Sports agents are everywhere these days, but they were a novel concept in 1921. Christy Walsh, in fact, might have been the only one. His first sports client was a player he chased for weeks. Babe Ruth didn’t have a soft spot for anyone he thought might be looking to cash in on his fame. Finally, Walsh got an audience with the Babe and the rest is history. Next month in Baltimore , the first contract between the two will be up for bid.
The item will appear in one of two auctions slated to run during the National Sports Collectors Convention. It represents a deal Walsh struck in which ghost writers would pen columns with Ruth’s name attached. Walsh and Ruth would split the proceeds.
The agreement with Ruth is one of several pieces from the Walsh estate that will be offered for sale. The pre-auction estimate is over $20,000.
Another item from the Walsh collection is a photograph of Ruth and Lou Gehrig, sharing a light moment at the 1932 World Series. Both signed the photo of the Babe sharing a secret with Gehrig. Gehrig pokes fun at his iconic teammate, who whispers something to him in the oversized image. “In one ear and out the other,” he writes.Early online bidding has already pushed past $19,000 with the buyer’s premium of 19.5%.
A collection of 63 19th century baseball ribbons, believed to have been collected by Charlie Sweasy, second baseman for the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, represents an historic attic find. The collection likely represents opponents of a player who collected them in a typical custom of the day. The ribbons are mounted on a 22×31 framed board.
“Only a handful of these ribbons have ever surfaced in the collecting market,” said Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions, which is conducting the sale. “For collectors of 19th century baseball, this is unquestionably the most exciting find in recent memory.”
A bat purported to be the last one from Cap Anson’s pro career, dating to the 1890s is in the auction as well as an ultra-rare 1903 Breisch-Williams card of Christy Mathewson, several high-grade vintage baseball sets including the top rated 1910 Tip Top Bread issue and the 1923 Willard’s Chocolate cards.
The auction wraps up with the live portion on August 5 at the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore. Items from the auction will be on display at the National.