Every year about this time, PSA/DNA publishes their list of the ten “most dangerous” autographs. By “most dangerous,” of course, they mean the autographs that are most at risk of fraud. It’s no secret in the hobby that the autograph business, along with many other facets of sports memorabilia collecting, is rife with fraud and forgery, and PSA believes that the hobby’s biggest name – Babe Ruth – is also the most dangerous. In fact, 60% of the Ruth signatures submitted to PSA for authentication are rejected as fraudulent. When autographed Ruth items often bring six figures at public auction, authentication is critical.
Equally important, however, is provenance. The provenance of a piece can provide documented evidence of authenticity, and in the process, add significantly to its value. In fact, it is our opinion that authentication and provenance are as important as the attractiveness of the signature itself, particularly with a Ruth signature. In the case of Babe Ruth, who signed autographs virtually every day of his adult life, provenance is paramount. With more than half the Ruth signed balls deemed fraudulent, and well-preserved signed balls easily reaching into five figure range, tracing a ball back to its original owner becomes a key element in determining its value.
We are thrilled to offer this beautiful signed Babe Ruth baseball, authenticated by PSA/DNA, along with a letter and well-documented story from the ball’s original recipient. Such ironclad provenance is rare in pieces such as this.
Upon Ruth’s retirement from baseball in 1938, he almost immediately took up the cause of raising money for the war effort by participating in various fundraisers. One such event involved a well-publicized 1943 exhibition game at the Polo Grounds where Walter Johnson served up the last pitch that the Sultan of Swat would ever deposit over an outfield fence. We offered a press photo documenting that game in a previous auction.
More often, however, Ruth’s philanthropic activities took the same form as that of today’s pro athlete: the celebrity golf tournament. Ruth played frequently, as evidenced by the many pictures of The Babe out on the links.
Such an event took Ruth to the town of Westport, CT in late June of 1946, where at the behest of his friend, Dr. Vito Edward Caselnova (golf chairman at Westport’s Longshore Country Club), Ruth was to participate with New York Giants Hall of Fame halfback Ken Strong. Ruth, along with his wife Claire and their boxer puppy, would stay with the Caselnova family for the entire week, playing golf at Longshore, talking with local Boy Scouts and visiting victims of a recent fire at a local hospital. Ruth’s visit to Westport, along with his stay with Vito Caselnova and his family, was well-documented in local newspapers at the time.
The Longshore golf course still stands in Westport today, as do members of the Caselnova family. It was young Kenneth Caselnova, the recipient of this signed baseball from the Great Bambino, who penned the notarized letter that accompanies the ball. Among other stories Mr. Caselnova relates in his letter, is this one:
My parents spent the week having nightly dinner parties for Babe, Claire and friends. In those days the lady of the house still wore aprons when they cooked. I remember as clear as if it were yesterday, Babe walking right up to my mother in the morning, taking off her apron, putting it on and telling her “Move over Mrs. C, The Babe is making breakfast now!” Breakfast consisted of eggs, Canadian bacon and toast.
Ruth signed several items that week for the members of the Caselnova family (along with, no doubt, most of Westport). But the more poignant memory, as related by Caselnova’s letter, is a chilling one:
I remember Babe pulling cans of Budweiser out of my parents’ refrigerator, not to drink, but to subdue the headaches that he was experiencing in his eyes.
Those headaches were, by 1946, debilitating for Ruth, getting worse as the summer progressed. By fall, Ruth’s face was swollen and he was unable to eat solid food, and by late 1946 he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Sadly, the greatest player the game had ever known would be gone within two years.
Presented here is a spectacular memento of that week in Westport, where Babe Ruth entertained an entire town, raised the spirits of injured firefighters, raised money for charity, and left indelible memories with young Kenneth Caselnova.
The ball, authenticated by PSA/DNA, is inscribed “To Big Kenneth Caselnova From Babe Ruth” in Ruth’s unmistakeable handwriting. The signature and inscription remain bold and clear nearly 70 years later, very visible with very little fading and no smudging. The ball itself, while worn and toned with age, remains well-constructed, though any identifying stampings that may have once been on the ball are no longer visible. While we do not attempt to grade autographs as we find that to be very subjective, this signature would clearly rate at the higher end of any grading scale.
