“The Bustin’ Babes” and “Larrupin’ Lou’s” Helped Give Rise to the Great American Pastime

In an age when Giancarlo Stanton gets a 13-year, $325 million contract and Bryce Harper decides a 10-year agreement at $30 million per year isn’t enough, one has to wonder what teams would pay in today’s dollars to acquire the services of a Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig. Would they be worth $40 million a year? Maybe $50 million? Long before the days of mega-sponsors and television revenues, baseball players (even the really good ones) didn’t make the kind of generational wealth that they do today. In fact, many took off-season jobs to supplement their income. In 1927, fresh off of a record-setting 60 home run season, Babe Ruth was paid an “audacious” sum of $70,000 per year, almost as much as the President of the United States at the time. But in today’s currency, that amounts to about a million dollars a year. Considering the league average in 2018 was just north of $4 million per year, the greatest player in baseball history at his peak was receiving the salary of a marginal major-leaguer in the present. That’s where “barnstorming” came in.

The Off-Season Circuit: Everybody Wins

Though the American and National Leagues each had eight teams, the furthest west any team was based was St. Louis. That left over half of the continental United States without the ability to attend a major-league baseball game. Babe Ruth’s business manager Christy Walsh (the first professional sports agent) saw a lucrative opportunity to take his home run juggernaut and a group of baseball stars on a coast-to-coast tour, performing exhibitions in cities and small towns that would otherwise never have had that opportunity. The tour consisted of 21 games over three weeks and reached cities such as Providence, Sioux City, Denver and up and down the California coast. With a bonafide superstar like Lou Gehrig earning more money in those three weeks than he made all season with the Yankees, you can imagine the waiting list of players itching to be included on the tour. The “Bustin’ Babes” and “Larrupin’ Lou’s” became more popular in the western United States than any team during the season. The barnstorming teams even picked up sponsors along the way, entering “The Mile High City” as “Ruth’s Piggly Wiggly vs. Lou’s Denver Buick.” Ruth’s team won that day 15-8 with “The Bambino” slamming a homer and Gehrig actually taking the mound in the game, though it isn’t known if Ruth’s homer came from a Gehrig pitch. When the players weren’t dazzling spectators, they routinely visited hospitals, orphanages and other locations where kids could meet their heroes and get an autograph of players they only knew of from listening to games on the radio, opening new markets and promoting baseball expansion nationwide to cement the game’s legacy as the greatest American pastime.

Mile High Card Company Is Offering A Spectacular Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Signed Barnstorming Photograph PSA/DNA MINT 9

It’s one of the most famous photos of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig ever snapped, made available to fans who attended a game during their three-week exhibition in 1927. Both Yankees legends appear in their opposing uniforms with a facsimile signature of each, but this one has actual autographs as well and is featured in the Mile High Card Company Elite December Auction, which concludes on Thursday, December 6th. Signed by Ruth and Gehrig in green ink as to differentiate from the black colored simulations, the genuine signatures are easy to read with Ruth adding an inscription, “To my friend Judge Meyer.” Matted and framed to a size of 12 1/2″ x 14″ and double authenticated by JSA and PSA/DNA (the latter assessing the signatures as PSA/DNA 9 MINT), it is likely the finest autographed example of Ruth and Gehrig from their legendary barnstorming tour.

The 1967 Topps Set: A Card Collector’s Dream

A decade after introducing “on field” shots for the 1957 collection, Topps returned to the baseball diamond for the 1967 set and created one of the most aesthetically pleasing and enigmatic assemblages ever produced. Offering the brightest and sharpest images to date, Topps decided to let the photo the focal point of the card by ditching the nameplates and moving a small player name and position combo to the top of the card and the colored team name to the bottom. Matching the clean image of the front is the bright green surface on the back, which alerts collectors to whether a raw card has top-grade potential. With significant rookie cards, a tough high-number series and a handful of quirky variations, the ‘67 Topps set provides plenty to challenge the high-grade set-builder.

