Taking My Hacks

Clash of the Titans

Joe Orlando

No, I am not referring to the Ray Harryhausen classic that starred a robotic owl, a really nasty cougar named Medusa and a giant plastic sea creature called The Kraken who had a hard time looking at her. What I am referring to is the battle of supremacy between two legendary Babe Ruth cards, the 1914 Baltimore News and 1915/16 Sporting News issues.

They are both supremely important cards but which one is the better of the two?

In the following few paragraphs, I will provide arguments for each card and close with my own personal opinion. Of course, when it comes down to it, the opinion that matters most is that of the collector because these individuals speak with their wallets.

1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth - One advantage that his card offers versus the Sporting News card is extreme scarcity, scarcity that exceeds that of the 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner card. At this point in time, there are less than 10 known copies of this Ruth card. No wonder a copy of this rarity sold for in excess of $500,000 in 2008! In addition, this card is very fragile. It can be found with two different colors along the borders, either blue or red. These borders are very susceptible to chipping and wear. In fact, as of the time of this writing, I am not aware of any high-grade examples of this card. The majority of the existing copies grade out at the lower end of the scale.

While there are no negative aspects to either one of these cards, the reality with this card is that while many hobbyists refer to it as the Ruth rookie, technically, this is a Minor League card that shows The Sultan of Swat as a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. This was, of course, long before the Orioles became a Major League franchise.

1915/16 Sporting News #151 Babe Ruth - While there is no question that the 1914 Baltimore News Ruth is scarcer and a more condition-sensitive card, the Sporting News Ruth is no slouch. This card is very tough to find in high-grade with many of the existing copies exhibiting poor centering and print defects that hinder the eye-appeal. This card is, by any definition, a tough card. It's just not as tough as the incredibly tough Baltimore News Ruth but, hey, how many cards are?

There is some dispute as to what year this issue was released. It was believed to be 1915 until recently when some hobbyists began to challenge that date. Instead, they believe the cards were issued in 1916, which seems to be the popular belief today. No matter what year it was, 1915 or 1916, this is Babe Ruth's true rookie card. It is the first card to picture Ruth in a Major League uniform as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. So, the year these cards were released is virtually irrelevant.

The one argument that may be the tie-breaker for some hobbyists is the fact that the Sporting News Ruth is part of a much more interesting set than the Baltimore News card. Many Hall of Famers are included in this set in addition to very significant cards of Joe Jackson and Jim Thorpe. The Thorpe card is the only one to ever depict the multi-sport star as a MLB player.

So, which of these two phenomenal Ruth cards is more important? In my opinion, I would have to go with the Sporting News issue. While it simply can't compete with the scarcity of the 1914 Baltimore News card, it is his true rookie card, it is the only card to picture Ruth on the Red Sox and it is part of a much more interesting set.

The reality is that I would be more than happy to own either card. I can always dream.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief

Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.