David Wells was a big fan of Babe Ruth. So big, when he joined the New York Yankees and realized he could not wear the Bambino’s No. 3 uniform, the left-handed pitcher asked for No. 33.
Never mind that Wells grew up around the Hell’s Angels, loved metal bands like Metallica and AC/DC and sported several tattoos. Underneath that uniform beat the heart of a baseball fanatic. He threw a perfect game on May 17, 1998, but the title of his 2004 autobiography sums up his life perfectly: “Perfect I’m Not.”
A year before his gem, Wells pulled off one his more memorable stunts. On June 28, 1997, at Yankee Stadium, Wells started against the Cleveland Indians and sported a baseball cap worn by Ruth. He wound up getting fined by manager Joe Torre, who made Wells take the cap off.
“It turned out,” James Buckley Jr. wrote in 2002, “that Wells was as much of a baseball history geek as you or I.”
”I didn’t know he had it on until he was out in the middle of the diamond,” Torre explained to writers after the game. “It wasn’t the standard uniform.”
Wells paid that $2,500 fine during the next home stand—in the form of 2,500 one dollar bills.
Wells had originally purchased the cap for $35,000 and sold it through SCP Auctions five years later for $537,278.40 in 2012. Now, it’s been consigned once more as part of the company’s Spring 2018 sale. This time, auction officials estimate it could bring $600,000-$800,000.
The cap dates to the 1930-1934 period, when Ruth was winding down his career with the Yankees. The navy-blue flannel cap features the now familiar interlocking “NY” logo embroidered on the front. Spalding’s manufacturer’s stamp appears in the cap’s interior leather band. In script embroidered lettering is the cap size — 7 3/8 — followed by the player designation, “G. Ruth.”
SCP’s description notes that the cap has “substantial usage wear,” including perspiration-induced soiling, but there is no deterioration and the cap remains “structurally sound.” If one accepts the idea that Ruth probably wore the cap between 1930 and 1934, then that cap saw the Sultan of Swat hit 102 home runs, drive in 630 runs and bat .336.
Bidding will open July 25 and conclude August 11 at SCPAuctions.com.
The cap includes a letter of authenticity and a letter of provenance from Wells. It’s a slice of history and a unique piece of memorabilia; after all, it’s rare that a baseball cap sees action in a baseball game six decades apart.