SPENCER, Iowa -- Eight baseballs signed by Babe Ruth during a trip to Spencer, Iowa, have sold at auction for $216,000.
One ball in near-mint condition went for $77,000 and two sold for just over $13,000.
Ruth autographed dozens of balls at a Ford dealership owned by John Hart in 1948, said Chris Ivy, of Heritage Auctions, the Dallas firm that ran the auction on Friday. Ivy said the family kept the balls in a safe deposit box until recently deciding to put them up for auction.
Hart's immediate family, through spokeswoman Suzanne Volkmer-Jones, declined interview requests. She believes Ruth visited the dealership through his association with Ford Motor Co.
Ruth, who died in August 1948, participated in the auto company's junior baseball program.
"Uncle John must have had the foresight to get a bunch of (the baseballs) signed and then kept them," said Doug Hart, a nephew, on Monday.
Doug Hart said he and his sister, Anne Cleghorn, of Dakota Dunes, are proud of their family's brush with the Babe. She has a photo of her father and Ruth taped to her refrigerator and Doug Hart has another ball signed by the slugger. It's not for sale, he said.
"There's no way I would sell it," he said.
A ninth ball -- of high quality -- is scheduled to be auctioned Aug. 4 in Dallas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.