mantle’s underwear, that means that there’s a big hole missing in his underwear that’s out there somewhere on the planet. Maybe that’ll be our goal one day, to reunite this piece with the rest of his underwear.
Inside the Razz Rooms
One of my close childhood friends who knew my gambling habits invited me into my first razz room back in 2017. After a few losses, I went on an incredible win streak. I literally hit $10,000 worth of autographed memorabilia with a few hundred dollars’ investment. I was instantly hooked. I even re-painted most of my basement to showcase my collection.
I started getting invited to other rooms as I built a name for myself. I am currently in about 100 different rooms as of writing this. My biggest return on investment was a $64 spot on a $8,000-plus Babe Ruth–autographed ball.
Razzing is considered illegal on Facebook’s terms and conditions due to violating its gambling policy, so it is conducted in private, invite-only groups.
I have seen razzes for celebrity autographs, TVs, appliances, all-expenses-paid vacations, cash, precious metals and even a 2018 Corvette.
Basically, for gamblers, razzing allows you a chance to win an expensive item for a smaller investment. For those who auction items, you’re taking something you could auction on eBay and getting a guaranteed price for it — without having to pay any fees or taxes to a bidding house or government entity.
So, sure, I could place a signed baseball for $600 on auction at eBay and hope I get enough bids to recoup what I originally paid, or I could razz it for $900 and a profit of $300. It’s all about supply and demand. Sometimes it takes a week for all the spots to fill up; sometimes it’s immediate.
The high-end rooms, the ones that are the most selective with members and offer the most desirable items (Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, to name a few), are the rooms I try to stick to. Some razz groups have 50,000 to 100,000 people in them. [Mine] are more exclusive, and run from 500 to 1,000 people.
Most of the higher-quality groups require “vouches,” or people who will stake their own name and financial responsibility for the addition of members. So if I vouch for John Doe and he doesn’t pay for his spot, I am ultimately responsible for reimbursement of his raffle spots.
A razz is conducted by members of the Facebook group who “line,” or open a bid, on a particular item like any other auction. For example, a person can line a Mickey Mantle autographed baseball for $600 at 30 spots, $20 a bid. Then, people who want to place bets can get into the razz by claiming spots 1 through 30; in the above example, they’d pay $20 for every spot they want. The more spots you buy, the better chance you have at winning.
Once the 20 spots are filled, [we] add payment options, usually PayPal or Venmo. They then collect payments. More on this later, but once you pay for your spot, that money is gone. The whole thing relies solely on trust that this person you just paid won’t cut and run with your money.
The person who put the item up for bid then tags an admin in the group, a trusted person who will do a Facebook Live recording of them putting everyone’s name in to a random number generator (on Random.org) and typing “live” in the comments section to show it isn’t prerecorded.
The name on top after the final randomized round wins the prize. They then message the seller their address and the item is shipped.
Winning Mantle’s Undies Was a Dream Come True
When it comes to the Yankees, three players from three separate generations are widely sought: Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter and Mickey Mantle.
My godfather got me into the Yankees when I was very, very young, and now I’m the only Yankees fan in the family. So now I love to show off my collection of Yankees stuff and Mickey Mantle stuff because there’s more to talk about when people come into my house.
Mantle is famous for his inscriptions. For example, a Mantle-autographed baseball retails for $1,000 to $1,500 on any website. His razz value for the same ball usually goes for around $600 — a very fair price for an autographed ball. When he inscribed a ball with “536 HR” or “No. 7,” it alone adds literally $1,000 to the value of the ball.
So when I saw the Mantle underwear go up, signed with “Bull Shit!,” I had to place a few bids. I love the history behind Mickey Mantle. I love who he was. For instance, [former Yankees Vice President Bob Fishel] sent Mantle a letter for Old Timer’s Day in 1972 [with a survey asking about Mantle’s most “outstanding experience”] at Yankee Stadium. His response was, “I got a blow-job under the right-field bleachers, by the Yankee bull pen.” [Editor’s note: The letter doesn’t stop there.]
The things he signed on balls were hard profanity for that time. Even now, you don’t see that kind of stuff. It’s almost taboo. On one [ball], he wrote “I fucked Monroe” when Marilyn was with Joe DiMaggio, his teammate. Hysterical. That’s the stuff collectors love because it’s so rare. It’s so obscene, and it makes a collectible.
