Valuable Ruth card to stay at museum

Sun follow-up

New display planned as soon as sponsor can be found

July 06, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd, The Baltimore Sun

Good news for the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum: One of its most prized possessions is staying put.

That would be the rare 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookie baseball card, whose owner phoned the museum Tuesday and agreed to leave the card on display there for the foreseeable future.

"I vacillated between the Babe Ruth Museum and Cooperstown," said owner Glenn Davis, referring to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in upstate New York. "But I kept coming back to the Babe Ruth Museum, and I think that's the proper place for it. They've done a great job taking care of the card all these years."

The card, with an estimated value of $500,000, was the subject of an article in The Baltimore Sun last week that centered on the search for its owner.

Richard Davis, the original owner and Glenn Davis' father, had agreed in 1998 to allow the museum to display the Ruth card and 14 other cards of the Hall of Fame slugger's teammates on the Baltimore Orioles of the International League.

When Richard Davis died in 2001, Glenn Davis took possession of the cards and entered into a similar agreement with the museum.

But when the card was appraised last year for $500,000 -- far more than museum officials envisioned -- they tried to contact Glenn Davis. They were unable to find him for more than a year, until the article appeared in last week's newspaper and Davis' friends alerted him to the museum's search.

"I was shocked when I read the article," he said. "I knew the card was valuable. But I am rather surprised at what it appraised" for.

Davis, 56, lives in Bethany Beach, Del., and works as a quality systems manager for Duron Paints.

He said the Ruth card and its companions originally came into his family's possession through his grandfather, Archibald Davis, who collected the cards as a young boy selling newspapers to Baltimore streetcar passengers.

"The cards were inserted in the Baltimore News," Glenn Davis said. "He got to keep one [newspaper] when he worked. And he saved all the cards until he had a set of 15."

Davis said he was also surprised to hear the estimated value of the Ruth rookie card. But after talking it over with his wife, he said, the two agreed not to sell the card.

"There's no one sick in our family, no one starving in our family," Davis said. "So I enjoy seeing the card displayed at the museum."

Museum officials said they are thrilled with Davis' decision.

Mike Gibbons, the museum's executive director, said the museum would now go ahead with plans to build a "blockbuster" exhibit on baseball-card collecting that features the Ruth card as its centerpiece.

The exhibit has already been designed, Gibbons said, and the museum is now looking for a sponsor to defray costs before building can start.

Once a sponsor is found, Gibbons said, officials think they can complete the exhibit within three months.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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