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July 30, 2014

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Babe Ruth watch given by Yankees to be auctioned

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Ron Sylvester / Las Vegas Sun

A display of New York Yankees jerseys worn in games by legends, including (from left) Reggie Jackson, Roger Maris, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, are featured at Score!, the interactive fantasy sports exhibit at the Luxor in Las Vegas.

The grandson of Babe Ruth is auctioning off the watch given to the baseball legend in his last appearance at Yankee Stadium in 1948, a few months before he died of cancer.

Tom Stevens was given the watch by his grandmother — Ruth's wife, Claire — when he graduated from college in 1974, and has kept it in a safe deposit box ever since.

"It's difficult to part with because I feel like I'm liquidating a legacy in a way," Stevens said. "I almost feel like it belongs in the family. But I think now would be a good time to put it to use."

The watch was presented to Ruth on June 13, 1948, when he appeared in pinstripes for the last time as his No. 3 was formally retired on the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium. A clearly ailing Ruth leaned on a bat loaned to him by Cleveland pitcher Bob Feller, a scene immortalized in a famous photo showing Ruth from behind.

The watch given to Ruth by the Yankees is a 14-karat Longines pocket model with an engraving on the back that reads: "Babe Ruth — Silver Anniversary — Yankee Stadium 1923-1948 'The House That Ruth Built.'"

Stevens, a civil engineer who is the son of Ruth's only surviving daughter, Julia, said he has always been proud to be Ruth's grandson.

"As a ballplayer, it was a little tough to play under the expectations but it has greatly enriched my life," the 61-year-old Stevens said. "My expression is that it's kind of like being born into baseball royalty."

Ruth memorabilia normally draws big prices, including a 1920 jersey that sold for more than $4.4 million in 2012. A watch that was part of a set given Ruth and his teammates for winning the 1923 World Series went for $717,000 this year.

The watch will be auctioned online by SCP Auctions, with final bids on May 17. SCP estimated it would go for at least $750,000.

Stevens said he will use the proceeds for family care, including helping his own grandchildren go to college.

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