Babe Ruth's 1923 World Series championship pocket watch, for decades thought to be lost to history, is coming to a New York City auction, where it's expected to fetch at least $750,000.
Ruth batted .368 and hit three homers in the 1923 World Series as the Yankees won the championship by beating the New York Giants in six games. It was a pivotal year for the franchise, as it moved into Yankee Stadium and won its first of 27 World Series championships.
The pentagonal gold timepiece is being sold at Heritage Auction's Feb. 22 sale.
"It was the beginning of what's become the most dominant dynasty in American sports," said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at the Dallas-based auction house. "It changed the culture and Babe Ruth's the ultimate leader of that team."
At the time, winning players got watches, which later were replaced by the still-standard rings.
"No one knew where the piece had been. No one has ever seen it for public sale or public auction," said Ivy. "The fact that there was no news about it for so many decades, it was just thought that at some point it had been lost to time."
The 14-karat gold timepiece remained with Ruth until shortly before his death from cancer in 1948.
He asked his close friend, Charles Schwefel, what he would like from his collection. The Manhattan hotelier, who shared Ruth's passion for helping disadvantaged youth, asked for the watch.
Schwefel kept it for two years until his wife gave it to Lewis Fern, her nephew and Ruth's frequent golf caddy. It remained with Fern for decades until it was sold privately in 1988 to the current owner, a major East Coast sports collector who kept it in a safe deposit box.
"A lot of items from that era were lost or discarded, so the fact that the watch reappeared ... obviously is of historical significance," said Steve Costello, executive vice-president of Steiner Sports collectibles in New Rochelle, N.Y.