Clash of the Titans
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,
Editor In Chief