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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/30/2016
At the top of his game in the late 1920's, Babe Ruth was always very pleasant with fans, loved them actually, and would willingly sign autograph after autograph until the last child was satisfied. It had been said many times Ruth would “give you the shirt off his back.” However, most fans would rather have another type of personal Ruth memento, like one of his game used bats. Many stories abound how Ruth would donate, give or lend one of his war clubs to a charity, sick boy or a “friend of a friend of a friend.”

This bat was given by Ruth to one of his contemporaries, but not just any old ball player but one of his nemeses. Ruth gave this bat directly to Ty Cobb, a player who never was a fan of the home run, and how Ruth himself changed the game. How then did Ruth give this bat to Cobb? Ty was asked by his good friend Jimmy Austin for a Ruth bat so he could send it to his friend Frank Shields, a neighbor and friend of Austin’s from Laguna Beach, California. Austin lived in Laguna Beach for the final 50 or so years of his life and developed a strong friendship with the baseball loving Mr. Shields.

You know the name of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, and you just know you know the name Jimmy Austin, but where do you remember it from? Do you remember the most famous Charles Conlan photograph of an intense Ty Cobb sliding into third base with his spikes flying into the third baseman? Well, that third baseman was Jimmy Austin, then the patron of the hot corner for the New York Highlanders. So Shields asked Austin, who asked Cobb for help, who asked Ruth for a Ruth game bat...a friend of a friend of a friend.

This bat is a 35 inch, 37 ounce “His 5-14-27” R34 model bat, produced specifically for Babe Ruth, whose name “George Babe Ruth” is boldly scripted across the barrel. The bat evidences heavy game use, including a handle crack which has been “repaired” and held together with tape. A few bits of tape also appear above the knob to a few inches up the handle. In addition, several areas of green rack marks appear on the barrel. Attached to the left barrel is a partial mailing label from the “Port Shelby Hotel” in Detroit, Michigan. To the right of this mailing label is another label marking a surface for postage stamps. Inscribed on the label is a faint “Detroit Mich” and the date “May 20, 193_” with the last number undecipherable. The handwriting visible on the partial label has been confirmed by James Spence Authentication as that of Jimmy Austin.

This bat was actually sent through the mail with stamps placed directly on it! No shipping box needed back then! The white hickory bat is from the 1928-1930 ordering period and includes several characteristics of known Ruth ordered bats from that period. The label has a C-5B center brand, and does not have the word “Powerized” to the right of the brand. The C-5B center brand appeared on professional model Louisville Slugger bats from 1928-1930, and the word “Powerized” first appeared in 1931, dating this bat from 1928-1930. Despite the absence of a model number on the barrel or knob, we know this is a R34 model, manufactured specifically for Babe Ruth. His Professional Bat Ordering Records (PBOR) indicate Ruth made 11 orders from April 26, 1929 and August 9, 1930, all of which (with one exception) calling for “His 5-14-27” model, a R34 bat. This is confirmed by the known characteristics of that model number, measuring specific points which matched this bat to known R34 examples regarding the various widths from knob to barrel. All those R34 length and widths regarding Ruth known gamers match this example, and although specific player characteristics for Ruth cannot be clearly defined, there are original period photos showing Ruth using bats with similar tape placements this bat exhibits. A second Ruth characteristic is his fondness for hickory bats. Although this is a white hickory bat, and no definitive Ruth bat orders prior to 1930 signify bats with white hickory, we do know Ruth DID use white hickory bats in the 1920s. The PSA/DNA bat data base (1B04362) reveals a Ruth 1920s gamer was presented by Ruth to well-known vaudeville comedian Joe E. Brown, and dating to the 1925-1928 labeling period. The weights of this bat also correspond with factory ordered records for his hickory bat orders, with several orders between April 26, 1929 and August 9, 1930 calling for bats between 36 and 39 ounces.

This bat has several Ruth use characteristics, and corresponds with bats ordered by Ruth during the referenced period, and it is very possible Ruth did use this bat during games. PSA/DNA bat expert John Taube states in his extremely detailed FULL LOA, “We cannot confirm game use by Babe Ruth, but cannot deny the possibility Ruth did use the bat. Subsequent player use obscures Ruth’s familiar player characteristics.” The “player use” was performed by Frank Shields, the recipient of this gift, as his grandson stated his grandpa used the bat after receiving it. Who wouldn't want to brag to others he was using The Babe’s personal piece of hardware? Babe Ruth was a mystical figure, loved and adored by millions of fans, and he accommodated them whenever he could. One of those accommodations was presenting this bat to Ty Cobb, a bat with many tangible Ruth characteristics, who then gave it to his friend and former Major Leaguer Jimmy Austin, who then shipped it to his friend and long time neighbor Frank Shields. The bat was kept in that family for decades until it was first sold a few years ago. This remarkable bat is now available again, proudly presented by Goldin Auctions.
Current Bidding (Reserve Has Been Met)
Minimum Bid: $7,500.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $22,705.00
Estimate: $25,000+
Number Bids: 13
Auction closed on Sunday, May 8, 2016.
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