The pocket watch given to Babe Ruth during his last public appearance at Yankee Stadium in 1948 has been consigned to auction by surviving family members. SCP Auctions will offer the watch as part of its Spring Premier Auction and estimates it could fetch as much as $500,000.
Culminating the June 13, 1948 event, the Yankees ceremoniously retired Ruth’s number three and presented him with the gold watch. The 14 karat gold Longines pocket watch features engravings on the back that read, “Babe Ruth – Silver Anniversary – Yankee Stadium 1923-1948 “The House That Ruth Built.” Since Ruth’s death on Aug. 16 of that year, the watch has been preserved by Ruth’s family.
The vast majority of the Hall of Fame slugger’s personal memorabilia was gifted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame shortly after his death. According to SCP, the watch is the only significant Babe Ruth artifact ever offered to the public with direct Ruth family provenance.
“This is the most significant item among only a handful of Babe Ruth’s personal mementos that his family has retained,” said SCP Auctions’ Vice President Dan Imler. “It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of this item. It represents the 25th Anniversary of Yankee Stadium – baseball’s grandest cathedral, the 25th Anniversary of the Yankees first World Championship, the retirement of Ruth’s iconic number, and Ruth’s final Yankee Stadium appearance and emotional farewell to his beloved fans. In a way, the watch could be perceived as Babe Ruth’s `Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the Yankees.”
Two months prior to his death, Ruth returned to Yankee Stadium for the last time on as part of the 25th anniversary of the opening of “The House That Ruth Built.”
Amidst a raucous ovation, the weakened Ruth, frail and ailing with throat cancer, 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 cheered and sang 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, titled “The Babe Bows Out.”
The Ruth watch will highlight SCP Auctions’ May Spring Premier Auction which will include hundreds of other pieces of sports memorabilia and vintage sports cards. Bidding will be open to registered bidders on Wednesday, April 30 and conclude on Saturday, May 17. For more information on how to participate, visit www.scpauctions.com or call (949) 831-3700.