Extremely Rare 1921 Babe Ruth Proctor’s Theatre Vaudeville Ad Card (SGC 10/1) – One of only 3 Known Copies...The 1920 baseball season would result in two events of epic proportions; the first being the shocking aftereffects of the 1919 "Black-Sox Scandal" and the second being the sale of the incomparable Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees. In lieu of the lifetime-ban of eight White Sox players including the legendary "Shoeless" Joe Jackson for allegedly "throwing" the 1919 World Series, America's Pastime was now at risk of completely falling apart. Enter one George Herman Ruth who was now heading to the Empire State, and in a year's time, would completely erase baseball's precarious state via his unparalleled home run prowess and dynamic personality. Harry Freeze's unimaginable sale of Ruth to the "Big Apple" would seemingly change over 100+ million Americans' baseball viewpoint, with the Sultan of Swat walloping a record 54 round-trippers and posting an unfathomable 1.379 OPS! Ruth actually out homered nearly every baseball TEAM, immediately placing his indelible stamp on the grand old game. His popularity across the country was now second to none, even resulting in him starring in his first movie titled "Headin Home".
Showing his infinite-like faithful that his inaugural Yankee season was no fluke, the Babe followed up his record-breaking 1920 campaign by posting a new 59-homer record mark in 1921, leading the Yankees to the American league pennant via his astonishing batting feats. Although the Yanks would lose the Fall Classic to John McGraw's cross-own rival Giants, Ruth's legacy was now written in stone, with an abundance of advertisement and/or promotional opportunities extended to the hallowed Bambino. Due to his prior year screen success in Headin Home, Ruth was offered a grand opportunity to perform on Vaudeville after the 1921 campaign, with the Babe partaking in a 15-week tour on the Keith Vaudeville Circuit. This came in lieu of the most recent fine and suspension a defiant Ruth received from Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain "Judge" Landis for violating League rules by playing in post-season barnstorming tours.
The stern punishment, however, would have no negative bearing on Ruth's decision to "throw his hat into the Vaudeville Circuit." Ruth would make his Vaudeville debut on November 3, 1921 at the well-respected Proctor's Theatre in Mount Vernon, New York, with this particular show running for three consecutive days (Nov. 3rd-5th). As a marketing tool to promote this event, the owner of the Proctor Theatre (Mr. F. F. Proctor) ultimately decided to distribute an "ad" card that included a famous Paul Thompson sepia-toned Babe Ruth image on the obverse side with white scripted text as follows in the lower right quadrant of Ruth's hallowed image: "To My Mount Vernon Admirers – 'Babe' Ruth – Proctor Theatre – Nov 3-4-5." Measuring approximately 1.75" x 2.75", the verso's verbiage clearly indicates the card was issued by the Proctor's Theatre with the bold black text reading: "COMPLIMENTS OF Mr. F. F. Proctor TO BABE RUTH'S MANY MOUNT VERNON FRIENDS – APPEARING AT PROCTOR'S MOUNT VERNON Nov, 3rd-4th-5th."
Obviously, a scant Regional Issue with distribution confined to the Mount Vernon, N.Y. area for a mere three days, only three remaining copies are known in the hobby, with all three encapsulated by the prestigious SGC Grading Company (PSA has not graded a single Proctor's Theatre Ruth card). One of those rare issues just happens to be presented here in a superb SGC 10/1 holder, emanating aesthetics far beyond is technical assessment, with the card's sheer existence qualifying it as one of the rarest Ruth cards extant. Indeed, the paucity level of this rarity even outdistances some of the scarcest known Ruth issues such as the iconic 1914 Baltimore News Ruth (10 known copies) and ever elusive 1921 Frederick Foto Ruth of which there are only 6 known examples!
Until first appearing at public auction several years ago, this particular card was safely tucked away in a family's possession for 90+ years. As the story goes, the card was handed to the original owner directly by Babe Ruth himself! Allegedly, the Sultan of Swat was sitting at a New York based bar in the fall of 1921 and handed out these cards to several patrons who like the Babe, were enjoying some spirited beverages. One of individuals just happened to be the original owner of this hallowed keepsake that has miraculously survived nearly a century of time. While there is no official provenance to document this story, it is certainly not far-fetched to think about Ruth indulging in several alcoholic beverages while promoting his upcoming stage performance since an animated Ruth was never at a loss for words.
Details of Ruth's November 3rd Proctor's Theatre stage debut are detailed in Marshall Smelser's fascinating book dubbed "The Life That Ruth Built" (University of Nebraska Press, 1993), with a captivating excerpt listed as follows: "Ruth & Cross, with an act by Thomas J. Grey, tried out in Mount Vernon, New York, on November 3. They filled the house, the applause was spontaneous, and Ruth was at ease. Despite a cold, Ruth joined with Cross to sing 'Little by Little' in a 'not unpleasant baritone voice.' The critic thought the most memorable gag began with the delivery of a telegram, said to be from Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Commissioner of Baseball, even then, as all the world knew, brooding on the punishment he would give Ruth for barnstorming: Cross: Is it serious? Ruth: I should say it is…Seventy-five cents, collect!"
While graded an SGC Poor/1, the front side strongly projects "VG" aesthetics, revealing no obtrusive surface flaws, modest/even corner wear consistent with a "VG-VG/EX" example and only a mild soiling spot along the mid-to lower right edge. The critical Paul Thompson image portraying Ruth "siting on the dugout bench" in his then Polo Grounds home Yankee pinstripes is breathtaking, revealing stellar contrast and resolution. The technical assessment is solely due to some light surface abrasions on the verso, situated near the bottom two text lines, slightly impacting the "MO" lettering in "MOUNT" and "Nov." text.
Yet, as most advanced collectors would attest to, the superb obverse side eye appeal coupled with the extreme rarity and "right to own a copy" far surpass its virtually irrelevant grade. Simply stated, with only two other known specimens safely tucked away in private collections, "try and find another one", with this extraordinary offering previously selling in excess of $23K in a 2015 public auction. Considering its nearly unmatched scarcity level, the infinite-like skyrocketing prices of Ruth's most elusive early Yankee mementos, the fact that it truly represents a monumental moment in the Bambino's majestic career, and the immortal Paul Thompson Ruthian image, we cannot imagine a finer cardboard testament to the