Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where are King Faisal's balls?

This LIFE magazine photo shows Iraq's King Faisal in the Brooklyn dugout
between manager Chuck Dressen and Jackie Robinson, holding a team-autographed baseball. 
In arranging a visit to the United States in 1952, the 17-year-old King Faisal II of Iraq expressed an interest in seeing a Brooklyn Dodgers game and meeting Jackie Robinson. The scion of the Hashemite Dynasty is said to have become a fan of American baseball while attending school in England during World War II.

That request was accommodated on Aug. 13, when the boy king was the guest of Dodgers' president Walter O'Malley in his box at Ebbets Field for a doubleheader against the N.Y. Giants. 

A reporter said Faisal "proved to be a calm, somewhat confused. baseball fan as O'Malley explained plays to him." Faisal was reported to have been impressed with a Bobby Thomson home run in the opening game, which the Dodgers lost 5-4.

In a pre-game photo op, the king visited the Dodgers' dugout, where Robinson presented him with a team-autographed baseball. The reporter noted that Faisal "was pleased when Manager Chuck Dressen planted a Dodger cap on the royal noggin . . . but his uncle (Prince 'Abd al-llah), the regent, scowled and took the cap off."

Following the game, Faisal was also presented with an autographed ball from the Giants.

The collector in me wonders where those souvenir balls are today. 

Did they survive the July 14, 1958, coup d'etat in which a faction of the Iraqi army lined up the king, members of his family and servants in a palace courtyard and machine-gunned them? Did they survive the Saddam Hussein rule?

Or perhaps the balls returned to the U.S. in the dufflebag of an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who "found" them in the palace, museum or archives in Baghdad?

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