The iconic American baseball player, Babe Ruth, received a pocket watch in 1923 as part of winning that year’s World Series championship. For decades it was thought to have been lost in time, pardon the pun, as no one knew its whereabouts. However, in January of 2014 it was reported that it has been found and was arriving in New York City, to be sold at auction, where it was estimated it would reach at least $750,000 (£477,011).
Ruth was part of the New York Yankees team who won the championship by beating the New York Giants in six games. It was a pivotal year for the franchise, as it relocated into Yankee Stadium and won its first of 27 World Series championships.
Babe Ruth’s pentagonal gold movement was sold at Heritage Auction’s on February 22 of 2014.
“It was the beginning of what’s become the most dominant dynasty in American sports,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at the Dallas-based auction house. “It changed the culture and Babe Ruth’s the ultimate leader of that team.”
During these times, winning players received watches, which later became obsolete and subsequrently replaced by the rings that are still standard to this day.
“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 movement remained in the possession of Ruth until shortly before he sadly passed away from cancer in 1948.
Ruth had asked his close friend, Charles Schwefel, what he would like from his collection once he had passed away. And the Manhattan hotelier, who also shared Ruth’s desire to help those less fortunate, in particular, disadvantaged youths, stated he’d like to have the watch.
Schwefel held on to the timepiece for two years until his wife passed it on to Lewis Fern, her nephew, who was also Babe Ruth’s frequent golf caddy. Fern kept the prized watch for decades until it was privately sold in 1988 to a major East Coast sports collector who kept it in a safe deposit box.it remained with the collector until it went to auction earlier this year.
“A lot of items from that era were lost or discarded, so the fact that the watch reappeared … obviously is of historical significance,” said Steve Costello, executive vice president of Steiner Sports collectibles in New Rochelle, N.Y.
The owner who took it to auction stated that through heritage he had acquired the watch for $200,000 (£127,203) and was parting ways with it now to help fund charitable organisations close to his heart.
What makes the watch even more exclusive is that Ruth had his name engraved on it and added a special inscription, “To My Pal Charles Schwefel.”
The Gruen Verithin watch is also features an engraved image of a pitcher, hitter, catcher, a ball in flight and the words “Yankees” and “World Champions 1923.”
The eventual step
The pocket watch, reserved for World Series-winning players, in fine gold, owned by Babe Ruth, sold for $650,108 (£413,335) at auction in California in May of 2014.
The auction house said that the watch was from the 25th anniversary celebration in 1948 of the opening of Yankee Stadium. The stadium came to be dubbed “The House That Ruth Built” due to the number of fans the iconic baseball legend attracted to the venue.
Have you ever acquired any antique pocket watches? UK dealers have often received items that once belonged to famous members of the sporting world. We’d love to hear your story if you have ever had one similar.