Uncommonly large for a Nat Fein piece, this 16x20 photographic gem, “Babe Bows Out”, is in miraculous condition with a bold Nat Fein signature on the lower portion of the original matte. This piece of art was developed and mounted by Fein himself, who was meticulous and deliberate with every detail of his work. The presented image has been a proud possession of our consignor since 1964, when he received it as a gift from his father via a personal friend of Fein. This is the first time that this large format photo has ever been offered to the public.
No name in sport evokes a response from the multitudes as Babe Ruth still does. After years of thrilling the crowds at the stadium he helped to build, Ruth had his number retired by the New York Yankees on the 25th Anniversary of their majestic ballpark. It was overcast on June 13, 1948 in New York City, and reporters and photographers were scuffling for position to get one last glimpse of “the Bambino” in his famous pinstripes before the flannel was to be shipped off to Cooperstown. A 33-year-old photographer from the New York Herald, known for human-interest images rather than sports photography, was among them. Nat Fein had received the call earlier that day and hustled to the Bronx on assignment.
Babe Ruth was at his old locker, but Fein was shocked by what he saw. The player who had retired only 13 years earlier needed two men to help put on his uniform. He was too weak at that time to tie his own shoes. The photographers then went to the field for the ceremony. Most of the photographers stood along the base lines to capture Ruth's expression as he heard the cheers, but Fein had other ideas. He thought that the Babe's face, so drawn and different, was not the face people wanted to remember, and that the story was that Ruth's No. 3 was being retired. The only place the No. 3 could be seen was from behind Ruth. So that is where Fein stood.
The Babe Bows Out, as the picture later became known, although Fein dubbed it Number Three is Out, appeared on the front of the Herald-Tribune the next day and in papers around the country after the Associated Press picked it up. Two months and three days after the photograph was taken, on August 16, 1948, the beloved Babe died. The Babe Bows Out won a Pulitzer Prize for photographer Nat Fein, the first sports photograph to be so honored. The image was hailed by the New York Times in 1992 as "the most celebrated photograph in sports history," and in 1999 Life Magazine called it one of the greatest pictures of the twentieth century. Please visit our website for more information on the history of this piece and the photographer, Nat Fein.
When Ruth's name was called, he picked up the nearest bat, which belonged to future Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, and used it to ascend the dugout steps into “the caldron of sound he must have known better than any other man." Ruth walked slowly toward the plate. He stood two paces from home plate, slightly hunched, Feller's bat in his right hand for support, his own Yankees cap in his left hand by his side, uniform loose on his body. The grandstands of the ball yard towered over him. The championship banners he had helped win hung from the façade, and they all cheered as a band played "Auld Lang Syne." Using the Speed Graphic camera his mother had purchased to start his career, Fein looked through a viewfinder that showed the scene upside-down. While most of the other photographers used flashbulbs, he used available light, and he captured arguably the most famous image in American sports history. "The picture is from a low angle, the sweep of the entire stadium, the Babe looking out at his world, the world he once ruled,"
Personal Details from the Previous Owner:
Since 1964, I have been the privileged owner of a rare 16" x 20" photograph entitled "The Babe Bows Out" which as you are most likely aware was taken by Nat Fein of the New York Herald Tribune on June 13, 1948 on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Yankee Stadium and the day on which Babe Ruth's number "3" was officially retired by the New York Yankees. This dramatic photograph of Babe Ruth taken shortly before his death, was proclaimed in 1992 by the New York Times as "the most celebrated photograph in sports history" and, in 1999 was heralded by LIFE Magazine as "one of the greatest pictures of the twentieth century". It later earned Mr. Fein the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1949.
The photo was a gift to me in 1964. It represented a personal favor to my father from a close friend of Mr. Fein's who also who knew of my youthful passion for the New York Yankees. The photo has been meticulously maintained by me all of these years.
By way of additional background and historical perspective/significance, I recently visited with Mr. David Nieves at his offices in West Nyack, New York. Mr. Nieves is the both the Curator and Administrator of Nat Fein's estate and his prized photography collection, rare original photographic negatives and archives.
It should be noted at the outset that Mr. Fein personally developed his own prints of this and all of his photographs. Prints such as mine and the limited number in Mr. Nieves custody are therefor the only prints in existence. The original negative of "The Babe Bows Out" has been sequestered and kept in safekeeping by Mr. Nieves since Mr. Fein's death in 2000. It was only used personally by Mr. Fein and in his extremely limited discretion during his lifetime. As such, these are the only prints in existence today. This rare negative has and never will be used again.
