Agreement sending Babe Ruth to New York Yankees goes to auction

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One of the most famous documents in sports is going up for auction.

The sales contract of Babe Ruth, forged in December 1919, that sent the pitcher and slugger from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees is being sold by auctioneer Lelands.com.

Lelands’ Josh Evans said the document being sold is the original copy of the contract belonging to then-Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert. The copy once owned by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee last sold for $996,000 in 2005.

“This is the Curse of the Bambino,” Evans said. “It transcends everything. It changed America.”

In the early 1990s, Evans said he visited the home of famed collector Barry Halper and saw a binder labeled “Ruth.” In it, Evans said, were both originals of the sales contract. Evans bought Frazee’s copy for $25,000, and it was auctioned for $99,000 in 1993.

At the request of a collector who missed out, Evans said he bought Ruppert’s copy for $150,000 and sold it to the collector who consigned it to this auction. That collector has held it for nearly 25 years, and, according to Evans, turned down an offer for $5 million at one point.

After the 1919 season, Frazee famously sold Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000. Frazee also received a $300,000 loan from the Yankees to seal the deal. The loan was secured using a mortgage on Fenway Park, meaning if Frazee defaulted, the Yankees would have owned the Red Sox’s ballpark.

Many speculated that Frazee used the deal to assist his struggling theater business, but the owner also explained at the time that Ruth was “more spectacular than useful.” Ruth had broken the single-season home run record in 1919 with 29 — 17 more than the next highest total — even though he started 15 games as a pitcher, finishing 12. But the team, which had won it all in 1918, didn’t fare well that year.

“What the Boston fans want, I take it, and what I want because they want it, is a winning team, rather than a one-man team that finishes in sixth place,” Frazee said.

Frazee also didn’t like Ruth’s lifestyle, often filled with drinking and huge meals.

Frazee sold the Red Sox in 1923 without returning back to the top. In fact, the Red Sox weren’t even competitive until 1934. “The Curse of The Bambino” continued, as the team came up empty in its next four World Series appearances.

The Yankees won 26 titles before the Red Sox won their next one in 2004 and then added two more (2007 and 2013).

The most valuable collectible contracts in sports have been those involving Ruth. Ruth’s 1918 Red Sox contract sold in 2014 for $1.02 million. In the past 14 months, Goldin Auctions has sold three other Ruth contracts — his 1921-23 ($537,750), his 1931-32 ($384,000) and his 1935 Boston Braves contract ($360,000).

Lelands.com is also selling Ruth’s 1927 World Series ring — believed to be owned by Charlie Sheen. Evans would say only that the ring has never been sold publicly and that the chain of custody went from Ruth’s widow, Claire, to Barry Halper to Evans, who sold it to the current seller.

“The ring is insanely over the top,” Evans said. “It’s the greatest thing you can own from the greatest player in the greatest year. It’s absurd.”

Evans said he expects the ring to break the record rings at auction. Julius Erving’s 1974 New York Nets ABA championship ring was sold for $460,471 by SCP Auctions in 2011.



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