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1921 Babe Ruth 136th Career Home Run Baseball--The Babe is Crowned Home Run King! Every well-informed baseball fan knows that the Babe's reign as Career Home Run King ended on April 8, 1974, when Hammerin' Hank Aaron blasted his 715th at the Atlanta season home opener, but few could tell you when it began. Ruth's coronation date, in fact, was July 12, 1921, as the Yankees visited the St. Louis Browns at Sportsman's Park. The sophomore-year Yankee was in the midst of perhaps his finest offensive season, one that would conclude with fifty-nine homers, 171 runs batted in, a .378 batting average, .846 slugging average, 177 runs scored, 457 total bases and 119 extra base hits. The final two marks stand as single-season records to this date, and the runs tally the best of the twentieth century.

But the most noteworthy milestone of that season is represented by this sphere, which pulled the Babe even with Roger Connor's career record of 136 home runs. As an included clipping from The New York Times (copy) notes that the blast was likewise the game winner: "Ruth's first homer came in the third inning, with one run over the plate and two men on the bases...Babe's burning liner into the right-field seats transformed the issue into a Yank advantage...The Browns never fully recovered after that." A second Ruth home run later in the game evicted Connor from their shared throne, adding further luster to the presented orb as also having been used in the game in which the Babe earned sole possession of his royal title.

The red and blue stitched OAL (Johnson) sphere exhibits strong game use and is notated in vintage ink across the sweet spot, "Hit by Babe Ruth at St. Louis, His 33 Home Run Season 1921." Beyond the very obviously aged appearance of the ink, the ball is accompanied by a letter of provenance from the consignor to a March 1999 auction that reads:

"The owner was 93 year old D. Berkeley Smith of Waterloo, Iowa. [Address/Phone]. He received the ball as a teenager while living with his grandparents in Hopkington, Iowa. It was given to him by his uncle, Roy Stanley Trafton, who was at the game in St. Louis in 1921 when Babe Ruth hit his 33rd home run of the season. Roy's home was in Cleveland, Ohio by birth and he was employed as an entrepreneur by companies in Chicago, Cleveland, Dubuque, Iowa and Los Angeles, California. He was married to Mr. Smith's aunt and later divorced. He traveled extensively, hence his period of living in St. Louis in the 1920's. He gave the ball to Mr. Smith in his early teens..."

A second letter from Mr. Smith himself, dated "1-14-02," confirms the facts detailed in that letter. He writes:

"The information you have been given is indeed correct and quite meager indeed but it is about all that I can provide. Roy Trafton married my Aunt. He was as I recall a great baseball fan, originally from Cleveland. Apparently he thought he was giving me a great memento but it just didn't turn out that way. Why on earth I kept it I'll never know but it was "unearthed" so to speak in a clean out of some old drawers and sold to some baseball addict in Des Moines whose name I did not retain. I trust that you find great pleasure in possession of the ball. It occurs to me that I received several hundred dollars for it, and certainly you must have paid more, and since it is authentic you probably paid more and if so let me know if convenient, for as a retired lawyer I shall not cry if a bad judgment goes against me."

Let us hope, for Mr. Smith's sake, that he never realized that he had owned one of the most significant Babe Ruth artifacts ever discovered, the very baseball that established him as the Home Run King, beginning more than a half-century residence upon the sport's loftiest throne. Letters of provenance as detailed.

View all of [The Seth Swirsky Collection ]

Service and Handling Description: Balls, Pucks, etc. - Encased, Small (view shipping information)

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Auction Dates
May, 2012
3rd-5th Thursday-Saturday
Internet/Mail/Phone Bidders: 5
Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
Page Views: 2,799

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