Babe RUTH (1895-1948)
Chronology : 1916 1918 1927
1914 Ruth the Pitcher
2013 SOLD 450 K$ including premium
On July 11, 1914, Babe Ruth played his first Major League game. Goldin Auctions marks the centennial of this event through an auction dedicated primarily to the champion, on July 12 in Baltimore.
A baseball card listed in this sale is exactly one hundred years old. It was made in Baltimore in 1914 before July 11. This copy graded PSA1 recognizable by its wear defects has already been discussed in this column in 2013. It was sold for $ 450K including premium by Robert Edward on May 18, 2013.
Here is my article from last year including its link to the announcement made at that time by AuctionPublicity :
Today, would there be any chance for a rookie in a minor baseball league to have his picture published? Possibly no. In 1914, the bulimia for images was so high that an image from the early days of Babe Ruth in baseball has been published.
George Ruth is 19 years old. He has not even reached his majority when the manager of the Baltimore Orioles appreciates his skills and offers him a first contract. His amused fellows nicknamed him Jack Dunn's Baby. From then and forever he will be the Babe.
Dunn was certainly a good businessman, because less than five months later he transferred George to a major club. During this very short period, the local publisher Baltimore News had time to publish a baseball card of "Ruth, pitcher". This is a rudimentary monochrome print available in two variants, red or blue.
A copy of the red version, in poor condition, the lowest in the PSA grading scale, was sold for $ 152K at auction in 2009. This specimen is illustrated in the release shared by AuctionPublicity.
Then everything will go very fast in the career of Babe Ruth and his iconography quickly becomes more common. For example, a baseball card from 1916, when Babe Ruth played for Boston, graded PSA 5, was sold for $ 90K including premium by Memory Lane in December 2012.
1916 The Rookie Cards of Babe Ruth
2016 SOLD for $ 720K including premium
The card 151 of the later coded M101 series edited in 1916 is the first to show Babe Ruth since his debut in Major League and is appreciated in the hobby as his Rookie card. The nickname Babe replaces for ever the first name. The attitude of the player is in full swing to fire the ball. The picture is sharp and pleasing.
The M101 series, comprising 200 views partly modified in a second edition during the year, was mainly intended for distribution. The back identifies the sponsor. One of them is the weekly paper The Sporting News 'the paper baseball of the world' owned by C. C. Spink and Son in St. Louis MO. I guess that he was also the publisher of the cards.
On August 27 in Dallas, Heritage sells two rookie cards of Babe Ruth.
Lot 80001 has an unprinted back. It was graded NM 7 by PSA and its centering, while not perfect, is better than usual for this series. The population certified by PSA is six in that grade and four in the next higher grade. Its guide value is $ 600K.
Lot 80002's back is advertising the Standard Biscuit Company. The text indicates that a photograph is offered in each package of their products. This card graded Good 2 by PSA is announced with a guide value of $ 40K which is already far exceeded 24 days before the sale.
The rookie card of Babe Ruth was preceded in 1914 by another card from his time in the Minor League. Aesthetically unappealing, this rare first card of "Ruth, pitcher" is almost always in poor condition.
Results including premium :
NM 7 : $ 720K
Good 2 : $ 130K
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 $1 million http://t.co/7IGU5SuOoH http://t.co/wunf8W3mwe
— Goldin Auctions (@GoldinAuctions) July 13, 2014
This document is illustrated in the post sale release posted by Auction Report.
1918 Babe Ruth's Bat
2009 SOLD 537 K$ including premium
Americans are keen of their history, and do not forget their heroes. The memoirs of great athletes, musicians, actors, is preserved in a network of private museums, the Halls of Fame.
Similarly, the United States are far ahead of the rest of the world on the market of sports memorabilia. I have already discussed in this group of sport images, not yet of jerseys and shoes, and today I introduce real accessories.
Babe Ruth is a baseball legend, and one of the first five top players ever honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1936. On October 2, Heritage sells in Dallas the bat he used in 1918, estimated 50 K$. Made by Hillerich and Bradsby, this model was the best suited to his prodigious swing, and it served as a prototype for all other bats used by the champion until 1926.
