Of the many items that we have offered for sale in our auctions, it could be that this one is our favorite. It may not have the panache of a T206 Wagner or a Babe Ruth jersey, but it is likely the only one of its kind, and it represents everything that made baseball the national pastime in its earliest days.
Picture this: the year is 1934, and a 10-year-old boy listening to the radio learns about a contest involving Babe Ruth. First prize, a trip to Florida with Ruth for Spring Training, seems out of reach. But perhaps by entering, he can win a lesser prize, like a baseball or a glove.
A few weeks later, young Gerard Knapp of Menands, NY receives a letter from the Babe himself, telling him he’s qualified for the “World Series Finals” of his contest. By simply choosing an “all-star” team and explaining why he’s chosen the players he had, he could be one of just fifty boys to accompany the Sultan Of Swat to Florida. And on March 5, the young boy receives a Western Union Telegram from the Babe, that he won the contest and would be traveling to Florida! Alone, without his parents, but accompanied by “experienced leaders.”
Everything about this sets off alarm bells with even the least experienced parents, but 1934 was a different time, and this really happened. Every piece of this lot was saved by the Knapp family, chronicling the young boy’s adventure, from his entry into the contest, his instructions on how the trip would work, and even the newspaper article announcing “Menands Boy Will Be Guest of Babe Ruth in Florida Camp.”
The entire lot contains 14 pieces that chronicle the young boy’s entrance into the contest (which, we learn, was sponsored somehow by Standard Oil), his winning, the telegram from Babe Ruth himself (!), the entire itinerary for their time in Florida. It even includes a postcard from young Knapp to his family back in New York. Our upcoming catalog and auction description will describe each of the 14 pieces in detail.
The 1934 Spring Training was particularly newsworthy, as much news was made of Babe Ruth’s physical conditioning. It would be Ruth’s final Spring in a Yankee uniform, and the 40-year-old superstar reflected on his career often, in a host of news stories across the country. On March 25 of that spring, Ruth hit a home run off Boston’s Huck Betts that was measured as having traveled an amazing 624 feet – just two days after leaving the company of young Gerard Knapp and 49 other boys who were winners of the radio contest.
An outstanding document, chronicling the excitement of winning a chance to spend time with the greatest player of all-time, the leap of faith that parents took in putting their children on a train with strangers, and a detailed itinerary of what was likely one of Gerard Knapp’s greatest memories.