The set features 609 cards, not exactly a convenient figure when producing 132-card sheets, with several cards either short-printed or double printed. Even more interesting was the decision to slightly change the format after the first series, adding a dot between the player’s name and their position for series two through six. And each card carries a facsimile signature; that is with one unexplained exception (#254 Milt Pappas). But that’s just the start for the idiosyncratic ‘67 Topps set, which contains some of the most bizarre variations in existence which bump the master set from 609 to 624. Some are minor revisions; a trade statement added to #26 Bob Priddy and #86 Mike McCormick, the placement or addition of a period or copyright date on checklist cards #62 and 103, checklist #191 that changes the name Dick Kelley to Tom Kelley (and adds a neck to Willie Mays’ inset photo), and card #417 Bob Bruce, which had “RBAVES” misspelled on the back and later corrected.

But then there are the more puzzling variations; card #374 Queen, 402 Jackson, 427 Gomez and 447 Belinsky are missing stats or the stat line on the reverse, mysterious green ink appears above the bat on #58 Schaal, an inexplicable white streak was later removed on card #149 Moeller and 252 Bolin, part of the name is missing on the front of #128 Spezio, and checklist #454 features an inset photo of Juan Marichal, whose missing left ear suddenly reappears on the revised card. There’s even a blank-backed proof of #45 Roger Maris as a member of the Yankees (he was traded to the Cardinals before the season and CARDS appears on his regular card) though it is not considered part of the master set. And while the high-number series (#534-609) is understandably tougher, there are several that are particularly difficult to find in high-grade due to centering issues or print problems and are more heavily weighted on the PSA Set Registry; #558 Belanger RC, 560 Bunning, 570 Wills, 580 Colavito, 592 NL Rookies, 604 Red Sox team, 605 Shannon, 607 Stanley, 609 John, and the toughest of all, card #600 featuring Brooks Robinson. The highly coveted rookie cards of Tom Seaver and Rod Carew were held back and inserted in the high-number series, making them even more pricey than even Mickey Mantle’s stunning card #150

Mile High Card Company To Offer #4 PSA Set Registry Ranked 1967 Topps Set in their October 2018 Auction

Featured in the upcoming Mile High Card Company Auction is the #4 ranked 1967 Topps basic set, which carries a set rating of 9.49. There 154 cards graded PSA 10, including #30 Kaline, 240 NL Batting Leaders, 570 Wills, six cards from the difficult high-number series and four “one of one” examples (#38, 135, 137 and 145). Every major star from Mantle to Mays to Clemente, as well as the highly-prized rookie cards of Tom Seaver and Rod Carew, is graded PSA 9 with over 96% of the set rated MINT or GEM MINT. As MHCC has done in the past with world-ranked collections, this set will be offered as individual lots as well as a complete set (with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher. This provides the opportunity for many set-builders to improve upon their collections or for one collector to catapult themselves into contention on the PSA Set Registry with a winning bid on the entire set. The auction opens on Monday, September 17th and concludes on Thursday, October 4th.

1967 Topps Baseball Complete Set #4 Current Finest on PSA Set Registry With 9.49 GPA
1967 Topps Baseball Complete Set #4 Current Finest on PSA Set Registry With 9.49 GPA

The 1965 Topps Set: The “Empire” Strikes Back

You can criticize Topps for many things, but lack of imagination isn’t one of them. Though they controlled a virtual monopoly in the national baseball card market following Bowman’s demise in 1955, Topps never stopped searching for new ways to deliver their product, but not all of them were home runs. The 1964 series was a disappointment for many collectors. They said the cards were simple and boring, that there weren’t any good rookie cards and the orange backs just seemed out of place. In short, the set just lacked pizzazz. And then came the 1965 Topps set! Topps broke out the Crayolas to deliver one of the most enticing and colorful collections in the company’s history. With sharp photographic displays, most set against a bright blue sky, surrounded by boldly pigmented frames of various colors, the 1965 Topps set became an instant hit that has withstood the test of time as one of the most beloved collections of the decade.

This Set Has It All!

