The timepiece most identified with Major League Baseball's most famous player, Babe Ruth, is going up for auction next month after it had been considered long lost.
A pentagonally shaped pocket watch made of gold that was given to Ruth after the New York Yankees won the 1923 World Series might fetch $750,000 via Heritage Auctions on Feb. 22 in New York City. The watch, and others like it that were given to other ballplayers in that era, were the forerunners of the championship rings professional athletes receive today.
The watch is believed to be Ruth's first championship hardware of any kind — and it's certainly the only one known to exist. Ruth batted .368 with three homers in the '23 Series, which the Yankees won in six games against the crosstown New York Giants. Ruth's Boston Red Sox teams won three World Series in the previous decade, but this was the Babe's first championship in New York City. It also was the Yankees' first season at Yankee Stadium. The watch symbolizes a lot.
Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Dallas-based Heritage, told the Associated Press that the watch has passed through four owners after Ruth gave it to friend, Manhattan hotelier Charles Schwefel. When the current owner stepped forward, it was a surprise. He had bought it privately for $200,000 in 1988, long after the watch fell out of public view.
From the A.P.:
"No one knew where the piece had been. No one has ever seen it for public sale or public auction," Ivy said. "The fact that there was no news about it for so many decades, it was just thought that at some point it had been lost to time."
The 14-karat gold timepiece remained with Ruth until shortly before his death from cancer in 1948.
Simply by stepping forward, the current (and anonymous) owner of the watch was able to piece together what happened to the watch and why it seemed to have disappeared. The story isn't as fascinating as — say — what happened (NSFW) in "Pulp Fiction" with Butch's family watch. But it's a heartwarming tale.
The real value in the watch, as Ivy said, is what it symbolizes from the time Ruth received it. And that Ruth had it engraved for his "pal," Schwefel. It's like an autograph, but more permanent, so even though personalizations sometimes drive down the cost of memorabilia, Ruth's probably enhances it.
The Yankees should buy it and put it on display at the new Stadium. It won't cost against the luxury tax. They can afford a million-dollar artifact from the Ruthian age.
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