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Duluth Depot to unveil Babe Ruth-signed baseball

The baseball that Babe Ruth autographed for Bobby Barrett at the old Lyric Theater during an offseason meet-and-greet tour of vaudeville houses in 1926. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service1 / 3
Steve Erickson talks about his late uncle, Bobby Barrett, and the sports memorabilia he collected, including a photo of the 1938 Duluth Dukes (foreground) and a baseball the great Babe Ruth autographed for the then 5-year-old Barrett in 1926. The family is presenting the ball to the Depot on Saturday for preservation and display. Steve Kuchera / Forum News Service2 / 3
Bob Barrett in the mid-1990s. Courtesy of Steve Erickson3 / 3

DULUTH—A piece of Zenith City history is getting a new resting place.

With the donation of a display case from Security Jewelers, a baseball signed by Babe Ruth will be unveiled as the newest addition to the Duluth Depot on Saturday, June 9.

"More people are going to see it and appreciate it, and I know that was important to (the owner)," said Ken Buehler, the executive director of the Depot. "He felt that he had a bigger obligation to share this with more people and I respected that."

Steve Erickson, a nephew of the ball's original owner, Bobby Barrett, decided last spring it was time to find a public place for the ball to be viewed. In the 92 years since Babe Ruth signed Barrett's baseball at the Lyric Theater on Superior Street, the ball hadn't changed possession. It spent the better part of that period sitting in the top shelf of Barrett's dresser taken out to be admired by a small collection of lucky family members.

"This is exactly what should happen with it for really all kinds of reasons," said Erickson, the ball's current owner. "This really was meant to be for people to see it."

Because for all that a Babe Ruth signature is worth, it's the story behind the signature that Erickson says is what gives it value. Not only did a native Duluthian meet the baseball legend and get his ball signed, but the serendipitous meeting between the 5-year-old Barrett and the Babe took place in Duluth.

Erickson's uncle died in 2012, but it took several years to decide where to showcase the ball. The original plan was to donate it to the NorShor Theatre, but that fell through. With the help of the Duluth News Tribune's opinion page editor Chuck Frederick, the historic train station was chosen last winter.

And that decision wasn't just based on the foot traffic the Depot receives.

"Certainly Babe Ruth came here by rail. That's the way anybody traveled in," Buehler said. "And he probably came into this station."

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