It was a magical moment on that Christmas Day in 1947 when young Ricky met his baseball idol Babe Ruth and shook his hand, and the keepsake the Bambino presented to the youngster as a present that day? Priceless.
Ruth signed a baseball “To Blanche’s Nephew Rickey – from Babe Ruth Dec 25th 1947.”
As Memory Lane auctions tells to story, the sister of Rickey’s mother was a close friend of Ruth and she asked the former Yankees great to stop by their New York home to surprise Rickey on Christmas. In an aside to the story, Rickey’s grandfather also lived there and raised chickens from which Aunt Blanche would collect fresh eggs to give to Ruth.
So Ruth showed up on Christmas and he brought with him a brand new Official American League Harridge baseball in its unopened Reach box and signed it.
Now, some 73 years later, Rickey is ready to part with his treasured heirloom. He told Memory Lane he was willing to “pass the baton” to another passionate collector and have them feel the overwhelming enthusiasm he’s been blessed with over the past seven decades. The ball, along with more than 1,000 other lots (a plethora of high-grade items from signed balls and jerseys, to vintage artwork, to autographs, to cards), is featured in the Spring Rarities Auction from May 9 to May 30.
Most of the details of this once-in-a-lifetime meeting of the Sultan of Swat remain vague to Rickey, who was only 4 years old at the time, but the ball remained a constant reminder of that day, and it was preserved in its original box. Because it was so well preserved, PSA graded the signature, written in bold blue fountain pen, a Gem Mint 10.
“I’ve only seen a couple that the signature is graded a 10,” Joe Tomasulo of Memory Lane told SCD. “The other thing about the Christmas ball, think about the whole Christmas season, that whole magical season for kids. You can picture the look on Rickey’s face when he got the ball. How can any boy ever get a better Christmas present than that, to meet Babe Ruth and have him sign that ball?”
PSA graded the ball a NM 7 for an overall grade of NM/MT+ 8.5. A similar PSA “10” signature and overall “8.5” grade recently fetched $184,000 at auction.
“During his majestic career, Ruth absolutely loved signing baseballs for his adoring worshipers, taking an abundance of time before and after games to script his name on a horsehide sphere,” Memory Lane states. “Arguably, no signed Ruth collectible is more exalted than a brilliant single-signed baseball.”
As it turned out, 1947 would be Ruth’s last Christmas as he died the following August.