Babe RUTH (1895-1948)
Chronology : 1916 1920 1929 1933
1916 Rookie Card
2021 SOLD for $ 1.45M by Memory Lane
The MLB rookie card of the future super-champion, published in 1916, is much more satisfactory. He was caught in action, watching where is the ball which he just threw. He has not yet retrieved his balance and the slightly angled view makes him appear slimmer than life. The monochrome sepia print is very neat. He is already identified by his famous nickname 'Babe Ruth'.
Who produced this legendary image ? Original inscriptions are absent, which is often the case when the publisher's main clients are companies that use the back side for their advertising. The Sporting News is not the editor but one of such advertisers, like the Standard Biscuit Company. The real author appears to be a Chicago photographer named Felix Mendelsohn, almost a namesake of the musician.
The American Card Catalog, which defined the denominations of all series in 1939, did a commendable job but without resolving such ambiguities. So Babe Ruth's rookie card is in the M101-4 and M101-5 series with a Sporting News or blank back and D350 with a Standard Biscuit back. The three series have about 200 positions each. The Ruth card has the number 151 in all three. M101-5 may be earlier than M101-4.
Still worse : the denomination M101, from -1 to -7, gathers alongside -4 and -5 Sporting News supplements and postcards plus photos later published under an FM copyright, although no other joint operation between the magazine and Mendelsohn is known.
The Ruth rookie card from the Newman collection has a Sporting News back. Graded EX-MT 6 by PSA, it is one of 4 in that grade with 2 higher. It was sold for $ 1.45M by Memory Lane on July 10, 2021, lot 3.
1916-1918 The Hitter of the Red Sox
2021 SOLD for $ 1.02M including premium
In 1917 the clubs could no longer maintain their teams in full because of the conscription. Ruth takes this opportunity to become a hitter. He is gifted : as early as 1919 he breaks the MLB record for the number of home runs scored in a single season with 29 home runs. The transition in 1920 from Dead Ball to Live Ball further increases his dominance.
In 1915 the pitcher had scored only four home runs. A Spalding bat used by him during that season is the earliest known bat linked to Ruth. It is 35.25 inches long and weighs 37.5 ounces. Graded GU 9 by PSA/DNA, it passed at Heritage on December 10, 2017. Heavier bats will be more effective. Ruth acquires in 1916 a Louisville Slugger weighing 44 ounces.
On December 16, 2020, Christie's associated with Hunt sold for $ 600K including premium a Louisville Slugger from the period 1916-1918, lot 15. It will be sold by Heritage in an online auction closing on February 27, lot 80089.
This piece is 35.75 inches long and weighs 43.6 ounces. It is inscribed RUTH on the barrel and its provenance is impeccable : the former champion himself cracked it during a demonstration in 1944. It has been professionally repaired and is graded GU 9.5 by PSA/DNA.
This experimental period ends in 1918 when Hillerich and Bradsby offer the champion to make his choice from their product line of Louisville Sluggers. Identified as the R2 model, the bat that fits Babe Ruth is standardized between 36 and 39 ounces. Graded A 10 by PSA/DNA, the prototype entrusted to Ruth was sold for $ 540K including premium by Heritage on October 2, 2009.
This 1916-18 #BabeRuth game used bat is one of only two known “block letter” Ruth gamers, the earliest format of Bambino lumber, which dates to his days with the Red Sox. It’s one of the most significant bats in The Hobby and will find a new home on 2/27https://t.co/pgQh4S0Kuv pic.twitter.com/W7kqtsKAx7— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) January 31, 2021
1918 Salary Increase for George H. Ruth
2014 SOLD 1.02 M$ including premium
He knows that he can demand a salary increase for 1918. He will earn $ 5,000 for the new season, compared with the $ 3,500 of his paycheck from the previous year. The debate is not difficult because the employer knows the actual value of the player. This contract is considered as a bargain for the club.
The contract was signed in triplicate on January 16, 1918 by the player, the club owner and president of the American League in the official format. The copy for Babe Ruth is the oldest surviving contractual document concerning the champion. It is for sale by Goldin Auctions in Baltimore on July 12. Here is the link to the site of the auction house.
Babe Ruth continues his prodigious career. After the 1919 season, he was transferred by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees. A copy of the contract signed by both clubs has been sold for $ 1M including premium by Sotheby's on 10 June 2005.