For the first time since the 1957 collection, the 598-card ’65 set featured a great selection of rookie cards with Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Steve Carlton as well as short-printed cards of Catfish Hunter and Tony Perez leading the way. The debut card featuring Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese player in the majors, added an international flair while star pitchers Luis Tiant, Denny McLain and Tug McGraw also making their first appearances. For the third straight year, the set opens with American and National League Leaders cards and includes World Series Highlights cards from #132-139. Of course, the key cards in the set are Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose and Sandy Koufax, all of which are among their priciest cards in high-grade. Speaking of which, the set is tough but possible to assemble at or near of the top of PSA’s grading scale with only 1,332 cards have graded PSA 10 or about one out of every 150 submissions, and just over 11% of all submissions have received a MINT grade. Several significant Hall of Fame issues have yet to find their way to the PSA 10 level, including 50 Marichal, 160 Clemente, 300 Koufax, 330 Ford, 350 Mantle and 400 Killebrew. And that leads us to one of the most amazing post-war sets ever assembled.

Mile High Card Company to Offer 1965 Topps Set Ranked #1 All-Time on the PSA Set Registry in MHCC’s March Auction.

At an overall GPA of approximately 9.85, the 1965 Topps Set featured in MHCC’s March auction is well over a half-point ahead of its next closest challenger. There are 211 cards graded GEM MINT; that’s almost 16% of all existing GEM MINT specimens. Key cards to earn PSA’s top grade include #1 AL Batting Ldrs., 5 AL RBI Ldrs., 6 NL RBI Ldrs., 10 NL Pitching Ldrs., 12 NL Strikeout Ldrs., 95 Mazeroski, 155 Maris, 187 Stengel, 193 Perry, 205 Spahn, 377 Stargell, 500 Mathews, 513 Yankees Team and 540 Brock. Every other card is graded PSA 9. For high-grade set-builders, this is a golden opportunity to raise your set rating because this set is being offered two ways; in its entirety as well as individual lots, with the final sale determined by the greater total of the set versus the sum of the lots.

Jackie Robinson: A Man For All Time

Jackie Robinson Signed Ball

William Shakespeare once said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” It can be said that Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson experienced all three. While Robinson’s career numbers don’t place him in the company of a Ruth, Gehrig or Cobb, his contribution to the history of baseball, as well as that of American society, makes him one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Baseball has always been considered an American institution, one that holds sacred its storied traditions and doesn’t take kindly to change. And with racial segregation dominating the climate of the time, it was a bold and daring move for Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to choose that moment to sign two black players, Robinson and pitcher Johnny Wright, and assign them to the class AAA Montreal Royals. Robinson quickly displayed the kind of superior talent that was major league material, but was that enough?

Why Jackie Robinson?

1947 I'm Rooting For Jackie Robinson Pin White Background PSA 7 NM

The answer, quite definitively, was no. There were black players in the Negro League with more talent and far more extensive accomplishments, but Rickey knew that performance alone wouldn’t break a color barrier that had been in place for over 60 years. If there was going to be any chance of success, the man chosen to integrate baseball would have to have impeccable credentials off the field as well as on the diamond with the temperament to absorb the wrangling of racist hatred and abuse while armed with nothing more than a smile and his ability to play the game. Jackie was that man. A multi-sport star athlete at UCLA who served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army, Robinson was educated, well-spoken, and an honorably discharged Army officer. He was a man of integrity and, most importantly, was willing stand up for a cause he believed in. His message was clear – “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

 

The Post-Robinson Era of Baseball 

Jackie Robinson Signed Dodgers Photograph PSA/DNA AuthenticStarting his major league career at the advanced age of 28, Robinson played only ten seasons from 1947 – 1956, all of them for the Brooklyn Dodgers. During that time, the Dodgers played in six World Series and Robinson was selected to play in six All-Star games. His career marked the beginning of the “post long-ball” era that saw the strategy of raw power give way to a more balanced attack that included speed and superior base running. Robinson was one of only two players during his career to accumulate at least 125

Leaf Jackie Robinson SGC 84

steals while registering a slugging percentage over  .425. More importantly, Robinson’s career made possible the rise of fellow teammates Don Newcombe, Jim Gilliam, Joe Black and Roy Campanella as well as baseball legends Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and those who would follow.

