A ball traced to Babe Ruth’s record-breaking home run campaign of 1927 is set to be offered in an upcoming auction.
Spring had begun making the turn toward summer when John Peeler of Danbury, Connecticut made the journey to the glistening new ballpark in the Bronx to watch his Yankees play the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, May 29, 1927.
It was Memorial Day weekend and a crowd of 35,000 fans had journeyed to Yankee Stadium. There was a ‘can do’ feeling in the air. Babe Ruth had already hit twelve home runs. Lou Gehrig had ten and the Murderer’s Row lineup looked every bit a World Series contender as they sat atop the American League standings. A week earlier, Charles Lindbergh had landed in Paris, completing his historic journey as the first man to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean.
Since his 59 homer season of 1921, Ruth had often been frustrated by a lack of good pitches to hit but with Gehrig and the rest of the lineup providing protection, he was feeling better about the chances of a new record—if Gehrig didn’t get there first.
Legendary sportswriter Paul Gallico wrote: "There has never been anything like it. Even as these lines are batted out on the office typewriter, youths dash out of the AP and UP ticker room every two or three minutes shouting, ‘Ruth hit one! Gehrig just hit another one!’ "
John Peeler worked in the hat industry, not wealthy enough, it seemed to sit with the Yankee Stadium royalty, but happy still to have a seat in the left field stands, an “end section where the box seats curved out toward the field and then suddenly stopped,” according to the New York Times.
The game was no pitcher’s duel. The Yankees took an 8-7 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning and found themselves up against a young pitcher named Danny MacFayden. The kid would have a long career but he had debuted in the big leagues less than a year before and he was no match for a slugger in his prime. The Babe launched one of the righty’s hopeful offerings deep to the opposite field where it settled in the grasp of John Peeler.
An unabashed fan thrilled with his game used bonus, Peeler watched Ruth single in another run later in the inning as the Yankees completed a 15-7 victory over the last-place Bosox, then waited for Ruth outside the home dressing room. The Babe signed the excited fan’s souvenir on the sweet spot and Peeler preserved the moment for all time by writing the date on the ball, “5/9/27”.
Ruth would swat 60 in all that year, breaking his own record and establishing a mark that would stand until Roger Maris broke it in the same ballpark during a 162-game 1961 season.
The ball stayed in the original owner’s family, until it was sold in a Mastro Auctions sale in 2005. After enjoying it for awhile, the buyer has now consigned the ball to Memory Lane Incorporated which will offer it in its upcoming spring auction
Darkly toned with several scuffs and abrasions, the Ruth autograph has faded badly but the ball carries the red and blue stitching that adorned American League baseballs during the ’27 season.
Only a few of Ruth’s home run balls have been found with any kind of provenance. The most high profile and historic Ruth home run ball is one that left Comiskey Park as the first homer hit in All Star competition. It sold in the summer of 2006 for $800,000.