A newly discovered and very rare Babe Ruth movie poster is about to go up for bid. Hunt Auctions says it will offer only the second known copy of “Play Ball” in the upcoming 2013 Major League Baseball FanFest Auction in New York. The only other example to have been offered publicly sold at auction in 1999 for $92,000.
The auction company calls the cardboard poster or lobby card, which dates from the 1920s, “one of the finest visual display pieces ever created”. There was no immediate word on the provenance of the poster including when or where it was discovered although the "Keeney" name might indicate it was originally on display in one of the Keeney Theatres in the greater New York area.
The poster features a large image of Ruth in follow through set over a vibrant orange background. As the first great sports superstar embraced by 20th Century American culture, Ruth lent his likeness and celebrity to a number of projects and traveled to California on more than one occasion during his career to take part in motion pictures. At the time, Hollywood had already established itself as a destination for actors and celebrities wanting a piece of the booming industry now that ‘talkies’ had arrived.
Ruth’s deal with Universal Studios as part of the "All America Sport Reels' was arranged by Christy Walsh, his long-time business manager whose name appears on the poster.
The “Play Ball” series was a group of short films in which Ruth showed the finer points of the game to kids in a theatrical style. The stories were written by Lou Breslow, who enjoyed a long career writing for a variety of movies and TV shows.
If you can't afford the real thing, reproductions of the poster are readily available Amazon.com.
The auction will take place July 16 at the Jacob Javits Center and includes hundreds of other lots of baseball memorabilia that will be sold the day of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game.
More information on the auction and consignments can be found at HuntAuctions.com.