Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Was Ruth's "Called Shot" ball discovered?

Baseball memorabilia collectors weren’t so hung up on airtight provenance 65+ years ago, so there’s no telling now whether a baseball claimed in a 1947 Sporting News article  to be Babe Ruth’s “Called Shot” home run ball was in fact the real McCoy.

I’m not sure whether or how many such putative balls exist in collections today, but for what it might be worth to collectors and researchers, I’ll reprint verbatim the article that ran in the Aug. 27, TSN under the headline “Ruth Homer-Ball Returns to Aid Babe’s Foundation”.

Chicago, Ill.—A ball, claimed to be the one on which Babe Ruth called his home run shot off Charley Root in the World’s Series of 1932, is to be auctioned for the benefit of the Babe Ruth Foundation, Inc. It was discovered after a long search by Fred Downer, distributor of the Pittsburgh Courier in Chicago and a former mascot in Georgia who chased balls for Ty Cobb.
            Following a ten-year search for the ball through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Downer learned, through an unexpected source, it was in the possession of a T.J. Alexander of Dayton, Mich. While on a fishing trip in Michigan, Downer chanced upon Alexander and during a general conversation on sports gained from him the statement he was the proud possessor of the ball hit by Ruth and inveigled him to part with the souvenir.
            Downer kept the ball for six years, but, on learning the Babe Ruth Foundation had been organized and that proceeds would be used to aid unfortunate children, decided to auction the souvenir to help the cause.

My reading of Sporting News issues through the remainder of 1947 did not turn up any further details. Thus, whether the ball was actually auctioned, how much it realized and who purchased it is unknown to me.

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