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Winning Bid:
$78,529.00 (Includes 18% Buyer's Premium)
Bidding Ended:
Tuesday, March 21, 2023 9:00:00 PM (20 Minute Clock Begins At Tuesday, March 21, 2023 9:00:00 PM)
Time Left:
Auction #237 - Session I
Value Code:
P - $20,000 to $35,000 Help Icon
Item Description
Offered here is one of the finest examples of pre-war baseball photography in existence, a Type I portrait depicting the athlete with the greatest combination of pitching and hitting skills in baseball history, George Herman "Babe" Ruth. Accompanied by a PSA/DNA Type I LOA, this amazing relic is credited to one of the preeminent baseball photographers of the early 20th century, Paul Thompson. Adding to the desirability of this photograph is the fact that PSA has identified it as being c. 1920, at the very dawn of the Babe's New York Yankees baseball tenure.

After appearing in just a handful of games during the summer of 1914 for the Boston Red Sox, the Babe would take the American League by storm in 1915, immediately establishing himself as the top lefty hurler in the AL while also showing some pop in the batter's box. For the next four seasons, Ruth would be the focal point for Boston's World Championship teams. Following the 1919 season, the Babe and Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee were unable to come to a contract agreement for 1920. Thus, Frazee worked out terms with New York Yankees ownership to sell Ruth to their ball club. By this time, Babe was a full-time outfielder and the leading home run hitter in all of baseball, out homering entire AL teams for a full season.

The New York Yankees of the early 1920s were in the process of building what would become baseball's preeminent dynasty for the remainder of the 20th century. Joining the Babe in New York during 1923 was Henry Louis Gehrig, who would go on to become the back half of the greatest one-two punch in baseball history. The Yankees dynasty would peak during the 1927 season as the club loaded with myriad Hall of Famers, would be labeled "Murderer's Row" and become widely regarded as the greatest team in MLB history.

From an individual standpoint, the Babe would go on to finish his career with a batting average of .342 along with a then record 714 home runs and 2,214 RBI's, leading the AL in runs scored, home runs, RBI's and walks numerous times each. In addition, Ruth would finish his mound career with an amazing record of 94-46 with a 2.28 career ERA. The Babe was easily the best two-way player in baseball history and most experts would considering him the #1 overall ballplayer in baseball history. Ruth's career culminated with his election into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 as part of the inaugural five man class along with Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

Photo is 6.5x8.5". Taking a closer look at this image, the pure joy of playing baseball for a living which is visible on the Babe's face cannot be denied. The fact that the photograph was taken by such a historic photographer as Paul Thompson adds even another level of collectability. Reverse has photographer's stamp along with original publication notations including handwritten caption "A Babe Study/Pleased With His Day's Performance." Years later a label reading "Babe Ruth 1927" was erroneously added to the top left. We ask you to ignore that in light of the PSA/DSA findings. Photo exhibits just minor aging and trace of handling wear, mostly only seen in reflected light.

A review of past auction house sales of similar period Babe Ruth photographs taken by Thompson have brought five-figure sales on nearly every occasion, including $43,200 in 2020 but for a photo deemed c. 1920s, not pinpointing to 1920 as the one offered here . It should be duly noted, however, that the vast majority of Thompson-Ruth photos out there were full-body action shots as opposed to the close-up, crystal clear portrait image. Player portraits are typically the more desirable type of image and we can't argue with that in this case.

Don't pass up this opportunity to acquire one of the true gems of vintage baseball photography, we have never seen another example of this image come to auction, so it may very well be unique.
Pictures (click images to zoom in)