POST SALE COMMENT
The contract signed in January 1918 was sold for $ 1.02 M. The release issued by the sports business reporter Darren Rovell compares this result with the price including premium obtained by Sotheby's in 2005 for the contract between Red Sox and Yankees. This release is linked in the tweet below published by the auction house.
1918 contract sells for $1 million http://t.co/7IGU5SuOoH http://t.co/wunf8W3mwe
— Goldin Auctions (@GoldinAuctions) July 13, 2014
This document is illustrated in the post sale release posted by Auction Report.
1919 George H Ruth available for Sale
2017 SOLD for $ 2.3M including premium
Until 1918 the Boston Red Sox team dominated the prestigious World Series of Major League Baseball. The 1919 season is bad for the Red Sox and the club owner Harry Frazee decides to change his strategy, preferring to build a consistent team rather than relying on a star player. The larger than life behavior of Babe Ruth and his growing demands of salary do not please Frazee : the player George H. Ruth is now available for sale !
Frazee who is also a theater director is in a urgent need of money. He accepts the proposal of the New York Yankees of a $ 300K mortgage loan hiring his Boston ballpark and sells Ruth to the Yankees for $ 100K.
The contract selling the player is signed with a notary in New York City on December 26, 1919. Cautiously some clauses are added on how both parties shall handle a probable new demand of salary increase by Ruth or a possible deficiency of the player to work for the Yankees.
Three copies of this contract have been established. Frazee's document was sold for $ 1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 10, 2005. The document attributed to Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert is offered as lot 2 in the online sale opened by Lelands with a closing date on June 30. Here is the link to Lelands.com. The third copy did not resurface.
Babe Ruth signed with the New York Yankees in the following month. The most brilliant part of his exceptional sporting career was beginning.
From a sporting point of view, Frazee's decision is a disaster for the Boston club which disappears until 2004 from the list of the World Series winners. This long period is assimilated with a curse in the legend of baseball under the name of Curse of the Bambino.
1920 The Jersey of the Babe
2012 SOLD 4.4 M$ including premium
The sale by SCP Auctions on May 19, online from California, of a wool jersey of the Babe is indeed a considerable event. Two weeks before the auction ends, this lot has already surpassed Lou Gehrig's jersey sold for $ 717K including premium by Heritage on November 5, 2010.
Moreover this jersey dates from an exceptional period in Ruth's career and is in very good condition. It is marked NEW YORK, which makes sense for this sportsman. However, Ruth had made the success of the Boston Red Sox before being transferred in 1920 to the New York Yankees.
The jersey has retained its original identification with the name of Ruth. A photo of the champion made in March 1920 shows him with a jersey identical as the example to be sold, confirming, if not the year, at least the period when the garment was made by Spalding and worn by Ruth.
Here is the link to the press release shared by AuctionReport.
POST SALE COMMENT
The prices of the rarest pieces have no predictable limit. Babe Ruth's jersey was sold $ 3.7 million before fees, 4.4 million including premium.
The memorabilia from Babe Ruth provided two other notable results: $ 590K including premium for a bat and $ 540K including premium for a cap.
This sale was also very successful for baseball cards from the 1950s in mint condition (PSA10): $ 430K including premium for Roberto Clemente, and $ 360K including premium for Hank Aaron.
For post WWII baseball, let us also mention a jersey worn by Mickey Mantle in 1968, sold $ 370K including premium.
BABE RUTH BIRTHDAY: Today on January 6 1895 the greatest player to play the game of Baseball was born. Here is the best piece of Ruthian memorabilia sold by @SCPAuctions for $4,415,658 World record for a piece of sports memorabilia #Baberuth @baseballhall @Yankees @MLB #MLB pic.twitter.com/Z5BL5bA2DF— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) February 6, 2018
1923 Babe Ruth's Bat
2004 SOLD for $ 1.26M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2019 before the auction of another bat by Heritage (see below)
In the same year Christy Walsh invents two lucrative jobs. He manages a syndicate of ghost writers who prepare texts to be endorsed by baseball personalities and approach the top players including Babe Ruth for becoming their business agent.
We must encourage young people to be reconciled with baseball. Following an initiative of the Los Angeles Evening Herald, Walsh and Ruth decide in 1923 that for three consecutive seasons the bat of the first home run of the champion will be inscribed and signed by him and given to the winner of a baseball contest organized for Californian students.
