Babe Ruth Yankees jersey sells for record $5.64 million
Babe Ruth is still producing eye-popping numbers 84 years after his baseball career ended.
A Yankees jersey said to have been worn by him during the team’s “Murderers’ Row” period of the late 1920s fetched $5.64 million at an auction over the weekend. That set a record, by more than a million dollars, for a piece of sports memorabilia.
The previous record was held by a 1920 Ruth jersey, which sold for just over $4.4 million in 2012. This weekend’s auction was held at Yankee Stadium, with a trove of items contributed by members of Ruth’s family.
“I just want people to enjoy and appreciate my grandfather’s stuff,” Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, said before the event, which was conducted by Pennsylvania-based Hunt Auctions.
“The legacy and significance of Babe Ruth to the game of baseball and American popular culture is unmatched by any other figure in the history of this country,” the company’s president, David Hunt, said in a statement. “We were completely humbled for this opportunity afforded to our company by the Ruth family to present this previously unknown archive of materials to Babe’s adoring fans.”
“While the record-setting prices attained today are certainly astonishing, I am not surprised at all given the incredible materials and the mythical status the Babe holds in the history of this country,” Hunt added.
Tosetti said a portion of the auction’s proceeds would go to charity. In announcing the event in December, she said (via Newsday) that she struggled with the decision to part with so many items, but that younger members of the family indicated they were unable or unwilling to continue to store so much Ruth memorabilia.
In a career that started with the First World War-era Red Sox before he was infamously traded to the Yankees, the “Sultan of Swat” both revolutionized and transcended baseball. Ruth slugged home runs at a pace that had never been seen before and would not be matched for decades, and his bon-vivant personality made him a household name and marketing sensation.
In its extensive write-up for the Ruth jersey, Hunt Auctions noted that Ruth’s success as a pitchman contributed to a large variety of items made available over the years. However, the auction house claimed that game-worn apparel of his is extremely rare, with the jersey sold Saturday being the only one of its kind from the “Murderers’ Row” period.
That was when, for the only time in franchise history, the Yankees bore their team name on the fronts of their jerseys. Hunt Auctions said it was likely that the jersey it sold was worn by Ruth in either 1928 or 1929.
Thus the only drawback for collectors might have been that the jersey could not be attributed to the legendary 1927 Yankees, considered by many to be the greatest team in Major League Baseball history. In addition, the grey-flannel garment was worn during road games, so it lacked the Yankees’ iconic pinstripes.
Nevertheless, the rarity of the item and Ruth’s still-revered status meant that the availability of the jersey created headlines and predictions of a record price. The identity of the purchaser has not been disclosed.
“It’s a superlative piece of American history, not just sports history,” Hunt said of the jersey last week (via Newsday). “It embodies everything about baseball history, about collecting, iconic people, pop culture, you name it.”
Hunt claimed his company and “others in the industry” had “no idea” Ruth’s family was in possession of so much memorabilia.
“They did a wonderful job keeping it quiet all those years for a lot of reasons, for security, personal reasons, what have you,” he said. “It’s really an important group of things, some of which have quite literally never been seen by the public before.”
Born in Baltimore in 1895, Ruth died in New York in 1948. He played 22 MLB seasons between 1914 and 1935, and his 714 home runs are third all-time. He is second with 2,214 RBI and first with 182.4 wins above replacement (per Baseball Reference).