Babe Ruth and William Bendix for The Babe Ruth Story

The Final Days of Babe Ruth as Covered in The Sporting News

Babe Ruth and William Bendix for The Babe Ruth Story
In between the two issues covered in this post came the August 11, 1948 edition of The Sporting News which includes this full page ad for Louisville Slugger bats featuring Babe Ruth in street clothes with William Bendix, star of the recently released The Babe Ruth Story

I currently have a couple of the more important issues of The Sporting News in my possession, but decided to try and generate a little excitement with them on eBay so they’re only going to be mine now through Sunday. Since they’re soon headed out the door I thought it’d be a good time to take a little better look at them and soak up some of that classic content.

While The Sporting News has evolved with the times to cover all sports, these two issues are from the period when it still proclaimed itself “The Baseball Paper of the World” just under its masthead. Volume 1, Number 1 was published in 1886 and over the years the format evolved from text-only to include photos and eventually several cartoons in each issue by renowned sports artists such as Lou Darvas and Willard Mullin. I’ve had a hard time laying hands on any issues before the mid-1920’s, but actually those issues through the late 30’s are a tougher sell as the sports paper was very different in both and size and format, despite at heart being the same baseball paper of the world.

For more information here’s a History of The Sporting News that I wrote some time back for one of my sites, Collecting Old Magazines.

Vintage issues of the 1940’s and 50’s have become some of my favorite items to handle as I find them ridiculously undervalued by comparison to most sports memorabilia. Maybe there’s just too much–each issue is packed and you’d be hard-pressed to come across an issue where multiple future Hall of Famers aren’t covered. Issues from this period measure approximately 12″ X 16.5″ with all the condition sensitivity of a 60-70 year old newspaper. The latest round of Sporting News papers I’d acquired were in spectacular condition with the overriding detraction being age toning–not surprising, but in the case of this group nowhere near as heinous as I’ve seen from some other copies which have passed through over the years. These beauties just have a little tone to their color, I’ve seen them where you can’t page through without bits of the edges flaking off.

Note to potential buyers looking at this post while it’s still fresh: Each of the issues that I’m going to specifically talk about below do have a major flaw–there’s a single page in each with cut-outs. Each issue had several pages including all the box scores for the previous week, well, I guess our original collector liked to clip the good ones! There’s more detail on this in each of the listings.

The issues I wanted to look at here are the June 23 and August 25, 1948 issues of The Sporting News. The Babe Ruth issues.

June 23 features a legendary photograph of the Bambino on the cover, unusual because most covers featured a cartoon by this time, at the 25th Anniversary of Yankee Stadium. While the photograph is not the Pulitzer Prize winning photo by Nat Fein, it is very similar and in fact likely the exact same shot, just taken by a different photographer (Bob Olen of the New York Daily News). The picture in question shows Ruth, at this time ravaged by the cancer which would soon kill him, standing at home plate of the Stadium leaning on a baseball bat to support himself as if it were a cane.

Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium 1948
Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium on the Stadium's Silver Anniversary as covered by The Sporting News

The issue includes quotes from many of the Yankee old-timers on hand to celebrate the Stadium’s anniversary. Here’s a snippet of what Ruth himself had to say:

“Look at this uniform I’m wearing. I’ve had it a helluva long time. It fits me, which proves it’s old. All the newer uniforms I wore when I carried a lot more weight. I’m happy with this gang. They’re my real friends, yesterday, today and tomorrow. I remember we used to be together 154 games a season. If you can still like a guy after all that time he must be all right. I liked them then; I like them now.”

Following are some quotes from sportswriter Dan Daniel’s main coverage of the day’s events. I’ve included them out of order from the original article, but I think in the way I’ve excerpted them they tell a better story for our purposes:

“From first to last it was Babe Ruth Day. The festivities having to do with the old titans of Yankee history started a 2 and finished at 4”

“The event was billed as the silver anniversary of Yankee Stadium, which was dedicated on April 18, 1923, with a game in which Ruth hit his first homer in that park, and beat the Red Sox, 4 to 1.”

“Ruth’s old No. 3 was not only retired, never again to be worn by a Yankee, but his uniform and his number were sent to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.”

Babe Ruth's number retired at 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium
At the bottom of page various photos of Babe Ruth on June 23. At the top a cartoon shows Ruth's uniform being run up a flag pole. June 23 issue.