The Finest Known Jackie Robinson Single-Signed Baseball Comes to MHCC December Auction

It has to be seen to be believed! When this ball arrived in the MHCC office, we were amazed at how incredibly clean and bold the signature projects, virtually perfect and easily the best known to exist. Sporting the customary “Best Wishes” greeting and side panel placement, a trademark of the Hall of Famer, the ball has been giving a triple authentication from JSA, SGC and PSA/DNA, the latter two grading the ball at MINT 9. Simply put, it is virtual perfection! The ball will be featured in the Mile High Card Company catalog auction, beginning on Monday, Nov 20th and concluding on Thursday, Dec 7th.

1946 Jackie Robinson Type I Original News PhotoJackie Robinson Signed Check

1933 DeLong: Baseball’s Ultimate One-Hit Wonder!

If ever there was a case of being in the right place at the wrong time, it existed for Harold Clark DeLong. A Treasurer at the Goudey Gum Company, DeLong left the organization in 1932 when Enos Goudey sold the business, starting his own company just blocks away from the Boston conglomerate. And while DeLong’s ill-fated foray into the baseball card market wouldn’t last longer than a single season, he produced one of the most memorable and coveted collections in baseball card history. 

Underfunded and Poorly Distributed

Harold DeLong had an advantage as a key executive in the development of the Goudey series prior to his departure, allowing him to create a clearly more aesthetic product than his former employer, but there were just too many obstacles standing in his way. Goudey, founded in 1919, was a well-established purveyor of chewing gum and had the financial might to secure the materials needed to produce the largest mainstream collection since the legendary T206 series. DeLong, on the other hand, was pioneering a poorly funded start-up that could only muster the ability to release a diminutive 24-card collection. Oh, but what a collection it was! While the brightly colored pigments, real life player depictions and ornate background artistry were a tremendous contrast from the straightforward and often monochrome format of the Goudey collection, there simply was no way that DeLong’s small series could compete with a Goudey set ten times the size that included a quartet of Babe Ruth cards. In addition, the DeLong cards didn’t have the nationwide distribution channel of the Goudey series, and if that wasn’t enough of a handicap, it was widely thought that Goudey’s bubble gum was just clearly superior. Even in the hometown Boston area, DeLong had to contend not only with Goudey but also had to compete with the regionally issued George C. Miller collection. All things considered, DeLong never really stood a chance of success.

A True Collector Classic! 

Although there is no Babe Ruth card in the DeLong set, the 24-card collection is jam-packed with star power, boasting 15 Hall of Famers and led by the issues of Yankees Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and fellow Cooperstown resident Jimmie Foxx. In addition to their groundbreaking appearance, what makes the DeLong series so highly collectible to advanced hobbyists is the difficulty to build an elite assemblage. Nearly 3,000 cards from the entire 24-card collection have passed through the halls of PSA without a single GEM MINT specimen, only two graded MINT and just five subjects (McManus, Terry, Traynor, Gomez and Klein) making it into double-digits pops at the PSA 8 level. Ironically, some of the most difficult high-grade finds from the series are not Hall of Famers: Oscar Melillo, Riggs Stephenson and Lon Warneke. While the series is a challenge to build, there are presently 31 complete collections on the PSA Set Registry with just eight that have reached a level of 7.0 or higher.

Mile High Card Company to Offer One of the Finest Complete 1933 DeLong Sets Ever Assembled 

Featured in the Mile High Card Company September Auction is the second finest 1933 DeLong set ever assembled, boasting a set rating of approximately 8.83 with several PSA 8.5 cards that stand as the one and only examples at that grading tier with none graded higher. All but two of the cards in the collection have a grade of NM/MT or better. As MHCC has done in the past with world-ranked assemblages, this collection is being offered as a complete set as well as each card offered individually, with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher.

MHCC is presently in the process of lining up more breathtaking items to make our next auction even greater and you still have time to be a part of it. If you desire the maximum possible return for your prized sports cards and/or memorabilia, please call (303) 840-2784, contact us at www.milehighcardco.com. or visit the MHCC booth at #1136 and #1138 of  the 38th National Sports Card Convention in Chicago, July 26th-30th.  You might even walk away with an added bonus – a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card PSA AUTHENTIC.

