Babe Ruth’s $5,000 contract with the Boston Red Sox in 1918 sold at an auction Saturday night for $1.02 million.
The contract included signatures by Ruth, American League president Ban Johnson and Red Sox owner Harry Frazee.
The winning bid represents the highest ever paid for a sports contract. The previous record was for the document that sent Ruth to the New York Yankees in December 1919, which sold for $996,000 in 2005.
Goldin Auctions of New Jersey told ESPN.com that the buyer of the Ruth contract requested to remain anonymous.
The auction, at the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore, coincided with the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s major league debut.
Other Ruth items that sold at the auction included: a bat from early in his career for $215,000 and a signed ball for $96,000. One item that did not sell was the first home run ball that Ruth hit at Yankee Stadium because it failed to get the required $100,000 reserve.
Ruth’s bat was discovered in a stash of pre-World War I Red Sox bats found in a 150-year-old home outside Boston, according to Goldin Auctions of New Jersey, which handled the sale.
Ruth made his Major League debut on July 11, 1914, pitching for the Boston Red Sox at their home field, Fenway Park. He later joined the New York Yankees, where he achieved his greatest fame as a hitter, including crushing Yankee stadium’s first official home run when it opened in 1923.
The initial item up for bid during Saturday’s auction was the first ball ever hit out of the park by Ruth, who was trying out the Yankee Stadium field for a newspaper editor.
It had been expected to go for $1 million or more but was withdrawn from the sale after it failed to attract even the minimum bid of $100,000, said Goldin spokesman Doug Drotman.
Early online bidding for the ball reached $95,000, but after no further bids came in, it was withdrawn, Drotman said.
Ruth hit the ball when New York Daily News sports editor Marshall Hunt brought him to the nearly finished Yankee Stadium on Valentine’s Day in 1923 to get an exclusive reaction from Ruth to the stadium.
The ball went into the stands on the fourth pitch, and Ruth signed it for the stadium worker who retrieved it.
The bat sold Saturday was used from 1916 to 1918, a period in which the left-handed pitcher helped the Red Sox win its last World Series for 86 years, a dry spell that ended in 2004.