The auction for a one-of-a-kind piece of Babe Ruth memorabilia opened Wednesday. A gold pocket watch owned by the legendary slugger has been consigned to the auction by his grandson and has been generating a lot of mainstream media attention. SCP Auctions is selling the watch, which dates from the 1948 celebration of the 25th anniversary of the opening of “The House That Ruth Built”. Bidding opened at $50,000 and within hours had vaulted to $73,205. The watch is estimated to sell for upwards of $750,000 by the time bidding wraps up on May 17.
Earlier this year, Ruth’s 1923 World Series pocket watch sold at auction for $717,000.
“In December 1974, upon the occasion of my college graduation, my grandmother Claire presented me with this watch as a graduation and Christmas present,” said Ruth’s grandson, Tom Stevens, who has consigned the watch to the auction. “She told me that my grandfather would have wanted me to have his watch in recognition of the accomplishment. Throughout his life, he was most appreciative of the value of a good education, not having had the benefit of one himself.”
Two months prior to his death, a dying Ruth returned to Yankee Stadium for the last time on June 13, 1948 as part of the 25th anniversary of the opening of “The House That Ruth Built,” as his old friends and former teammates, including those from the Yankees first championship team in 1923, were introduced to the nostalgic cheers of the capacity crowd. The weakened Ruth stepped for the last time onto the infield grass, bat in hand, into what W.C. Heinz unforgettably described as “the cauldron of sound he must have known better than any other man.”
Draped in his old uniform, he struggled forward, helped by the support of the bat borrowed from then future Hall of Famer Bob Feller, to address the crowd of 49,647 as they showered their hero with one final roar of affection and an ebullient singing of “Auld Lang Syne.” Nat Fein, a photographer for the New York Herald Tribune, immortalized the moment with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph that endures as perhaps the most famous image in sports history, aptly titled “The Babe Bows Out.” Ruth’s number was retired that day.
“This watch represents one of the most significant events in the Babe’s storied life,” Stevens stated. “It also recognizes the very significant role he played by almost single-handedly making it possible for Yankee Stadium to come into being. At his direction, most of the Babe’s personal memorabilia was donated to the Hall of Fame after his passing. Among the very little that was kept within the family, this watch has been perhaps our most cherished heirloom.”
The 14-karat gold Longines model features engravings on the back that read: “Babe Ruth – Silver Anniversary – Yankee Stadium 1923-1948 ‘The House That Ruth Built.” Since his death on Aug. 16, 1948, the watch has been in Ruth’s family.
The Ruth gold watch will highlight SCP Auctions’ Spring Premier Auction along with hundreds of other significant items of sports memorabilia and cards, including an important 1939 Lou Gehrig three-page signed personal letter to his Mayo Clinic doctor, the Newport Sports Museum Collection and The Delbert Mickel Estate Collection of game-worn baseball jerseys. For more information, visit www.scpauctions.com or call (949) 831-3700.