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PHOTO: John Lackey trades signed Babe Ruth ball for jersey number

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

When the Cardinals acquired John Lackey from the Red Sox at the trade deadline, the big right-hander went from a last place team to a team right in the thick of the postseason hunt. Not a bad move for Lackey, if you ask me.

There was one small problem though: Lackey's No. 41 was already claimed in St. Louis, and not by a rookie or extra player either. It was worn by All-Star reliever Pat Neshek. Lackey and Neshek worked out a trade for the number though, and in return for No. 41, Neshek received an autographed Babe Ruth baseball:

Uh, wow.

The value of a signed Babe Ruth ball depends on a lot of things -- condition of the ball, whether any other players signed it, etc. -- but they are easily worth thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. If the ball has some history behind it, it could be worth six figures. Also, this is an investment for Neshek. The value of that ball is only going up as the years pass.

Not a bad trade, if you ask me. Neshek had worn six different numbers (72, 17, 34, 40, 47, 41) in his eight-year career until Lackey showed up, so it seems unlikely No. 41 had any kind of special meaning to him. If you can turn a meaningless uniform number into a Babe signed Ruth ball, you've got to do it.

Neshek, by the way, now wears No. 37.

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