The next current player who smokes cigars on a regular basis will be the first, but 100 years ago it was a common sight and no one loved them better than Babe Ruth.
Taught to make shirts and roll cigars as a student at St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore, Ruth was often photographed with his tobacco of choice as he became the most famous athlete in the world. The home runs kept coming and the cigars got more expensive as he padded his bank account with a variety of endorsements.
One of his earliest off the field deals was with a small maker of cigars in Boston, where he developed into a two-way sensation and began belting homers at an unprecedented clip. It was there that one of the most famous early Ruth photographs was taken, one showing the slugger rolling stogies after the 1919 season.
While the image itself is well known, RMY Auctions is offering an original copy in its August auction, complete with the original caption on the back. It’s the first time the 7×9 photo has ever been offered at public auction, having resided in a newspaper archive since it was first published through Underwood & Underwood.
The photo was tied to Ruth’s investment in the cigar maker that used his growing fame to market its product, but with his contract demands growing, Ruth would be famously sold to the New York Yankees just three months after it was taken.
The photo is one of the last ever taken of Ruth as a member of the Red Sox.
It’s among more than 550 up for auction through August 21.