2023 February Finest Auction

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The excitement surrounding Babe Ruth’s trade to the Yankees in 1920 put him at the epicenter of the sports photography world: New York City. Among the most renowned New York-based photographers was Paul Thompson. Like his contemporary Charles Conlon, Paul Thompson’s photographs defined how we see baseball in the first three decades of the 20th century. Whereas Conlon excelled in portraits and posed shots of the game’s greats, Thompson was one of the pioneers of the “action shot” which told a story without the need for words. This outstanding Paul Thompson photograph of Babe Ruth is a perfect example. 

In this crystal-clear image, Thompson expertly captures the moment Ruth has ejected his spare warm-up bats and is in the process of cocking back his chosen club, ready to take a swing. The viewer can see one of his discarded sticks as it arcs away from Ruth, off to the side where a diligent bat boy is busy arranging bats before the Yankees dugout. The 25-year-old slugger is still trim and fit at this point, his Yankees flannel pinstripes crisp and clean. It is a perfectly captured moment in time, taken at the very start of the period where Babe Ruth would almost single-handedly reinvent the National Pastime. 

This Type 1 photograph ranks among the finest ever taken of Babe Ruth in his first season with the Yankees. Measuring 6½” x 8½”, this image presents beautifully with no notable flaws to report. The reverse carries Paul Thompson’s 1920-era stamp as well as a handwritten pencil caption that reads, “He discards two of his Indian Clubs retaining his home run bat.” There are other pencil notations and some light staining on the reverse, none of which distracts from the importance of the impeccable early Ruth image. The photograph has been encapsulated and graded a Type 1 by PSA/DNA.

1920 Babe Ruth Picks Out Home Run Bat First Season With NY Yankees Original Photograph by Paul Thompson - PSA/DNA Type 1
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