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On This Date in Sports March 8, 1930: Babe Cashes In
Babe Ruth signs a two-year contract worth $160,000 with the New York Yankees. Upon giving Ruth, his new contract, Yankees General Manager Ed Barrow, declared that “No one will ever be paid more.” The contract was shocking for its time, as his $80,000 salary was more than that of President Herbert Hoover, who was getting $75,000. When asked about getting more than the President, the Babe responded that he had a better year.
Babe Ruth had been the highest-paid player in baseball since he came to the Yankees a decade earlier. He had made $70,000 in 1929 and was seeking a three-year contract at a time that player contracts were typically year-to-year with the reserve clause locked in. The contract amount was especially shocking since the stock market crash in October had begun the great depression. Naturally, this fit in with the line by Babe Ruth that he had a better year than the President.
The $80,000 that Babe Ruth made in 1930 and 1931 were the biggest contracts of his career. As his career began to diminish, Ruth’s salary was lowered as was everyone else in the game, as the depression took a toll on the game. Babe Ruth would have the game’s top salary until 1935 when Lou Gehrig took over the top spot making a mere $31,000. Ed Barrow’s prediction that nobody would make more money would hold true for two decades before Joe DiMaggio got $100,000.
Six-figure salaries remained an outlier through the 1950s as Willie Mays was baseball’s top earner making $80,000 in 1960. By that time with inflation, the $80,000 Mays was made half the value of Ruth’s $80,000 three decades earlier. Of course, the reserve clause locked players to teams, and teams held all the power. In 1957 Mickey Mantle famously got a pay cut after winning the triple crown, because he lost points on his batting average.
After the reserve clause disappeared and free agency bean, baseball salaries began their rapid climb. Nolan Ryan was baseball’s first millionaire, making $1 million after signing with the Houston Astros in 1980. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is slated to be the highest-paid player in 2020, making $37.7 million.
Given the value and large demand for Ruth's signature, it's also sadly the most commonly forged.
So, how do you determine if a Babe Ruth autograph is real?
His signature does exhibit some distinct characteristics that can at least help you get started:
- The 'B' in 'Babe' has that looping hook to start and never really closes off at the bottom
- The 'e' in 'Babe' is more of a capital 'e' than a lower case 'e'
- The 'R' in 'Ruth' exhibits a unique, bubbly loop to it
- The 'u' in 'Ruth' starts with an upward swing to it
- The 't' in 'Ruth' crosses on through the 'h'
Also look for other clues such as whether the age of the ink and medium are the right age for the time period.
The style has to be right, too.
For example, earlier I mentioned that Ruth stopped putting his name in quotes after the 1920's. So if someone is trying to sell you an item from the late 1930's or 1940's and his name is in quotes, that should immediately raise eyebrows.
Or, if you see a baseball signed as "George Herman Ruth" then that should be suspicious as well since he really only signed that way on formal documents.
The safest and easiest way is to let a professional authenticator evaluate it for you.
There are multiple professional grading companies out there who can authenticate his signature.
Companies like James Spence Authentication (JSA), Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), and Sports Card Guaranty (SGC) all do a fantastic job of authenticating.
1933 Babe Ruth Signed New York Yankees Player's Contract.
1933 Babe Ruth Signed New York Yankees Player's Contract. Not long after the greatest figure in baseball history led his Yankees to the promised land for the final time in his career, authoring one of the sport's most celebrated fables in the process, an aging Babe Ruth sat down with his two bosses to discuss the future. His "Called Shot" and an American League-topping .489 OBP in 1932 notwithstanding, Ruth was seen as an overly expensive commodity at his $75,000 salary and Hall of Fame owner Jacob Ruppert dug in his heels in negotiations. As the offered lot documents, the factions came to an agreement at $52,000, still more than double the figure issued to fellow pinstriped icon Lou Gehrig.
The Colonel would get good value for his money as Ruth would produce over 100 runs batted in on the strength of thirty-four homers and a .301 average. The Babe would be named a starter in the very first All-Star Game in 1933, and close out the season with an October 1st pitching victory over his old Boston Red Sox team, his very last appearance on the mound. In 1934, Ruppert would hack another seventeen thousand from Ruth's salary before ending one of the most fruitful partnerships in American sports.
