Babe Ruth Simply the Best

LiveAuctionTalk.com:  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Hunt Auctions.

Babe Ruth died 70 years ago but if he rose from the dead today people would still recognize his face.  He was the first superstar of sports and so much more.

Babe was so in demand his 1930 $80,000 Yankee salary eclipsed that of the U.S. President.  He was a media star hobnobbing with celebrities and showing up in silent movies.

“I swing big, with everything I’ve got.  I hit big or I miss big.  I like to live as big as I can,” he said.

That in a nutshell was Babe Ruth.

Talent, charisma and sheer luck seemed to follow the big, brash fielder everywhere.  George Herman Ruth was the team’s biggest attraction.

The 1927 Yankee lineup was the team of the decade.  Babe landed 60 home runs that year.  The team won a total of six pennants and three World Series titles.  Fans flocked to the stadium to watch the Great Bambino and his and cohorts’ murder their opponents.

I’ve had three ambitions. I’ve wanted to complete 20 years of baseball and I’ll do that this year.  I’ve wanted to play in ten World Series and I realized that ambition last year.  And I hope to boost my home run total to 700.  I hope to do that by hitting at least 48 this year.
— Babe Ruth, 1933

“It wasn’t that he hit more home runs than anybody else,” said 1976 Spink Award winner Red Smith, “he hit them better, higher, farther, with more theatrical timing and a more flamboyant flourish.”

To see the Sultan of Swat was a chance of a lifetime.  Some say he wasn’t even human.

Shortly before his death in 1948 Babe said “What I am, what I have, what I am going to leave behind me, all this I owe to the game of baseball, without which I would have come out of St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore a tailor, and a pretty bad one, at that.”

By 1930 he was aging.  His legs were a problem.  His fielding was fading and his waistline was swelling.  But he could still hit.  In back-to-back doubleheaders at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park he hit six home runs in two days. 

By the 1933 season Babe’s salary dropped to $52,000 a $23,000 pay cut from 1932. 

“I’ve had three ambitions.” Babe said in 1933. “I’ve wanted to complete 20 years of baseball and I’ll do that this year.  I’ve wanted to play in ten World Series and I realized that ambition last year.  And I hope to boost my home run total to 700.  I hope to do that by hitting at least 48 this year.”   

“I am getting too old for the game and know it,” he said.  “There’s nothing sadder than to see a fellow trotting around the diamond and hear his legs creaking for want of oil.  If I kept playing much longer, I’d be tripping over my whiskers or putting on a pair of specs to see the ball.”

The southpaw slugger’s final season, in 1935, was with the Boston Braves. He joined the Braves hoping to become manager the following season.  It never happened.  His reputation for drinking, gambling and womanizing may have been the stop. 

The Sultan of Swat ended his career with 714 home runs which was a record until Barry Bonds surpassed him with 762 in 2007.  In 1936 Babe was one of the first five players inducted into the sport’s hall of fame.

On July 16-17 Hunt Auctions featured a selection of Babe Ruth’s item in its auction. 

Here are some current values.

Babe Ruth

Photograph; Babe Ruth signed; batting in Yankee uniform; circa 1930s; 8 inches by 10 inches;  $2,815.

Baseball; Babe Ruth; single-signed; circa 1930s;  $17,625.

Photograph; Gehrig and Ruth; autographed; 10 ½ inches by13 ½ inches; circa 1929-30;  $41,125.

Photograph; Ruth in uniform holding bats; by Paul Thompson; circa 1921;  $49,350.

Baseball Bat; professional Babe Ruth model; facsimile signature; circa 1918-20; 36 inches long;   $117,500.

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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