With categorical numbers defying logic in both pitching and hitting, Babe Ruth warranted – and welcomed – every bit of adoration showered on him by the masses. While there are well-documented accounts of the oft-rotund and always amiable personality engaging fans and complying with autograph requests and photo opportunities, perhaps the only thing that wasn’t clear was who relished these interactions more: Ruth or his wide-eyed fans? This baseball is conspicuous evidence of Ruth’s steadfast compliance with the wishes of his countless admirers and his embracement of the glory that went with 714 tape-measure home runs and seven World Series crowns. Autographed by Ruth in the twilight of an existence that bordered on mythical, this coveted keepsake came to be long after Ruth had, perhaps unwittingly, saved the tarnished game from unforgivable scandal.
Graded 6.5 by PSA/DNA (Autograph Grade: 8; Baseball Grade: 5), this OAL Harridge sphere showcases undoubtedly one of the boldest Ruth pennings extant. Executed on the sweet spot in black-ink steel tip fountain pen, Ruth’s unmistakable penmanship is earmarked by his sizable upper-case “B” and “R” characters, as well as a flowing cursive style that warrants every bit of the lofty technical assessment. Crafted by Philadelphia’s Reach plant, the creamy souvenir features trademark stampings that date specifically to 1946-1947. By all historical accounts, during the period in which endorsed this keepsake, he was at or very near the end of a lifestyle for which he was widely known. So while his unmistakable vigor had waned, his accessible demeanor remained to the very end.
Accompanying is a full photo LOA from PSA/DNA, as well as a 31-7/8 x 20-5/8” shadow box to facilitate storage and proud display of this absolute treasure. This item has a reserve (estimated value: $29,000-$40,000).
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At the juncture during which he autographed this ball, Ruth was long-since finished with his playing career and regretfully aware that the managerial prospects for which he longed were fading as fast as the empty promises that had coerced him first back to Boston (1935) and then to Brooklyn (1938). Relegated to golf courses and saloons, Ruth joined Jorge Pascual in 1946 on a two-week trip to Mexico in the latter’s attempt to build a competitive league and lure American players. Angered over Ruth’s possible involvement, Major League executives asked if anyone had tried to persuade him not to make the trip. “Nobody asked me not to come,” Ruth said. “But that doesn’t make any difference. I go where I please anyway.” Which he did, all the while enjoying himself at bullfights, the golf course and even a batting practice session against pitchers less than half his age.
But an extreme pain over his left eye could no longer be dismissed as a sinus headache and, in November of 1946, Ruth checked into New York’s French hospital. There, doctors found a malignant growth that almost completely surrounded his carotid artery. An operation severed the nerves in the left side of Ruth’s head and disabled his larynx. Still, he was not aware of his devastating disease and fate. In fact, he thought that his teeth were infected.
Author Bob Considine, who was commissioned to write Ruth’s biography in 1946, explained the situation: “Those who knew (Ruth) best: Mel Lowenstein, Paul Carey and Claire (Ruth’s wife), believed that if he knew he had terminal cancer, it would destroy him.”
Perhaps the most telling gesture occurred in 1947 as former teammate Waite Hoyt came with his wife to visit the ailing Ruth. Weakened by his condition and prescribed sedatives, Ruth could only whisper: “I’m glad to see you.” When Hoyt and his wife saw his discomfort, the fellow Hall of Famer told Ruth: “We’d better go, Jidge” (“Jidge” was a term of endearment, as Lou Gehrig’s mother, in her German accent, called Ruth “Jidge” instead of “George”). With that, Ruth told the Hoyts to wait, got to his feet and retrieved a vase with an orchid and handed it to Mrs. Hoyt. “Here,” Ruth said. “I never gave you anything.”
Such was Ruth’s obligation to his friends and fans. Whether on the diamond or, at this point, near his final demise, Ruth always wanted to leave them happy. It is a certainty that this baseball meets that criteria. So while Ruth’s physical appearance was sadly ravaged, his spirit and his bold autograph never wavered in the least. This wondrous keepsake is among the finest and last autographed by arguably the most celebrated figure in both baseball and American culture.
Frames included with lots: while we make every effort to protect the frames included in these lots during pre-auction storage and post-auction shipping, we are not responsible for any damage to the frames themselves, and no refunds will be given due to frame damage.