A year that will live in infamy for Red Sox Nation—the departure of Babe Ruth for a then-astronomical $100,000. Not since the Louisiana Purchase had such a princely sum turned out to be such a pittance! The Big Bam busted out with a record 54 HRs and .376 average, setting the stage not only for three straight World Series appearances and the Yankees' first of 27 world championships, but also for Boston's accursed 84-year title drought.
Ruth's 1920 original photos have been skyrocketing in value recently, and here we have one of the rare Type I examples with Babe donning the Yankees' black armband in tribute to baseball martyr Ray Chapman. The two had an interesting historical connection because Ruth and one Carl Mays had pitched together for the Providence Grays and the Red Sox before they both joined the Yankees in 1919. Thus, Ruth was in right field when Mays was on the mound that fateful day of August 16, 1920, as Indians batter Chapman took a fastball to the head and became the only major leaguer ever to die as a direct result of an on-field incident. According to the Hall of Fame, "an 'explosive sound' rang throughout the stadium...Ruth claims he heard the sound quite clearly from around 250 feet away." Underwood & Underwood's 5-3/4" x 7" photo has the legend signing for two onlookers in what appears to be the Polo Grounds (three years before completion of Yankee Stadium). A U&U stamping and a notation of "Babe R. / Early" appear on the reverse. There are two creases above Ruth and to the lower right of him, otherwise typical light newsroom wear.