Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary Auction
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A few months ago, the owner of a 150 year-old house outside Boston made a discovery of epic proportions. No, it wasn't a safe full of gold coins - what that homeowner found was greater than currency but just as valuable - a cache of game used bats belonging to the best Red Sox players of the pre-World War I period. Among the bats which lay undisturbed for over 97 years was this one belonging to their star pitcher AND hitter - Babe Ruth! This bat has been on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum since its discovery and authentication
During the period this bat has been dated to - 1916 to 1918 - Babe Ruth had just emerged as the ace of the Red Sox staff and was acknowledged as the best left-handed pitcher in baseball. In 1916 he won 23 games and led the league with a stingy 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts. He also contributed a win in the World Series as Boston took their second consecutive World Championship. He won 24 games the next year and in 1918 pitched Boston to their last World Championship for over 86 years. By the time he won two games in that year's World Series, Ruth was also emerging as the games best slugger as well. His 11 home runs was tops in the American League, all while taking his turn in Boston's rotation as a starting pitcher! Baseball had never seen anything like this big, swashbuckling palooka and the Red Sox management had no idea what to do with him. On one hand he was the best lefty in the league and on the other he swung the most potent bat in the Boston lineup. This extraordinary bat dates to that time when Ruth stood tall as the best all-around baseball player in the history of the game.
While any game used bat once swung by The Bambino is something to excite over, bats dating from his days with the Red Sox are unbelievably rare - in fact less than a handful exist. This is one of only two Ruth branded bats from 1918 or earlier. This awe-inspiring bat has several distinctions that reveal it to be a Babe Ruth 1916-18 bat. The first is Ruth's stamped name. That the bat has been personalized at the factory with a simple "RUTH" in block letters allows us to date this bat as being made before July, 1918. On the 9th of that month, Babe Ruth signed his first contract with the Kentucky company and every bat subsequently manufactured for him featured a facsimile signature of one style or another on the barrel. The Hillerich & Bradsby stamped center brand lets us further narrow down the age. The company applied their "dash-dot-dash" style center brand which was first used in 1916. The third piece of evidence that dates this bat to the 1916-18 period is its specifications: the weight of 40.5 ounces and 35.75" length correspond with the existing specifications found on very early Ruth bats.
Hillerich & Bradsby records show that after 1922 he switched to a slightly longer 36" model. The combination of these three unique details tell us beyond any doubt that this bat was definitely manufactured between 1916 and July 1918, though a simple statistic may narrow it down even further than that: Ruth came to bat just 656 times during the 1916-1918 seasons, and as such he did not have the need for very many bats and most likely placed just one or two orders each year. Since he signed his own signature H&B contract at the early part of the 1918 season, this bat was probably ordered during 1916-1917. This statistic pushes an already exquisite artifact to stratospheric proportions considering how few bats Ruth wielded during that early period as opposed to later when his plate appearances more than tripled, necessitating the need for more lumber. Further observations prove this extraordinary piece of lumber to exhibit several characteristics found on Ruth's game used bats. The first is its cleat imprints. As can be seen in many period film clips, The Babe habitually banged out his spikes on his bats' barrel as he prepared to bat. Most every genuine Ruth bat will have these marks, which can be seen on this bat, right where they should be on the barrel. The second distinguishing characteristic is the grouping of ball and stitch impressions found on the left barrel above Ruth's stamped name. Unlike most batters who held the bat with the H&B center brand facing up, Ruth gripped his bat with the center brand turned down and as a result made contact just above his name on the barrel. A typical Ruthian group of marks can be seen right in that spot on this bat. Along with the ball and stitch marks some checking is evident, caused by repeated ball contact. It's awesome to realize that these marks show Ruth was using this very bat to develop the swing that would forever change the game of baseball.
Overall, the Hillerich & Bradsby R2 model bat shows heavy use. The handle has been cracked but has been professionally repaired. Green bat rack paint streaks are still seen along the barrel, reminders of long-gone baseball palaces. As befits the bat of The Babe, the passing of time has given the wood an almost regal glow; its very presence exudes history. There is no other Red Sox-era Ruth bat that grades higher than this one. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that its discovery after almost a century is one of the greatest finds in the history of the hobby and Goldin Auctions is very proud to be able to offer it here. PSA/DNA sticker number 1B07152 is affixed to the knob end and their full Letter of Authenticity which awarded this bat a grade of GU-9 accompanies this important piece of baseball history.
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