‘Do They Even Make Displays for This?’
I believe the winning bid [for Mantle’s underwear] in the original, “authentic” auction was $1,100 from a starting bid of $75. So when the guy who won that auction turned around and razzed it in the group for $1,600, he got a nice $500 profit. I bought up 10 spots out of the 105 that were lined at $15 a spot, so I figured [I’d have] a less than 10 percent chance.
I do razz bets so often I barely pay attention to them unless it’s something I’m really after, like a Babe Ruth baseball bat. Sometimes my friends will even text me pissed that I won an Aaron Judge jersey or something, and I’ll be like, “Oh, I did?”
So with Mantle’s underwear, I just threw down a quick $150 for 10 spots in the razz and went about my day. I was actually driving when I won. It was kind of a funny experience, because it’s one of those things I could certainly live without — it’s not like it’s a Babe Ruth ball — but sometimes you win things like this and you try to find something fun to do with it.
I was stoked to see my name at the top of the list after the last round, but I literally had no idea what I was going to do with this item. Resell it? Put it in my safe? How does one display a 3-by-5 piece of underwear? Do they even make displays for this?
I decided I would print out an article written about the [underwear] and frame the piece up with the stories, the history of how Mickey Mantle responded to the New York Yankees. I think that makes for a great conversation piece. It’s something I won’t tell my kids about until they’re a little bit older, you know? But the fact that [Mantle] wrote “Bull Shit!” on them is pretty cool.
Times have changed, and Mantle is the perfect example. With the $300 million contracts of today, it’s kind of crazy when you think about it: Mantle never made more than a hundred thousand dollars a year in his playing career, and here is a piece of his underwear selling for like 10 percent of what his salary was. One of his jerseys these days can go for over a million. Can you even believe it?
Watch Out for Scammers in the Razz Rooms
It’s incredible, but I’ve seen a lot of ugliness go down. If you screw up, stiff somebody on a payment or don’t ship something, [the community] comes at you pretty damn hard. Phone calls or messages to significant others, places of employment and family members. Actual pictures of people’s homes and personal phone numbers or physical addresses are commonly posted for people who choose to cheat or scam others.
One time people literally called the car dealership a kid worked at and wrote Yelp reviews saying how much of a piece of shit that kid was. The kid got fired, and the company issued a statement saying they no longer employed him: “Thanks for telling us he’s a lying piece of shit.” And that was over a $50 baseball card.
These [high-end] rooms are the safest because they have the least drama and the smallest chance to be scammed. Scamming is setting up a line and just taking all the money without shipping the prize, or making fake accounts to win back their item plus the money people bet. It gets pretty complicated, but people find a way to cheat, and if they’re outed… I tell ya, I think that the guys in these rooms, if they don’t work for the FBI or the CIA, it blows my mind the information that gets posted within 30 seconds to a minute of a scammer getting outed.
A person named Stuart, who was a solid member within the community, successfully took me for a $4,000 Babe Ruth autograph and completely ruin his name after selling literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of memorabilia in his venture. After exposing him, a picture of his house along with how to contact him popped up [in the group] within minutes.
Fortunately, I’ve recouped most of that money, but it’s been a process. Unfortunately, I had to get an ex-wife involved. I threatened to fly out where he lives, in Nebraska. I and a couple of buddies were literally one click away from purchasing plane tickets to pay him a visit. And that got my first thousand dollars back very quick.
So now he’s slowly, like $100 every couple of weeks, slowly getting it back to me. But you know, that’s what happens in these groups. Some people just go so far over their heads in debt and do something stupid. You don’t mess with this group of people. We all look out for each other, which in turn self-polices our community.
The Collection Is Complete
I am confident I am the only person who can say they have a signed piece of Mickey Mantle’s underwear from the 1973 Old-Timers’ Game in their collection — which makes me pretty content with my collection now. Unless Joe DiMaggio’s underwear pops up, I think I’m done gambling in razzes.
If anything, I am sure my 5-year-old son would be proud, if only he knew who Mickey Mantle was.