Babe Ruth Baseball Cards

RUTH-CUTBabe Ruth is THE greatest baseball player to ever live. And this statement is coming from a self-professed Willie Mays fanatic.

Prior to his overthrowing of the offensive order of the sport, Ruth was one the game’s premier pitchers. He had a lifetime record of 94-46 with a 2.28 Earned Run Average.

STRIP-RUTHIn three World Series starts, he was undefeated with the 4th best ERA in World Series history. Had he kept pitching, it’s unknown how many records he would have set. What’s not subject to conjecture is The Bambino’s rewriting of the hitting portion of the record book.

George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1895 and made his pro debut with the Boston Red Sox at age 19. Babe’s first appearance on cardboard was the #9 card in the 1914 Baltimore News Orioles set. A recent low grade example fetched almost half a million dollars.

Strip cards (noted by the W prefix in the American Card Catalog) were the most common type of Ruth trading card during his career. The cards were issued in strips of multiple players and the consumer would have the opportunity to cut along the lines to separate the cards.

The images are very primitive compared to the beautiful artwork of the Candy and Caramel issues (E cards) as well as the earlier era Tobacco issues (T cards).

E120-RUTHNot surprising, Ruth appears on more Strip cards than any other player with numerous variations in many of the sets.

He’s in the 1916 W-UNC, 1919 W514, 1920 W516-1, 1920 W516-2, 1920 W519-1, 1920 W519-2, 1920 W520, 1921 W516-2-1, 1921 W521, 1921 W551, 1922 W501, 1922 W503, 1922 W573, 1922 W575-1, 1923 W515-1, 1923 W515-2, 1923 W572, 1925 W590, 1926 W512, 1927 W560, 1928 W502, 1929 W553, 1930 W554, 1931 W-UNC, 1931 W502, 1931 W517 Mini and 1931 W517 Strip Card series. Some of the most affordable (albeit, unattractive) Ruth cards produced during his playing career are Strip cards.

Coming off the Black Sox gambling scandal of the 1919 World Series, baseball needed a hero to save the sport. Babe Ruth playing in the country’s biggest market was exactly what baseball needed. Babe had just broken Ned Williamson’s 35-year-old single season Home Run record while playing for the Red Sox.

Just three months later he was sold to the Yankees for $125,000 plus $300,000 in loans to help Boston owner Harry Frazee fund a Broadway play. The serendipity couldn’t be scripted better.

33G-RUTH-YELLOWRuth’s larger-than-life persona and surging Yankees team were a perfect fit for the newly built Yankee Stadium, dubbed “The House That Ruth Built.” The Sultan of Swat took full advantage of his new environment (and the Live Ball) and demolished his year-old record by slamming 54 homers in 1920. A superstar was born.

Ruth was not only the biggest star in baseball, but he may have been the most famous person in the entire world. He played himself in several movies, barnstormed the world and even met with heads of state. Ruth’s tales were always a headline in the making.

While negotiating one of his contracts during the Great Depression, Ruth was told that his salary demand was more than the President was making. Ruth’s reply; “I had a better year than him.”

33G-B-RUTHBabe had a boisterous personality and he seemed to relish his celebrity. Even though he was a prolific signer, his autographs still command several thousand dollars. Ruth’s popularity more than makes up for the large supply of Ruth autographs.

The Yankees kept winning and Ruth kept rolling along. Ruth broke his Home Run record again in 1921 with 59 and passed it one more time with his 60 blasts in 1927.

That was the year that everything fell in to place for the Yankees Murderers Row lineup as they galloped to a 110-44 regular season before sweeping the Pirates in the World Series.

Amazingly, since he had already won the league MVP in 1923, Ruth was excluded from consideration. Ruth’s 60 HRs, 165 RBIs and .356 BA represent one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history.

35G-RUTHThe Candy and Caramel issues (E cards) of Ruth provide collectors the best opportunity to capture the Babe in the sweet spot of his career. The American Caramel, National Caramel and York Caramel are the three primary manufacturers of Ruth E cards.

In 1921, the E121-80 American Caramel has three variations for The Bambino, the 1922 E121-120 has five different Ruths with another card appearing in each of the 1922 E120 and E122 series.

Although the cards are black and white or sepia, they do feature photography, unlike the earlier trading cards.

Ruth’s Goudey cards are easily the most popular. Although he was nearing the end of his career, the 1933 Goudey Baseball set has no fewer than four different Ruth cards; #53, #144, #149 and #181.

48L-RUTHAll bright and in brilliant color, the gorgeous 1933 Goudey Ruth cards are highly sought after.

The same year, Goudey also included Ruth in their landmark Sport Kings anthology series along with two cards in their Canadian World Wide Gum release.

Ruth’s last major card of his playing career is the 1935 Goudey 4-in-1 where he’s pictured with Rabbit Maranville, Marty McManus & Ed Brandt.

Ruth is noticeably absent in some important trading card releases. There are no cards of him in the 1934 Goudey (perhaps after securing Lou Gehrig as a spokesman, Goudey didn’t feel the need), 1933 Delong, 1933 Tattoo Orbit or the 1940 Play Ball sets.

51T-RUTHIn all, Ruth was featured on over 200 cards during his playing career, easily the most of anyone in that period. He was also a fixture on trading card releases long after his death as having a Ruth card in a set was a surefire way to achieve higher sales.

The 1948 Leaf #3, produced the year of his death, is a $3,000 card in Near Mint condition. No other card depicting a deceased ballplayer has ever been issued that commands anywhere near that amount.

Topps in their earliest (though not mainstream) release, produced its first Ruth card in the 1948 Topps Magic Photos series.

He would appear again in 1951 in the scarce Topps Connie Mack’s All-Stars, in 1952 in the Topps Look N’ See and the 1954 Topps Scoop. After Roger Maris broke the Babe’s single season record in 1961, Topps commemorated the event with ten different Babe Ruth Special cards in the 1962 Topps.

SP-RUTHRuth’s greatness will always transcend the sport of baseball. People continue to refer to other exceptional athletes in other sports as “The Babe Ruth of.”

Ruth is a Sabermetrician’s dream; He has the best Wins Against Replacement (WAR), On Base Plus Slugging (OPS) and Offensive Win %  of any player in the history of the sport. He led the league in HRs twelve times, RBIs five time, Bases on Balls eleven-times, Total Bases six times, Runs eight times and average once.

His career numbers of 714 HRs, 2214 RBIs and .342 BA are staggering. His career Home run record lasted for 40 years, his career RBI record 41 years and his career Baseball on Balls record 67 years.

Small wonder that Ruth became a member of the first induction class at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If you have any Babe Ruth baseball cards (produced between 1914 and 1973) to sell or any items on our baseball buy list, PLEASE CONTACT Mark Rubin at 914-725-2225 or via email at mark@amerlegends.com. A quick phone call is all it takes to get started.