1938 Brooklyn Dodgers Signed Autograph Album with Babe Ruth

Sold For: $2,350

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1724

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This vintage autograph album features the signatures of nine members of the 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers (four players are represented twice, for a total of thirteen signatures), including Babe Ruth, who was the club’s first-base coach, manager Burleigh Grimes, and Kiki Cuyler. Ideally, we know exactly when and where these signatures were obtained due to the fact that one of the Fred Frankhouse signatures also includes the following notation below his name: “Aug, 11, 1938/North Adams, Mass.” Research indicates that the Brooklyn Dodgers, prior to a five-game road trip against the Boston Braves, traveled to North Adams, Massachusetts to play an exhibition game against the local Sons of Italy at Noel Field. The main draw for fans, of course, was Babe Ruth, who started for the Dodgers in the game, while manager Burleigh Grimes took the mound. Ruth’s presence drew over 3,500 fans to the exhibition game and although we were unable to learn how Ruth fared at the plate, we do know that the Dodgers recorded a 6-2 win. Not coincidentally, this autograph album was just recently discovered during the liquidation of an estate in North Adams, Massachusetts and is therefore new to the hobby. All of the Dodgers signatures appear on partial sheets or cuts that have been affixed to the album pages. Ruth’s signature, which has been boldly executed in black fountain pen (grading “9,” with just the slightest hint of brushing) appears on a sheet together with the black fountain pen signature of Buddy Hassett. What is interesting is the fact that Ruth's uniform number, "35," (presumably written in his hand), appears next to his signature. The remaining Dodgers signatures in the album (with the number of signatures for each player, if more than one, noted in parentheses) are those of Burleigh Grimes (2), Kiki Cuyler, Vito Tamulis, Goody Rosen (2), Tot Pressnell (2), Fred Frankhouse (2), and Wayne LaMaster. All of the signatures have been scripted in pencil, with the exception of Ruth, Hassett, and one of the Frankhouse signatures, and grade “9” overall. The fifty-six page book features a number of other signatures and inscriptions, none of which are ballplayers or celebrities (most appear to be those belonging to friends of the original owner). One of the primary reasons Ruth was asked to join the Dodgers' coaching staff in 1938, although it was unbeknownst to him initially, was for his star power. He was a great drawing card. Every father and every young kid in America wanted the chance to see baseball's greatest legend. His contract even stipulated that he was to take batting practice with the team before every game just so he could put on a "home run" show for the fans. His ability to put fans in the seats was especially evident during the team's exhibitions games. Back then, unlike today, most Major League teams played exhibition games during the regular season in order to generate extra revenue, and with Ruth on the field the Dodgers were a particularly strong draw at the gate. Ruth played in all of the Dodgers' exhibition games in 1938 and his presence in the lineup was heralded weeks in advance at every venue where the team was scheduled to appear. Ruth, who joined the Dodgers coaching staff on the pretense that he was in line for a future managerial position, dutifully took part in these exhibition games, but he was not happy about it. Ruth had no interest in being a sideshow attraction; he wanted to be manager. Disgusted with the situation, he left the Dodgers at season's end. Unfortunately, his dream of becoming a manager never came to fruition; thus his Major League career came to an official close with the Dodgers at the end of the 1938 season. The soft-cover album (6.25 x 4.5 inches) displays moderate wear and is in Excellent condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,000+. SOLD FOR $2,350

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