David is also the author of book "The Fein Story Behind the Pictures" which tells the fascinating story of Nat Fein and of course, the history/facts behind Mr. Fein's unlikely but amazing path to taking this famous photo of Babe Ruth that day in 1948 at Yankee Stadium. For a fascinating tour of Mr. Fein's history leading up to the taking of this famous photograph, I encourage you to visit Mr. Nieves' official website is http://vintagephotos.com/ . He has also offered and is available to speak with you regarding my photograph at any point in time.
Mr. Nieves and I spent an interesting day together and he was thrilled to professionally examine my limited edition photograph. After his inspection/appraisal of the photograph, he provided me with a complete and explanatory letter of authenticity on Fein Estate stationary with its raised seal, confirming not only the authenticity of my photo, but also pointing out it's unusually rare qualities when compared with the few prints in existence and those in his custody.
1. SIZE: 16"x 20" :
The standard operating size for photo journalist purposes in Mr. Fein's era was 8" x 10" or less, for both practical and logistical purposes. 16" x 20" prints were rarely produced by Mr. Fein due to the difficulty of workmanship and the lab environment needed to do so. This print, as with all of his prints, was personally developed by Mr. Fein from the original negative, and, as with all of his photos, by his own hands and in his own personal darkroom.
2. MOUNTING and BLEED:
Mr. Fein personally mounted this rare 16" x 20" photograph on heavy, high quality matting board stock, a rare occurrence. In addition, you should note that at the time of development, the left and right bleeds of the photo, unlike others in existence, include the complete components of the negative, showing the full left field facade of Yankee Stadium and on the right, includes a young Mel Allen, famed Yankee broadcaster in front of his WPIX microphone. Mr. Nieves pointed out that this is very rare to see the full bleed both left and right of this photo. To accomplish that feat required unusual attention to detail and expertise by Mr. Fein. Mr. Nieves indicated that the mounting Mr. Fein employed on my print may in fact be one of a kind, certainly he is unaware of any others like it in presentation.
3. PHOTOGRAPHER’S SIGNATURE:
Mr. Fein typically signed his photos directly, on the photo itself, somewhere in the proximity of home plate in the right hand corner of the photo using a silver ink pen. In the case of this photo, Mr. Fein signed the matting board beneath the photo in blue ink. The signature is unusually large and prominent making it rare and adding to its appeal, desirability and value.
Information from the Nat Fein Estate:
”The Babe Bows Out”
June 13, 1948
The Story Behind the Famous Pulitzer Prize Winning Photograph by Nat Fein
Nat Fein, a human interest photographer for the New York Herald Tribune, took this dramatic photograph of Babe Ruth on June 13, 1948, at Yankee Stadium. It was the 25th Anniversary of Yankee Stadium and the day that The Babe's number was to be officially retired. Mr. Fein had been asked by his editor to cover this story in place of a fellow Tribune sports photographer who was ill that day. He captured the dramatic photograph when Ruth, terminally ill with throat cancer, appeared at home plate in his old uniform as the ceremony marking the stadium's Silver Anniversary Season had just begun.
Everyone knew then, as he himself must have known, that The Babe had worn his old uniform for the last time. He died only two months later on August 16, 1948. A Yankee player would never again wear the famed number 3.
The story in Nat Fein’s own words:
On the rainy afternoon of Sunday, June 13, 1948,
''When we were in the dressing room, the Babe sat beside his old No. 3 locker and we made a picture there,'' Mr. Fein wrote. ''Then he pulled out his belt showing how much thinner he'd gotten and I wanted to make a picture then, but they told me he's going to have all he can do to get out there -- he's was very sick man -- and to create the least bother here as possible because there's would be a ceremony outside.
Ruth, thin and frail as a result of a long illness, emerged from the dugout into "the caldron of sound he must have known better than any other man."
''He came over to home plate. Of course, the story was “No. 3 bows out”, the uniform being retired and all, and as they played 'Auld Lang Syne,' I was trying to make a picture showing No. 3, but it's only on his back. So I walked around behind with the band still playing 'Auld Lang Syne' and there was his figure, his thin legs compared to his bulky body, and his No. 3 showing. So I made the picture from his back.'' The photo of Ruth leaning on a bat he borrowed from the star pitcher Bob Feller, whose Cleveland Indians played the Yankees that day, appeared on Page 1 of The Herald Tribune.
Nat Fein received the famous Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1949 in recognition of his famous photo “The Babe Bows Out”. It has been designated as the most famous and celebrated photograph taken in sports history by both LIFE magazine and The New York Times.
This rare print has been issued an Official Letter of Authenticity by the curator of Mr. Fein’s estate David Neives, and as such is guaranteed to be individually produced from the original negative by the hand of Mr. Fein himself in his personal darkroom. As such it represents a collectible fine art piece of the highest quality.