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Lot # 682 (of 1594)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Signed Photo - July 4, 1939 Gehrig's Farewell Speech

Starting Bid - $10,000.00, Sold For - $58,750.00

In the realm of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig signed collectibles, no item can compare with this spectacular piece in terms of rarity or significance: Presented is an original 8 x 10-inch black-and-white matte-finish original first-generation photograph capturing the pair embracing on July 4, 1939, at Lou Gehrig Day, signed by each player across his respective image. Just simply as an original photograph, this is one of the most significant of all Ruth and Gehrig images, and one of the most famous of all baseball images, transcending the world of sport as an iconic image of American photography. This is an incredible rarity signed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the only original signed photograph of this image known. Gehrig has inscribed the photo in black fountain pen: "To Charley - May I always prove worthy of your friendship - Sincerely Lou Gehrig." Ruth's blue fountain pen inscription reads "Sincerely Babe Ruth." Gehrig's inscription and signature grade a solid "7/8," a portion of each signature is scripted upon the dark area of the photo created by the cast of Ruth's shadow, therefore both contrast variably. The Ruth signature has been flawlessly penned and grades "10."

We have been able to find only one other verifiably authentic signed photograph of Ruth and Gehrig from this historic day. That signed photograph, which like this example has been in a private collection for many decades, is also an original first-generation print of the same dimensions and quality, and was taken at the same angle by the very same cameraman, but a second or two before or after, as the pose is very slightly different. Both of these original first-generation prints were obviously at one time together, from the same film roll, produced by the same photographer at the same time. It is also fascinating to note that both were also obviously signed at the same time. Ruth and Gehrig signed each photograph using very different writing instruments from each other, but signed with the very same distinctive ink types and distinctive writing instruments on both this photograph and the other slightly-different pose example. Sometimes, when we are researching an item and comparing it with others that are similar, we become aware of information that isolated would appear to have no significance, but taken together is relevant, interesting, and might otherwise never come to light. That was certainly the case here.

The pose of the offered signed photo is by far the more famous of the two, reproduced in countless books over the years. Despite the fact that this is one of the most famous sports photographs ever taken, with its image forever ingrained into the American psyche, it is understandable that few signed examples would exist. The reason for that is twofold. Foremost is the fact that Gehrig was seriously ill at the time of this photo and even the simple act of signing his name was becoming increasingly difficult for him. He simply had no choice but to stop honoring autograph requests. That is why very few authentic Lou Gehrig signed items dating from 1939 or later are known today. (His wife often signed for him during the last two years of his life.) Although we don't know exactly who "Charley" is, it seems obvious, especially given the heartfelt inscription, that he was an extremely close friend of Gehrig's and therefore merited the effort it must of taken for Gehrig to inscribe this piece. The second reason is the simple time factor. Gehrig's physical limitations at the time notwithstanding, he passed away less than two years after this photo was taken. During much of that time, he was unable to sign even with great effort. Thus, the window of opportunity for the acquisition of Gehrig's signature on this piece was extremely limited.

This photo marked a historic occasion, for it reunited two of the game's greatest players. Prior to this day, Ruth and Gehrig, despite having spent over ten years as teammates, had not spoken to each other in over eight years. Their "feud" began around 1930 and while its cause has been debated over the years, the consensus among historians today is that it revolved around a fight between Gehrig's mother and Ruth's wife. Their acrimony was so strong during their final few years together they wouldn't even acknowledge each other on the field. When news of Gehrig's tragic illness became known, Ruth broke down and attended Lou Gehrig Day in a gesture of support. This photo was taken just after Gehrig had delivered his moving "Luckiest Man on the face of the Earth" speech. Ruth went up to Gehrig, whispered something in his ear and the two then embraced. That moment, one of the most touching in the history of sport, is captured here for all posterity and it remains one of the most famous photos in sports history. This is an astonishing item. By any measure, in our opinion, this is the single most significant and historic signed photograph of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that could possibly exist. (Note: It is also by far the better in terms of condition of the two similar known examples. A color copy of the signed alternate-pose photograph accompanies.) The photo is in apparent Near Mint condition and has been matted and framed to total dimensions of 14.5 x 16 inches. LOAs from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $58,750.00

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