He’d been retired for six years but life went on for Babe Ruth in the winter of 1941. He turned 46 years old in February and although the sports pages had turned most of their attention to Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller and the other current stars of the day, Ruth’s birthday was still worth a mention…and a photograph.
Newspapers throughout the country mentioned his birthday, reporting briefly that while The Babe had long ago discovered his true birthday was February 6 instead of the 7th, he continued to celebrate a day late. “Too late to change,” he supposedly said.
More interesting was that Ruth was actually a year younger than everyone thought. “Babe Celebrates 47th Birthday” was a common headline from Hartford to Honolulu. Ruth considered himself 47, too, even though that search through birth records in 1934 which revealed his actual birth date also noted he’d been born in 1895, not ’94 as he’d been told.
In hindsight it seems strange not to take advantage when you gain a year, but Babe was Babe.
RMY Auctions has recently uncovered a photo taken on the day Ruth celebrated his last birthday before World War II and it’s currently up for sale. The 7 3/4″ x 10″ photo shows him at home with his feet up, reading a newspaper, pipe in hand and what appear to be fresh cigars nearby. There’s a brief paper caption still attached to the back, identifying Ruth’s home address on Riverside Drive and indicating he was “taking in easy” on his 47th birthday (which was really his 46th).
It’s the first time the photo has been offered at auction.
Interestingly, a zoom into the background shows some photographs, cartoons and other career memorabilia on the wall behind him (no framed jerseys, unfortunately). There appears to be a large photo of a young Ruth throwing during what appears to be the beginning of his big league career and a magazine cover that shows his 60th home run ball.
There are a pair of Yankee team photos and a hopelessly torn photo of Ruth inside another frame. Some are almost comically askew and it is readily apparent The Babe apparently didn’t really care that much for keeping things straight.
Somewhere in the home were fragile vases and other items he’d been presented with during the 1934 Tour of Japan. As news broke of the attack on Pearl Harbor ten months later, Ruth would throw some of them out the window where they smashed on the street.
The photo is one of hundreds of historic sports, news and entertainment photos currently up for bid through February 16 at RMYAuctions.com.