There were hundreds of items up for sale at Yankee Stadium Saturday, but the main attraction was no secret. One of only a small number of Babe Ruth game jerseys was on the block and early Saturday afternoon, the sports memorabilia world had a new undisputed champion. The bidding battle over a 1928-1930 era Ruth button down road flannel was intense, blowing past a 1920 Ruth jersey sold at auction several years ago until the final price was hammered down: $5.64 million, making it the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold.
Watch the most expensive piece of Sports history ever sold from the #BabeRuthAuction Babe Ruth’s jersey @Yankees @yankeestadium sell for 5.6 Million dollars today – my front row view at @HuntAuctions with David Hunt and All-Star Team! pic.twitter.com/DXCoqR9crd
— David Allen Lambert (@DLGenealogist) June 16, 2019
SGC had authenticated the jersey, which included his faded last name stitched into the collar. The name of the buyer hasn’t been revealed.
Hunt Auctions partnered with Ruth’s surviving family members, with select additions from elite third party collections to offer the largest assemblage of Ruth memorabilia ever sold. There were over 400 items in all and the auction attracted attention from advance collectors, historians, investors, and sports fans worldwide including international participation from Japan. Bidding outpaced pre-sale estimates on many high-profile items.
A photograph of Lou Gehrig, personalized to Ruth near the end of Ruth’s Yankees tenure had been expected to bring no more than $200,000 but soared to $480,000, including the 20% buyer’s premium added to all winning bids.
Several items, in fact, brought six-figure prices. A circa 1928 Ruth game bat went for $144,000 while a 1923 Yankees presentational World Series trophy netted $120,000. A 1929 trophy given to Ruth in Boston as the “most popular baseball idol,” on that can be seen in old photos of his apartment and newspaper coverage of the time, sold for $156,000.
“The legacy and significance of Babe Ruth to the game of baseball and American popular culture is unmatched by any other figure in the history of this country,” remarked David Hunt, President Hunt Auctions. “While the record setting prices attained today are certainly astonishing I am not surprised at all given the incredible materials and the mythical status the Babe holds in the history of this country.”
Ruth’s signed copy of his final big league contract, a one-year deal with the National League’s Boston Braves in 1935, closed at $96,000, as did a large signed photo of him belting his 60th home run of the season in 1927. A check register with dozens of handwritten entries dating to his post-baseball life, went for $90,000.
Items from his trip to Japan with a collection of big league stars and pieces of his “Bustin’ Babes” barnstorming tour were also popular.
However, a game model bat, complete with notches believed to have been carved by Ruth to indicate homers he’d hit with it, did not reach the established reserve. It was believed the bat might fetch $1 million or more.
“Babe’s collection has remained largely unknown to the general public and we felt it was time to bring these amazing pieces of his life to light,” said Linda Ruth Tosetti, the granddaughter of Babe Ruth. “There could be no other place to showcase these items than Yankee Stadium and we are also thrilled to be able to benefit related charitable entities through the sale of these items.”