Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

I bought the book by Babe

Wick's World


The weather this week was perfect to go book-buying. It was too cold for outdoor activities and watching television or going to the movies are for the nighttime. Just as popcorn is a mandatory must at the movies, so is darkness. To walk out of a dark theater into broad daylight leaves me with a “What are we going to do now?” feeling. It reminded me of a Will Donicht line, “The sunlight’s her worst enemy, thank god it’s dark tonight.”

Last weekend I found a weekend book sale that culminated on Sunday with the offer of “Sack of books for three dollars.” On Sunday, I filled that sack they handed me so full that I put a minor tear in the side. I brought it to the front desk with the assurance that the small tear was OK. Naturally, I asked for another sack to fill. This time the sack stayed intact but the weight of the books tore the handle loose. A very helpful worker took out a roll of duct tape, patched up the sacks and sent me on my way with 29 mostly new books for which I had paid the grand sum of six bucks.

Opening night is generally the day to get the best books and as a 10-year veteran of buying books, on Thursday I began a whole weekend finding treasures of literature. I not only found a few treasures, either by pure accident or a stroke fate, I found the most rare and valuable precious book I now have in my library.

On Friday, I was just getting ready to pay for my two boxfuls of glossy hard covers and slightly ragged paperbacks. Then one of the clerks who had been watching me throw money at the massive book collection walked over and started a conversation.

“You must have a book store?” she stated in a questioning way.

“Well, kind of. I sell online and out of my home,” I answered.

“Did you notice we have a lot of boxes of books pushed under the table? They are for sale but we don’t have room to put them out yet. You can buy them though, if you feel like it,” she said.

By then, I was getting quite tired of scanning book covers and bar codes and almost declined her offer when I spotted a book in the front of a box that looked rather unusual. It was a thick hardcover with a blue threaded cloth cover that told me this book was quite aged. I seldom buy old books because there is such a limited market for sales. So is the market for finding rare books at a reasonable price. Something made me bend over for what I hoped was the final time that day. My back was hurting and my brain was getting fuzzy. What I longed for was a medium rare steak and a healthy glass of red wine. Instead, what I saw staring at me was a 1928 first edition hardback copy with the title on the cover of the book. On a dark blue background, imprinted in glossy gold capital letters was the title, “BABE RUTH’S OWN BOOK of BASEBALL.” Under the title, imprinted in smaller capital letters was the author’s name — GEORGE HERMAN RUTH. Ruth wrote the book in the off-season in 1928, which followed the "greatest baseball team ever, the 1927 Yankees," and it was also the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs while the other players would maybe sock out a dozen or so homers out of the park.

I honestly cannot remember exactly what silent words I exclaimed to myself when I picked up the book but I do remember one of them was "holy." My first thought was, “Babe Ruth could actually write a book?” I assumed he was too busy partying and hitting home runs to learn how to write. Having some knowledge of his history at the Baltimore orphanage where he was raised, I was certain he learned very few literary skills while there. However, Babe Ruth could write and quite adequately as I learned while carefully reading this rare valuable copy.

One intriguing question remained. How much was the book worth? I found only one copy in new condition for sale in the entire country. The price was almost $5,000. Had this new copy been autographed, the value would have been at least 10 times more.

My copy was neither new nor autographed. It was in good to very good condition with a value place between three and seven hundred dollars. For most antiques and collectibles, the big variable in value is not the rarity of the item, but its condition. Unfortunately, someone had taken my copy and with a black magic marker had written on the cover, "10 Cents."

My book is still worth $150-$200 and double or triple that if I can somehow remove the black marker from the cover. However, this book will not be for sale. My sons are huge baseball fans, so I think my copy will be passed down through the family.


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