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Lot # 11 (of 1560)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Circa 1932 Babe Ruth New York Yankees Game-Used Cap

Starting Bid - $50,000, Sold For - $99,875

For a complete description of the Babe Ruth cap please go to:

http://www.robertedwardauctions.com/auction/2009_preview/11.html


The following is a slightly edited (shortened) version:

There are so few surviving Babe Ruth Yankee caps (fewer than five, including the one at the Hall of Fame and the example owned by David Wells), and all are so great, that determining which is the best is not only very subjective, it is almost a moot point. That said, this example has a strong claim to that title based on the following: 1) it has an unrivaled provenance; 2) it is one of the earliest (possibly the very earliest) of the few known Babe Ruth New York Yankees caps; and 3) it is the only example that can be dated with relative certainty to any particular year, let alone to such an important season: 1932, the year of the Yankees' final World Championship season led by the legendary Murderers' Row lineup, and, perhaps even more important, the year of ‘The Called Shot.’

This 1932 New York Yankees cap not only holds the distinction of being one of the earliest Babe Ruth New York Yankees cap in existence, but it is also the most thoroughly researched and authenticated early cap example of any player we have ever offered. As most collectors are aware, attribution of baseball caps to specific players often requires a leap of faith. Not so here! This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a New York Yankees cap worn by Babe Ruth and it is accompanied by an impeccable and fully documented line of provenance, having originated as a gift directly from the personal collection of Yankees Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy. The cap was purchased by a longtime and highly respected Buffalo area collector directly from Robert O'Brien in 1988. (A copy of the bank check to O'Brien accompanies; the price at the time was $6,600, which might not sound like a lot, but back in 1988 a Babe Ruth uniform was only $10,000). During the early 1930s Robert O'Brien was a neighbor of McCarthy's in Buffalo, New York, as well as his paperboy. O'Brien, who was thirteen at the time, dutifully delivered the Buffalo Evening News to the McCarthy residence each night and in a short time he became quite friendly with both Joe McCarthy and his wife. As O'Brien writes in his accompanying four-page letter, over the years, as their friendship grew, McCarthy often gave O'Brien gifts, including Yankee memorabilia: ‘Among some of the memorabilia Joe gave me was Babe Ruth's cap.’ The letter is also accompanied by a photocopy of a 1932 newspaper photo that was published in the Buffalo Evening News of O'Brien and McCarthy posing together in the Yankee dugout (O'Brien presented McCarthy with a gift on behalf of the Buffalo Evening News delivery boys). O'Brien was born in 1919 and is still alive and well to this day. He was thirteen years old when Joe McCarthy gave him this Babe Ruth cap.

While the line of provenance is extraordinary, verifiable, and to most would suffice in fully attributing this cap to Babe Ruth, for the offered example it is simply the proverbial ‘icing on the cake.’ This cap speaks for itself. The navy wool cap features the Yankees familiar ‘NY’ logo embroidered in white on the front. A Spalding label is stamped on the interior leather headband. Directly to the left of the manufacturer's label is a partially torn white strip tag (stitched to headband) that reads ‘B. Ruth’ in black typed letters. This manner of player identification is very significant, as it both defines the cap as Ruth's and only Ruth's (not unlike chain-stitching in uniforms or in caps of more recent years) and also helps to date the cap. We know, from having seen numerous other exemplars, that throughout much of the 1930s and 1940s the Yankees, as well as a number of other teams, stitched the player's name directly into the headband. That is not the case with earlier Yankees caps dating from the late 1920s through the very early 1930s. Instead, the player's name was printed onto a white cloth tag, which was then sewn on the headband in a very distinctive manner, as is the case here.

McCarthy joined the Yankees in 1931 and first became friendly with O'Brien in 1932. While O'Brien never stated in his letter exactly when he received the Ruth cap, based on the evidence it seems a virtual certainty that it was given to him in exactly 1932. The newspaper photo of McCarthy and O'Brien that we previously cited was from 1932; McCarthy did not join the Yankees until 1931; and most of O'Brien's remembrances regarding McCarthy revolve around the time he was thirteen years old, which, given his age, would have been exactly 1932. The newspaper article caption even notes that O'Brien is thirteen years old. A letter with envelope sent by Mrs. McCarthy from New York to O'Brien (a copy of which also accompanies), regarding a baseball signed by the entire Yankees team which the McCarthys are bringing back to Buffalo for him, is postmarked 1932. Also factoring into the timeline is the fact that Ruth was only with the Yankees until 1934 and we know that sometime in the early to mid 1930s the Yankees began the practice of chain-stitching the players' names directly into the headband of caps. While it's certainly possible that this cap dates from slightly earlier, logic dictates that the Ruth hat O'Brien received from McCarthy in 1932 dates from that same year. 1932 was Ruth's last great year, as he batted .341 with 41 home runs and 137 RBI. It was also the year of his "Called Shot" in the World Series, and the season marked Ruth's final World Championship with the Yankees. We believe it may be possible to precisely photo match this cap as the exact shape of the interlocking "NY" logo on the cap is, in fact, unique, though perfect photo matching of this detail would require the good fortune of finding an ideal matching photo. This is an extraordinary New York Yankees cap, with unprecedented documentation and provenance, worn by the greatest player in baseball history! The offered Ruth cap displays heavy wear throughout. There are some very tiny, scattered pinpoint dots of white paint (of no consequence and mentioned strictly for the sake of accuracy). There is some very minor thread loss from wear to the interlocking ‘NY’ logo on the front and the visor is partially separated from the hat along the right side. A few splits to the fabric are visible along the edge of the brim and the interior leather headband displays cracking and numerous tears. Authentic Babe Ruth New York Yankees caps are exceedingly rare. They are much rarer than Ruth bats and we would hazard a guess that there are even fewer Ruth Yankee caps known than Ruth game jerseys. There is no more prestigious player in baseball history or in the collecting world than Babe Ruth, and therefore no better baseball cap than a Babe Ruth cap. Of the small number of Ruth caps we have seen, the offered example is without question the finest, both in terms of authenticity and provenance. LOA from Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $50,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $99,875


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