By Larry Canale
Now pitching for Boston...Babe Ruth! And yes, the Bambino could hurl, as we know.
His pitching numbers don’t have the same marquee as his home run total (714), but they show he’d have been in the Hall of Fame either way. Pitching for the Red Sox from 1914 through 1919, Ruth had a 94-46 record, a 2.28 ERA, and 107 complete games among his 163 starts.
We mention Ruth the pitcher because of a beautiful and rare item that turned up on eBay in December. A seller listed a 1915 photograph of Babe standing in front of empty bleachers with four other members of the Red Sox pitching staff. It sold for $52,500 on Christmas morning, giving the winning bidder a one-of-a-kind treasure. Adding greatly to the item’s appeal is its status, per a PSA/DNA letter, as a “Type 1” photograph. The Type 1 classification, as PSA notes, indicates “a first-generation photograph developed from the original negative during the period,” which is identified as “approximately two years of when the photograph was taken.”
The sepia-toned photograph, measuring 4.5 by 6.5 inches, is dated Oct. 7, 1915, a day before Boston would square off against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
Along the top of the photo, the last names of the pictured players appear in easy-to-read, all-cap handwriting. Pictured from left to right are the following:
• Rube Foster, who had a 19-8 record and a 2.11 ERA in 1915.
• “Closer” Carl Mays, who had a 6-5 record and a 2.60 ERA, with seven saves, although that stat wasn’t acknowledged during the era.
• Ernie Shore, who went 19-8 with a 1.64 ERA.
• A baby-faced Ruth, who at age 20 had an 18-8 record and 2.44 ERA.
• Dutch Leonard, who posted a 15-7 record and 2.35 ERA.
The pitching-rich Red Sox also had Smokey Joe Wood that season. He didn’t appear in this photo, but he certainly measured up to his mound mates: He had a minuscule 1.49 ERA to go with his sparkling 15-5 record.
NOW BATTING FOR THE YANKEES
Babe Ruth! No, we couldn’t ignore Babe the batter, especially considering the big-money sale of a rare Ruth card from 1922. By then, he was already in his “Sultan of Swing” mode, having hit 54 and 59 homers in his first two seasons with the Yankees (1920 and 1921). He was an RBI machine, too, having driven in 135 and then 168 runs in those two seasons.
So when American Caramel put out its 1922 set, Ruth was a major attraction—as he still is today. The Ruth card in the set is numbered E120, and it pictures the pinstriped slugger looking at the camera (his face darkened by a shadow from the bill of his Yankee cap) and holding a baseball in his right hand. Listed in mid-December, the card drew 40 bids and soared to $14,500. It carried a grade of PSA 5.
BRADY VS. BRADY
Mickey Mantle collectors like to argue about whether his 1951 Bowman or 1952 Topps ranks as his “true” or best rookie card. Tom Brady collectors might have a similar discussion involving the Patriots quarterback’s 2000 SP Authentic and 2000 Playoff Contenders cards. Both would have a good case, especially when dealing with top-condition versions of the two cards. To wit, we can report these outstanding results from December:
• A 2000 Upper Deck Authentic Brady card numbered 292 of 1,250 sold for $16,600 on 25 bids. It was graded PSA 10/Gem Mint.
• A signed 2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket card sold for $16,100 on 29 bids.
This one graded out at PSA 8.5.
Both are appealing pieces, but in a pinch, we’ll go with the sig over the numbering, even at the lower grade.
GURLEY MAN DELIVERS
We knew Todd Gurley was a stud, but he outdid even himself in weeks 14 and 15 of the NFL season. In the process, he no doubt won an awful lot of fantasy championships for owners out there—those two weeks typically mark the semi-final and “Super Bowl” in fantasy football leagues. In Week 14, Gurley scored four touchdowns on 152 rushing and 28 receiving yards. The following week, he added two more TDs on 118 rushing and 158 receiving yards. Add it up: In two weeks, Gurley totaled 270 rushing yards, 186 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Gurley is also gaining ground in the collectibles market, even after the “sophomore slump” he experienced last year (885 rushing yards, a disappointment after his 1,106-yard performance in his 2015 rookie campaign). On eBay, you’ll find around 10,000 listings related to Gurley.
The good news: His collectibles haven’t yet reached budget-busting levels. The highest-priced Gurley item from the past three months is a 1-of-1 autographed 2015 Panini card bearing a game-used patch (a Nike swoosh at that); it brought $1,080 in October. But after that, the highest prices were two Christmas listings that brought similar prices: $679 for a 2015 National Treasures autographed card graded PSA 10 and $675 for a signed 2015 Contenders Cracked Ice card graded BGS 9.5.
Here are three other recent Gurley items of interest, preceded by realized prices:
• $560 on 31 bids for a 2015 National Treasures Silver signed patch card graded PSA 10.
• $545 on 38 bids for a 2015 Panini Contenders autographed card graded PSA 10.
• $405 on 19 bids for an ungraded 2015 Panini Spectra Orange patch card. u