An ornery young boy was sent to live at a Catholic School. He was raised by a priest who taught him the game of baseball, having little to no social skills he quickly became a diamond in the rough. Babe Ruth has one pre-rookie card, one true rookie card, and four mainstream, post rookie theme cards.
A Man Who Needs No Introduction
Early on George earned his nickname, “The Babe” during spring training of 1914 when teammates on the minor league Baltimore Orioles began referring to him as owner Jack Dunn’s new “babe.”
His other nicknames evolved out of reputation. He was also known as The Bambino and/or The Sultan of Swat, respectively.
But George Herman Ruth needs no introduction.
Babe Ruth is best known as a home run hitter, a true slugger of his day.
What many folks don’t know about Ruth is that he started his major league career as a pitcher and a really good one!
In 1916 he finished the season with a 23-12 record, with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts, both of which led the league.
Those would-be Cy Young worthy numbers today! But back in 1916, they called them Pitching Titles or ERA Titles.
He had many successful outings and seasons as a pitcher but he was even better with the baseball bat.
He wanted to play every day and eventually convinced management to play him in the outfield.
The Biggest Trade in Sports History
His career started with the Boston Red Sox 1914-1919 but alleged financial woes of the Red Sox front office caused a blockbuster trade.
On January 6, 1920, Babe Ruth became a New York Yankee.
In his first year as a Yankee Ruth batted .376 with 54 home runs and 135 RBI’s!
For the next 15 years, the home runs kept coming, marveling baseball fans everywhere and literally becoming an American Icon.
For years stadiums would sell out whenever the Yankees were in town.
Many times sold-out ballparks were accompanied by crowds in the thousands that would gather outside too.
In 1979, Sportswriter Tommy Holmes said,
“Some 20 years ago, I stopped talking about the Babe for the simple reason that I realized that those who had never seen him didn’t believe me.”
The primary purpose of my post is to highlight Babe Ruth’s rookie cards.
To learn about Babe Ruth is to learn about the most iconic sports figure in American history.
Many books and documentaries feature his amazing life and career.
Career Stats & Accomplishments
Babe Ruth played Major League Baseball for 22 years. Six years with the Boston Red Sox, fifteen years with the New York Yankees, and a one year stint with the Boston Braves just before retiring in 1935.
WAR 182.5 | Games 2,503 | At Bats 8,399 | Hits 2,873 | Home Runs 714 | Batting Average .342 | RBI 2,214.
- 7x World Series Champion
- 2x All-Star (ASG started in 1933)
- 1916 AL Pitching Title
- 1923 AL MVP
- 1924 AL Batting Title
- 1936 Hall of Fame Induction
1914 Baltimore News Orioles, #9 (PRC)
A “Pre” rookie card is a term I use that helps me identify what type of rookie card I’m looking at. Today, this card could be considered a “prospect” card or pre-rookie card.
Let me explain it this way.
According to my research, the 1916 Sporting News is considered his “true rookie card” I get into the reasons why down below under that title heading.
However, Babe Ruth has a total of 247 cards that were printed between 1909-1933.
All were released as food and beverage issues, postcards, strip cards, real photos, or tobacco cards excluding the T206 set.
A popular “pre-rookie card” that is respected within the hobby is this 1914 Baltimore News.
Blue and red copies are known to exist and it features The Bambino as a minor leaguer, we know this because just under his feet is the statement International League.
Also, both versions have the same card back and it features the 1914 Team Schedule for the Baltimore Orioles International League.
It’s very scarce with only 9 copies known to exist. If you would like to learn more about this card check out PSA Card Facts here 1914 Baltimore League.
1916 Sporting News, #151 (RC)
For the rookie card purist this 1916 Sporting News, #151 is Babe Ruth’s true rookie card.
The reasons are because it features The Bambino as a member of the Red Sox and its distribution method, newspaper inserts distributed nationally.
A classic image and a must-have for any Hall of Fame rookie card collector if asked, “If money was not an issue what card would you want?”
The card backs feature advertisements, 20 different variants are known to exist.
The lone issue with this card is scarcity. To date, PSA has authenticated only 20 copies and that’s counting the 6 blank backs.
If you’d like to learn more about this card check out PSA Card Facts here 1916 Sporting News.
A Mainstream Alternative
Photos pictured below are not Babe Ruth’s most valuable cards, nor are they the scarcest. For that, you’d need to look at the two cards featured above.
The 1933 Goudey’s of Babe Ruth is the first mainstream set released. They capture him towards the end of his career but have been deemed by collectors and “the hobby” as rookie cards of The Sultan of Swat.
This is a 240 card set and it measures 2-3/8″ x 2-7/8″ and was printed by gum manufacturer Goudey Co. in 1933.
This is no ordinary set. This one is regarded by serious pre-war collectors as the beginning of the modern-day baseball card era.
The reason for that claim is because the 1933 Goudey’s were the first major bubblegum card set that actually included gum.
Also, they were distributed nationally, one card per pack with one stick of bubblegum.
Surprisingly, cards can still be found in fairly decent condition, perhaps due to Goudey Co. using the thicker, more durable card stock. Let’s begin!
1933 Goudey, #53 (PRT)
The set and more specifically cards of Ruth are full-color paintings.
Two things that the card fronts have in common, there is no mention of New York Yankees or team emblem on card fronts but it does mention the team on the card back.
There is no “NY” on the cap, nothing on the jersey, no ribbon or stripe indicating as such, perhaps Goudey did not have the licensing?
What is mentioned on the card front is a brand, “Big League Chewing Gum” in a big red stripe running along the bottom of each card.
Card number 53 or the “Yellow” variant is the hardest to find.
1933 Goudey, #149 (PRT)
All aspects of this card are identical to card #53 or the Yellow except for the background color of the card front (obviously) and the card number found on the card back.
Not sure why they made this variant of the Bambino but in my opinion, the yellow one pops more in eye appeal. This variant of The Bambino is slightly easier to find than the Yellow #53.
1933 Goudey, #144 (PRT)
Good news! This full-length action pose of the Sultan of Swat is the easiest of the four to find.
The reason? This particular one was double printed meaning, depending on where the card landed on the original printing plate some cards were printed again in an effort to make the most of the print run.
PSA Population Reports show 1,420 have been authenticated. This one has the most copies authenticated.
1933 Goudey, #181 (PRT)
Worth mentioning here is CAUTION with counterfeits. It would be best to pursue any one of these cards in an authenticated state.
I prefer Professional Sports Authenticators aka PSA, but there are other legitimate companies as well, Sports Guaranty Co. or Beckett Grading Servies are viable options.
Card #181 offers collectors a portrait painting of Ruth fondling his bat.
Lots of detail on facial expressions and the black outline really stands out with that green background.
This card can be found in much better condition than the others and is not as difficult to find.
PSA Population Reports show 1,154 have been authenticated.
Happy Collecting Collectors,
Learn. Collect. Enjoy.
For more rookie card articles on Yankee Hall of Famers check out these post