In 1923 Ruth scores his first homer on April 18 during the inauguration of the Yankee Stadium. It was impossible to imagine a more prestigious event. The bat used for this feat is awarded on June 7 by the newspaper to a young player named Victor Orsatti. It was sold on December 13, 2004 by Sotheby's for $ 1.26M including premium, a huge price for a sports memorabilia at that time.
In 1924 Ruth records his first homer on April 20 in Washington DC. His bat is awarded as promised to the winner of the Californian contest, Phil Grossman. It passed at Heritage on February 23, 2019.
1927 The Ring of the Champion
2017 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium
This tradition gradually took hold in the 1920s in Major League Baseball for the benefit of the winning team of the World Series. The first rings linked to the MLB were awarded in 1922 to the New York Giants.
In 1923 when the New York Yankees won the World Series the memory offered to them was not a ring but a pocket watch. The watch of Babe Ruth was sold for $ 720K including premium by Heritage on February 22, 2014.
The next victory of the Yankees in the World Series was in 1927. It was also a sporting feat : they had won all four games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That year as a whole was exceptional for Babe Ruth who scored 60 home runs in this single season, a record in the MLB competitions.
The Yankees have now joined the new tradition. The World Series ring in 14K yellow gold presented to Babe Ruth in 1927 is listed as lot 1 in the online sale organized by Lelands closing on June 30. A slight chip to the diamond is announced. Here is the link to Lelands.com.
The price of a ring at auction depends on the prestige of the sporting achievement that has been rewarded. When the basketball player 'Dr J' Erving sold his collection in November 2011 by SCP Auctions, his 1974 ABA championship ring was sold for $ 460K while the best of his other rings did not reach $ 250K.
1928-1929 A Road Jersey of Babe Ruth
2019 SOLD for $ 5.6M including premium
The players used two jerseys, a home jersey for the games on their field and a road jersey for trips. A jersey could be used throughout one season or more, which further increases their rarity.
Compared to the next period, documents allowing photo-matching are rarer. The experts thus pay the greatest attention to the details of making which allow an identification of the year or a range of years, rather than on the shears in the textile or on misalignments in the inscriptions.
A jersey marked 'New York' used by Babe Ruth was sold for $ 4.4M including premium by SCP on May 19, 2012 after being exhibited for many years at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore. This New York Yankees road jersey was dated circa 1920.
A Spalding road jersey of size 46 attributed to Babe Ruth has just surfaced. It will be sold by Hunt Auctions on June 15 at the Yankee Stadium, lot 47. The sale is essentially devoted to a personal collection of Babe Ruth, perhaps to be correlated with the very recent death of his second daughter. Here is the link to this auction.
The 'Yankees' mark on the front side enables to date the garment between 1927 and 1930. A label inside the collar is marked 'Ruth'. A number 3 has been erased at some point while leaving some traces.
The photos of Babe Ruth in 1927 show another placement of the buttons. The photo-matching orients rather towards 1928 or 1929. It is in 1929 that the Yankees began to sew a number on the jerseys to facilitate the identification of the players by the public. Ruth had received the number 3.
UPDATE: Babe Ruth NY Yankees Jersey added to Ruth Collection Live Auction at @yankeestadium. Professional model Yankees Road Jersey Worn by the #Bambino dates to the 1928-30 era with Potential to Set World Record Pricing in Excess of $4,000,000! @NewYorkYankees #SultanofSwat @MLB pic.twitter.com/0dx9NChNR4— Hunt Auctions (@HuntAuctions) April 23, 2019
2021 SOLD for $ 4.2M by Memory Lane
A sale dedicated to 1933 Goudey by Heritage on January 24, 2019 highlighted three cards graded Mint 9 by PSA : a Gehrig for $ 580K and two Ruth for $ 530K (# 144) and $ 460K (# 181). Two years before, a VG-EX 4 Goudey-Ruth cards did not exceed $ 15K and signed cards were of interest only to specialist collectors.
The star lot of the collection of the late Thomas Newman was a 1933 Goudey # 53 featuring Ruth with bat on shoulder and yellow background. It was sold for $ 4.2M by Memory Lane on July 10, 2021, lot 1. It is the only card of this position graded Mint 9 by PSA with none higher and none equal or higher by SGC.
2021 SOLD for $ 1.27M by Memory Lane
Also graded Mint 9 by PSA, the example from the Newman collection was sold for $ 1.27M by Memory Lane on July 10, 2021, lot 2.