The story has been lost to time but a surviving photo gives at least a brief hint of an unusual autograph collection–and a little insight into the eating habits of baseball players decades ago.
The 8 x 9 3/4″ image is a collection of signed receipts from the old Hotel Kenmore in Boston. The signatures are of baseball greats and appear to represent a small portion of a collection of autographs on meal tabs from the hotel’s “Beef ‘N’ Bird” Restaurant dating at least as far back as the 1940s and early 50s.
None are dated but the photo reveals names still familiar to baseball fans including Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Hank Greenberg, Joe Gordon, Stan Musial, Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller and others. The Babe’s meal wasn’t Ruthian but sizeable: filet mignon, shrimp, french fries, peas, rolls, salad and ice tea. The total? $5.31, including tax. Musial wrote his 1950 batting average of .346 at the bottom along with his team, “Cards.” Burt Shotton wrote “Brooklyn BBC” and may indeed have been managing the team at the time he signed the receipt. Others wrote their hotel room numbers as remains the custom in many hotel restaurants today.
It wasn’t unusual to see past and present ballplayers inside the hotel, which was located just three blocks from Fenway Park and was known as “the baseball hotel.” It hosted visiting teams and executives and even Red Sox players who were looking for a more permanent place to call home. Owned by Bertram Druker, the hotel sat at the corner of Kenmore Street and Commonwealth Avenue and had 400 rooms after being converted from apartment units.
The photo is one of more than 600 lots in RMY’s current auction, set to close Saturday, April 6.