Babe Ruth's record-breaking Yankees contract could fetch $500,000
The contract which made Babe Ruth the highest-paid sportsman in history is heading for the auction block in Dallas next week.
The signed copy of Babe Ruth's 1930-31 contract with the New York Yankees is expected to fetch more than $500,000, as one of the star lots in Heritage Auctions' latest sports collectibles sale.
Ruth's record-breaking contract illustrated his importance not only to the New York Yankees, but to the sport of baseball itself.
When Ruth signed the new deal, the rest of America was struggling to make ends meet. The nation was in the grip of the Great Depression, following the U.S stock market crash in October 1929, and the Babe's bumper payday made headlines across the country.
Ruth sat alongside Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, and signed the contract in front of a packed house of reporters, with flashbulbs exploding in the air.
"Eighty thousand dollars!" cried one reporter. "That's more than the President makes!"
"Why not?" replied Ruth. "I had a better year than he did."
Although the Yankees hadn't won the pennant or the World Series in two years, Ruth had remained the home-run leader for four consecutive seasons. In short, he was still box-office gold, at a time when many people could barely afford a ticket.
It wasn't merely the size of the contract that made it remarkable – it was the financial commitment to a man who was approaching the end of his career.
Ruth would be 35 when the 1930 season began, and had initially been offered a one-year $70,000 contract by the Yankees. Ruth demanded a three-year contract worth $85,000, and after some protracted negotiations they agreed at $80,000 for two years.
It was the highest annual salary in baseball history, and the record remained in place for 19 years, until Joe DiMaggio earned the sport 's first six-figure salary in 1949.
Contracts from pivotal moments in Ruth's career are amongst the most valuable baseball documents ever sold at auction.
Back in 2005, an original copy of the contract which sold Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees in 1919 – bringing with it the notorious 'Curse of the Bambino' – sold at Sotheby's for $996,000.
The in 2015, Ruth's own copy of his first professional baseball contract with the Red Sox, dating from 1918, sold at Goldin Auctions for a cool $1 million.
The Platinum Night Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction takes place in Dallas on February 24-25.
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