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Manager Joe Torre didn’t know pitcher David Wells was wearing it until he was already on the mound. When the New York Yankees pitcher returned to the dugout, his hat had to be removed, and a fine for a uniform violation was on its way.

Wells had paid $35,000 for a cap once worn by Yankees legend Babe Ruth. On June 28, 1997, Wells decided to wear that hat in a game against the Cleveland Indians. The hat lasted an inning before Torre made Wells remove it. Since then, that hat had changed hands and its price tag has grown significantly.

David Wells had to sneak on the field wearing Babe Ruth’s hat

David Wells of the New York Yankees pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1997 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

Wells pitched 21 seasons in Major League Baseball. He suited up for nine teams and was a three-time All-Star. During his first year with the Yankees, Wells thought it would be great if he could wear a price of history at historic Yankee Stadium. He spoke to Torre about wearing his prized Babe Ruth hat in his start against the Indians. Torre said no.

“I took it to the ballpark and said I’m going to wear this sucker,” Wells recalled in a video put out by the YES Network. “Joe Torre caught wind of it and was like, ‘Hey, you can’t wear that hat. It’s not required uniform.’ I’m like but how cool would that be to wear the hat Babe Ruth wore? Now I’m wearing it.

“It kinda brings back history because it is history. I’m like I’m gonna wear this hat. He’s like, no you’re not. I’m like, yeah I am.”

Wells put on his regular cap during warmups as Torre kept a close eye.

“I was warming up, I walked by him and he was looking right at my hat,” Wells said. “I look at him like, see I don’t have it on. But I went up to my locker, put it on. Looking up the tunnel, I see Jorge (Posada) and Derek (Jeter), and they’re looking, and I’m like, go just run out there because when you run out there, they start the music.

“They took off running and when I came off the mound, Joe was pissed. He goes, ‘Take the hat off. I told you not to wear it.’ I said, ‘Well, I wore it.'”

Torre made sure he didn’t wear it out there for a second inning.

David Wells was fined $2,500 for wearing the Babe Ruth hat

Wells said he had goosebumps when he was on the mound wearing the Babe’s hat.

“It was very emotional and chilling,” he told reporters. “I had goosebumps. It’s just one of those things that when you have a hat like that and the history behind it, you don’t know what to expect.

“I was very nervous. It’s just a hat, but it’s the Babe’s hat.”

Wells shut down the Indians in the top of the first inning. He went back out for the second inning with his regular Yankees hat and promptly surrendered four runs, watching 3-0 lead quickly disappear. The Yankees lost 12-8.

“That was the only inning that I got three outs,” he said. “It didn’t go well after that.”

Wells was fined $2,500 for his violation. According to Sports Collectors Daily, he paid the fine with 2,500 $1 bills.

“After the game, (Torre) called me in and he’s like you’re fined $2,500,” he said, per the YES Network video. “I’m like, that’s it? All right, whatever it is. At least I got to wear the hat.”

Whatever happened to the Ruth hat?


Babe Ruth and the 17-Year-Old Girl Who Struck Him out on 4 Pitches

Fifteen years after he wore the hat, Wells decided to part ways with it. He put it up for auction in 2012 and watched the price soar.

“I bought it for 35 grand, and I took a lot of grief for paying that much for a hat,” he said. “I saw in the paper a Babe Ruth jersey, and it was going up for auction. If somebody’s not going to get the jersey, they’re going to want the hat. I ended up putting the hat in the auction and ended up getting like $550-600,000 for it.

“That’s a good investment on my part. That’s the saga of the hat. It was pretty cool.”

According to Sports Collectors Daily, the hat sold for $537,278.40. Not too bad for a $37,500 investment, fines included.