Signed copies of Babe Ruth’s 1948 autobiography, “The Babe Ruth Story,” which was told to noted sportswriter Bob Considine, aren’t exceedingly rare. The Babe was happy to sign them, even as his health worsened. A signed copy of the book that comes with the Ruth-endorsed check that paid for it is quite a treasure.
The check is the unique feature of a lot that is part of SCP Auctions Spring Premier Auction, which runs through Saturday, May 2. The lot features an autographed copy of “The Babe Ruth Story,” plus a check for $3 made out to “George Herman Ruth.” The back of the check is signed by the Sultan of Swat with that full-name signature, something autograph collectors find very desirable. The dual-Ruth autographed piece is expected to fetch a five-figure price when bidding comes to a close.
Babe Ruth still resonates among collectors today, and he was still bigger than life when he died in August 1948 at the age of 53. He was, The Atlanta Constitution editorialized after his death, “Frank Merriwell, with a cigar and a highball.”
As bankers who worked before the electronic age of deposits and withdrawals can attest, to deposit or cash a check, the bearer of the document had to endorse it the same way it was written on the “pay to” line on the front side of the instrument. Checks were then cleared and canceled, and the originals were returned in a monthly statement to the person who owned the bank account.
This particular check was signed by Richard C. Morrill, who had been an advertising executive with Harper’s Bazaar and Antiques Magazine. Morrill, who worked in New York City for many years, died in Albany in Feburary 1961.
The check was dated April 26, 1948, and was drawn on The Fifth Avenue Bank of New York. There are two red ink stamps on the check: One, dated May 24, 1948, is the likely date Ruth presented the check. The second stamp, dated May 25, 1948, was likely when the check was deposited to the account of E.P. Dutton & Co., the business that published “The Babe Ruth Story.” Ruth died less than three months after endorsing the check.
According to SCP, Morrill was the consignor’s great-uncle. In 1959, Claire Ruth sent the Morrills a signed copy of her autobiography, “The Babe and I.”
While the signatures are pristine and the pages inside the book have survived well, the red dust jacket for the book shows significant tearing and wear, particularly along its edges and corners. The jacket does, however, remain attached to the spine of the book. The check is also taped to the title page of the book and was neatly folded so it was hidden when the cover was closed.
“The Babe Ruth Story,” as told to Considine, was a 254-page book with 49 different black-and-white photographs. The first edition measured 5¾ inches by 8½ inches.
The book in the SCP Auctions lot contained a letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA for both signatures.
Excerpts of the book ran in eight issues of The Saturday Evening Post, and was “full of warmth,” according to venerable Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Chancey Durden.
Books about Ruth had been written before, by Tom Meany and Martin Weldon. But Bob Considine’s collaboration with Ruth was called “My only authorized story.” (Apr. 29, 1948). The Miami News called it “straightforward, frank and honest.” If Ruth and Considine had written this book at the end of the 1927 season, the News wrote, it might have gone into the record books as “Home Run No. 61.”
“Ruth tells the story of his childhood “honestly, frankly and with dignity,” The Delta Democrat-Times of Greenville, Mississippi, wrote.
His story, the Atlanta Constitution wrote, “is an American story.”
And, what a story this auction item has to tell.