By Brian Dwyer
Friendships are among the most emotionally valuable things one can possess, and for one New England family, a friendship forged more than a century ago is now adding value monetarily as mementos from long ago hit the auction block at Robert Edward Auctions as part of the Spring Catalog Auction that runs April 6-23.
Earle Renfrew, affectionately known as "Rennie" by friends and family, was employed in senior management by the Draper-Maynard Company based in Plymouth, New Hampshire, during the 1910s. The company, which was the brainchild of Jason Draper and John Maynard during the latter part of the 19th century, rose to prominence as one of the earliest and most significant manufacturers of baseball gloves and related sporting goods. For many years prior, the comfort and padding of player gloves - with respect to comfort, safety, and performance - were left to the individual imagination of those who donned the leather. Providence Grays infielder Arthur Irwin popularized the idea of a padded glove, which caught the attention of D&M, which set out to advance glove manufacturing for a wider audience.
During his tenure with the company, "Rennie" worked closely with his friend, Ed Maynard, a relative of the founding family. The company was continuing their development work in the sporting goods field and often solicited feedback from players. Based on the company's New England location, Boston Red Sox players were relatively accessible and would make frequent trips to the company headquarters. One of those players was an up-and-coming star in his earliest years with the team. His name: Babe Ruth.
Ruth would develop a close friendship with the Maynard family as a result of these visits, and in turn, Earle Renfrew would find himself frequently in the company of the Boston star player. Ed Maynard owned property on Squam Lake in New Hampshire, which served as a retreat for the players and company leadership after work at the factory was complete and conversations could turn to shared interests in hunting, fishing, and baseball.
When the Red Sox won the World Series in 1916, Draper-Maynard had reason to celebrate. The two groups were intertwined on professional and personal levels, and Boston was now back-to-back champions. Ed Maynard called for an elaborate celebration so that the company, and the town of Plymouth, could fete the victors. He planned a parade for the team as well as a "key to the city" presentation. All the day's events were documented and photographed, the latter of which would eventually form the basis for personal scrapbooks Maynard had designed and presented to players to remember the occasion as well as other times spent together. REA handled the sale of Red Sox outfielder Tilly Walker's scrapbook while first baseman Dick Hoblitzell's version was also sold publicly.
Earle Renfrew would end up with a number of photographs from the construction of these scrapbooks. Among them are images that capture Babe Ruth and his teammates in a number of fascinating moments. Ruth stitching baseballs at the D&M factory is one. A trio of teammates hunting, including Ruth donning an oversized fur coat, is another. A third is Red Sox players and executives accepting the key to the city. In that one, a baby-faced Ruth looks on from the side with his Red Sox sweater prominently on display. Fifteen photographs in total ended up with Renfrew and were passed down from generation to generation until the decision was made recently to pass them onto a new owner.
Also included among Renfrew's mementos was a single-signed baseball from Ruth himself. According to his granddaughter, who consigned the items to REA, "Rennie" kept a single photograph of Ruth on his desk next to the signed baseball for as far back as she can remember.
"These items originate from these special times shared by my grandfather with these players. He relayed many stories to us as a family," she recalled fondly.
The collection of photographs and the signed baseball will appear over ten lots in REA's Spring Catalog Auction.. Each of the photographs is encapsulated and authenticated as Type I by PSA/DNA. The Ruth signature is authenticated by JSA. But the provenance of the items adds immeasurable significance to the pieces.
For the Renfrew family, they reminisce and imagine what it might have been like to be a part of these gatherings to which "Rennie" had a front row seat. "It's our hope that these items which were such an integral part of my grandfather's legacy will go to collectors who appreciate them as much as he did."
This story originally ran on Sports Collectors Daily: https://www.sportscollectorsdaily.com/babe-ruth-draper-maynard-sporting-goods-photos-signed-baseball/