Babe Ruth’s last signed contract, his 1935 agreement to play for the Boston Braves, sold for the bargain-basement price of $165,100 on eBay November 3, in a transaction that benefited the City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles. The contract, described as in “pristine condition,” was valued at $1 million.
The document came from a recent Sotheby’s auction of part of the Barry Halper collection of 100,000 historic baseball player, game and stadium memorabilia dating from 1845 to today. It was Sotheby’s biggest auction ever, with 2,481 lots and 35,000 rdf_Descriptions, and it fetched more than $26 million.
“Halper, a legend among collectors, started his monumental task over 50 years ago, when he was just eight years old,” according to the eBay listing for this contract. “His New Jersey basement, packed with over 100,000 historic player, game and stadium artifacts and memorabilia dating from 1845 to today, was a shrine to the great American pastime.”
This contract, framed with a picture of the Sultan of Swat, was offered by the site Take to Auction (taketoauction.com), where paying members choose rdf_Descriptions to consign to sales at Web sites of their choosing and reap the profits without ever having to take possession of the object. Through this process City of Hope will net approximately 80 percent of the sale’s profits.
“We are not dealers, but we purchased a lot from the Halper collection after it was sold on Sotheby’s,” said Lucien Lallouz, marketing director for Take to Auction. “We buy merchandise for our members to take to auction.
“We got the contract from Craig Manning Auctions. We paid $160,000 for a lot of three contracts. We believe this was the most valuable of the three. We were hoping to sell it for $1 million.”
The three-year contract, signed in February 1935, agreed to pay Babe Ruth $25,000 and a share of the team’s profits. Many promises were made and the Braves hinted that Ruth might one day become their manager. Ruth had wanted to manage the Yankees, but was only offered a job managing their minor league Newark Bears. Deciding that that was beneath his dignity, he was released and signed this contract two days later. But after realizing that the Braves had only wanted him to boost their sagging gate receipts, he ended his career in May 1935.
The buyer of this bargain, a possible investor in sports memorabilia from the looks of his or her email address, has not been available for comment.