Likely dates to the season of his fabled "Called Shot!"Circa 1932 Babe Ruth Game Worn New York Yankees Cap. It seems only fitting that a hardworking young boy should become the beneficiary of this remarkable gift passed through the hands of two New York Yankees Hall of Famers. Its original owner, the iconic Babe Ruth, authored the definitive American "rags to riches" story with his journey from a Baltimore orphanage to the pinnacle of international celebrity. And legendary manager Joe McCarthy, the intermediary between the Babe and a young paperboy named Robert O'Brian, likely saw in the youngster the same noble work ethic that made Lou Gehrig his favorite charge on the Yankees roster.
O'Brian's lengthy letter of provenance announces that he met the Yankees manager in the course of his newspaper delivery route in the Buffalo, NY neighborhood they shared. "They [the McCarthys] had no children," O'Brian wrote, "and we just seemed to take to one another." He fondly recalls Mrs. McCarthy tapping on the window as he passed, inviting him in for "part of the chicken she was preparing for dinner. I always looked forward to this treat." On another occasion, O'Brian happened upon the McCarthy residence as he hosted a dinner party. McCarthy invited him in "then proceeded to introduce me to Gehrig, Dr. Defoe, who delivered the Dionne quintuplets, Quinton Reynolds--sports writer--Rabbit Maranville--an old time ballplayer--and others whose names I have forgotten."
On one occasion early in the 1932 season, The Buffalo Evening News had a contest awarding a trip to Cleveland to watch the Indians play the Yankees to any boy who signed up twelve new customers. O'Brian quickly filled that quota, and visited McCarthy in the dugout at League Park. A photocopy of a news photo of the two together is included, along with a photocopy of Bobby's ticket stub from the contest.
"Among some of the memorabilia Joe gave me," O'Brian writes, "was Babe Ruth's cap, Wiltsie Moore's uniform (which was stolen when my family moved during the war), several autographed baseballs signed by Ruth, Gehrig, Gomez, Dickey, Crosetti, Lazerri, Keller and the rest of the team."
Exhaustive research by leading game used uniform experts MEARS (Memorabilia Evaluations and Research Services) finds no fault with O'Brian's tale, referencing two other Yankees caps (worn by Miller Huggins and Tony Lazzeri) with the same method of player identification, a typed swatch sewn into the leather headband of the interior (here it reads "B. Ruth.") The Huggins model was donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame by Ed Barrow, and the Lazzeri was consigned to a 2003 auction by his family. Ruth's final Yankees caps have the name embroidered directly into the headband, the standard for most of the 1930's. Considering this fact, along with the certainty that the cap could only derive from McCarthy and Ruth's shared years of Yankee service (1931-34), it has been determined that it likely derives from the 1932 season that O'Brian visited McCarthy in Cleveland on the Buffalo newsboy excursion.
The cap exhibits heavy wear with some minor loss to the "NY" logo and splitting of the navy material at the edge of the visor. The appearance of some white paint speckles reminds us that baseball memorabilia once held very little esteem--we've seen other occasions as well when caps and uniforms were worn to keep paint off one's "good clothes." Such appears to be the staggeringly ironic case here.
Ownership of Babe Ruth uniform material from his historic New York Yankees tenure places the collector in the most elite of hobby brotherhoods, and one could count the available caps on a single hand. David Wells' personally owned model, which he himself famously wore on the mound in a 1997 pitching appearance, recently made hobby history with a record price north of a half million dollars. A jersey worn by Ruth became the highest-priced item of sports collectibles ever sold at over $4.4 million in the same event. Clearly the Ruth market is stronger than ever, and we expect those collectors with an eye toward investment potential to play a leading role in the bidding activity for this true American treasure. LOA from MEARS, Authentic.
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