Babe RUTH (1895-1948)
Chronology : 1920
1916 Rookie Card
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. For the 30 players identified with the same position number, it is impossible to know if a card belongs to M101-4 or -5. 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.
NM 7 by PSA
2021 SOLD for $ 2.46M by Mile High Card
An M101-5-151 with blank back also rated NM 7 by PSA was sold for $ 720K by Heritage on August 27, 2016, lot 80001.
NM 7 by SGC
2023 SOLD for $ 1.77M by Heritage
It was sold for $ 1.77M by Heritage on February 25, 2023, lot 80012. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
EX-MT 6 by PSA
2022 SOLD for $ 1.5M by Goldin
This card is perfectly centered with sharp corners. A small stain in a corner prevented a higher level. It is bested in PSA database by one NM-MT8 and one NM7.
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.
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 Babe Ruth Road Jersey
2012 SOLD for $ 4.4M by SCP
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 scarce. 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.
On May 19, 2012, SCP Auctions sold for $ 4.4M a game worn jersey of Babe Ruth. A photo of the champion made in March 1920 shows him with a jersey identical as this example.
This road jersey had been exhibited for many years at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore. Its New York Yankees front marking is dated circa 1920. The maker was Spalding.
In very good condition, it retains its original identification with the name of Ruth.
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
1918-1922 R2 Bat
2022 SOLD for $ 1.68M by Heritage
The first agreement between Babe Ruth and H and B happened in 1918 when the 23 year old champion was playing for the Red Sox. His model bat identified by an R2 mark was sold for $ 540K by Heritage on October 2, 2009, lot 82067. It is graded A 10 by PSA/DNA,
Its characteristics are 36 inches and 39 ounces. It is authenticated by PSA/DNA and by Mears and graded A10*. The asterisk is rewarding the historical character of that piece of equipment.
R2 bats were made for Ruth until 1926. A game used bat of Babe Ruth has some features brought by the player to facilitate its handling such as added scratches or rings. His phenomenal hitting precision results in a grouping of ball impacts on the lumber.
A Babe Ruth bat was sold for $ 1.68M by Heritage on August 27, 2022, lot 53059. It is graded a perfect GU10 by PSA/DNA.
This Louisville Slugger is clearly of R2 type although that reference is not marked. it is nearly 36 inch in length and 43.8 oz in weight, providing a terminus post quem in the 1918 R2 contract. The Ruth signature is stamped on the barrel.
It comes from the collection of a friend of Frank Baker, a leading fellow in the Murderers' Row of the New York Yankees. This player nicknamed "Home Run" Baker admired Ruth who had "everybody else, including (him)self, hopelessly outclassed."
It is believed that Ruth had presented this bat to Baker, who retired from MLB in 1922. The Hillerich and Bradsby brand mark provides a terminus ante quem at 1922.
1921 Babe Ruth Polo Grounds Bat
private sale through Hunt Auctions
It is game matched to a 1921 photo of Babe Ruth in a high flying action typical of the new Live Ball era. Before that matching, it had been sold for $ 400K by Heritage on February 24, 2018, lot 80043. It had been exhibited in the early 1940s at the Polo Grounds.
Historic Babe Ruth professional model bat once displayed at Polo Grounds sold for $1,850,000. The bat was assigned the highest grade (GU10) by @PSAcard in addition to being photo matched to 1921 season. World record price for any baseball bat! @Yankees @MLB pic.twitter.com/f5Frx3fVxS— Hunt Auctions (@HuntAuctions) April 5, 2023
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.
2022 SOLD for $ 1.53M by Hunt
PSA/DNA considered a possible photo matching on Ruth's hand in 1934 with a stain on the back of his right index finger which may be from tobacco juice. A ca 1927 photo features Ruth with a similar glove.
It has an impeccable provenance from the champion who gave it in worn out condition to Jim Austin, a former MLB player of the St. Louis Browns. It had been treasured by Austin's niece.
1928-1929 Road Jersey
2019 SOLD for $ 5.6M by Hunt
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
Goudey Gum Company is a leader in the chewing gum market. The founder of the company retires in 1932. In 1933 the new management includes silkscreen printed cards in the gum packs. The drawing executed from a photograph is simple and the colors are bright. The back includes in full format a short descriptive text beside the identification of the publisher, which was much more attractive at that place than on a postcard.
The most important series is devoted entirely to baseball players under the title of Big League Chewing Gum. Its 240 images are published by Goudey in Boston. 94 of them are renumbered and published in Montreal by World Wide Gum Company which was the Goudey branch in Canada.
The editions released in the same year include a multi-sport series of 48 cards for the Sport Kings chewing gum, 216 Indian views for the Indian chewing gum and two other series of 48 cards : Boy Scouts and Sea Raiders.
The Goudey Big League series, inserted in 1933 and 1934 in the Gum wax packs of that brand, brings a quality glow within the decadence of the 1930s trading cards, in competition with postcards. It is made of 240 positions including four Babe Ruth at position numbers 53, 144, 149, 181. Number 181 is a close-up portrait on which the leaning champion carefully observes an action out of the field of view. This picture is not included in the other series.
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.
In order for young collectors to continue buying the gum, the number 106 of the 1933 series was originally not used. The deception has been discovered. In the following year Goudey created a 1933-106 to provide it to angry fans. This card with the effigy of retired champion Napoleon Lajoie is the rarest in the series and no copy was stained by gum. A 1933-106 graded Mint 9 by PSA was sold for $ 230K by Goldin on October 1, 2016.