For each $500 of value consigned to the September MHCC auction, you’ll earn one ticket for the drawing. The larger the consignment, the more tickets you’ll receive, but everyone who consigns to MHCC at the National will be entered. The card is valued at $10,000 and the winner does not need to be present for the drawing, which is at 3:00 PM on July 30th.

The 1953 Topps baseball set: A New and Improved Collection

Not long after the New York Yankees secured another seven game World Series championship over the Brooklyn Dodgers in the summer of ’52, Topps architect Sy Berger was hard at work, utilizing feedback gathered from the release of the inaugural Topps set to create an even better product for 1953. The “super-sized” pasteboards were praised by collectors, though the subpar colorization of the black and white images and limited success of the troubled high-number series left plenty of room for improvement. An even bigger problem was brewing in Philadelphia as Topps had the attention of rival Bowman, who would not only increase their card size for the 1953 collection but also file a lawsuit against Topps, alleging player contract violations. It was clear that in 1953, Topps was either going to make their mark or become the next victim to fall by the wayside.

Topps 2.0 – Making a classic even better

In order to improve the appearance of the players, Topps commissioned artist Gerry Dvorak to sketch and paint the likeness of each player. The result was a collection of memorable portraits and action shots, finely detailed with dominating images and warm flesh tones that, to this day, stands among the most admired in the industry. Even the background of each card was carefully crafted, capturing the feel of the stadium crowd and appropriate advertising that lined the fences. Jackie Robinson was moved to the pole position as card #1, with Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews also moving from the previous year’s high-number series to the ’53 set’s first series. This gave collectors an opportunity to quickly acquire many of the popular stars that they were unable to find the previous year.

As the court battle with Bowman over player contracts raged on, Topps was forced to continually make changes to their print plans, replacing players that they couldn’t get under contract by either “moving up” a player from the next series to the present one or double-printing a player in the existing series. There were also five cards from both the 1st and 2nd series that were moved back, creating “chase cards” that couldn’t be obtained until the next series was released. By the time Topps reached the late-season high number series, there weren’t enough contracted players for a complete run, so many more cards were double-printed, with six (#253, 261, 267, 268, 271 and 275) left out of the series entirely. Seemingly a mix of superstars and “no-name” players, the cards slated for double-printing were likely chosen randomly or left in the hands of the printer to decide. If left up to Topps, they surely would have gone exclusively with big name stars. After all, who’s going to complain about getting too many Mickey Mantle cards? As for the six missing subjects, one can only speculate who they may have been. But it should be noted that Richie Ashburn, Leo Durocher, Gil Hodges, Bob Lemon, Robin Roberts and Duke Snider all appear in the ’52 series and are absent in the ’53 collection.

With the dreadful centering issues plaguing the 1952 Topps high-number series largely corrected, a new wrinkle was introduced that would soon be added to the card collector’s vernacular; chipping. Though the attractive red and black nameplates that ran along two of the edges were met with overwhelming favorability, collectors soon realized that the colors easily flaked, making it a much more difficult task to keep their cards in pristine condition. As a result, only 30 cards from the entire set have graded PSA 10, and less than 1% of all submissions have reached the level of PSA 9. Ironically, Bowman countered with a “color” series revered by many as their best ever, but they fell to Topps once again in terms of sales, and a new king of the baseball card market was crowned!

#4 Ranked PSA Set Registry Collection – 8.41 Set Rating – offered in MHCC October 2015 Auction

