Approaching 70 full years since the passing of Babe Ruth, he remains, perhaps, the most celebrated icon in the history of American sports. Yes, it seemed he had a patent on the home run, but he actually transcended the game as America placed him on an echelon reserved for the noblest of dignitaries. Maybe the most amazing aspect is the longevity of Ruth’s popularity. While it was glaringly evident during his incomparable playing days, he remained the game’s most beloved figure well after retirement and, ultimately, his physical existence. This check endorsed by Ruth hails specifically from an endeavor that arose solely because of his popularity. Specifically, Brooklyn Dodgers boss Larry MacPhail recognized Ruth’s magnetism and hired him as a coach. It was in that capacity that Ruth signed this check and did so just weeks before retiring for good after realizing his managerial dreams would never come to fruition.
Dated “Aug. 29 1938,” the voucher is drawn from New York’s Chemical Bank and is made out to the Hotel Schenley in the amount of "$50." On the appropriate line, Ruth has signed “GH Ruth” in black-ink steel tip fountain pen. While the very end of “Ruth” is torn off, the signature still projects every bit of (“8-9”) potency with the flowing and sizable attributes familiar to Ruth pennings. There are normal cancelation stampings and hole punchings (none of which affect the signature) and, aside from the aforementioned missing piece, the crease-free item presents beautifully and comes with a full photo LOA from JSA.
As for the background story, Ruth and his wife, Claire, attended the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first-ever night game of June 15, 1938. While Johnny Vander Meer’s second straight no-hitter that night got most of the subsequent press, the pre-game atmosphere was nothing short of electric, with fans young and old swarming Ruth as if the game was secondary. Dodgers President Andy MacPhail immediately saw an opportunity to boost attendance for his then-moribund team. Four days later, Ruth signed a $15,000 contract and suited up as a Dodger coach. The change was instant, if not in the standings, in both the team camaraderie and at the turnstiles. Ruth engaged catcher Babe Phelps in a wager: cigars to whomever could hit the most home runs in batting practice (in which Ruth took part to attract fans). He actually thought of returning to the game in a playing capacity and MacPhail may have been receptive. Ruth reasoned that he be called up on September 1 (the day of expanded rosters) so as not to take anyone’s spot. But manager Burleigh Grimes put an end to the dream, telling MacPhail: “He’s 43 and he can’t see. If he can hit, I can still pitch.”
And so it was, perhaps on or near the very day of his final playing request, that Ruth signed this check at Pittsburgh’s posh Hotel Schenley. The date is consistent with the schedule of the Dodgers, who were closing out a two-game series with the Pirates that day. The season ended exactly five weeks later. On October 10, Grimes was fired. Three days later, he was (as expected) replaced by Leo Durocher. Ruth retired, this time for good, on that same day. As for the date, recipient and amount, these details were penned in an unknown hand. But Ruth's endorsement is unmistakable!
Aside from its appeal as being decorated with a Ruth autograph (and a potent one, at that), this keepsake is attached to the very last days of a career that nobody, including Ruth, wanted to see end. The Dodgers have since moved from Brooklyn. The Hotel Schenley was converted into a college dormitory. And Babe Ruth lives on forever.