The exploits of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the homer-happy 1927 Yankees captivated the country and the first widely known sports agent, Christy Walsh, wasn’t about to let an opportunity slip away. Walsh organized a nationwide barnstorming trip headlined by the two most famous Yanks.
Ruth had broken his own record with 60 homers; Gehrig had launched 47. Hack Wilson was third—with 30. The two Yankees traveled by train to cities without major league teams, posing for photos and signing autographs. Their prodigious power spawned the nicknames for the two squads filled out by local players. The “Bustin’ Babes” and the “Larrupin’ Lous” began their cross-country trip while the weather in the northern half of the country was still favorable.
On October 12, they handed out trophies and awards to some local folks at a baseball field in New York. A rare original wire photo from that stop is among the headline items in RMY Auctions’ May catalog. The 6×8 International Newsreel image shows Ruth and Gehrig dressed in their full tour uniforms along with the winners, surrounded by a large crowd of fans who filled the bleachers to see the country’s biggest sports stars in person. At the far left, a woman holds a baseball, presumably hoping to get the two stars to sign it.
The tour covered 8,000 miles and the Ruth-Gehrig squads played before 220,000 fans. It was estimated they signed 5,000 baseballs, according to a Nov. 11, 1927, article in the Times of Munster, Indiana. The largest crowd was 30,000 at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. One probably unexpected bonus for fans? Ruth and Gehrig pitched to each other.
Not everything went according to plan. On Oct. 13, the game in Asbury Park, New Jersey, had to be cut short in the top of the seventh inning when management ran out of baseballs. Twelve other games did not go the full nine innings, but the fans apparently did not feel shortchanged.
A significant amount of money was raised during the tour. Proceeds from the Oct. 15 game in Kansas City, Missouri, were donated to Mercy Hospital to help build a research laboratory. Other monies went to support local orphanages, the American Legion and one newspaper’s Christmas charity fund.
Bidding for the photo and over 1,700 other images continues through May 26 at RMYAuctions.com.