Babe Ruth’s Red Sox Contract Sells For $1 Million at Auction

It was the last-known copy of the legal paperwork that tied the slugger to the team.

Image Courtesy of Goldin Auctions

Image Courtesy of Goldin Auctions

An auction company hit a grand-slam when they sold off historical documents that belonged to George “Babe” Ruth, dating back to his time in Boston, to the tune of $1 million.

During a special auction event last weekend, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the player’s first time on the field, Ruth’s 1918 contract with the Boston Red Sox changed hands and became the property of a private investor.

The company that auctioned off the the 96-year-old legal document, Goldin Auctions, based in New Jersey, said it was owned by Ruth himself, and is the earliest known existing Ruth contract. “It was…especially appropriate that records were set when we honored the man who set more records than any player in baseball history,” said Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions, about the July 12 auction held in Baltimore.

Ruth’s contract, signed in 1918, stipulated that the legendary player would receive just $3,500 per season, with an extra $1,500 incentive, marking the last time that the player would take the field for less than a five-figure deal.  “[There were] three copies of an ‘American League Player’s Contract,’” according to representatives from the company that put it out to bid. “One kept by the Red Sox, one sent to the American League, and the third—this one —kept by Babe Ruth himself. This contract, the Babe’s own, is the only 1918 that has survived.”

The company said the historical significance of the contract goes beyond the fact that it’s the last of its kind. The year, 1918, marks a time when Ruth transitioned from his role as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox—something that regularly brought swelling crowds to Fenway Park to see him perform—to the home-run slugging hitter he later came to be recognized as.

It also marked what later became known as the “Curse of the Bambino,” when Ruth departed from Boston to go to the Yankees in 1920, leaving the Sox without a World Series win for nearly a century after he left. “The Sox met the Cubs in the World Series and Ruth won both the first and fourth games as the team won their last World Championship until 2004. By the time the series ended, Ruth’s $5,000 contract seemed like the best bargain in baseball,” the company said in their description of the document.

The document fetched more money than the contract signed by Ruth when he switched to the Yankees.

Other items that were being sold that belonged to Ruth included a game-used bat and a signed baseball. Some additional items from the collection are still available for bid on the company’s website. More than 1,200 lots of memorabilia, including more than 150 Ruth items, will be on sale through July 18.

“We thank the 100 bidders who attended the live auction and the thousands others who bid online. We are excited to keep the action going online for another week for collectors all across the world,” said Goldin.

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