Babe Ruth Auction To Benefit Babe Ruth Foundation Closing February 18
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 2/18/2017
Come one, come all. Step inside and join us for a drink at Ruth's Cafe. Let's raise a glass to the 20-year-old phenom named Babe who just won the 1915 World's Series up in Boston. Now he's back home with us in Baltimore's waterfront district and has generously put his winner's share toward this here cozy saloon for his old man. See the Bambino himself there, tending bar? If you're in the know, the big fella may even train you on a punching bag in the private back room. Care for some Christmas eggnog from the punch bowl? Cheers!
Attendees of the 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore may recall the hoopla that surrounded the last offering of one such 1915 "Ruth's Cafe" original photograph. Auctioned mere blocks away from the tavern's historic locale (38 Eutaw Street—today a strip club), that predecessor sold for the blockbuster price of $55,000 when the gavel finally came down. Fewer than a handful of other authentic originals have ever been unearthed or made publicly available.
Not only does this particular surviving example hail directly from the collection of the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum, but what's more, a full 100% of the proceeds from its sale will be donated back to the non-profit organization. Described by best-selling sports biographer Jane Leavy as "The only known [Ruth family] photograph of father and son," the 7 1/2 x 9 5/8 crystal-clear image was taken in December 1915 by Baltimore photographer Vincent Velzis. It depicts depicts proprietor George Sr. and financier George Jr. as almost mirror images. Mounted on an 11 7/8 x 13 3/4 inch black backing, they wear matching barkeep outfits, lean one hand on the back bar, stare mirthlessly at the camera. Their physique is similar. Their round, putty faces, too—though George the Elder's is worn with age and more resembles Babe circa 1935. Accompanying these resolute Ruth men are a third drink-mixer, a waiter, a standing customer and seated dog, plus two little-noticed staff women in the far doorway. The long, tin-ceilinged tavern is elaborately festooned with Christmas tinsel, ornaments and lights. A spitoon trough lines the floor. Signs entice the coming dinner crowd to try the "Oyster Raw Bar" and "Take Home a Fry." A 25-cent purchase is rung up on the register. The photograph has been mounted on a black cardboard backing.
It was the last off-season that Babe and Helen spent in Baltimore before they bought a year-round home up in Boston. George Sr., for his part, continued running the business until August 25, 1918. Just a few days before the Red Sox clinched the pennant, Babe received word that his father had gotten into a brawling fistfight with a brother-in-law, cracked his skull on the pavement out front of Ruth's Cafe, and died within hours. Orphaned at 23, Babe never again spoke of the incident.
Preservation-wise, although there are noticeable condition flaws (such as a horizontal crease, missing corners and peripheral chipping/wear), the all-important central area of the Ruths themselves is wholly intact. What's more, in sharp contrast to inferior later-generation examples, this original, first-generation, Type I specimen boasts unmatched image clarity right down to every last minute detail of the dazzling scene. Dimensions of the photo and mount are, respectively, 7 1/2 x 9 5/8 inches and 11 7/8 x 13 3/4 inches. This photograph has been classified as a Type I by PSA/DNA. This item was obtained directly from the Babe Ruth Museum and 100% of the high bid price of this lot will be donated to the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.
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