He was still the greatest attraction in sports and paid like it, but even Babe Ruth fell victim to the Great Depression. The Bambino took what for him was unprecedented—a pay cut. That $75,000 pact he signed with the New York Yankees in 1932 just sold for a lot more.
Boston-based RR Auctions has sold the “George Herman Ruth” signed contract, dated March 16, 1932, for $295,531.
Baseball revenues were severely hit by the Depression— it is estimated that Yankee gate receipts fell 12 to 15 percent during the 1931 season. Ruth’s annual salary of $80,000 for the past two seasons was an irresistible target.
“Ruth’s Depression-era contract provided an unprecedented historical look at the game of baseball — especially considering Manny Machado’s just signed deal worth $300 million, the richest free-agent contract in baseball history, ” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.
“It’s a classic power struggle between owner and player— and each contract providing its own telling and unique tale.”
Ruth eventually settled for $75,000 a year, plus 25 percent of the net receipts from Yankee exhibition games.
“It was the first time in Ruth’s long career—since the day in 1914 when he signed for $600 per season—that he had ever taken a cut in pay,” added Livingston.
The auction also included numerous other player contract. Lou Gehrig’s 1935 New York Yankees pact for Gehrig’s first season as Yankee captain sold for $183,500, and Christy Mathewson 1902 New York Giants deal sold for $68,481.
The auction included hundreds of pieces of sports memorabilia and vintage cards, topped by a 1933 Goudey #106 Napoleon Lajoie PSA 8 which sold for $127,904, a record price for the grade.
The auction also featured 1911 T206 White Border near complete PSA graded set ($72,294) and a 1952 Topps Baseball complete set including Mantle and 80 Black Back variations ($53,758) along with an autographed ’52 Mantle ($48,871).
The auction began February 7. Complete results can be found here.