“And so No. 3 has passed from use by the Yankees, just as No. 4 was retired when Lou Gehrig went from the championship scene and on to his tragic end.”

“There was a harrowing pathos in the air the day doomed Lou Gehrig bade the fans in Yankee Stadium farewell … But nowhere at no other time did baseball see the sort of thing that was put on display in Yankee Stadium on the afternoon of June 13, 1948.”

“It was the last time the Babe ever will stand at the plate, swinging a bat, with his eyes on those right field stands.

It was the last time that the arena will echo to the roars of the crowd, the last time that cheers for the Babe in the old livery will reverberate through the rafters in which he became famous, and in which he remade the game.”

“As the Babe walked away from the mike, tears streamed down his face. There was a lump in many a throat, and there were some 50,000 in the park, despite the early rain.”

Just two months later the August 25, 1948 issue of The Sporting News would include a special Babe Ruth Section, 8 pages in length, honoring the game’s greatest hero after his death at age 53 on August 16. The coverage looked back at the Sultan of Swat’s life and times with a special concentration on his playing career. Numerous photos illustrated the article and regular Sporting News advertisers, such as Spalding and Hillerich and Bradsby, manufacturers of the famed Louisville Slugger baseball bats, created special Ruth related ad-copy in tribute to the man who changed the game.

First page of The Sporting News special section covering the death of Babe Ruth
The first page of The Sporting News' special 8-page Babe Ruth section included in the August 25, 1948 issue. Ruth actually didn't make the cover of the main section.
A montage of Babe Ruth photos
A full page montage of Babe Ruth photos inside the August 25, 1948 edition of The Sporting News
Hillerich and Bradsby Babe Ruth Memorial Ad
Advertisers pay their respects. In this case Louisville Slugger manufacturer Hillerich and Bradsby take out a full page facing the first page of the tribute section.

If you stick to the book, the only Price Guide I have on these is the 3rd Edition of the Standard Catalog of Sports Memorabilia (2003), which is at least a great guide in identifying content of each issue. They quote the June 23 issue at $300 and the August 25 at $500.

Since I’ve already talked about my feelings about Price Guides in this space it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve started my auctions at $9.99 each with no reserve. Remember, mine do have half a page cut-out in each, but at the same time, let’s see how much these babies are really worth!

Published by

Cliff Aliperti

I've been involved with collecting and collectibles pretty much as long as I can remember beginning as a tyke with baseball cards and somehow managing to collect a little of this and a little of that from many other hobbies over the year. I began assisting my Uncle at baseball card shows and live auctions in the mid-1980's (fun times!) and it wasn't very long before I started dealing a little myself from inside his space. About 1990 I became a full-time baseball card dealer for about three years, during which time I also really fell in love with classic movies. There was a four-year gap afterwards for college and then another four years that I dressed up nice and rode the LIRR to Manhattan each morning to sell advertising, but it was that real job which served as my introductory course with a computer and its down hours which led to my first use of eBay in 2000. By 2004 eBay was paying better than Manhattan so I went full-time and have been ever since. The baseball card market was a little tight early on so pretty much on a whim I bought some silent era movie photos which reawakened the passion for me. I currently specialize in Movie Cards and Collectibles from the Silent Era through the Golden Age of the movies as well as general Magazine Back Issues from the 19th Century through to about the 1980's. All of my currently available stock can be found in my eBay Store. I also operate several informational websites, the first of which things-and-other-stuff.com has been home to my archives of vintage movie cards and collectibles since 2002. I also run the magawiki, a site comprised of the contents lists of vintage magazine back issues, a fan site dedicated to the 1930's and 40's actor Warren William, who's also the subject of my personal collection, and an e-commerce site at The-Collectors-Site.com. Besides all of that, and the selling, I'm usually in several other places online, the most current of which can usually be found on my Google Profile.

3 thoughts on “The Final Days of Babe Ruth as Covered in The Sporting News”

  1. love the Babe story , love the montage especially.

    We’re always routing about looking at old scrapbooks, and I always hope to find a good one that include shots like the ones you show.

    Unfortunately, here in Canada, almost all the ones we find are about the queen and royal entourage…….. sigh.

  2. i have an august 25 1948 issue of the sporting news. its in good vintage condition. im interested in what i may want to do with it.

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