We always think about him as the first big star of the New York Yankees, which he was for the majority of his career. However, at the conclusion of the 1934 season, the strains between the Yankees management and Babe Ruth led to his return to Boston where he would play the outfield (not exceptionally well) and have an nebulous assignment to be both a front-office executive and assistant on field manager. Today, we would call such a role being a ‘bench coach’ and who knows how Ruth would have done in that role if it had existed way back in 1935.
Regardless of what Ruth’s playing status was in the spring of 1935, there is no doubt that he was still the primary legend among youngsters who collected baseball cards.
With an easy to remember name and numbers which dwarfed those of his contemporaries, Ruth was beloved and I would wager almost every young collector of Goudey cards understood the significance of the number 60.
Goudey had used the same poses which had graced their 1933 set. Ruth retired before June 1 of ‘35, but not before leaving fans with a couple of late career thrills which included an opening day homer against future Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell and three monstrous homers in one May game at Forbes Field. Shortly after that game, Babe would no longer be an active player.
Goudey, too, was going through changes as sales of its cards began to decline and within a year, they were essentially confined to the baseball card history books.
That 1935 Goudey card is depressing in a way. It featured four members of the Braves, who had a putrid year. Ruth was joined by Marty McManus who had been released by the Braves in December, the move apparently coming too late for Goudey to find a replacement. Fred McManus was a Braves’ pitcher who led the team in innings from 1931-34, was traded to the Dodgers in ’35 and died in 1944 when he was struck by a car while crossing the street. Rabbit Maranville, at age 44, was playing out the string of a long career and would play his last game that September.
However, it’s one of the more affordable original, vintage Ruth cards from his playing days. In fact, it made our list of the best Babe Ruth cards on a budget awhile back. Cards in the VG or VG/EX range can usually be purchased for $400-600 if you’re patient. Remember, too, that with Maranville, it includes two Hall of Famers. Click here to see what’s currently available on eBay.
Seeing the Babe on cardboard in his final season also makes us realize how fortunate we are to have one of those ‘last cards’ of a player who joined an unfamiliar team for one final season. Examples we would have liked to have seen include Juan Marichal with the 1975 Los Angeles Dodgers or Cesar Cedeno with the 1986 Dodgers or even Harmon Killebrew, celebrating his only season with the Kansas City Royals back in 1976. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples of these one-offs which did not garner a card but we can be thankful we do have a tangible reminder of Babe Ruth’s short stint with the Boston Braves.