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Lot
19905

1933 Babe Ruth Game Worn New York Yankees Jersey, Worn in First All-Star Game. As World War II ground toward its brutal, bl...

2006 October Signature Sports Memorabilia Auction #705

 
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Auction Ended On: Oct 28, 2006
Item Activity: 8 Internet/mail/phone bidders
27,875 page views
Location: Dallas, TX
Description:
1933 Babe Ruth Game Worn New York Yankees Jersey, Worn in First All-Star Game. As World War II ground toward its brutal, bloody end, and U.S. soldiers faced the enemy in fierce hand-to-hand combat on the small islands of the South Pacific, the Japanese infantry were often heard to exclaim these few English words they had been taught to repeat, the greatest insult to an American of which they could conceive: "To hell with Babe Ruth!" They knew then what we all understand now. Babe Ruth was the embodiment, the personification, of America.

The evidence that proves this statement to be true is practically endless. First, of course, we can point to the fact that the Babe is unquestionably the greatest star ever produced by the game of baseball, our National Pastime. But we can also see that his ascension from an orphanage in a poor section of Baltimore, Maryland to the absolute pinnacle of wealth and international fame is the very essence of the American dream. His "Ruthian" appetites for wine, women, song and food are likewise utterly American. The round belly and big, smiling face, the way he twirled his cap as he trotted around the bases on those skinny legs after another tremendous home run blast-it's hard to believe he was actually real. Even Don Mattingly, whose retired jersey number joins Ruth's in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park, was confused as a child by the stories of the Babe's exploits, which sounded more like Paul Bunyan-esque folklore than actual historical fact. "Honestly, at one time I thought Babe Ruth was a cartoon character," he insisted. "I really did."

We have said before that any artifact relating to this larger-than-life American icon would be just as appropriately housed in Washington D.C.'s Smithsonian Museum as in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and this statement is never more true than when applied to the pinstriped flannel we are privileged to present here. In fact,the jersey did reside for several years in our nation's capital, loaned by our consignor to the MCI National Sports Gallery where it was placed upon display for those anxious to have a look at the most recognizable garment in athletic history. Sadly, the opportunity to see a genuine Ruth gamer doesn't come along often-it has been estimated that only five examples survive to this day. This is arguably the finest of the small supply.

Through indisputable photographic evidence, we have been able to place this jersey on the sturdy back of the Bambino on July 6, 1933, the day of Major League Baseball's very first All-Star Game. Though Ruth was in the twilight of his career at the time of the Comiskey Park event, he still remained far and away the biggest drawing card in the sport, even to the players themselves. Wild Bill Callahan, the starting pitcher for the National League side, was positively giddy about his brush with greatness. "We wanted to see the Babe," he said. "Sure, he was old and had a big waistline, but that didn't make any difference. We were on the same field as Babe Ruth." Timed to coincide with Chicago's "City of Progress" Exhibition, this game would be the very first time many Midwesterners would see Big League ballplayers in the flesh, and the Babe lived up to his legend, clubbing the first ever home run in a Midsummer Classic. It should be noted that the ball that Ruth sent into the outfield bleachers that day sold for $805,000 in a July 2006 auction.

Surely far more than a single home run was launched during this jersey's service to the Sultan, however. A quick look at the 1933 statistics finds that the Babe notched thirty-four regular season long balls. Understanding that players were issued just two home and two road jerseys per season, one could logically infer that eight or nine more were deposited into the Bronx cheap seats while the Babe sported these stripes.

But clearly, when it comes to a Babe Ruth game worn jersey, supreme historical relevance is a given, so we'll turn now to the specifics of the piece itself. The body of the jersey is constructed from heavyweight pinstriped flannel, proper in every regard to established exemplars from the era. Like the vast majority of Big League uniforms from this era, this jersey was passed down to a farm club at the close of the season for recycling, where it was tailored for its subsequent owner. The Babe's famed "fat strap," a customization orchestrated by the Yankee clubhouse to battle the tendency of the Bambino's bulging midsection to untuck his shirt from his pants, was extracted at this point. This removal is evident in a small half-moon hemmed curve in the tail. And finding no minor leaguer to match the prodigious girth of the rotund Babe, the side hems were tapered for its slimmer new owner. Thankfully, while a large percentage of these hand-me-downs had team identifiers or numbers added or removed in their minor league incarnations, such is not the case here. Only the lowermost button, subsequently replaced, was not present with Ruth in the batter's box.

The flannel shows evidence of fantastic wear, which is particularly apparent in the shoulder region where the fabric has worn through in places to a somewhat delicate but still eminently displayable state. Only in this area is found anything that could accurately be termed "damage," and again our catalog imagery should document that the visual power of the piece is certainly not undermined by these flaws. At some point in the past, this area was bolstered by flannel reinforcements, but this material has since been removed, leaving the jersey in its original state. A very small area to the left of the fourth button also shows evidence of where a short "L" shaped tear was once patched. The overwhelming majority of the jersey's body, including the all-important navy felt number "3" on verso, remains in solid and essentially unimprovable condition. The "Spalding" tag in the collar shows a degree of wear consistent with the shoulder area of the jersey, leaving only illegible remnants, though the chain-stitched "B. Ruth" to its right survives in fine measure, faded over the decades to a supple pink hue on its white felt swatch.

If all goes according to schedule, the New York Yankees will move to a new state-of-the-art facility for the 2009 season and the original House that Ruth Built will fall to the wrecking ball, closing another chapter in the life and legend of this sports immortal. And, sadly, that physical connection to the greatest Yankee of them all will be lost to the millions of fans who feel the Bambino's presence every time they enter his House. But for one lucky winning bidder, the tangible link to baseball's greatest hero will live on through this remarkable pinstriped flannel jersey, recalling the days of purity and wonder in a sport that has recently seen these qualities in short supply. Babe Ruth is the reason why we love the game of baseball. It's as simple as that. Estimate upon request.

LOA Dave Bushing (6/8/98) attests to authenticity as "1931-1934 Babe Ruth Game Worn Jersey."
LOA Richard Russek/Andy Imperato (6/9/98) attests to authenticity as "Circa 1933 Babe Ruth Game Worn Jersey."
LOA Lou Lampson (10/11/06) attests to authenticity as "1933 Babe Ruth All-Star Game Worn Jersey."

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