The 1923 World Series championship watch presented to Babe Ruth is making its way out of a private collection and into the market. The watch will be sold as part of Heritage Auctions’ Sports Platinum Night Auction in New York next month and carries a pre-sale estimate of $750,000+.
“As the Babe's personal award for the first World Championship in New York Yankees franchise history, I believe that this is the most important piece of New York Yankees memorabilia that exists,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Collectibles at Heritage Auctions. “This championship watch, which was thought lost to time, will now take its rightful place as one of the crown jewels of sports memorabilia. Based on prices realized for similar historic championship hardware, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it far exceed our preliminary auction estimate.”
“More importantly for history, 1923 was the inauguration of the single greatest sports dynasty in history,” said Ivy, “the first World Series victory for a franchise that has garnered 27 to date and is one of the most popular teams in the world, period.”
While Heritage has sold three other watches awarded to players on the legendary team, Ruth’s seemed lost to history.
Stricken with terminal cancer, Ruth asked his close friend Charlie Schwefel if he might want anything from his collection to remember him by. Schwefel, a wealthy Manhattan hotelier and an important figure in the New York boxing scene, asked for the pocket watch.
The watch remained in Schwefel's possession for just two years before his wife gave it to her nephew, Lewis Fern, with the comment that “this should have been yours all along.” Fern had also befriended Ruth and caddied many times for the Babe at St. Alban's Golf Club in Queens, New York. He kept the watch for decades until it was sold privately in 1988. The collector who owns the watch is selling it to contribute various charities.
The watch is a 14 karat gold "Gruen Verithin" with a unique pentagonal format. The verso is engraved with a miniature scene of a pitcher, hitter and catcher, and a ball in flight in their midst. Framing the scene are the historic words, "Yankees, World's Champions 1923." The "Babe Ruth" engraving at the upper edge was added by Ruth just prior to gifting the symbolic memento to Schwefel. The rear case pops open to reveal further engraving, most notably the original text announcing, "Presented by Baseball Commissioner to George H. Ruth." Just above we find the rest of Ruth's late 1940s addition, reading, "To My Pal Charles Schwefel."