Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 7/19/2014


Eddie Maier was a minor league visionary. Amassing a fortune as a brewer in the decades before prohibition, Maier bought a franchise in the Pacific Coast League when it expanded in 1909. Thinking like the Beer Baron he was, the new owner placed the new team in one of the only two cities in Los Angeles County where alcohol was legal. The Vernon Tigers played in Maier Field, located next to Doyle's, a local tavern featuring the longest bar in the world staffed by 37 bartenders. The team was an instant success and Maier became a well known and popular figure in west coast sporting circles. Besides being an early baseball visionary he was also a pioneer memorabilia collector (and perhaps the very first) specializing in game used bats. Maier called upon Buck Weaver, then a star on the Chicago White Sox and a former PCL standout, to provide him with a pipeline to premium game used lumber. A 1913 newspaper article (a copy of which is included) highlights his amazing collection. The Tigers owner was pictured with autographed bats used by the greatest stars of the dead ball era: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Nap Lajoie, Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, Sam Crawford and Home Run Baker. As savvy as he was, it was only a matter of time before Maier would call on Weaver to obtain for him a bat from the man who was single-handedly changing the game of baseball: Babe Ruth.

In what became the trade with the most repercussions in all of baseball history, the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in December of 1919. At the time Ruth was not only the best left handed pitcher in the American League but was also emerging as the greatest slugger the game had ever seen. The 29 home runs he hit in his last season in Boston forever changed the way the game was played. His move from provincial Boston to New York City put Ruth smack in the center of the world, propelling him to a level of stardom never before seen. Switching entirely to everyday outfielder, The Babe hit an astronomical 54 home runs, more than the combined total of all the other batters in the American League COMBINED! That mind-blowing feat overshadowed the fact that he also batted .376 and led the league in walks, slugging percentage RBI's and runs scored. No one had seen such raw power before and by the time Buck Weaver asked The Babe to sign this very bat for Eddie Maier in 1920, Ruth had transitioned from a mere sports star into the face of the Roaring 20's. The gregarious Weaver was a friend of Ruth and the two had even golfed together on one of the sluggers' trips to California. 1920, the season this bat was obtained, was to be Weaver's last: within a year he and seven other teammates were banned from the game for their part in the 1919 World Series fix. It is historic irony that the man held partly responsible for the near-ruin of baseball obtained this incredible bat from the man who is credited with saving the game. This bat, this incredible piece of America, dates from that precarious moment in history in which baseball stalled, almost destroyed itself and then underwent a dramatic reinvention, ushering in the game's modern era.

Thorough research shows that The Babe used this bat during the years 1918-1920, spanning the years Ruth spent with the Red Sox and Yankees. The first piece of dating evidence comes from Ruth himself - the slugger proudly signed and personalized the bat in black fountain pen: "To My Friend Eddie Maier from Babe Ruth" and thoughtfully added the date "1920". Further research shows that the particular Hillerich & Bradsby center brand is of the "dash-dot-dash" variety, once thought to have only been used during the 1916-1917 period. Since Ruth signed his first Hillerich & Bradsby contract in July, 1918 this center brand must have been used for some bats produced a year later than believed. The stamped facsimile signature on the barrel is of the "small-R" style used only on bats produced for Ruth during his first contract period which ended in 1920. That distinction gives us the third piece of proof that can narrow down the bats' age. The fourth piece of evidence linking this piece of lumber to his transitional Red Sox-Yankees years is its very physical dimensions - 36" in length and weighting 41 ounces - the specifications for the bats ordered by Ruth during that first contract period with the Kentucky bat maker.

These four solid observations definitively date this bat to the 1918-1920 time period. The bat itself shows excellent game use. It is uncracked and exhibits that unmatchable warm patina a vintage bat takes on with age. Several ball marks can be seen on the left barrel above Ruth's stamped signature - photographic evidence conclusively shows that from the way Ruth held his bat this is exactly where balls made contact. The marks are all grouped a within 4" area, visible proof of Ruth's remarkable hand-eye coordination. Furthermore, the cleat marks visible on the right and back barrel are located where vintage footage shows The Babe knocking clean his spikes before batting! Blue paint streaks from bat racks in long-gone baseball stadiums can be seen. This magical piece of baseball history is the earliest manufactured signed Babe Ruth bat that exists and the only one that can be said Ruth took with him from the Red Sox to the Yankees. That Eddie Maier had the foresight to request Buck Weaver's help in securing this artifact shows great fore-thought; that it has survived for almost 95 years is simply incredible. Included with this bat is a signed and notarized letter of provenance from original owner Eddie Maier's grandson, Edward R. Maier. A full letter of Authenticity from PSA/DNA, who have thoroughly researched this bat and awarded it their highest grade of GU 10. MEARS has also given this bat their highest grade of '10'. The bat comes with Letters of Authenticity from PSA/DNA as well as JSA both authenticating the Ruth signature and the inscription and date as being signed by Babe Ruth. There is no better piece of baseball memorabilia that represents the dawn of Baseball's Modern Era than this very bat. A detailed book of LOAs and information is available to be sent to any interested bidders. Please contact the office to have one immediately sent.

This lot has a Reserve Price that has not been met.
Current Bidding (Reserve Not Met)
Minimum Bid: $150,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $0.00
Number Bids: 8
Auction closed on Saturday, July 19, 2014.
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