Babe Ruth's watch up for auction

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.