The legendary Babe Ruth has a slew of great post-war vintage cards that were issued after his playing career. One of the lesser known ones is a special card from the 1940s that was a premium for a publication. Here’s a closer look at this rare card that is not discussed all that often.
About the Babe Ruth Pacific Coast Baseball News Card
This black and white card was offered as a premium from the Pacific Coast Baseball News publication. This card is generally cited to be a tribute card celebrating Ruth’s career. While not recognized in the American Card Catalog, it would certainly fit under the M-Card category. That category included card issues that were distributed by a publication.
To the specifics, the card is slightly oversized. The fact is that it is even larger than most traditional postcards, even if only barely so. Measuring at approximately 3 7/8″ wide by 5 5/8″ tall, there is no doubt that it is larger than your standard baseball card. And the card is certainly much larger than most of the Ruth cards issued during his playing days. Those cards were usually even smaller than today’s issues.
The card was printed in black and white and features a portrait of Ruth during his playing days. The only true ‘print’ on the front is Ruth’s replica signature, which adds to the card’s appeal. Backs of the cards included a massive statistical overview, including both hitting and pitching statistics. And we’ll get more into that later as I’ve got quite a bit to say on that topic.
So, how were the cards distributed? Love of the Game Auctions indicates that they were a premium giveaway to subscribers of the Pacific Coast Baseball News. While it was subscribers of that publication that received the cards, technically, they were distributed from a company called the Pacific Coast Sports Publishing News, perhaps a parent or management company. Cards were mailed from that company’s Los Angeles address. Postmarked envelopes still in existence today tell us these cards were still being mailed as late as 1949. They are believed to have been issued in 1947 or 1948, and printed for at least a two-year period.
A Statistical Disaster
While the statistics are quite exhaustive for such an early card (many early cards provided only a few stats and did not include career numbers), that portion of the card is still lacking a bit for some reason. The card mostly broke down Ruth’s career as a pitcher with the Red Sox and a hitter/position player with the Yankees. While that is one way of looking at it, there’s quite a bit missing statistically by doing things that way.
For example, the card does not provide Ruth’s hitting statistics with the Red Sox — only the Yankees. And while he certainly did pitch for the Red Sox, he had become a true slugger by the time he left there, more renowned at that point as a hitter. In 1918, for example, he led the league in home runs, slugging percentage, OPS, and, in true power hitter form, strikeouts. Omitting his hitting statistics with the Red Sox from the card seems to make little sense.
Similarly frustrating is the omission of Ruth’s pitching statistics while he was a member of the Yankees. Now, Ruth, of course, was not known for his pitching exploits while wearing the pinstripes. But he did in fact pitch in five games for them. That is a small number, obviously, but how about the fact that Ruth won all of them, going a perfect 5-0? That’s certainly noteworthy and, unfortunately, it isn’t even mentioned on this card, which included so many other stats.
And if you think those omissions are bad, the worst is yet to come. First, Ruth’s entire 1919 season with the Red Sox is not even mentioned. Why is that? Likely because the producer of this card could decide if he was more of a pitcher or a hitter in that season. That year, his final season in Boston, Ruth was 9-5 with a 2.47 ERA while leading the league in a slew of offensive categories, including home runs, runs, RBI, OPS, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and total bases. It was his finest season in terms of both hitting and pitching combined and is not even mentioned.
Another area of the card’s back lists his World Series achievements. Seems like a great idea until you realize that it’s only half complete. The card only offers stats for Ruth’s last five World Series appearances, completely ignoring his first five appearances in the postseason classic, including the three rings he won with the Red Sox.
Finally, collectors of this card might be inclined to think that his last season was in 1934. That’s because the card doesn’t even mention his 1935 season with the Boston Braves at all. Statistically, it wasn’t a great one as Ruth batted only .181 that year and was a shell of his former self. But it also completes the picture of Ruth’s career, showing fans that it was clear retirement was in his best interest by that point. The omission of so many stats on this card really diminishes it.
Rarity and Pricing
Finding this card today isn’t impossible. However, it is not a card that is seen too often. In addition, there are two known variations of the card, known as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 cards included the text, ‘Compliments of AAPBC’ at the bottom of the card while Type 2 cards omit that information. Because of the rarity of this issue, I am not sure that any definitive conclusion on the rarity of each can be reached. Both, however, are quite rare.
The card is rarely seen on eBay so putting a price on it is difficult. But the one in that Love of the Game article above sold for a modest $126 in a 2015 auction (and that also came with one of the original mailing envelopes used to distribute the card).
Given the rarity of this issue and the uptick in cards of Ruth and other pre-war legends, it would seemingly command more today.