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Earliest known Babe Ruth game-used New York Yankees jersey hits auction block in April

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

A circa 1920 New York Yankees road jersey worn by Babe Ruth might fetch seven figures when it hits the auction block through SCP Auctions on April 30.

“This is simply the finest sports artifact we’ve handled in our 30-year history,” said SCP Auctions President David Kohler. “It has it all. You would be hard pressed to dream up a more desirable baseball artifact. The historical impact of Ruth’s emergence in the Big Apple in the early 1920s, combined with the jersey’s superb original condition, makes this a sports treasure of the highest order.”

It’s the earliest known gamer for The Bambino, and the bidding through the  Laguna Niguel, Calif.-based company will close on May 19.

 

Ruth, of course, was one of the world’s most-recognizable athletes in his time and remains so today. His 714 home runs were an MLB record well beyond his playing days until Hank Aaron topped the mark in 1974.

The Spalding flannel has Ruth’s name stitched into the collar, and the placement of the New York patches on the front have been photo-matched to images included with the auction’s preview information. More details will come when the auction opens.

“It has a definite aura about it,” said SCP Auctions Managing Director Dan Imler. “It is hard to put a value on an item of such singular importance. Ruth was a man of mythic proportions. More than any other man, he transcended sports, achieving a nearly unrivaled status as an American icon. In the process, he changed the game of baseball forever. To think this jersey was worn by him during the most pivotal years of his career, and arguably the most consequential years in baseball history, makes this one of the finest sports artifacts we’ll see in our lifetime.”

In 2005 Donruss/Playoff purchased a Ruth home gamer from around 1925 (one of three known pinstriped Ruth jerseys), which it cut up and placed into baseball cards. That jersey cost the company only $250,000.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

13 Comments

Please oh please don’t let this fall into the hands of a card manufacturer. This jersey deserves to stay in one piece.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink
chrisolds

Sanders: Money talks … we shall see.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink
anon

Sanders — completely agreed. I wish the owner would exercise the right to refuse sale to someone who will eventually destroy the thing.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
alternate

that looks like it’s in too good of shape for a 90 year old jersey. it also looks too small to be babe’s. then again i’m skeptic on every piece of memorabilia from that era.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
Richard

This will go for too much money for them to destroy.
It could conceivably be used as a grand prize for some kind of contest,
but I don’t see the card companies doing it. More like the Wal-Mart thing
where they had a contest for the Gretzky Honus Wagner card.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Richard: You’re totally looking at it the wrong way. Giving it away as a prize might move one product, but it won’t sell enough extra to cover the cost of the item. (It also would not bump up sales enough just as a contest.)

But as a card? It would sell more units across the board when that large investment is slowly spread out across multiple products over multiple years. Doing that would pay for the item — and then some.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Alternate: That’s the magic of studio lighting on the full image. The close-up shows you a little more realistic view where you can see the fabric is discolored.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

chrisolds: Hopefully the fact that it is an away jersey (Yankee collectors most definitely prefer the pinstripes) and that it would be hard to communicate the added value of being the earliest known Ruth jersey on a card would discourage the card companies to purchase the item.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
clinton johnson

@chrisolds personally i think this is a piece that Major League Baseball sould purchase and put in the hall. this is one of the most important pieces in Yankees, or MLB history.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
Richard

Chris, I never said I thought a CARD company would use it for a giveaway, I was
just pointing out that Wal-Mart did in fact at one time give away the Honus Wagner
card, though even back then it was “only” a 500K card.

Yes, given enough time they could recover the costs of destroying a Jersey, though I’ve
read estimates that it might hit the $3 million range. This means they would have to
sell at least that much more in product to justify it.

You could make 7 button + 7 button hole card. A super 1/1 that has the stitching.
The Spalding label + 7 letter cards. You might be able to squeeze out 2000+ basic
Jersey cards if you go small enough. A “common” Jersey of his sells in the $200 range
for the most part, so they might add a perceived value of another $400K. Even if you
sell the letter cards at $10K and the Name card at $20K and the buttons at $2k, you
really are not adding enough “value” in to draw that many more buyers. The commons
will help someone who opens an expensive product feel better, but that stuff is getting
opened now due to the limited production. If you need to sell a whole lot “more” then
you taint the product.

For reference, consider an combo autograph jersey 1/1 card sold at $6K.
I personally would rather have an autograph card than a stitch card, but others might
think differently than I do.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Sanders: The high-profile nature of the item will likely mean some deep-pocketed bidders beyond any potential card companies.

Posted March 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink
Phillies_Joe

Please oh Please don’t destroy this item to place in cards! Funny, but just today was talking at work with someone whose grandfather years ago had a Tris Speaker jersey from when he was a boy (gotten at old Shibe park in Philly) but couldn’t remember where it was (LOL). I remember listening in amazment when my grandfater talked to me and told stories about the old timers (he was a personal friend of Connie Mack and knew Babe Ruth). It’s amazing that “back in the day” memorabilia was not something those folks thought about…..my grandfather had absolutly no momentos whatsoever :>(.

Anyway….hope someone buys this for the shear joy of owning it……lucky person!!!!!!

Posted March 1, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
DAVID BROWN

Boy ! It sure does look small. Are you sure he didnt have it made for his 7 year old nephew?

Posted March 4, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

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