There are people who excel at sports, there are those who rise to the top of their profession, and then there’s Babe Ruth.
And soon you could own a piece of the legend — a genuine New York Yankees jersey, worn by the man himself, is going up for auction in late April. It was sold by the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore in 2009 to a collector, and experts predict that the price may exceed the $2.8 million paid in 2007 for a mint condition T-206 Honus Wagner tobacco baseball card. Those in the know say that the “Y” in New York is sewn on the placket, dating it to roughly 1920, with the letters Ruth G.H. stitched on the collar.
Recent baseball auctions include the bat that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson used to hit his historic home run during the 1988 World Series ($576,000), Lou Gehrig’s final home run bat ($403,000) and a program in honor of 19th-century Boston Red Sox legend King Kelly ($215,000).
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But this is Babe Ruth, which easily explains the reason why David Kohler, president of SCP Auctions, the online firm handling this sale, declared the jersey “simply the finest sports artifact we’ve handled in our 30-year history.” He went on to explain that, “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 worth digging into that statement a little deeper. Ruth was purchased by the Yankees from the Red Sox on Jan. 5, 1920 (setting off in motion, as if Red Sox fans need to be reminded, the dreaded Curse of the Bambino), and he’s believed to have worn this uniform the following season, which was a landmark year for him. Ruth hit 54 home runs (obliterating his record of 29 set the previous season) while no other team managed more than 50. No wonder that the Yanks attracted the best part of 1.3 million fans at the Polo Grounds that year, making them the first major league team to exceed a million fans through the gates.
And Ruth’s record in New York speaks for itself: The Yankees made their first World Series soon after, in 1921, and went back six more times during his time there, winning four (Yankee fans like to point out they’ve won the Fall Classic on 23 subsequent occasions, whereas it took until 2004 for the Sox to experience victory again).
If you’re looking for indications why the jeresey may sell for such a high price, it’s worth knowing that the bat he used to hit a home run in the first ever game at Yankee Stadium (opening day in 1923), sold for almost $1.3 million in 2006. And the contract of his sale from the Sox to the Yankees went for $996,000 in 2005. So it stands to reason that the 92-year-old jersey is considered about as valuable as it gets. And though notable New Yorker Jerry Seinfeld has famously said that we root for laundry, the winner of this auction will have to root deep into his or her pockets to pay for this particular piece of fabric.