The "Uniform Player's Contract" is the standard four-page model utilized for decades in the Bigs, identifying the player and salary on page one and sandwiching a typed addendum into page two directing a quarter of exhibition game receipts to the sport's greatest draw. The Hall of Fame triumvirate of owner Jacob Ruppert, manager Joe McCarthy and Ruth himself appear in 10/10 black fountain pen below, the Hall of Fame slugger signing in his profoundly desirable "George Herman Ruth" format and adding his handwritten Manhattan address below. It is unquestionably one of the finest Ruth autographs we've encountered in any incarnation.
The document itself has survived the better part of a century since its creation with only original storage folds to report--no tears, creases or stains. It is housed in a lovely and expensive custom slipcase for safety in centuries to come. Full LOA from PSA/DNA.
Babe Ruth Signed a Contract This Day to Be the Highest Paid Baseball Player -- $70,000
An editor for the CBS evening news called me today. She said that this was the 83rd anniversary of Babe Ruth signing a contract making him the highest paid baseball player in history. She wanted to know what he signed for was worth today and how it compared to Alex Rodriguez who made $33 million last year. They were going to run a story on it tonight.
She said she had gone to the BLS site where it says $70,000 in 1927 has the same buying power as $871,729 in 2010. Then she went to our web site, MeasuringWorth.Com, and was confused by the five answers she got ranging from $865,000 to $10.4 million. She asked me to explain and I told her that a question about what something is worth in the past couldn't have one answer as it depends on the context of the question.
I contend that the BLS's answer is not very useful. Ruth had lots of buying power in 1927, but he could not buy treatment for throat cancer that millions get today. He died of it at age 53. He could buy lots of cigars.
I suggested to the editor that the piece on Babe Ruth should say that if you compared his salary to the average person today he would be making $4 million. That this is the kind of relative status he held in New York in those days.
Babe Ruth’s First Contract with the New York Yankees
The man who set baseball records and created baseball legend with his thunderous swing, playful nature and flashy lifestyle has wowed fans once again. Nearly nine decades after Babe Ruth was sold by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, the yellowed contract that cemented the deal was sold today by Sotheby’s auction house for $996,000.
The transaction which occurred in 1919 transferred Babe Ruth’s existing Boston Red Sox contract to the New York Yankees. The prior year, 1918, the Red Sox won the World Series and the transfer of Babe Ruth to the Yankees marked the beginning of the “The Bambino’s Curse”, as the Red Sox would not win another World Series for the next 85 years!
Ruth played in New York under the Boston Red Sox contract for the remaining 2 years of the contract. Then in 1922, the Babe signed a new 3 year contract, the first contract written with the Yankees.
Babe Ruth’s 1918 Boston Red Sox contract also available
President Herbert Hoover and Baseball
When people think of President Herbert Hoover and baseball, many recall the famous story from 1930, when Babe Ruth signed a contract that paid him $80,000 a year. When Ruth was asked if he thought he deserved to be making more money than President Hoover, he said, “'Why not? I had a better year than he did.” Yet Hoover’s enduring delight in baseball deserves to be remembered as more than the punch line of a humorous story. 1
“I grew up on sandlot baseball, swimming holes, and fishing with worms,” Hoover remembered. As president, Hoover checked out the sports pages of his daily newspaper first, and throughout his life he encouraged children to build their character and learn about teamwork through sports. He played baseball as a child in Iowa and Oregon, and was a shortstop on Stanford University’s baseball team until he dislocated his finger, bringing his playing career to an end. However, he served as business manager for the team. 2
President Hoover throwing out the first pitch at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Hoover became the nation’s number one baseball fan in 1929 and took the responsibility seriously, throwing out the traditional first pitch at Griffith Stadium on all four Washington Senators’ opening days while he resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He also attended the fifth and final game of 1929 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Athletics.
President Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover at the final game of the World Series at Shibe Park, Philadelphia, October 14, 1929.