Over the last 25 years, several small “finds” of high-grade 1953 Topps cards from Canada produced a modest cache of perfectly centered, chip-free pasteboards that received the blessing of PSA in the form of PSA 8 and higher grades. There’s little doubt that some of those premier examples made it into this complete assemblage. Presented in the October 2015 Mile High Card Company auction is a crowning achievement in card collecting, one of the finest 1953 Topps collections in existence. Nearly impossible to assemble today if started from scratch, this set ranks #4 on the PSA Set Registry with an overall 8.41 set rating. Every card in this collection carries a minimum grade of PSA 8, with #41 Slaughter, 77 Mize, 114 Rizzuto and 63 others graded PSA 8.5, and 54 cards graded PSA 9, including amazing MINT specimens of #27 Campanella, 37 Mathews, 61 Wynn, 66 Minoso, 76 Reese and 86 B. Martin. Included is a stunning PSA 8 example of Mickey Mantle, a card that has been riding the coattails of the 1952 Topps card to record-breaking prices each time one is offered. The most astonishing member of this collection is a breathtaking PSA 9 card of #224 Satchel Paige, one of the single finest specimens known to exist. Offered as a complete set as well as each card individually, with the higher total between the set price versus the sum of the prices of the individual cards determining the method of sale, this set is but one of many collections rating at or near the top of the PSA Set Registry that will be available in the MHCC October 2105 auction.

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The rookie card market is on fire!

52t311mantle8-p19nf654ng1dncq7t1grn19031hrtWhether it’s Hank Aaron’s glowing orange ’54 Topps, Michael Jordan’s patriotic ‘86 Fleer or Wayne Gretzky’s often ill-centered 1979-80 OPC card, collectors have always had a fondness for debut appearances. But the market for rookie cards, specifically high-grade Hall of Famers, has never been better, regardless of sport. Over the past year, Mile High Card Company has procured some of the most elusive GEM MINT specimens in the hobby and posted record-shattering results, doubling and tripling the previous highest sale price in many instances. But it’s not just the truly elite examples that have taken off…

1980 Topps Rickey Henderson RC tops $30,000

80t482henderson10159It was literally moments after MHCC’s 2015 Spring Elite Extra Innings Auction ended that message boards began to light up about the sale price of a 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card. At $30,325, it nearly tripled the record price of the last example to come to auction. But that was in 2012, when Joe Montana’s GEM MINT 1981 Topps rookie card was selling for around $4,500; five have sold in the last four months for an average of over $14,000. Jerry Rice’s GEM MINT RC? A record-setting price of just over $4,000 in 2012 will set you back well over $11,000 today with one recently selling for over $14,000. And it’s not just GEM MINT specimens that are fetching amazing prices. Roberto Clemente’s 1955 Topps rookie card has jumped from $6,000 to over $25,000 in PSA 8. Even a ’73 Topps Mike Schmidt rookie card has doubled in price from $1,500 to $3,000 for a PSA 9 in just the past year. And then there’s the ’52 Topps Mantle, not actually a rookie card but easily his most desirable. A strong PSA 8 would have cost you around $75,000 three years ago but that’s only good enough to get you turned down for a PSA 7 today. MHCC just sold a PSA 8 privately for $325,000 and a 1955 Topps Clemente PSA 9 for $200,000. Where does it end … does it?

So what’s going on here?

Simple economics I suppose; just a matter of supply and demand. With published population reports, along with a perception that grading companies have become far more stringent than in years past, collectors are not only armed with the knowledge of which particular issues are more scarce in various grades but that few, if any, future submissions will achieve such lofty results. It’s been 35 years since Henderson’s rookie card was released and only 13 exist at the grade of PSA 10. The question isn’t when, but if, there’s going to be a 14. And when will one of those 13 be offered for sale again? That collector who paid a “crazy” price today might be raking in six figures a few years from now.

The next explosion in the sports card world!

Ha! If I knew that, I’d be sipping margaritas on a private island instead of typing away at a keyboard. We’ve seen T206s, Goudeys, caramel cards and many other issues rocket to record prices in the past. Sometimes they maintain the momentum and continue to rise, sometimes the popularity is fleeting and the waters recede. I’ve always maintained that high-grade Diamond Stars cards are undervalued (and if that becomes a thing I’m taking full credit for it), but if scarce and even not so scarce high-grade rookie cards are going crazy, I’d be taking a look at some select second-year cards. Many of those have even smaller population numbers than their corresponding RC’s and can be had at a fraction of the price. Michael Jordan’s GEM MINT 1986 Fleer RC (pop. 209) sells for close to $15,000 today, but his tougher ‘87 Fleer second-year card (pop. 116) is under $2,000. Sure, it’s not nearly as popular a card … right now. But that’s what would make it the NEXT big thing. What do you think?

