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Last chance to see Babe Ruth's contract

Babe Ruth made $52,000 in 1922 -- the first year of the first contract he signed with the New York Yankees. Adjusting for inflation, Ruth would have made $726,285 today. For a player of his legendary caliber, it would have made him a colossal bar...

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Babe Ruth New York Yankees contract at Karpeles Museum.

Babe Ruth made $52,000 in 1922 - the first year of the first contract he signed with the New York Yankees.

Adjusting for inflation, Ruth would have made $726,285 today. For a player of his legendary caliber, it would have made him a colossal bargain considering the minimum salary for a big leaguer in 2015 is $507,500.

That contract, signed by the hand of a man who toted one of the biggest bats in the game's history at 54 ounces, has been on display at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Duluth throughout the summer. This is expected to be the exhibit's last weekend in the town Ruth famously visited in 1926.

Pearl Johnson is a docent at the museum and said visitations to the exhibit - simply titled "Baseball" - have been as brisk as the quiet, unassuming museum gets. Several folks a day, she said.

"Wonderful," said Johnson, who volunteers twice a week at the free museum. "I am quite amazed. People really love baseball. They've stopped by, spent a few moments and brought back their friends."

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Ruth's contract on display took him through his 1922-24 seasons and featured a team option for 1925-26 provided "that the player shall be in good physical condition and fit to render services." Ruth was in the midst of some fine campaigns - slugging like a monster, reaching base half the time and fueling the Yankees to the 1923 World Series title while batting a Herculean .393 on the season.

Ruth would earn more in his career, peaking at $80,000, and he would earn less. The museum also features his final contract, with the Boston Braves, in 1935 for $25,000. The museum does not have on hand his most famous contract - the one sold by the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees in 1920. That artifact sold at auction for $996,000 and carried Ruth into the contract currently on display in Duluth.

The baseball exhibit also features numerous other baseball treasures carefully displayed under glass in humidity-controlled cases.

There's the "lemon peel" baseball from the 1860s that preceded the figure-eight stitched baseball still in use today; there are scorecards and National League documents from throughout the late-1800s. And there's the letter written by an early catcher advocating for his invention of the catcher's mitt.

"I began to leave other catchers try it," said the letter written by Joseph B. Gunson in 1939. "They all pronounced it the real thing."

Gunson never trademarked the mitt and was asked to defend his invention in writing by an organization that was the predecessor of the modern National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Karpeles Museum is open every day except Mondays, from noon to 4 p.m. in the summer.

There are some staple artifacts - several sandstone carvings that date back to the Egyptian pharaohs. There are original Disney drawings of Peter Pan and Captain Hook. There's even a contract older than Ruth's - a North African contract from 1800 that leases property for grazing sheep. It's written on a tree branch that looks about 54 ounces.

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To learn about Babe Ruth's visit to Duluth, read Chuck Frederick's News Tribune story titled, " Bigger than life, the 'Bambino' proved 'huge' in Duluth-Superior ."

 

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