On October 14, President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Hoover and party arrived at North Philadelphia Station at 1:00 p.m. on a special car attached to the Baltimore and Ohio train and headed to Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. When the Athletics’ Bing Miller doubled in the bottom of the ninth to score Al Simmons and give Philadelphia the game and the world championship, some thought they noticed a lack of enthusiasm from the president. Columnist Damon Runyon wrote: “I strongly suspect President Hoover of Chicago sympathy, possibly due to the fact that the Cubs trained out yonder in his California sunshine.” (The Cubs then trained for the upcoming season on owner William Wrigley Jr.’s Santa Catalina Island off Los Angeles). Hoover’s impression of impartiality was deliberate after the game he asked Philadelphia Mayor Harry Mackey, “I think I maintained neutrality pretty well, don’t you, Mr. Mayor?” Agriculture Secretary Arthur Hyde, who was also at the game, defended Hoover, telling reporters: “The President had to restrain himself. His constituents about him were divided in their cheering and . . . the President could not display an overenthusiastic countenance.” 3
President Hoover with Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon on his right on the opening day of the baseball season, April 14, 1930.
On October 1, 1930, Hoover was present at Shibe Park for the first game of 1930 World Series between the Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. Ignoring the chill weather that forced many fans to swaddle themselves in winter garments, the president did not use a topcoat and sat in a plain brown business suit. A band played “Hail to the Chief” when Hoover arrived, prompting longtime Senators’ coach and sometime syndicated columnist Nick Altrock to quip, “It didn’t hail, but it was cold enough to snow.” 4
When Hoover returned to Philadelphia for the third game of the 1931 Cardinals vs. Athletics World Series, the nation was overwhelmed by economic depression. “Although I like baseball,” Hoover noted in his memoirs, “I kept this engagement only because I felt that my presence at a sporting event might be a gesture of reassurance to a country suffering from a severe attack of ‘jitters.’ ”
The president may have come to regret his decision. Hoover’s ceremonial first pitch missed Philadelphia catcher Mickey Cochrane but was deftly hauled down by home plate umpire Albert “Dolly” Stark. “I was not able to work up much enthusiasm for the ball game,” Hoover recalled, “and in the midst of it I was handed a note informing me of the sudden death of Senator Dwight Morrow . . . his death was a great loss to the country and to me.”
As Hoover left Shibe Park he received polite applause from the crowd of 32,295, but was also met with “a resounding chorus of boos . . . the president of the United States was accorded the bird, or razzberry.” Many spectators, longing for a repeal of Prohibition, also began chanting “We want beer!” “Perhaps,” columnist Westbrook Pegler mused, “Philadelphia is tired of whiskey and gin.” 5
The Hoovers with Washington Senators star pitcher Walter Johnson on opening day of the baseball season, April 14, 1931.
One unpleasant game experience was far from enough to diminish Hoover’s enthusiasm for baseball. At a press conference on his 87th birthday in 1961, Hoover said he was “the oldest living baseball fan,” ever since he had started playing the game as a ten-year old in 1884. Asked about the current contest between New York Yankees Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, Hoover said: “I am for anybody who can bat a home run—in baseball or anything else.” 6
In retirement at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, Hoover enjoyed watching baseball games on television. He was disappointed when both the Yankees and Mets did not play on August 10, 1964, his 90th birthday. His long-time associate Neil MacNeil observed, “If there were any game being televised either in the afternoon or evening, you could bet he’d be watching,” 7
Maine Memory Network
Purchase a reproduction of this item on VintageMaineImages.com.
During a visit in 1926, Babe Ruth signed autographs in Portland, while wearing his New York Yankees hat and jacket. Ruth began his professional career with the Boston Red Sox, but his contract was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919—famously inspiring a “curse” of World Series losses for Red Sox teams until 2004.
Throughout his career, Ruth visited Maine in a professional capacity, and also while on vacation or hunting trips. Largely considered the first celebrity athlete in America, Ruth’s popularity afforded him the opportunity to make paid “exposition-style” appearances, showcasing his athletic abilities and connecting with adoring fans. Even in retirement, Ruth returned to Maine for several guest appearances.
About This Item
- Title: Babe Ruth signing autographs, Portland, 1926
- Creation Date: 1926
- Subject Date: 1926
- Town: Portland
- County: Cumberland
- State: ME
- Media: Glass Plate Negative
- Dimensions: 10.2 cm x 12.7 cm
- Local Code: 2005.061.13949
- Collection: Portland Press Herald glass negative collection
- Object Type: Image
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This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. No Permission is required to use the low-resolution watermarked image for educational use, or as allowed by the applicable copyright. For all other uses, permission is required.
1930-31 Babe Ruth Signed New York Yankees Player's Contract--The Richest of His Career.. .
1930-31 Babe Ruth Signed New York Yankees Player's Contract--The Richest of His Career.
