When Hunt Auctions first announced that Babe Ruth’s grandchildren had consigned items from his life and times late last year, it seemed like a pretty big deal. Most people wouldn’t have been surprised to know his descendants owned a few things, most of which were likely one-of-a-kind. What family wouldn’t have a few items from a beloved family relative, especially one who was arguably the most famous American of the 20th century?
We saw more of them during a news conference back in December. A game bat. His old spikes. Contracts. Trophies. It was still impressive to see several items no one in the hobby seemed to know still existed.
Then the full catalog showed up.
It was obvious the family had been taking care of more than just a few special things. There are hundreds of pieces that will be on the block between now and the final, live portion of the sale at Yankee Stadium on June 15. It’s a massive treasure trove of stuff that fills up over half of a 235-page softcover.
The Babe’s 1940s checkbook? Check.
His old hunting gloves? Bidders can take aim.
Some of his old furniture? Pledged to the auction.
Signed photos? A darkroom full of them.
Anything and everything that passed through the hands of Ruth and his wife Claire decades ago will be up for sale, most of which is being seen for the first time. It’s like opening a door to his Riverside Drive apartment. Where do you even start?
Here’s a sampling, but you really have to page through the catalog to appreciate it all.
We’ve written about the Ruth game-worn jersey that is expected to sell for a seven-figure price but there’s much more. How about a photo of him hitting his 60th home run in 1927–and inscribed as such.
There’s a jaw-dropping leather album with photos of his 1932 World Series champion Yankee teammates with each one autographed, many personalized, to Ruth. “To Babe, May I Always Prove Worthy of Your Friendship,” signed Lou Gehrig. Many wished him “good luck” indicating perhaps the album was given to him as his final days as a Yankee wound to a close in 1934.
His last players contract–the one he signed with the Boston Braves in ’35 as “George H. Ruth”–is here.
In 1947, Ruth and his wife signed papers for the making of the Babe Ruth Story, which would arrive in theaters the next year. The entire eight-page movie contract and an autographed “Babe Ruth Story” hardcover book are both up for bid.
Some items are very poignant. A copy of the letter he wrote to the Yankees in 1946–a last gasp effort to become a manager–is an incredible slice of Ruth’s later life even without a signature.
The game program from his final appearance at Yankee Stadium just weeks before his death in 1948 is on page 153.
You’ll see the leftover thank you cards sent to well wishers and likely signed by a caretaker as he lay dying in the hospital.
To attend his funeral, you needed an invitation and there’s one of those in the auction, too.
That check register is expected to sell for six figures and little wonder. In Ruth’s own handwriting are 242 payees on the stubs (it seems Babe wrote a lot of checks to Claire in the early 40s). There are 135 blank checks still in the book–all with his name printed on them.
There are souvenirs from his many travels, including his sticker-laden suitcase that may have gone with him on the famous 1934 Tour of Japan.
Want to lounge around in the red silk and satin suit he wore in some of those 1940s photographs you see? That monogrammed beauty is here.
So is his personal set of engraved grooming tools: brushes, a comb, nail clippers, etc.
There’s a 1934 signed guardianship document for his daughter Dorothy. Even his personal crucifix will be up for bid.
Teammate Lou Gehrig sent the Ruths a Christmas card at one point in the 1920s or 30s, making sure to sign it with his full name, perhaps just in case they didn’t know who “Lou” was.
There are stuffed animal mounts from his hunting exploits including a deer head, tortoise shell and not one, but two stuffed alligators. One of them wasn’t a trophy. In true Ruth style, he tried to it take home from Florida spring training as a pet (?!?). The young gator, not surprisingly, died, but Ruth thought enough of his old friend to take him to a taxidermist.
There are other items in the auction including old Ruth baseball cards, Mickey Mantle and other Yankee items as well as a phenomenal collection of team autographed baseballs that will also bring in some serious bids.
It’s the Babe-o-bilia, though, that makes the auction one of those landmark hobby events–whether you’ve got the resources to chase some serious history or just want to give his old stuffed pet a permanent home.