Ninety-five years ago, baseball was still trying to process the off-season sale of the player who had become a major gate attraction. The Boston Red Sox appeared to have found a first-rate superstar in Babe Ruth. Still youthful, the Baltimore native had come off a 1919 season in which he slugged 29 home runs, drive in 114 and gone 9-5 as a pitcher. He had played a role in Boston’s 1915, 1916 and 1918 World Series championships. As December turned to January, however, Ruth was becoming property of the New York Yankees after the Red Sox slipped to sixth place and owner Harry Frazee needed cash.
Few original photographs of Ruth’s first season with the Yankees exist, but one is at auction now. Our Vintage Photo of the Day is an International News image of The Babe watching a long drive that had just come off his bat. Bidding interest is strong despite a large crease, an indication of its rarity. Repaired with tape and colored for publication, the photo measures 5×7”.
RMY Auctions, which is offering the photo in its January Collectors Auction, calls it “quite possibly the finest Ruth image for a collector on a budget that exists.” Bidding would likely have stretched into the thousands without the damage.
Ruth was an instant hit when the 1920 season got underway. He hit a record 54 homers, more than twice the total of any other player in the game. He drove in an eye-popping 171 runs, hit .376 and had a slugging percentage of .846.
Ruth’s prodigious power drew large numbers of fans and revenue increased to the point where a new stadium was built. Constructed three years after he arrived from Boston, Yankee Stadium was truly the House That Ruth Built.
The Yankees had become a dynasty and Ruth was now a worldwide phenomenon.
Bidding for the Ruth photo and hundreds of other sports, news and entertainment images from decades ago, continues through January 18 at RMYAuctions.com.