One-page handwritten letter, not dated, signed by Hall of Fame outfielder Babe Ruth. This is one of the most extraordinary Babe Ruth letters we have ever handled because he not only discusses his recent film, Babe Comes Home, but also takes an active interest in trying to promote the game of baseball in China. In his letter, which is penned on his personal "Babe Ruth/New York" letterhead, Ruth writes to the "Peacock Motion Picture Corp/116 Linza Road/Shanghai China." In full:
Dear Sirs, It gives me much pleasure to offer autographed Baseballs to teams in China, to Stimulate interest in the grand old game. I am especially interested in the development of baseball among the Chinese Students. I am extremely enthusiastic over the picture, Babe Comes Home, which I made for the first National and am glad that Peacock is releasing the same in China. Very Sincerely Yours, Babe Ruth.
Both the text and signature have been boldly scripted in black fountain pen and grade "10." Babe Comes Home was the second feature film to star the Yankees legendary slugger and it was released in sound, so that for the first time fans could hear the Babe speak on screen. Released in May 1927, the film was a hit with both fans and critics. In its review of the film Variety noted, "As a film star, Babe (George Herman) Ruth delivers almost as handily as on the diamond, which is saying much both ways for the King of Swat." Ruth obviously enjoyed the film as well, for he reportedly confessed to having sat through the six-reeler ten times. Unfortunately, for both baseball and movie fans alike, Babe Comes Home is a "lost" film, meaning no prints have survived. Even memorabilia related to the film is rare. Only a handful of movie posters and lobby cards exist, as well as a small number of heralds and lesser promotional pieces. Although this letter is not dated, the fact that the film came out in the spring of 1927 and Ruth writes here that he is "extremely enthusiastic" over it, makes it almost certain that it was composed in the same year of the film's release. Ruth, of course, enjoyed his finest overall season in 1927, as he not only set his long-standing single-season home-run record of 60, but also powered the Yankees" famous lineup of "Murderers' Row" to the first of two consecutive World Championships.
In addition to its mention of Babe Comes Home, the letter is also significant for its discussion of baseball's rise in popularity in China, as well as documenting Ruth's international fame at the time. Baseball was played in China as early as 1863, but aside from the formation of a few college clubs, the game never really caught on in the nineteenth century. However, as evidenced by this letter, baseball was gaining somewhat in popularity to the point that Ruth's name was known and that Peacock Motion Pictures was going to release his movie in China. Unfortunately, whatever inroads were made at the time, the game of baseball all but disappeared from China following Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution in 1966, when all Western influences were suppressed by the ruling government.
This is the first Babe Ruth handwritten letter we have ever seen dating from the historic 1927 season. While that alone makes it especially desirable, its content truly defines it as one of the most significant Ruth letters as well. This letter last appeared at public auction over a decade ago (as Lot 154 in the Sotheby's December 2004 sports memorabilia sale), where it realized $29,900. Our consignor purchased it at that time and it has remained in his private collection until now. It should also be noted that at the time of its sale in 2004, the catalog description stated that this letter was consigned directly from the prestigious Mark Lewis Collection, which was one of the finest private collections of Babe Ruth material ever assembled. This letter is also featured in the book Baseball's Golden Half-Century by Ken Willey (Glenleaf Publishing, 2007).
The letter (5.25 x 8.25 inches), which is written on a fold-over (four-sided) sheet, displays a horizontal and vertical mailing fold, moderate toning and both light staining and a few light ink fingerprints on the reverse of the very back sheet. In Excellent condition overall. Full LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open).