Babe Ruth Sultan of Swat

LiveAuctionTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Hunt Auctions.

With a tip of his head, a re-positioning of his legs and a gentle wave of the bat Babe Ruth had a way of terrifying pitchers. They knew what was probably coming.

Sept. 30, 1927 was the Yankees final game of the season. With 59 home runs to his credit Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate facing Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators.

Sixty, count ‘em sixty! Babe Ruth shouted in the locker room. Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that.

Zachary’s first pitch was a fastball, strike. His second pitch was high, ball. Then Babe took a brutal swing at the third pitched ball and bam you could hear the ball crashing against the bat all over the park.

It was Babe’s record 60th homer.

The crowd roared as Babe made his triumphant swagger around the bases. He jogged slowly, touched each bag firmly and embedded his spikes into home plate.

“Sixty, count ‘em sixty!” Ruth shouted in the locker room. “Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that.” People agreed it would probably never happen. It didn’t happen until 1961 when Roger Maris did it with the help of an extended season.

The Yankees took the series from The Pittsburgh Pirates in four straight games in 1927. The following year they did it again with the Cardinals.

The Sultan of Swat used the heaviest bat, made the most money and got the most fines than any other player. He made people believe anything was possible as he rounded those bases 714 times during his career.

“How to hit home runs: I swing as hard as I can, and I try to swing right through the ball...The harder you grip the bat, the more you can swing it through the ball, and the farther the ball will go. I swing big, with everything I've got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can,” Babe said.

Even into the 1930s his hitting dominated the Yankee’s lineup. He was baseball’s biggest hero and he knew it.

Mostly the outfielder ignored upcoming competitors like Lou Gehrig. Oblivious to his health, Babe continued to eat and drink too much and light up half-smoked cigars he found on the men’s room floor.

Gehrig became the best hitter in the American League, driving in runs faster than Babe. In 1932, Gehrig even hit four home runs in a single game something Babe never did. But, he still had to settle for second billing.

The Bambino was simply larger than life and king of the Yankee castle.

“Give him a crowd, a gallery worthy of his best effort, and the old warrior will put on his show…He isn’t what he used to be. But pack the stands, set the stage, turn up the lights, and who is it brings down the house with his act! The Babe,” said columnist John Kieran.

On June 15, 2019, Hunt Auctions featured The Babe Ruth collection on the block. The items came from the personal collection of granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti.

Here are some current values.

Babe Ruth

Photograph; autographed; The Babe at bat; black-and-white; inscribed and signed; 1948; 17 inches by 21 inches; $19,200.

Cleats; circa 1920s-30s; includes letter of provenance from Ruth family; $72,000.

Photograph; autographed; Babe and Lou Gehrig in uniform; sepia toned; circa 1927-1928; 8 inches by 10 inches; $78,000.

Touring Suitcase; “Bustin Babes” original leather; Ruth used during famed RUTH-Gehrig Home Run Tour organized by Ruth’s agent Christy Walsh; circa 1927-1928; $84,000.

Photograph; autographed; 60th home run record setting hit; in game between New York Yankees and Washington Senators; sepia toned; inscribed and signed; scarce; 1927; 10 inches by 13 inches; $96,000.

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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