Welcome to Lelands - Sports Memorabilia and Card Auctions

Lot # 33: December 30th, 1919, Harry Frazee Letter to Colonel Tillinghast Huston Referencing "A Certain Transaction Between the Boston and New York Clubs" aka The Sale of Babe Ruth (ex-Halper Collection)

Starting Bid: $1,000.00

Bids: 14 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed




This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Spring Focus 2023",
which ran from 5/21/2023 7:00 PM to
6/3/2023 10:00 PM



One-page typed file-copy letter, dated December 30, 1919, from Harry Frazee, owner of the Boston Red Sox, to New York Yankees co owner Colonel T. L. Huston, referencing the historic sale of Babe Ruth's contract just four days earlier. What makes this letter so interesting is that even though the Red Sox sold Ruth's contract to the Yankees on December 26, 1919, the deal wasn't announced to the public until January 5, 1920. Only the main principals of each club were aware of the transaction at the time of this letter, and it was important to both parties that the details weren't "leaked" to the press prior to the official announcement. Here in his letter, Frazee discreetly references the sale in his opening sentence. In full: 

In a certain transaction between the Boston and New York Clubs, three (3) notes for $25,000.00 each, running, one, two, and three years respectively, bearing interest at 6%, were given by the New York Club, endorsed by Jacob Ruppert and T. L. Huston. I am desirous of borrowing $25,000.00 for 90 days with one of those notes as collateral and would appreciate it highly if you could arrange the accommodation for me. Yours very truly - President.

The reason Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth's contract to the Yankees on December 26, 1920, was because he was in desperate need of cash. He owed $262,000 on an outstanding note to former Boston Red Sox owner Joseph Lanin, from whom he purchased the club, he needed to contribute $100,000 in cash equity for a theater he was purchasing, and his most recent theatrical productions were in the red. Even after the sale of Ruth's contract to the Yankees for $100,000 and a $300,000 loan on December 26, 1919, Frazee was still in the red, financially.

As noted in this letter, the $100,000 that Frazee received from the Yankees was not in one lump sum. Frazee agreed to take $25,000 in cash, with the remainder to be paid in three notes of $25,000, each coming due, respectively, on November 1st over the next three years. It should also be noted that the $300,000 loan from the Yankees could not be made until Frazee fully secured the mortgage on Fenway Park, which he was using as collateral for the loan. Therefore, the initial $25,000 that he received in cash from the Yankees for Ruth's contract was not nearly sufficient to cover his debts. Faced with this mounting financial pressure, Frazee immediately began borrowing money, using the three Yankees notes as collateral for his loans. We know, having seen other documents relating to sale of Ruth, that Col. Huston was able to honor Frazee's request made in this letter. Huston had ties to several banks and he ultimately helped Frazee secure a $25,000 loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

This letter, along with nearly every other surviving document relating to the sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, originates from the estate of Ed Barrow, who was manager of the Boston Red Sox at the time of the transaction, and soon after became the longtime business manager/general manager of the New York Yankees. Many years after Barrow's death, legendary collector Barry Halper purchased Barrow's entire business archive from the Barrow family, which included dozens of documents relating to Boston's historic sale of Ruth. (Barry Halper's collection is considered by many to have been the finest private baseball-memorabilia collection ever assembled.) In 1999, Halper sold nearly his entire collection at auction through Sotheby's in New York (the collection was so vast that it took over a week of twice-daily live auctions and three months of weekly internet sales to liquidate it). Lot 560 in the live-auction portion of the sale featured a large collection of documents relating to the sale of Ruth, from which this letter originates. The entire content of Lot 560 in the 1999 Sotheby's Halper Collection auction has been consigned to Lelands by the original purchaser, making this just the third time since 1919 that this historically significant document has traded hands.

 The file-copy letter (8.5x11"), which is toned, displays two horizontal folds that have torn completely along each fold line. Each horizontal tear has been repaired on the reverse by clear tape. The letter also displays several moderate edge tears and a small interior tear.

Views: 691