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A World Series memento reappears after 65 years
The Case of Pipgras's Pilfered Pocket Watch would have been perfect for an episode of Unsolved Mysteries—that is, until last month when a watch collector and a reptile keeper solved the mystery.
George Pipgras was a rookie pitcher on the first New York Yankee world championship team in 1923. After Ruth & Co. beat the New York Giants in the World Series, Pipgras and his teammates each received a gold Gruen pocket watch with a little baseball attached to its chain. But in the spring of 1926, while Pipgras was changing trains in Memphis, two holdup men asked him what time it was and then stole the watch.
In 1988, two years after Pipgras died, Gerald Perry, owner of the Perry Coin and Loan Company in Hopewell, Va., bought an antique watch at a flea market in Richmond for $100. "I couldn't tell what it was when I bought it, because it had all this crud on it," says Perry. Beneath the layer of dirt was the inscription: "N.Y. Yankees G.P." Last January, Perry decided to investigate who G.P. was and contacted Jerry McNeal for assistance. McNeal, the senior reptile keeper at the St. Louis Zoo, also happens to be recognized by the Hall of Fame as a leading historian of World Series mementos.
McNeal remembered reading a story about Pipgras's stolen watch and put two and two together. He and Perry then located Pipgras's only child, LeMorn Simpson of Inverness, Fla., through the Yankees. Simpson, 69, was excited to hear about the watch. "Daddy used to talk about it all the time," she says. "About how a big guy and a little guy in Memphis robbed him. He looked all over for that watch. Left word at pawn shops and police stations and offered a reward. But he never found it."
For now, the watch is still in Perry's pocket. He says he "wants to see it in the family's hands," but he is asking Simpson to pay at least $4,000 for it. So although the puzzle has been solved, the case isn't quite wrapped up.