The great day of Babe Ruth was April 18, 1923. He was the star player of the Yankees team, for which the new "temple", the Yankee Stadium in New York City, was inaugurated. The bat he used for the first run that day was sold $ 1.1 million before fees ($ 1.26 million including premium) by Sotheby's in December 2004.
POST SALE COMMENT
The realized price, 537 K$ including fees, is regarded as a special tribute to one of the greatest players in baseball history.
Of course, this lot did not have the prestige of the memory of the opening of Yankee Stadium, and could not reach the price of the bat sold by Sotheby's in 2004. The estimate seemed low to me, but I was not expecting such a high level.
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
1922 A Businessman named Babe Ruth
2016 SOLD for $ 550K including premium
Three major contracts mark the progress of the fame of Babe Ruth.
On January 16, 1918, Ruth signs with the Boston Red Sox for a salary of $ 5,000 per year which is an increase by 43% compared to his previous payment. A signed copy was sold for $ 1,02M including premium by Goldin on July 12, 2014.
The champion is not directly involved in the contract signed in 1919 by the Red Sox and the Yankees for his transfer to the New York team because the contract defining his salary is still valid. A copy of the contract between the two clubs was sold for $ 1M including premium by Sotheby's on June 10, 2005.
Babe Ruth is eager to renegotiate his salary. Thanks to his skills the Yankees can compete with their rivals the New York Giants. Crowds rush to watch the champion on the field and the Yankees will soon decide to build the Yankee Stadium.
Ruth is in a strong position. He refuses the offers by the Yankees at $ 30,000, 40,000 and 50,000 per year before concluding at $ 52,000 stating that this number suits him because it corresponds to one grand per week. The contract is signed on March 10, 1922. Unable to oppose the unprecedented salary expectations of the champion the Yankees had obtained that Ruth refrains from drinking liquors and does not stay up after 1 A.M. during the playing season.
A signed copy of the contract is estimated at $ 750K for sale by Goldin in New York on April 30, lot 43.
1923 The Watch of the Yankees
2014 SOLD 720 K$ including premium
The Yankees then got the title of World's Champions. To commemorate this victory, Gruen offered watches to the officials and all the players of the club. The watch presented to Babe Ruth has just resurfaced. It is estimated $ 750K, for sale by Heritage in New York on February 22, lot 80030 in the catalog.
This pocket watch with a pentagonal shape is engraved on the back with a baseball scene and inscriptions addressing the event.
This series of watches, most of which have disappeared, is the only trophy offered for this opportunity and has the same sporting importance as a gold medal at the Olympics. Babe Ruth understood the importance of this piece which he kept until the final phase of his illness a quarter century later. He then made engraved on the watch the name of the friend to whom he forwarded this sign of his glory.
For Gruen, of course, it was also a promotional act. The US-Swiss brand patented in 1922 this unusual shape of watches in an effort to capture the promising market of the wristwatch. For the same reason, their watches became ultra-flat, as indicated by the "VeriThin" movement that equips the copies presented to the Yankees.
POST SALE COMMENT
This interesting trophy was sold for $ 720K including premium.
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.
1948 Emotion in the Stadium
2014 SOLD 650 K$ including premium
The 25th anniversary of the stadium is celebrated in a big feast involving 50,000 spectators on 13 June 1948. The hero is once again Babe Ruth but the circumstances are tragic.
Ailing in his terminal illness, Ruth has a great difficulty for walking and talking. He participates in the ceremony in his jersey number 3, a numeral that will not be reused by the Yankees in their tradition to so honor their greatest players. He uses his bat as a walking stick. The ovation is formidable.
The Yankees offer to Ruth a gold pocket watch of Longines brand, engraved with a vibrant tribute to the champion : "Babe Ruth - Silver Anniversary - 1923-1948 Yankee Stadium - The House That Ruth Built".
The family was very sensitive to this presentation and kept this watch. It is now for sale on May 17 by SCP Auctions online from California. The page shared by Auction Report embeds a video produced by Mint Condition. The price is difficult to predict.
POST SALE COMMENT
The last reward presented to Babe Ruth was sold for $ 650K including premium.