Babe Ruth is mostly known for his ability to hit baseballs a really long distance. But his popularity as one of the top athletes of all time led to all kinds of marketing opportunities during his playing days and after them. Among them, appearances in a variety of films during his career.
Those films, by the way, weren’t always the greatest. Sometimes Ruth was the star while in others, he had a more supplementary role. Interestingly, there were numerous baseball cards produced to promote these films.
In all, Ruth is credited with appearing in a total of ten films, according to his IMDB page. The first of those was a 1920 silent movie called, “Headin’ Home” where Ruth stars as himself. Ruth is featured on at least three different cards promoting the movie, though all are fairly tough to find. Other collectibles such as placards have been seen, too. When up for auction, the cards often sell for big amounts. This one pictured here, for example, was sold by REA in 2018 for $8,400. Part of the reason for that is its rarity but I suspect part is because of its age, too. Produced in 1920, these are not only some of Ruth’s toughest cards, but also among his earliest.
Despite Ruth’s explosive career as a 1920s baseball star, it would be seven years before he appeared in another movie. This time, it was “Babe Comes Home,” another silent film in which he stars as a baseball player named Babe Dugan.
While Ruth is found on cards for this film, they are actually part of a larger set. The issue is classified as R94 in the American Card Catalog (Movie Stars and Scenes). The set is mostly a non-sports issue but, in addition to Ruth’s cards, it also includes a pair of boxing cards from a different movie.
These cards lack artistic quality as they used real photographs but were printed with only single color tints. Many appear faded, as well. Another problem for the cards’ popularity is that only one includes Babe Ruth as a baseball player. The other shows him in a scene with policemen. Still, the cards are desired by baseball card collectors and can sell for a few hundred dollars each when they can be found.
The following year, Ruth appeared in another movie called “Speedy,” working alongside famous comedian Harold Lloyd. Ruth appears in the film as himself and the pair are featured on an international tobacco card found in a few different sets. The card was distributed with several tobacco brands, including Josetti, Jasmatzi Ramses, and Sulima. Backs have varying advertisements for each but the pictures on the front are the same.
Similar to the Ruth cards in the R94 set, this one is part of a much larger set of movie stars and scenes frrom movies. The card is printed in black and white and includes a white border around the edge of the picture. While the movie was technically from 1928, these cards are generally considered to have been printed in the early 1930s.
Ruth is pictured in street clothes, making the card a bit less desirable than others. It is also fairly common and not too difficult to track down. Still, the cards start in the $100-$150 range in mid-grade condition.
Babe Ruth’s most notable movie cards are found in a set I recently wrote about — the 1948 Swell Babe Ruth Story set. Unlike some of the other issues mentioned here, this set was dedicated solely to the Ruth’s movie. All of the cards in it are pertaining to that film.
The flip side? Well, Ruth didn’t actually appear in the movie himself. It was only a story about his life and Ruth’s character was actually played by actor William Bendix. Bendix was ironically a former Yankees batboy.
But while Ruth was not in the film, Swell, the distributor of the set, made sure to include him in it. A few of the cards are dedicated to Ruth off camera and those are generally the more desirable ones to collectors. Even though those cards were printed many years after Ruth’s career had ended, they are still fairly valuable, starting around $100 in good shape. There are some on eBay now.