The sacristy box was used by a priest from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to administer last sacraments of the Catholic Church to a gravely ill Babe Ruth at New York’s Memorial Hospital on the evening of July 21, 1948. Remarkably, Ruth, who was dying of cancer, recovered overnight, and the next morning he joked with a friend, “Say, were you here yesterday when I nearly kicked the bucket?” In fact, Babe felt well enough to leave the hospital on the evening of July 26 to attend the world premiere of his screen autobiography, The Babe Ruth Story, at New York’s Astor Theater. Before the film was over, however, Ruth fell ill and had to return to the hospital. Babe’s condition steadily deteriorated and he fell into a coma at approximately 7:00 p.m. on August 16, 1948. A priest gave him a final blessing at 7:30, and he expired at 8:01 p.m.
The funeral was on August 19 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Cardinal Spellman presiding at the Requiem Mass. It was a very hot day in New York, and among the pallbearers were the Bambino’s former Yankee teammates Joe Dugan and Waite Hoyt. “Christ,” Dugan whispered, licking his dry lips, “I’d give a hundred bucks for a cold beer.” Hoyt, nodding at the coffin, whispered back, “So would the Babe.” The sacristy box was obtained by a former New York Yankees executive shortly after the funeral, and it remained in his family for many years.