Baseball season was over, but that didn’t stop baseball’s bright new star from athletic competition in 1921.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is a rare image from January of that year featuring the Babe dressed in a basketball uniform, preparing to take the floor against the Boston Celtics in an exhibition game.
Auction officials say it’s the only example of Ruth playing basketball with his hand-picked teammates they’ve ever encountered.
Ruth had become a hot commodity after coming over from the Red Sox. His first season in New York led to the Yankees becoming the first team to draw more than 1 million fans during a single season.
But basketball? Hey, Babe would try anything.
The “Ruth All-Stars” of Passaic, NJ, took on the Celts in a couple of contests that winter. Ruth apparently hadn’t played a lot of roundball and his abilities were widely panned in press accounts of the time and by fans who showed up to watch. Newspaper coverage of his basketball exploits indicated he took the court “like an enthusiastic elephant” as fans rained insults onto the floor. Babe, it was written, took them in relatively good humor.
“For three quarters he missed all kinds of chances to ring an easy basket. The old boy was there with bells on when it came to foul tackling and knocking the temporary goals out of position,” joked one report.
Ruth would fare much better when the season turned to baseball, hitting .378 and belting a record-setting 59 homers.
A photo of Ruth similar to the one at auction appeared in the Washington Herald while several papers across the country picked up accounts of the games.
The 5×7 International News photo includes a caption clipped from the newspaper that’s attached to the back. It bears the markings of a photo editor who cropped it for publication as well as some pinholes and creases from where it was apparently utilized.
It is one of more than 1,000 images in RMY’s April Premier Auction, set to close Saturday night.