1916 BOSTON RED SOX "AMERICAN LEAGUE/WORLD'S CHAMPIONS" W/BABE RUTH AMAZING ADVERTISING BUTTON.
Presented here is perhaps the all-time crème de la crème of baseball buttons. The only example extant. It is six inches in diameter, the largest baseball button made up until that point in history. It features head shots of 25 Boston Red Sox teammates identified below their picture: 24 of the Red Sox players plus their manager, (Bill) Carrigan. The head shots are arrayed in two concentric circles. Fifteen players are featured in the outer circle (including Babe Ruth at the 11 o'clock position), and nine players plus Carrigan are in the inner circle. The picture of Carrigan is accented by a wreath and crossed bats. Interlaced between the encircled players are illustrated graphics associated with the game of baseball, including balls, bats, a catcher's mask, a catcher's mitt, a pair of baseball cleats, a first-baseman's glove, an outfielder's glove, a base, and a home plate. The wording above the picture of Carrigan states, "World Champions 1916." The wording below the picture of Carrigan states, "Boston Red Sox American League." The middle of the button states, "Drink Alpen Brau, Detroit's Champion Beer". The bottom curl identifies the maker of this giant celluloid as "Cruver Mfg. Co., Chicago". The photos starting at top center and going clockwise are: Carrigan, Shore, Leonard, Barry, Hoblitzel, Scott, Janvrin, Gardner, McNally, Agnew, Cady, Jones, Mays, Gainor, Gregg, Pennock (HOF), Thomas, Shorten, Walsh, Henriksen, Lewis, Walker, Hooper (HOF), Foster and finally and most importantly, Babe Ruth.
George Herman "Babe" Ruth signed his first professional baseball contract with the International League's Baltimore Orioles prior to the 1914 baseball season. Ruth's only prior baseball experience came at Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reform school that he had attended since childhood. The Boston Red Sox purchased the Babe's contract from the Orioles on July 9, 1914 and the rest, as they say, is history. Only getting into five games with the Red Sox that season, Ruth was sent down to their minor league club in Providence for more seasoning. The Babe was well prepared for his first full season in Boston in 1915, however, and responded with a sterling 18-8 record and a 2.44 ERA, while also showing prowess at the plate with 15 extra base hits in only 103 at bats. Although the Red Sox would go on to win the World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies in five games, Ruth did not pitch in any of the postseason games that year.
The following season, 1916, would be Babe Ruth's real coming out party. Now widely regarded as the best young southpaw in the American League, the Babe posted the first of his back-to-back 20 win seasons with a record of 23-12 alongside a league leading 1.75 earned run average. Ruth also led the American League with 40 games started, 9 shutouts and only 6.4 hits allowed per 9 innings (and no homers allowed all season long). Once again, Boston won the American League pennant and went on to the World Series. This time, however, the Babe did get a start and responded with a masterpiece, pitching all 14 innings to pick up the win, allowing only one run on 6 hits. The Red Sox would go on to defeat the Brooklyn Robins, 4 games to 1, to claim their second consecutive World Championship. At the age of only 21 years old, Ruth already had two World Championships under his belt and would go on to win another five Championships before his long and illustrious career was over.
In the decade of 1910-1919, only three teams represented the American League in the World Series. The first was the Philadelphia Athletics: 1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914 (losing only in 1914 to the "Miracle Braves" who issued a spectacular button/ribbon of their own). The second was the Boston Red Sox: 1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918 (winning all four). The third was the Chicago White Sox: 1917 and 1919 (winning the first and intentionally losing the second). There is an uncanny pattern between the World Series buttons of the Athletics and the Red Sox in their respective four-time World Series appearances. The Athletics made several beautiful buttons following their first two World Championships. They made one button following their third championship in 1913 but none in 1914. A similar pattern emerges for the Red Sox. A few buttons were made following their 1912 World Championship. In 1915 came the most attractive Red Sox World Series buttons. Both the buttons and/or accompanying beautiful ribbons referred to the "Royal Rooters." It was also following the 1915 World Series that they were referred to on one button (as well as a pennant) as the Boston Red "Sox's." The term contains a double linguistic error: there is no plural of "Sox" and the apostrophe makes no sense. To the best of our knowledge, this button of their third World Championship is the only one that was made (just as only one button was made of the Athletics third World Championship). Finally, there is no known button of the 1918 World Series. This is most likely due to the national crisis at the time. The United States was in its second year of fighting WWI. The national edict was "Work or Fight." The 1918 baseball season was abruptly halted on September 1, 1918. The two teams in first place at the time were declared League Champions. The Boston Red Sox went on to defeat the Chicago Cubs in a poorly attended World Series. Button makers in Philadelphia made all of the buttons of the Athletics. Button makers in Boston made all of the buttons of the Red Sox, except one. This one, further adding to the uniqueness and allure of this wonderful keepsake.
This beer advertising celluloid button has a concave metal back finished in its original red paint, well over 90% intact, and a pair of 1/8" holes on the top rim which once held either a string to hang or a wire easel so the piece could be propped up for display. In addition to some light all over general surface wear, so typical of any button this large, there are just a few condition issues to note for complete accuracy. First, there is a dent which slightly flattened the bottom edge a length of 1.5" below the photos of Gregg and Mays. Second is outer edge stain, quite light, that begins at 1 o'clock and continues to 11 o'clock. At the most, this moisture mark goes inward .5" or less (mostly less) showing most at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Third are a pair of hairline air streaks each appearing as a thin whitish line one between 8-9 o'clock crossing Henriksen photo and one between 9-10 o'clock crossing Foster photo with both ending around the mid-point of the center circle. Fourth, the slight convex celluloid surface has a shallow dent on the right edge between 3-4 o'clock slightly depressing the celluloid over Janvrin. Fifth is barely seen side edge flattening at 9 o'clock about .75" long next to Henriksen. With these condition issues, we are calling this button VG; however none of these issues detracts substantially from the terrific eye appeal of this celluloid which retains its overall glossy appearance.
Dr. Muchinsky considered this button to be the capstone of his collection and chose to display it alone on the back cover of his encyclopedic book Baseball Pinback Buttons which documented his collection as of 2004. Due to its significance in the hobby, Hake's has followed suit and presented this amazing relic as a standalone piece on the front cover of our current auction catalog, something that has never happened before with a sports memorabilia piece throughout the long and storied history of our company. Indeed, after extensive marketplace research, this is the sole example known to us and everyone else we've consulted in the hobby.
Dr. Muchinsky also considered this beauty to be the most valuable button in his collection. However, in order to put this one-of-a-kind memento into its proper perspective, let's take a look at the past decade of skyrocketing prices for all rookie-era Babe Ruth/Boston Red Sox memorabilia. We have seen even low to mid-grade examples of Ruth's M101-5/4 Sporting News rookie cards routinely fetch six-figure prices at public auction with high-grade examples approaching seven figures and likely over 100 examples of this widely sought after rookie card believed to exist, especially when taking into account all of the various advertising backs that are known. Of course, Ruth's first ever baseball card, produced in 1914 as part of a Baltimore News minor league issue, would surely command a seven-figure price tag at auction in today's market, and there are roughly 10-12 of those believed to exist. In addition, Boston Red Sox team postcards from this same 1915-1916 rookie-era have brought prices approaching $100K in recent years, again with several copies known to exist, so the sky is the limit with any early Ruth/BoSox memorabilia. Imagine what an only known rookie card issue of the Babe would sell for, well that's what you are looking at right here. Likely, a once in a lifetime opportunity to own this historic and most special baseball artifact. Paul Muchinsky Collection.