Babe Ruth's first Yankees contract starts at $300,000

The first contract that Babe Ruth ever signed with the New York Yankees has come up for sale with Goldin Auctions.

Babe Ruth first Yankees contract
The first three seasons in New York were spent under Ruth's previous contract with the Red Sox, making this his first official signing with the Yankees

The contract is one of the most desirable of all Babe Ruth collectibles, which is the sports memorabilia sector's biggest market - a testament to his superlative career.

The contract is dated 1922, three years after Ruth moved to the Yankees. Upon his 1919 move from the Boston Red Sox, his existing 1918 contract was simply transferred to the Yankees, making this the first official contract with the New York team.

There is just one copy of the 1918 contract known to exist. It sold at Sotheby's in 2005 for $996,000, placing it fourth in Paul Fraser Collectibles' Top 5 most expensive items of baseball memorabilia.

The current auction, which ends on November 2, offers the 1922 contract with a starting bid of $300,000, though international attention from collectors will undoubtedly push the price far higher.

By the time Ruth had finished his first three seasons with the Yankees, they had become the best team in the league, outgrowing their shared stadium with the New York Giants and building a new home, Yankee Stadium.

Ruth realised this, and demanded the highest wage possible as a reflection of his ability to draw crowds.

"A man ought to get all he can earn. A man who knows he's making money for other people ought to get some of the profit he brings in. Don't make any difference if it's baseball or a bank or vaudeville show. Its business I tell you. There ain't no sentiment to it. Forget that stuff," he said.

The result was a $52,000 per year contract, which Ruth fought for stating: "Well, there are 52 weeks in a year, and I've always wanted to make a grand a week." He remained the highest paid player in baseball for some years - more than a decade later the largest salary in the sport was that of Lou Gehrig at $30,000 a season.

The contract is in excellent condition, featuring the signatures of George Herman Ruth - to give Babe his full name - and Yankees president Jacob Ruppert.

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