Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig Signed Baseball Belonged to Yankees Teammate Purchased by Just Collect

Historic Baseball Belonged to former Yankee Teammate, Walter Smallwood, and Purchased from Family
  • April 12, 2022

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A baseball signed by both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig arrived at our Just Collect office today. The story and provenance behind this historic piece is truly one-of-a-kind; the New York Yankees legends signed the ball for their teammate, Walter Smallwood, and Just Collect proudly purchased the ball directly from the family! We introduce you to The Walter Smallwood Ruth and Gehrig ball. 

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig autographs are two of the most-desired signatures in our hobby. To see autographs of both New York Yankees legends on the same item makes for a fine treasure. When a baseball that BOTH players inked their names was brought to office here in New Jersey, we imagined ourselves as a fly on the Yankees' dugout wall in the 1920's and 1930's during those unprecedented times. We daydreamed hearing about Murder's Row, the 1927 Yankees championship team that hit home runs in record numbers which was highlighted by Babe Ruth's 60 dingers and a season in which Lou Gehrig won the MVP award. Our minds wandered and thought - did his teammates ask Babe if he truly Called His Shot in the 1932 World Series like Gehrig believed? Holding this piece brought us back to a time when a bleacher ticket cost just a quarter and you would wear a dress or coat and tie to the game. Before television existed, when movies were silent, and when nobody had a camera to carry around, the way to prove you met famous baseball players like Ruth or Gehrig were to have them sign your baseball. This ball in our office today - this ball is special. Not just for being signed by Babe and Lou as proof someone met the future Hall of Famers in the 1920's, but it's the "someone" that obtained the ball. This exact baseball signed by both Ruth and Gehrig was obtained by their Yankee teammate, Walter Smallwood. The great-grandson of Walter Smallwood sold us this treasured ball that comes with stellar provenance and a wild story.

 

WALTER SMALLWOOD, YANKEES PITCHER

Walter Smallwood was a pitcher for the New York Yankees. Like most baseball players, Smallwood was a "fringe" player; a player that isn't a household name like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, but is always on the fringe of making a big league team. Think about all of the baseball players from your favorite team today and how many of those players rotate from the minor leagues to the big league club or bounce from team to team every season. Do you know the name your team's sixth-inning bullpen pitcher today? We couldn't name that pitcher either. In Major League Baseball, there are 30 teams and each team has a 40-player roster. Each team then breaks down that 40-player roster to an "active" roster of just 26 players. Only 10 players can start each game for a team. Today you know the names of the stars like Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Aaron Judge, but the majority of non-starters in the MLB are fringe players, just like Walter Smallwood. 

Walter pitched for the New York Yankees in 1917 at the age of 24 and again in 1919 at he age of 26. In both seasons combined, he totaled 23.2 innings pitched over 6 games played, and ERA of 4.56. For comparison, the MLB average for 2021 was an ERA of 4.47. Walter Smallwood put up solid numbers on a Yankees team that was nearly impossible to be a starter on given the fact that nearly ever player on the Yankees roster was a star.

The majority of Walter's career was spent in the minor leagues, pitching with the Vernon Tigers of the Pacific Coast League, Minneapolis Millers of the American Association, Reading (Pennsylvania) Keystones of the International League, the  Newark Bears, Pueblo Steelworkers of the Western League, and eventually by 1933, Walter hung up his playing cleats to become the business manager of the Albany, NY Senators of the International League. Albany, NY has been the stomping grounds of many great New York Yankees players including Derek Jeter. Jeter played AA baseball for the Albany-Colonie Yankees in 1994 before making his Major League Debut with the Yankees in 1995. In a very good minor league career, Smallwood nearly pitched a perfect game in 1928 while laying for the Pueblo Steelworkers. The leadoff batter singled, and then was thrown out on a double play. Smallwood faced the minimum of 27 batters that game and allowed just the one single to start the game.

Walter's life was almost cut short after his baseball career! In 1945, an intruder attached Walter in his home. The burglar attempted shoot Walter but thankfully the revolver failed. Eventually the intruder was convicted on six chargers including assaults with intent to murder.

While Walter Smallwood didn't have a Hall of Fame career, he got to play professional baseball and made a good living doing so. Nobody can ever take away the fact he wore the Yankee pinstripes. Walter even has a baseball card, appearing in a Zeenut release in 1921 when he played for the Vernon Tigers of the PCL (Pacific Coast League).

Walter Smallwood Zeenut

 

If you're interested in selling your 1921 Zeenut Walter Smallwood card, we'd be interested in purchasing that card from you!

