The power-hitting tandem of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig fueled the New York Yankees’ run of three straight American League pennants from 1926 through 1928, and back-to-back World Series titles in 1927-1928. After their iconic 1927 season, when Ruth hit 60 home runs and Gehrig connected for 47, the two went on a nationwide barnstorming tour, captaining teams called the “Bustin’ Babes” and “Larrupin Lous.”
As the regular season wore down, the two Yankees sluggers posed with Christy Walsh, the sports agent who put the tour together, for a photograph. Ruth and Gehrig were modeling their barnstorming uniforms before their Sept. 29, 1927, game against the Washington Senators at Yankee Stadium. The photo is part of RMY Auctions’ February Premier Auction, which runs through March 10. Bidding for the photo has already topped $1,500.
During the Sept. 29 game against the Senators, Ruth hit two home runs to tie his all-time single-season record of 59 while driving in six runs during New York’s 15-4 victory. He broke the home run mark the next day at Yankee Stadium.
The barnstorming uniforms would be used after the Yankees faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. New York swept that series in four games, giving Ruth and Gehrig a little bit of time to rest before beginning their cross-country jaunt.
The photo offered by RMY was credited to the International Newsreel, which later was absorbed by United Press International. It was circulated widely in newspapers to herald an upcoming contest between the sluggers’ teams. For example, the Oct. 16, 1927, edition of the Des Moines Register splashed a large version of the photo on Page 1 of the newspaper’s main section. The Bustin’ Babes would win 15-7 in Iowa.
The barnstorming tour was a success, with 21 games in nine states. The teams played before 220,000 fans; Ruth and Gehrig traveled 8,000 miles and autographed 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 on Oct. 30 in Los Angeles. During the series, Ruth and Gehrig pitched to each other. Ruth hit 20 homers while batting .616 (61-for-99), while Gehrig smashed 13 homers and hit .618 (55-for-89).
Still, the tour had some glitches. 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.
Charities benefited from the tour. Proceeds from the Oct. 15 game in Kansas City, Missouri, were donated to Mercy Hospital to help build a research laboratory. The Sept. 25, game in Sacramento, California, was donated to a local Catholic orphanage, while the receipts from the Oct. 30 game in Los Angeles aided the American Legion. Three games in the San Francisco area were staged to help the Examiner newspaper’s charity Christmas fund.
The photo offered by RMY bears a stamp by International Newsreel and the original caption on a yellowed piece of paper attached to the back. The photo measures 6 inches by 8 inches.
Interest in Ruth and Gehrig has never waned and there’s even a new book — Gehrig & the Babe: The Friendship and the Feud — due out on April 1.