This is an outstanding ball, one of the most spectacular items we’ve had the pleasure of handling at Love of the Game. It is, of course, the stories, the history, and our ability to document names and events that we find most compelling, and this ball comes with history aplenty. Along with the ball and PSA/DNA holder, the winning bidder will receive the LOA from PSA/DNA as well as the notarized, signed letter from Kenneth Caselnova, the recipient of this baseball, relating the fascinating story of how and when he received it. Further documentation of Ruth’s June, 1946 visit to Westport and his stay with the Caselnova family is readily available online.
A spectacular ball, signed by the most famous player in the game’s storied history, remarkably well-preserved and with impeccable provenance. Easily a cornerstone piece of even the most advanced, sophisticated collections.
3 thoughts on “The Babe Slept Here.”
Even more documentation…In my office there hang several original Babe Ruth-signed photographs taken at Longshore Country Club during that week in June, 1946, dedicated “To my pal Dr. Caselnova.
On 5/6/46, Babe wrote a letter to Dr. Caselnova, thanking him for the invitation to play golf. This letter with the postmarked envelope hangs in a hermetically-sealed frame there also.
There are a few photographs of Dr. Caselnova in his family garden, with guests Babe Ruth, Dr Erwin, and son Edward, 10 (now 80.)
Still another frame holds a Front page of the 6/24/46 Bridgeport Post article and photo of the foursome including Ruth, Dr. Caselnova, Dr Erwin, and Tom Murphy on the green at Longshore. They won the foursome golf tournament that day.
Babe signed so many items from baseball gear to dozens of 8×10 photographs for our family that week! Even a $5 bill that my mother carried all her life, (methinks
my older sis has it today.)
My best show and tell is a Babe Ruth signed baseball dedicated “To Little Bobby Caselnova From Babe Ruth.” I was almost three years old when Ruth visited my
family. He signed this ball for me in my mom’s kitchen with little me sitting on his knee in our breakfast nook.
The well-known “To Big Kenneth from Babe Ruth” baseball has a little brother ball.
My older sister, Cathy kept it safely for me until I left the USAF in ’68, or else I’d have never seen it again.
THE PHOTOGRAPH OF BABE RUTH STANDING WITH PUTTER WAS NOT ORIGINALLY A BROWN TONE.
JUST FOR YOUR GENERAL INFORMATION, I PERSONALLY MADE THAT BROWN TONE PRINT FROM A COPY NEGATIVE OF THE ORIGINAL — A GRAY TONE BLACK & WHITE, WHICH HANGS ON MY OFFICE WALL (WITH HIS ACTUAL SIGNATURE.)
WHEN MY FATHER, DR. CASELNOVA DIED, WE DISCOVERED MANY COPIES OF BABE GIVEN TO HIM BY THE REPORTER FROM THE NORWALK HOUR. I’D SAY ABOUT FIFTEEN IN ALL — EVERY ONE SIGNED “TO MY PAL, DR. CASELNOVA, BABE RUTH.”
THE BABE SIGNED A BALL FOR EACH ONE OF US FIVE CHILDREN WHILE SITTING IN OUR KITCHEN! MY LUCKY BROTHER, KEN GOT A BALL, A MIT, AND CATCHER’S MASK FROM HIM. HE SIGNED A BAT AND A BALL FOR ME.
I STILL HAVE A SOFTBALL WE BEAT THE HELL OUT OF SIGNED “TO THE CASELNOVA BOYS, FROM BABE RUTH.”
WE BOYS FIELDED BALLS FOR THE BABE IN OUR APPLE ORCHARD — SHAGGED GOLF BALLS FOR HIM TOO!
I JOKED WITH MY BROTHER ED THAT THE KIDS IN SCHOOL MUST HAVE CALLED HIM A BULLSHITTER WHEN HE SAID BABE RUTH WAS STAYING AT OUR HOME FOR A WEEK!!
AS A POINT OF INFORMATION, THE BROWN TONED PHOTOGRAPH OF BABE RUTH ON
THE PUTTING GREEN SHOWN IN THIS ARTICLE IS NOT AN ORIGINAL. IT IS A “SEPIA TONED”
COPY WHICH I MYSELF MADE. THE ORIGINAL BEARING RUTH’S GENUINE SIGNATURE
IS A BLACK & WHITE OR GRAY SCALED PRINT WHICH I’VE SAVED SINCE DR. V.E. CASELNOVA
(MY FATHER) GAVE IT AND OTHER BABE RUTH -SIGNED ARTICLES TO ME.