 

A BOX OF SIGNED BABE RUTH AND LOU GEHRIG BASEBALLS

During his career, Walter Smallwood was savvy enough to do something in the 1920's we wished we could do today. Walter had his teammates, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, each sign baseballs for him! Not just one baseball, but a WHOLE BOX! Ruth and Gehrig signed their names on each baseball for their teammate. 

When Walter passed away in April of 1967, the balls were passed down through his family. Most of the baseballs were (you may want to not read this part...) played with! Walter's kid and grandkids took the balls out and played with them, just like in the movie The Sand Lot!

Of each of the baseballs Ruth and Gehrig signed for Walter, TWO did survive the backyard games. Walter's granddaughter kept both baseballs stored in a satchel in a closet. As Walter's great-grandkids grew older they recalled the stories about the autographed baseballs.

Walter's great-grandson brought the baseball passed down to him to The Philly Show where Just Collect is always set for buying and selling collections. JSA, a professional autograph authentication company, was present at the convention and deemed the autographs on the ball as authentic; Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig signed that family baseball he heard his mom and grandma tell stories of. 

THE WALTER SMALLWOOD RUTH AND GEHRIGH SIGNED BALL

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Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig each signed this baseball for their teammate, Walter Smallwood. You can see the baseball is from Smallwood's days in the International League. The provenance is just spectacular; a ball signed by two of the greatest players in the history of the baseball obtained by their teammate and passed down through same family since the 1920's. 

 

THE APPRAISAL AND PURCHASE

When Walter Smallwood's great-grandson was interested in selling his Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig dual-signed baseball he reached out to us here at Just Collect. Your local card shop is never equipped to appraise or purchase an item of this caliber. The retail stores are focused on selling modern products and simply don't have the time or the knowledge to carefully evaluate rare and vintage collections. This is where we are happy to help you. We have purchased Babe Ruth autographs previously like the Signed, Sealed, and Delivered Collection.

When the great-grandson of a Yankees player called the Just Collect office at (732) 828-2261 to state he had a dual-signed baseball from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, we couldn't wait to evaluate the baseball and possibly purchase this one-of-a-kind item, but we were eager to hear the story of how the baseball came to be!

The great-grandson of Walter Smallwood opted to drive to our Just Collect office here in New Jersey from his home in Baltimore, MD. This is reminiscent of when a father-son duo drove eight hours from Virginia to sell their Michael Jordan rookie card in the 1986 Fleer Tupperware Collection

There are a few key factors that determine values on autographed baseballs such as the condition of the baseball, condition of the signatures (including boldness), and the type of baseball itself. Type of baseball is important as an autograph on an official Major League Baseball is more valuable than an autograph on non-official MLB ball. 

We made a fair offer to Walter's great-grandson that he accepted, and we then paid him how he wanted to be paid. If you choose to sell your collection to us here at Just Collect, we're happy to pay you in cash, check, money order, wire transfer, or we can go play a game of Sand Lot baseball if that's the payment you'd prefer! We just won't use this Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig signed ball like the kids in the movie did...

We offer may ways to evaluate your collection other than driving to our office like Walter's great-grandson chose to do. Here are the many ways we offer our FREE evaluation:

We will evaluate your cards for free. Once appraised, if you choose not to sell, we will return your cards at charge to you. With our FedEx account, we will ship your cards fully insured with 2-day shipping. 

  • Come to convention

We keep a LIST of card shows we'll be attending.  Come stop by the Just Collect table and chat.

  • Meet in-person

If you have a valuable collection and want us to come to you, we'll hop on the next plane or car out like we did for the California Love Collection with three Jackie Robinson rookie cards and the Yonkers New York Name Tag Collection with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig 1933 Goudey cards.

  • Meet in New York City

We have another location in New York you can meet us at; read all the information here.

Contact us ANY time for any of the above options!

  • We always offer a FREE APPRAISAL for your collection here at the Just Collect site. Just click here:

    FREE APPRAISAL

 

Thank you to the Smallwood family for allowing Just Collect to proudly purchase a piece of your family's history and share this amazing story with you. For the first time since the 1920's, brand new to the hobby is a Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig signed ball obtained from a Yankee teammate. 

WE ARE ALWAYS BUYING

Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss or get our industry-leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace. Check out the Just Collect Buy List.


OUR BUYING PHILOSOPHY

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the last 25 years. Although Just Collect is known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage baseball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, too!  

Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and souls into building their collections. So when you're ready to sell, we understand the feelings that you're going through and will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.

Don't hesitate to check out our Google Reviews left by many of the great people that have considered selling collections to Just Collect.

CONTACT US ANY TIME

Whether you have vintage cards or modern wax you want to sell, you can reach out to us any time! 

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