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Former Liverpool resident gifts Babe Ruth autograph to museum

Granville Nickerson poses with his book signed by Babe Ruth, along with George Mitchell, president of the Queens County Heritage Society and Linda Rafuse, manager of the Queens County Museum.
Granville Nickerson poses with his book signed by Babe Ruth, along with George Mitchell, president of the Queens County Heritage Society and Linda Rafuse, manager of the Queens County Museum.

LIVERPOOL - One day in 1933, a shy young man was walking down Main Street in Liverpool with his friends and saw Babe Ruth in front of the post office.

That young man was Granville Nickerson. He was 11 years old at the time. He’s 93 now and he’s returned to Liverpool to give the Queens County Museum a gift – an autograph from Babe Ruth.

That young man was Granville Nickerson. He was 11 years old at the time. He’s 93 now and he’s returned to Liverpool to give the Queens County Museum a gift – an autograph from Babe Ruth.

Nickerson was a part of a group of friends known then as the Bristol Boys – named for the street they lived on. They were walking home from school when they spied Babe Ruth in front of the post office talking to Dr. John C. Wickwire.

 “He’s wearing high lace boots, britches and a jacket and we wondered what he was doing here,” he says.

 In his hand Nickerson had a copy of The Mill on the Floss, a book he was reading for his Grade 7 class.  He says to a friend that he wished he could ask Babe Ruth to sign his book and without hesitating, his plucky friend grabs Nickerson's book, walks right up to the baseball legend and asks for an autograph.

 “I remember he said ‘Hey Babe, will you write your signature in my friends book,’” says Nickerson.

 Babe Ruth takes the book and signs it much to the delight of the boys watching, who all got to meet Babe Ruth in turn.

It has also received another signature from a friend of his – Leroy Surrette, who did it as a joke directly after Babe signed the book.

 “Leroy Surrette grabbed it too… I was going to erase it but they said it might spoil Babe’s signature,” he says.

Nickerson has had the book ever since.

The famous signature.

Although he was a sports fan and enjoyed playing baseball with his friends, he says he didn’t really know how special the signature would end up being. He saw it more as something of sentimental value from when he met Babe Ruth. Nickerson even went on using the book in class, despite it's famous signature.

Baseball was very important to the people of Queens County back then.

“I loved baseball but I wasn’t very big,” he laughs. “I liked to play but I didn’t make the team.”

Nearly every community had a team and Nickerson believes the game was embraced so widely because of the Great Depression.

“It was a terrible time,” he says.

 Nickerson says he believes many of the activities done during that period may have been done as a distraction from the poverty.

Graville Nickerson reading a letter he received from the Smithsonian Museum.

A keepsake for life

 Later on his life, Nickerson visited with Dr. Wickwire and says the doctor got a couple signatures from Babe Ruth that day as well.

“(Babe Ruth) said it was the only time he’d ever been asked to sign a doctor’s prescription pad,” laughs Nickerson.

 Unfortunately Dr. Wickwire’s signatures went missing during an office move.

Since graduating from high school, Nickerson has lived many places. He also became a pediatrician. He says he liked the challenge of dealing with children but he mostly wanted to see them get better.

 After 82 years, plenty of travel, and lots of stories, the book that Nickerson has held on to all these years is coming back to Liverpool and its home will be within shouting distance of place Babe Ruth signed it.

Nickerson traveled from Toronto with his two daughters to give the book to the Queens County Museum.  He says it was a difficult decision because he has four grandsons. However, he wanted the book to be a part of the baseball display at the museum.

 “(I decided to give) the book to the museum to complement, supplement and complete the collection that you have,” he says.

 Nickerson says he wrote to the Smithsonian museum about the book and its famous signature. He laughs and says he received a reply confirming that he likely has the only copy of the Mill on the Floss signed by Babe Ruth.

 The Queens County Museum was very happy to receive the gift and held a small reception for the Nickerson when he presented the book to them and the Queens County Heritage Society on Aug 19.

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