Babe Ruth’s Jersey Sells for $5.6 Million

Auction at Yankee Stadium sets record for sports memorabilia

Statue of Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth statue, Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Austin Kirk/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / June 15, 2019 3:55 pm

During his long career in baseball, Babe Ruth set records that endured until long after his playing days had ended. Now, Ruth has had a part in yet another record-setting milestone — and he didn’t even need to be present for this particular achievement.

ESPN reports that a New York Yankees jersey worn by Ruth has just sold for $5,640,000.

That amount exceeded estimates of the sale price by over a million dollars. The sale of this particular jersey, worn sometime between 1928 and 1930, broke a record for sports memorabilia previously held by another of Ruth’s jerseys. That one, a 1920 jersey, sold for $4,400,000.

The sale took place at an auction of over 400 pieces of Ruth-related memorabilia at a particularly fitting venue: Yankee Stadium. A number of the items for sale were supplied by Ruth’s descendants.

Ruth is one of several baseball greats whose associated memorabilia has demanded high costs in recent years. The ball with which Hank Aaron hit his 755th home run sold for $650,000 in 1999, and baseball cards featuring Mickey Mantle and Honus Wagner have also sold for significant amount of money.

For some buyers with the resources, memorabilia can be a way to savor one of the landmark moments of their preferred sport. For others, it can be something entirely different. Comics creator and toy impresario Todd McFarlane has amassed a collection of several notable baseballs, including the one that Mark McGwire hit for his 70th home run in 1998. McFarlane’s toy company went on to sign several major sports deals.

In a 2007 interview, McFarlane said that “the McGwire ball bought me some meetings. People tend to equate money with success: Hey, that guy spent $3 million for a baseball! Bring him in! It’s like buying into a poker table.” Baseball records prompting poker metaphors: it’s a sports round-up show in a single quote.

Will anything break the record set today by this jersey of Ruth’s? There’s a good argument to be made that certain details of this jersey will make it hard to top. But as new records are set and sports continue to grow, it’s anyone’s bet — literally, in this case.

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