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Astonishing 1916 M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie card to be sold in Mile High Card Company March 2015 Auction

As we stand at the cusp of a new baseball season, Mile High Card Company is set to commence with the Spring Auction, which begins on March 2nd and concludes on March 19th. The auction preview will be available Friday, February 27th. Keeping in line with MHCC’s sterling reputation for offering the best in sports cards and memorabilia known to exist, this auction promises to feature many unique, rare and historically significant items. Headlining the auction, one of many items that would serve as the cornerstone to any world-class collection, is an SGC 60 EX 5 graded 1916 M101-4 Sporting News card of Babe Ruth.

m101-4 Babe Ruth Rookie cardThe most important rookie card ever produced!

While the legendary T206 Honus Wagner card and a handful of other illustrious pasteboards may eclipse the Ruth rookie card in both rarity and value, the premier appearance of “The Bambino,” pictured as a lanky Red Sox pitcher, provides an ironic contrast to the rotund slugger who posted unprecedented offensive numbers while wearing the pinstripes of New York just a few years later. Unlike baseball cards that were produced exclusively by tobacco, gum, or candy companies, the Sporting News collection was the creation of Chicago-based printer Felix Mendelsohn, who contracted with several companies to distribute cards with blank backs so his clients could add their own advertising and create a “collectible business card.” Thus, the Ruth rookie card is thought to exist with no less than 16 different reverses though the Sporting News example is the most widely coveted by collectors.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth … pitching ace!

After posting a 22-9 record with a 2.39 ERA for the minor league Baltimore Orioles in 1914, Ruth’s contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox. From 1915-1917, Ruth was one of the best pitchers in the game with a combined 65-33 record and an astonishing 2.01 ERA, leading the American League at 1.75 in 1916. But Ruth’s prowess as a hitter was becoming more evident, and with his desire for more playing time, the Red Sox began transitioning Ruth to the outfield in 1918, cutting his starts on the mound in half and giving him more opportunities at the plate. Ruth proved that he could be dominant at both by posting a 13-7 record with a 2.22 ERA while also batting .300 and leading the American League in home runs in just 317 at-bats. In 1919, Ruth’s time on the mound was scaled back even more but he still posted a 9-5 record, though his ERA rose sharply to 2.97. More importantly, his 432 at-bats yielded 29 homers, 113 RBI and 103 run scored, all league-leaders.

Traded to Chica … uh, New York.

“The Babe” almost wasn’t a Yankee! When Red Sox owner Harry Frazee made it public that he was willing to part with his greatest asset, the Chicago White Sox offered star outfielder Joe Jackson and $60,000 cash for Ruth’s services. Wary of the ongoing investigation into the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal and the potential consequences to “Shoeless Joe,” Frazee was delighted when the New York Yankees entered the bidding with a cash offer of $100,000 and Babe Ruth was sent to New York. Manager Miller Huggins immediately put an end to George Herman Ruth’s pitching career and made him a full-time outfielder. Had the White Sox been successful, instead of Ruth becoming the savior to restore baseball’s integrity, he would’ve worn the cap of the team that destroyed it and likely become just another name among the greats and taking the sport of baseball on a very different path.

 

m101-4 babe ruth rookieOffered is one of the most stunning, mid-grade M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth rookie cards in existence!

