This uniform was formerly on loan from the Ruth family to the Babe
Ruth Birthplace & Museum in Baltimore, Maryland for 17 years from 1972 until 1989.
In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, a group of New York City businessmen decided to create an international exposition to lift the city and the country out of its despair. In short order, these men had formed the New York World's Fair Corporation (NYWFC), whose office was situated on one of the highest floors of the 102-story Empire State Building. The newly formed committee elected former New York City Police Chief Grover Whalen as its president and boasted other local dignitaries including NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and business leaders Percy S. Straus, Floyd Carlisle, John J. Dunnigan and Harvey Dow Gibson.
Over the next four years, the committee planned, built and organized the fair and its exhibits with countries from around the globe taking part in creating the biggest international event since World War I. New York City's Parks Commissioner Robert Moses worked closely with the Fair's committee and saw great value in having the NYWFC remove a vast ash dump in Queens that was to be the site of the event.
The 1939-40 New York World's Fair, which covered 1,216 acres of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was the second most expansive American world's fair of all time, exceeded only by St Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. It was sandwiched between the Great Depression and the U.S. entry into World War II, so the timing was bold, but the attractions were delightful. It was an ambitious effort to say the least as dozens of countries from around the world participated and more than 44 million people attended its exhibits over two seasons. The fair's theme – "The World of Tomorrow" – depicted a utopian city of the future.
Due to its New York City roots, promotion of the event took on many forms including using the area's Major League Baseball teams as human billboards. In 1938, the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants and, of course, the vaunted New York Yankees all did their part to promote the upcoming fair by wearing special patches on their jerseys. The unique patches that christened their uniforms featured the "Trylon," "Perisphere" and "1939." The Trylon and Perisphere were two modernistic structures (together known as the "Theme Center") at the center of the Fair. They became the central symbol(s) of the 1939 World's Fair, its image reproduced by the millions on a wide range of promotional materials and serving as the fairground's focal point. The Trylon exhibit (the "spike") stood 700 feet tall while the 18-story, 200-foot-tall Perishere (the "ball") served as an auditorium the size of Radio City Music Hall where thousands rode on two moving balconies and looked down on Democracy, a mammoth model of the “City of Tomorrow." The spire-shaped Trylon was at the time the world's longest escalator, while the Perisphere was a tremendous sphere measuring 180 feet in diameter.
Even Babe Ruth, the world-renowned New York Yankees icon, participated in the Fair's promotion. "The Sultan of Swat," the player who launched a then-record 714 home runs during his 22-year playing career, was four years removed from donning Yankee pinstripes and three years removed from playing in his last 28 MLB games for the National League's Brooklyn Braves in 1935. Despite his retirement, he was likely the most recognized athlete in the entire world. Always a jovial pitchman, Ruth served as the perfect spokesman for the Fair, riding on parade floats, showing up at business meetings in uniform and generally making himself available any way the committee could utilize his services. Even batting clinics featuring Ruth had him dressed in his unique New York World’s Fair uniform.
The ensemble Ruth wore was a one-of-a-kind, custom-made flannel manufactured by A.G. Spalding & Bros. The proper manufacturer’s tag can be found in the bottom right front tail. Reading "NEW YORK" across the front of the jersey in 3.25” tall double felt orange letters outlined in navy blue, the special Trylon, Perisphere and 1939 patches occupy both the right and left sleeve areas and stretch five inches wide by six inches tall. The inside rear collar has “Babe Ruth” saddle-stitched in red. A total of six manufactured air holes are present in either arm pit area, while a total of seven clear buttons runs the length of the jersey front. There are two special half-inch wide ribbon stays the same color as the uniform attached to the bottom rear tail of the jersey that allowed Ruth to tie the jersey down to a circular-shaped crotch gusset in the accompanying uniform pants. Each ribbon stay measures 42” long. The jersey shows moderate use with some slight sweat stains evident in the collar area.
The accompanying, matching flannel pants, size 42, also exhibit moderate use. The proper A.G. Spalding & Bros. manufacturer’s tag is present in the rear waistband area, next to “Babe Ruth” saddle-stitched in red lettering. The button-down fly area includes all four original off-yellow colored buttons, while the pants sport six loops (three wide and three slim) which held Ruth’s belt in place. The pants boast two rear pockets with what appears to be the original single buttons intact. Both pant legs sport a finished hem, which looks to be where Ruth tucked the end of either pant leg into his long stirrup-style socks to give the uniform a knicker-style look. The crotch gusset area reveals some discoloration from Ruth’s sweat and perspiration.
Lastly, Ruth’s long-sleeve Raglan baseball t-shirt (size 50) is also included. Manufactured by A.G. Spalding & Bros., it boasts proper tagging on the inside rear color and 21-inch navy blue sleeves. The undergarment shows show noticeable sweat stains around the collar where Ruth was perspiring during his multiple promotional appearances on behalf of the New York World’s Fair.
Includes direct provenance from the Ruth Family.