Babe’s Signed Ball to “Little Johnny” Up For Auction

Babe’s Signed Ball to “Little Johnny” Up For Auction

Over the years, BRC has heard a lot of great stories from people that met the Babe and conveyed what a special person he was.  The story of “Little Johnny” is one of the most amazing by far.  It demonstrates the power of inspiration – in this case its potential healing powers with a little boy, Johnny Sylvester.

In the fall of 1926, Sylvester had been injured in a horseback-riding accident in which he was kicked in the head, developing an infection in his skull. Sadly, things did not look good for little Johnny. Given that the boy was a huge Yankees fan, his uncle tried to cheer his spirits by arranging for a ball to be signed by the team while they were in St. Louis for the 1926 World Series. Sylvester did receive a signed ball from the Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals, with a signature specifically from Ruth that said, “I’ll knock a homer for you in Wednesday’s game.”

Sylvester received the ball before Game 4, and Ruth ended up belting three home runs in that game, making this his original “called shot”. As impressive as it was that Babe predicted his upcoming home run on behalf of Johnny, things got more interesting when the Babe returned to New York.

Babe visited Johnny Sylvester at his home in New Jersey after the Yankee’s loss in the 1926 Wolrd Series. Up to this point, the prognosis for Johnny’s recovery did not look good; however, the appearance of his idol at his bedside had a tremendous impact on Johnny’s health.   He went on to live a full life with his own interesting life and experiences. An amazing but true Babe Ruth-related story.

And now, 87 years later, the ball that was associated with this amazing story is up for auction.

Babe Ruth signed ball

Babe Ruth Signed Ball to Johnny Sylvester (source:

As you can see from the accompanying photo, the ball still clearly says, “I’ll knock a homer for you in Wednesday’s game”.The ball, which now belongs to Sylvester’s son, John Jr, was on loan to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore for the past 25 years.  Grey Flannel Auctions was recently enlisted to auction this piece on behalf of the Sylvester family.   The online auction, which includes other items in Sylvester’s collection, begins Friday, 12/20 and runs until Feb. 6, which would have been Ruth’s 119th birthday. A reserve price has not been set.  For anyone looking for an impressive piece of Babe Ruth memorabilia and American history, this is certainly one of the best.  As a side note, the record for the most paid for a signed Babe Ruth ball is $388,375 in 2012.




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