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March 29, 1914 Baltimore Sun Newspaper - Earliest-Known Image of Babe Ruth as a Professional Player
Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $3,600
Front page of the sports section from the Sunday, March 29, 1914, issue of the Baltimore Sun picturing Babe Ruth as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, his first professional club. This exceedingly rare newspaper page features what we believe to be the earliest-known image of Babe Ruth as a professional player. (It should be noted that this is one of fewer than five photos we have ever seen picturing Ruth as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.) Equally significant is the fact that the offered page undoubtedly represents one of Ruth's first (possibly his very first) appearances in any newspaper. Ruth signed with Baltimore right out of St. Mary's Industrial School on February 27, 1914, just one month prior to the publication of this paper. Given the fact that the team's first preseason exhibition game wasn't until the first week of March, and that Ruth, because of his young age (nineteen) and inexperience, was coddled early on by team owner/manager Jack Dunn, it seems reasonable to assume that Ruth was not yet the focal point of the team with regard to press coverage. At the very least we have never seen or heard of an earlier newspaper or periodical featuring a photo of Ruth, making this an extraordinary relic documenting the start of the greatest career in sports history.
Adding to the appeal of this historically significant piece is its stunning display quality. Ruth, along with one of his teammates (Gus Gleichman) and five members of the Philadelphia Athletics (Frank Baker, Eddie Collins, Wally Schang, Rube Oldring, and Eddie Murphy), is pictured in a large full-length pose as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. The two headlines above the photos read "Athletics Show Class In Beating Orioles" and "Some Of Connie Mack's World's Champions And Two Of The Orioles." Ruth is featured prominently here because he was the starting pitcher for the Orioles in an exhibition game against the A's held at Oriole Park in Baltimore the previous afternoon. Ruth is mentioned both in the article about the game, and in another article previewing a second exhibition game against the A's to be held that day at Back River Park.
One of the most interesting aspects of this piece is that in every instance Ruth is referred to as "George Ruth." Even though it has been firmly established by historians that Ruth received his famous nickname "Babe" from his teammates during spring training with the Orioles in 1914, as can be seen here, it had not yet gained widespread acceptance outside the clubhouse. As noted in the article, Ruth had already made a name for himself that spring when he defeated the World Champion A's in an exhibition game a week earlier in Wilmington, North Carolina. In this second contest, Ruth only lasted four innings, allowing seven hits and four runs in what was an eventual 12-5 victory by the A's. In part: "Manager Dunn trotted out George Ruth who defeated the Athletics last week in Wilmington. The youthful southpaw was not so fortunate this time, but would have fared better had his teammates backed him up. Derrick was off color, making three miscues. Ruth was unable to strike his stride either in the the box or at the bat. In batting practice he hit two long flies over the right field fence, but in the contest he fanned the first time up and Eddie Collins threw him out the second time." In the second article, previewing the upcoming contest, Ruth's ability on both the mound and at the plate again received attention. Eddie Collins is quoted as stating "Ruth looks to me like a sure comer. He has speed and a sharp curve and, believe me, he is strong in the pinches." Later in the piece the reporter again comments on Ruth's batting-practice performance the day before: "Ruth lifted a couple of balls over the right field fence during practice. He takes a long lunge at the ball and meets it on the nose. He holds his bat down at the end and puts all his weight into his swing."
Not surprisingly, this paper originates from the Baltimore area. It was first introduced to the collecting community in August 2007, when it was featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. The original owner always knew that this piece was special, a view which was confirmed by the sports experts on Roadshow, who selected it to be one of the featured items on air. The paper remained in private hands until 2012, when it appeared as Lot 1006 in Robert Edward Auctions' May auction, where it realized $4,740. It has been consigned to this auction directly by the original purchaser. The paper (18.5 x 24.5 inches), which is remarkably well preserved, has been dry mounted onto a cardboard backing and matted to total dimensions of 20 x 27 inches. The paper is moderately toned and displays a few light scattered stains (one of which touches upon Ruth's leg) and tiny edge tears, none of which significantly detract from its overall Excellent appearance. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $3,600
(Click the smaller thumbnails to the left and right (if any) to cycle through each photo in the gallery of images for this lot.)