#Hot Corner

Baseball and a really expensive computer

You might have heard that Apple-1 computers these days are expensive; a working model is expected to go for between $260,000 and $400,000 in an auction tomorrow in Germany. Oh, and here's the cool part: as the Times reports, this Apple-1 has a direct baseball connection:

Auction prices for Apple-1’s have not yet settled on firm standards. But according to Richard Austin, head of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s, who handled the auction of the Apple-1 for $374,500 last year, working machines in pristine condition with documentation command the highest prices. “And a story behind it helps,” Mr. Austin added.

The Apple-1 being auctioned on Saturday has a story. Its original owner was Fred Hatfield, a former baseball player in the major leagues, an infielder who played from 1950 to 1958 for five teams including the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Redlegs. His nickname was “Scrap Iron.” He died in 1998 at age 73.

The documentation with the machine includes a letter to Mr. Hatfield, signed by Steve Jobs, offering him a new Apple II and a check for $400 for his Apple-1, said Mr. Breker, the German auctioneer. Mr. Hatfield declined the offer, for whatever reason.

Fred Hatfield grew up in rural Alabama, poor and without a father. He was a fantastic athlete, though, and wound up playing sports in college before becoming a paratrooper during World War II. Many years later, he picked up a degree in secondary education. Following an undistinguished playing career in the majors, Hatfield managed in the minors, then took over as head baseball coach at Florida State. He was successful there, but left to work for the Detroit Tigers, mostly as a minor-league manager.

In 1976, when the Apple-1 was first sold, Hatfield was managing the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate in Evansville; the next year, he began a two-year stint as the big club's third-base coach. Hatfield was ambitious and relatively well-educated, and it's not preposterous to suggest that he was using his Apple-1 to compile statistics and whatnot. Or maybe (fingers crossed!) he was writing his memoir, which will surface one of these days...

You can read a lot more about Hatfield here; my thanks to John Thorn for pointing out Hatfield's connection to the Apple-1.

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