One hundred years ago Tuesday, the World Series opened at the Polo Grounds in New York with John McGraw’s small ball Giants facing the new age Yankees and their mashing maestro, Babe Ruth. Before the best of nine series was halfway complete, though, the star attraction was down for the count. A nasty scrape to his elbow, suffered in a slide, knocked The Bambino from the starting lineup. It was a frustrating end to a magical season for Ruth, who had become so popular that he had already shot a movie that was being advertised in theaters nationwide.
His unprecedented ability to hit home runs was a national sensation and in New York, he was suddenly the most famous name in sports. His 59 home run season had captivated crowds and to commemorate his unquestioned stature, a one foot tall silver crown was created in his honor.
The photo of a smiling Ruth, wearing the ceremonial piece of artistry, is well known, having been reproduced countless times. Now, though, an original image from that day has surfaced. With a caption still adhered to the back, the newspaper file copy is the RMY Auctions Photo of the Day. The 6 x 8 3/4″ photo is among the major attractions in the company’s current auction, where it’s expected to sell for a four-figure price.
Taken the day of the final game of the Series on October 13, 1921, the Underwood and Underwood image is in relatively good condition for its age. It does have an embossed message common to important file copy photos of the age imprinted on the front indicating it wasn’t to be removed from the archive. A century later, collectors will have the chance to own it.
Newspapers of the day made mention that Yankees manager Miller Huggins would “crown” the Babe just before Game 9 of the ’21 World Series and the Yankees put the crown on display in the press box the day before.
Ruth didn’t have much else to do. His elbow injury knocked him out of the lineup as the Giants marched toward a championship.
Admirers of the Babe paid $5 to have their name engraved on the trophy and hundreds of them did. According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, where the crown resides, a message on it reads, “As a token of their esteem and in behalf of those whose names appear hereon this crown is presented to ‘Babe’ Ruth ‘King of Swat’ / Babe Ruth Crown Committee / Designed by Frank H. Ellison.”
The crown is also engraved “King Ruth” at the top and features a total of 59 engraved miniature baseballs, each signifying one of his homers during that record-setting regular season. The cost? $600 or the equivalent of over $9,000 today.
The crown now sits on a black wooden display stand in the Hall of Fame’s collection.
Ruth was hurting, but Huggins sent him out to pinch hit in the ninth inning of Game 9 with the Giants ahead 1-0, hoping his star might have one long ball left in him, but Ruth grounded out. It was the first of 40 trips to the World Series for the Yankees franchise.
The auction continues through Saturday.