Williamsport is the home of Little League®, and for the last few years, it is also the home to the most complete Babe Ruth game worn uniform on display in the entire world.
The World of Little League: Peter J. McGovern Museum and Official Store currently houses the uniform baseball legend Babe Ruth wore during a 1934 barnstorming tour in Japan to help popularize the sport overseas.
“The uniform consists of a jersey, pants and a pair of socks, they are all in pristine condition,” the World of Little League Executive Director Lance Van Auken said. “Very lightly used when he did that tour.”
And on August 19, the most complete Babe Ruth game worn uniform on display furthered itself from other exhibits, as the hat that matches the uniform was added to the display.
The story of how the uniform came into the hands of the World of Little League Museum is one involving luck, and a generous anonymous donor.
“We were in the process of gutting the museum and trying to figure out what should go into it and a gentlemen who collects baseball memorabilia called us and said he was about to acquire the 1934 Babe Ruth Uniform that he wore on a tour of Japan and if that we would like to exhibit it in our museum,” said Van Auken.
Even though Babe Ruth never played in Little League, because Little League was established in 1939, Van Auken and other individuals at the museum felt the uniform had enough of a connection to the organization to be put on display.
The 1934 Japan barnstorming tour Ruth did with 13 other Major Leaguers, including Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, led to the country establishing of professional baseball in the country and, eventually, Little League.
After being on display for around a year and a half, the same generous, anonymous donor called the museum with some more exciting news regarding the uniform.
“He was about to acquire the hat Babe Ruth wore on that tour. The hat and the uniform have been separated from each other for more than a half a century, but it was coming up for auction,” said Van Auken. “He was able to acquire it and asked us if we would like to add it to the exhibit. Now, there are no more existing pieces to that uniform.”
Also on display in the case with the uniform is a vintage wooden bat from the 1950s and a baseball from the 1920s that has a personal connection to the town of Williamsport. The bat, is one of the earliest models that carried the Little League name on it. Also on the lumbered piece of history is a picture of the man whose uniform is in the same display. The ball has Ruth’s signature on it. The signature, though, is not what makes the ball special to Williamsport.
“When Babe Ruth came to our area on another barnstorming tour, he hit (that) ball well over 500 feet at a ballfield here at Williamsport that doesn’t exist anymore,” said Van Auken. “Somebody got the ball and got him to sign it and made its way through different owners and it was gifted to the Little League Museum. It was never on display until the museum reopened in June of 2013.”
The ball and bat are nice additions to the exhibit, but the most complete the uniform is one of the main attractions of the museum.
“The uniform itself, even without the hat, is the most complete Babe Ruth game worn uniform in the world,” said Van Auken. “There are only five or six jerseys that Babe Ruth wore while he played baseball in the world and we have one of them so we are really proud of that.”