The featured item would be at home in a world-class museum or on exhibit at Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame just as easily as it will be in the collection of the highest bidder. Though graded SGC 60 EX 5, an extraordinary accomplishment on its own, this prolific pasteboard is likely the most impressive specimen for the grade and has a stronger overall appearance then several graded even higher that have recently become available. Any collector that has been in the market for a mid to upper-grade Ruth rookie card is well aware of the two biggest pitfalls plaguing the issue; centering and print lines. The M101-4 Ruth is almost always poorly centered, but the featured specimen offers superior framing for the issue, slightly positioned toward the left side but well within parameters for a higher grade and far more accurate than the large majority of examples in the EX grade. Even more significant is the absence of the two horizontal print lines that appear on virtually every M101-4 Ruth, clearly scarring the surface from the center to the right edge near the top of Ruth’s image and in the middle, by Ruth’s waist. Many prospective buyers think these imperfections to be unavoidable at this grade level, but we’re happy to report that this card proves that to be false. The image quality of the young, lanky legend is superb, enhanced by an unadulterated layer of reflective gloss, while each corner shows consistent, mild wear with light enamel loss that is visible under magnification but looks less pronounced to the naked eye. The Sporting News ad on the reverse is surprisingly strong and well-preserved, ably positioned on an off-white canvas that is clean save for the light mark under the “C. C. Spinks & Son” name, a negligible blemish considering its placement on the card and a likely reason the SGC grade isn’t higher … which, of course, would greatly increase the price. We advise you to research prices realized for this card in similar grade, then look at those cards and compare it to what you’ll be getting here. We did, and there was no comparison; this one is superior … hands down!

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Play Ball!

As we speed through March and quickly approach the month of April, sports enthusiasts all across this great nation look forward to the unofficial national holiday of baseball season’s “Opening Day.” Regardless of what the calendar or some Pennsylvania groundhog might declare, baseball fans generally regard Opening Day as the first “official” day of Spring, providing a sense of hope and rebirth while casting aside the disappointment of the previous season to start anew. Every team begins with a clean slate, posting a record of 0-0 with an equal opportunity of hoisting that coveted Commissioner’s Trophy in October.

The First Pitch

John-F-Kennedy-baseballBeginning with William Howard Taft throwing the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day in 1910, America’s Commander In Chief and its national pastime have become an unshakable partnership. Eleven Presidents since Taft have marked the official opening of baseball season with varying results. In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a seasoned veteran at throwing the first pitch, provided a moment of comedy when his pitch sailed wildly off target and smashed the camera of Washington Post photographer Irving Schlossenberg. Ten years later, President Harry S. Truman wowed the stadium crowd by displaying his ambidextrous abilities and throwing two first pitches, one with each hand. In 1962, JFK threw the ceremonial pitch to open the new District of Columbia Stadium, renamed Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in 1969 after his brother’s assassination. With the exodus of the Washington Senators to Texas, President Richard Nixon traveled to his home state of California in 1973 to deliver the pitch at Anaheim Stadium, becoming the first President to open a new season outside the nation’s capital. In ’84, Ronald Reagan delivered a strike and then watched the game from the dugout, the first President ever to do so. And in 1993, President Clinton became the first to leave the security of the Secret Service and take the mound to throw his pitch.

Moments In History

Jackie2006-05-21-aaronOpening Day has had its share of historic moments. In 1901, the Detroit Tigers opened the season by rallying from a 13-4 deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 14-13. In 1923, Yankee Stadium opened its doors with a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox behind a third-inning Babe Ruth homer, starting the legend of “The House That Ruth Built.” In 1940, Bob Feller opened the new season by tossing a no-hitter against the White Sox; he would lead the league in wins, ERA, complete games and strikeouts that year. Of course there’s 1947, when Jackie Robinson trotted to first base at Ebbets field and broke baseball’s long-standing color barrier. And in 1974, Hank Aaron stepped to the plate in Cincinnati and delivered a first-inning round tripper, his 714th career dinger, tying him with Babe Ruth for career home runs.

Off To A Fast Start

walterjohnsonWhile George Bell, Tuffy Rhodes, and Dmitri Young all share the title of smashing three home runs in the season opener, several notable ballplayers have a track record of excellence in the season’s premier contest. Ted Williams had a lifetime .449 batting average in fourteen opening contests with at least one hit in every game. Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. have hit eight Opening Day round-trippers with Willie Mays and Eddie Mathews right behind at seven. Jimmy Key holds a perfect 7-0 record on the mound in season openers with Greg Maddux at 6-0. But perhaps the best performer on Opening Day is the great Walter Johnson, who hurled nine shutouts in fourteen career starts.

Whichever team you root for you can celebrate that on this day, your team is tied for first place. So sit back, relax, and take in another great baseball season. And if you’re suddenly feeling a little under the weather, you might want to take the day off and rest. Studies have shown that a little fresh air, a hot dog and a few beers can do wonders!