Babe Ruth 1914 minor league trading card hits hefty $7.2M at auction, falls short of hoped-for grand slam

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A rare 1914 baseball trading card showing American sports legend Babe Ruth when he was still a bambino netted $7.2 million at auction on Sunday night.

Ruth, then age 19, played for his hometown Baltimore Orioles when they were a member of the International League. He made his Major League Baseball debut later that same 1914 season for the Boston Red Sox. 

“It’s the second-highest price ever realized at auction for a trading card and the third-highest price ever paid for a trading card,” Brian Dwyer, president of Robert Edward Auctions of New Jersey, told FOX Business. 

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It fell short, however, of the $10 million or more the auction house had hoped for when it announced the sale last month.

Ruth was a dominant pitcher early in his career before becoming the legendary Sultan of Swat slugger that forged his still larger-than-life image today.

Ruth led the Red Sox to World Series championships in 1915, 1916 and 1918. 

He was famously sold to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season, launching the “Curse of the Bambino” and reshaping the fortunes of both franchises for generations. 

The Yankees then won their first four of a record 27 World Series titles with Ruth in the line-up. The Red Sox suffered an infamous 86-year championship drought after giving away their young star.

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He became the most famous slugger in history, clobbering opposing pitchers on the field and creating a lavish, larger-than-life persona off the field. 

Among other achievements, Ruth hit a then-record 60 home runs for the Yankees in 1927 — a season in which no other American League team combined to hit more than 56 home runs. 

Honus Wagner trading card

His batting achievements in the 1920s were so stunning, so beyond the known standards of the day, that they inspired a new sports adjective, “Ruthian.” 

The 1914 minor league card shows the teenage Ruth, baby-faced but with his distinctive broad nose, wearing a dark cap and a dark sweater. The southpaw pitcher wears a small glove, typical of the era, on his right hand. 

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The card’s value was boosted by its rarity — it’s one of only 10 known to exist, said Dwyer — and by the imposing image Ruth still holds in American culture nearly a century after he last played baseball. 

“He’s a transcendent figure,” said Dwyer. “Whether you’re from Boston or New York, or just a sports fan or not even a sports fan, you know the name Babe Ruth.” 

Babe Ruth

The card, he added, proved an easy pitch to the memorabilia market, to collectors and even to investors beyond the world of sports who often seek profit in sports cards.

“He’s a transcendent figure … Everybody knows Babe Ruth and his legend and legacy.” 

“Everybody knows Babe Ruth and his legend and his legacy. It was an easy conversation. He’s undoubtedly, if not the greatest player ever, one of the greatest players ever.”

The value of the 1914 Babe Ruth card has been exceeded in the known trading card market only twice. 

A Mickey Mantle card from his rookie year with the Yankees sold for $12.6 million. 

A 1909 Honus Wagner trading card was sold in a private transaction by Robert Edwards Auctions for $7.25 million. 

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle

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