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    1921 First Partnership Between Babe Ruth & Christy Walsh Signed Document. The simple, single typed page presented here is deceptively unassuming, as it marks a sea change in the sporting world, uniting those two unabashedly American darlings, baseball and capitalism, in a profoundly new way. Those well-versed in pre-war baseball history will undoubtedly be familiar with the name Christy Walsh, recognized as the first sports agent, whose client list boasted a who's who of Golden Age sport: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Knute Rockne, John McGraw, Ty Cobb, and more. In a modern age when the line between athlete and corporate spokesman has been blurred to a dusty cloud by thousands of advertisements from shoes, cereals, underwear and video games, it's difficult today to imagine a time when this was not the norm. But Christy Walsh was the visionary who set the trend in motion, with Babe Ruth unquestionably his greatest asset. This agreement is the first of their historic partnership.

    While the commodification of the American athlete remains a point of contention almost eight decades after Walsh and Ruth began their lucrative alliance, there's no denying that the development is as historically significant as Jackie Robinson's emergence or any other event which forever altered sports' status quo. Certainly athletes had endorsed products for years prior to Walsh's arrival on the scene, but the young sports licensing pioneer was the first to implement such a regimented approach, the first to represent a stable of stars and systematically convert fame into dollars for his clientele. It was Walsh who orchestrated the famous "Bustin' Babes vs. Larrupin' Lous" barnstorming tours of 1927 and 1928, who got the Babe his own NBC radio show in the late 1930's, and who pulled the strings to make sure his tragically deceased client Lou Gehrig would be properly honored by the 1942 film "The Pride of the Yankees."

    The presented contract, dated February 21, 1921, secures the Bambino's name for use with a forthcoming series of syndicated baseball columns to be ghostwritten "by qualified sporting writers" and signed "By Babe Ruth." Walsh indicates "I agree to pay you Fifty (50) Percent of the gross receipts, a special consideration. My profit and all office and syndicating expenses, including printing, postage etc. will come from the balance." The Yankees legend asserts his acceptance of the terms with a gloriously bold 10/10 "Geo. H. Ruth" signature. In equally strong ink, Walsh adds a handwritten notation, closing with his own 10/10 autograph. The single page of Walsh's personal business letterhead exhibits original storage folds and minor edge and corner wear, but no damage of note. The cultured baseball historian will realize the colossal importance of the document, and bid accordingly. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.

    The Christy Walsh Collection, Part I.

    Christy Walsh was nothing if not persistent. The syndicated cartoonist and newspaper columnist had enjoyed limited success hawking a series of ghostwritten articles for World War I ace turned star race car driver Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, but was convinced that a similar Babe Ruth partnership would prove to be a gold mine. He had watched the young recruit from the Boston Red Sox pack the Polo Grounds during the 1920 season, more than doubling the 620,000 tickets sold by the Yankees in 1919. Surely such popularity would translate to the newspaper business.

    His initial attempts to meet with the Babe proved fruitless, however. "
    Get an appointment," Ruth would shout at Walsh as he attempted to accost him in the streets of Manhattan. Undeterred, Walsh took to camping out at the Ansonia Hotel where Ruth was living. Far more pestered than intrigued, the young Yankees star took to ducking out side doors to avoid the tenacious stalker, and hotel management forced Walsh onto the sidewalk, where he remained for days, waiting. Walsh had stopped in at a delicatessen next door to the Ansonia when his big break came. It was late February, just days before the Yankees would head south for their Hot Springs training grounds.

    Overhearing a telephone call ordering a case of beer to Ruth's room, Walsh convinced the deli owner to allow him to deliver it. Five minutes later he was standing in the Babe's hotel room. Before the slugger could eject him, Walsh asked what the United News had paid him for his ghostwritten articles.

    Five dollars a piece," Ruth told him.

    I can get you five hundred," Walsh insisted.

    The next day Christy Walsh returned to Ruth's hotel room with the document which leads off the special "
    Platinum Night" auction presented on the pages that follow. It marks not only the beginning of a lifetime association between Ruth and Walsh, but also the first public offering of The Christy Walsh Collection, an extraordinary archive from the definitive sports marketing pioneer. The remarkable, symbiotic relationship between Ruth and Walsh would continue for the rest of their lives, and Walsh's roster of talent would grow to include the greatest names in American sports. We offer a peek at its fascinating contents in lots 80001 through 80003, and advise you to stay tuned to future Heritage auctions to discover more of the treasures within.

    More information about Babe Ruth.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2010
    5th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 11,698

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