He's the most noteworthy figure in the history of our national pastime, but the fortunes of the legendary ballplayer and the nation that adored him were on decidedly different trajectories in the early months of 1930 as the Yankees headed south for spring training. Though a powerful new dynasty in Philadelphia had recently ended a three-season American League Championship reign in the Bronx, Babe Ruth-even at the relatively advanced age of thirty-five-was exhibiting no indication of cracks in his own armor. The 1929 season had seen Ruth claim the Major League home run crown for the fourth consecutive season, and the tenth of what would prove to be a total of twelve for his illustrious career. His .697 slugging percentage likewise held firm as a link in a chain of dominance broken only once since the Boston Red Sox World Championship season of 1918. This was a Babe Ruth at the pinnacle of his fame and ability.
The United States of America, conversely, was mired in the worst economic slump since the founding. Traders leapt from Wall Street windows and unemployment crested ten percent, soaring like a Babe Ruth home run blast as the famed slugger and his future Hall of Fame counterpart Jacob Ruppert negotiated the terms of an employment covenant unlike any the sports world had ever seen. Though the national economic climate was chilly at best, the Yankee owner understood well that the leverage rested firmly on Ruth's side of the fulcrum. To complicate matters, the sudden and tragic passing in late September 1929 of manager Miller Huggins had rather predictably resulted in Ruth's fervent petitioning for the vacancy, a role for which Ruppert found his top star temperamentally ill-equipped.
But a ten thousand-dollar annual salary increase would prove an effective balm for the Babe's hurt feelings, and sportswriters swarmed the spring training summit in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 10th, as Ruth and Ruppert laid pen to a contract that would prove to be the richest of the superstar slugger's career, and of sports history to date.
"Eighty thousand dollars!" one reporter called out to Ruth as the flashbulbs popped. "That's more than the President makes!"
Ruth's famous reply: "Why not? I had a better year than he did."
Arguably only a single contract in Major League Baseball history-the 1947 agreement that carried Jackie Robinson across the sport's shameful color line-could be considered more famous or significant than the example proudly presented here. Certainly no document more effectively crystallizes the essence of Babe Ruth, from the outsized proportions of its spoils to the playful yet confident response of the beneficiary. It is a treasure with few equals in the vast paper archives of American sport.
The format is the standard four-page "Uniform Player's Contract" utilized for decades in Major League Baseball, with the subject, the dates and the terms of the covenant added in typeface to the boilerplate of the first page. Page two provides the visual centerpiece, with the rare and highly desirable "George Herman Ruth" signature format joined by that of Ruppert and his attorney Byron Clark, Jr. The black fountain pen ink, and the document itself, survive without any condition flaws worthy of mention.
Though the New York Yankees would fail to recapture the American League flag from Connie Mack's stampeding herd of white elephants during the two-season term of the contract, the Babe would actually improve upon his 1929 numbers, clubbing ninety-five home runs over the span while averaging 158 runs batted in and a stunning .716 slugging percentage to earn his one hundred sixty grand. Nonetheless, Ruth would see his salary decline to $75,000 for the World Championship season of 1932, crashing to $35,000 for his sad final year in pinstripes of 1934. The world record annual salary documented by this lot would stand until 1949, when Joltin' Joe DiMaggio would claim the sport's first six-figure payday.
The contract is housed in a gorgeous red leather slip case, embossed in appropriate gold. Also included in the lot is an original Type 1 news photograph (6x8") of Ruth and Ruppert in the midst of the signing, complete with paper caption on verso and a stamped "March 13, 1930" date. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from SGC Authentic.
Babe Ruth’s salary during his career
Using $52,000 and $80,000 as Ruth’s salary figures, let’s look at what he’d make in today’s MLB. When adjusted for inflation, Ruth’s 1922 salary of $52,000 would be worth $793,814.93 today his 1930 salary of $80,000 would be worth $1,224,910.18
It’s safe to say if you inserted Ruth into today’s MLB and saw his production, he’d be vastly underpaid with those salary figures. With a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) level of 162.1, Ruth is second all-time behind only Barry Bonds.
It’s impossible to know how good he’d be in today’s game, but it’s hard to imagine that Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep up, especially given today’s advances in sports technology. The MLB legend could expect to make much more than he did back then, even if one adjusts for inflation.
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