Babe Ruth was born on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland. An Aquarius – if you believe in astrology – he was certainly “original,” “friendly” and “charitable,” but could also be “disobedient” and “rebellious” which made him unique in many ways. He was a big-league baseball player who set home run records and entertained millions during his 22-year MLB career.
Originally a member of the Boston Red Sox (1914 to 1919), Ruth was traded to the New York Yankees prior to the 1920 season and it was in the Bronx where his nicknames flourished: “The Bambino,” “The Sultan of Swat” and “The Colossus of Clout.” His 1927 record of hitting 60 home runs in a single season stood for 34 years. He had a lifetime batting average of .342 that included 714 home runs. His mark on the game is indelible, easily the largest imprint made by anyone in history.
All of this makes Ruth’s signature sought-after and coveted by collectors and investors alike. Although he’s been gone for 71 years, signed items by Ruth routinely make their way to auction. A generous signer during his 53 years on earth, Ruth’s autograph is considered a cherished keepsake that always commands top dollar. However, this also opens the door for unscrupulous types to forge Ruth’s autograph and try passing those efforts off as genuine. That’s where PSA steps in.
“Like many people, Ruth’s signature evolved over the course of his lifetime. To authenticate one from the next, you must consider many elements, including the time period Ruth signed the item and/or would have likely signed the item,” explained Kevin Keating, PSA’s principal autograph authenticator. “His signature also varied within periods of his life from a hurried style which tends to exhibit more quickness and choppiness as compared to the sit-down style. All these factors – and more — must be considered when evaluating Ruth items.”
Of note is the fact that Ruth signed his name many ways through the years. Collectors will encounter several variations of Ruth’s signature – usually in either blue or black ink – on a variety of mediums, from “George Herman Ruth” to “George H. Ruth” to “George H. Babe Ruth” to “G.H. Ruth” to “Babe” Ruth to “Babe Ruth.” For instance, he frequently signed bank checks with “G.H. Ruth” and contracts with “George Herman Ruth” or “George H. Ruth.” He also often personalized photos to friends.
But when it came to signing baseballs – his most frequent surface – Ruth always signed “Babe Ruth” and usually across the sweet spot. Believe it or not, prior to his arrival in the major leagues, signing autographs was not commonplace. But Ruth went out of his way to be accessible to fans of all ages, which provided infinite opportunities for him to sign. For a period, from approximately 1920 to 1928, he would even place quote marks around “Babe” when it came to autographing baseballs. For reasons unknown, he stopped the practice in the late ‘20s. Theorized Keating: “He probably dropped the quotes because it was one less thing to do to complete his signature and it was also likely an acknowledgment, subconscious or not, that he was known as Babe.”
Ruth died of esophageal cancer on August 16, 1948. Fittingly, his last public appearance occurred at Yankee Stadium on June 13, 1948, when the Yankees officially retired his uniform No. 3. After all, it was “The House That Ruth Built.”