1897 The Notched Bat of Cap Anson
2016 SOLD for $ 430K including premium by Christie's
2018 SOLD for $ 350K including premium
Cap Anson played his last game in 1897. He gave in memory to one of his daughters his last bat and his uniform.
The uniform was later damaged and disappeared. The bat remained in his descent until 2005. It was sold for $ 287K including premium by Heritage on August 5, 2010 and for $ 430K including premium by Christie's on October 19, 2016. It is now listed as lot 3 by Goldin Auctions. The bidding opens on July 9 and will close as a live auction in New Jersey on August 2.
This bat is extremely rare by its correlation with one of the best players of the nineteenth century, its heavy game use and its exceptional family provenance. It was graded GU 10 by PSA/DNA.
It is also a very early example of a Louisville Slugger by J. F. Hillerich and Son. The name had been deposed only three years before, after a few years of experience by the younger Hillerich in his new specialty. Before this industrial initiative which would considerably facilitate the standardization, the manufacture of the bats was left to the initiative of the players.
The mark inscribed in the wood and its position are specific to the year 1897, correlating perfectly the family tradition according to which it was the last professional bat of the champion.
This 36-inch bat was incised by Anson on 13.5 inches long by a pattern of about 145 notches for improving the grip. This refinement however did not save the end of Anson's career, fired from his own team for his incompetence after too long a tenure.
1911 Bat of Shoeless Joe Jackson
2014 SOLD for $ 960K including premium by Heritage
1912 The Law of the Strongest
2021 SOLD for $ 900K including premium
Under these conditions, the best hitters are sturdy and bulky men, which brings to glory Honus Wagner and then Babe Ruth. This is not enough : the bats must be as easy to handle as possible. They are long and heavy. The Louisville Slugger brand listens to the specific needs of the players and will soon dominate this market.
In an online sale that ends on February 27, Heritage is selling a long and massive bat, 51.4 ounces over 35 inches, lot 80088 estimated $ 800K. It retains traces of heavy use and was given the highest grade by PSA/DNA, GU 10. It bears the inscription PTS Wagner 1912. It had been made by a local Pittsburgh artisan who has not been identified.
This bat is matched with a period photo, also dated 1912, on which it is carried forward by Honus Wagner seated with dangling legs on a low wall. This photo illustrates a comment by pitcher Christy Mathewson that there is no weakness in Wagner. Photo matching is facilitated by the fact that this local equipment escapes the standardizations of the Louisville Slugger.
A baseball bat of such a weight is a kind of prehistoric club that can also be useful in policing. It is funny that Wagner gave it to a Pittsburgh police officer.
"I don't make speeches. I just let my bat speak for me in the summertime." -Honus Wagner— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) February 17, 2021
No Wagner bat that speaks more loudly today than this one, one of only six in the PSA/DNA database and the only example bearing the ironclad provenance of a photomatchhttps://t.co/QndzmVWwL5 pic.twitter.com/cZmSbe7eYt
1916-1917 The Bats of Honus Wagner
2019 SOLD for $ 440K including premium
Honus Wagner began his MLB career in 1897 in Louisville, the city where Hillerich was making the Louisville Slugger. Two Louisville Sluggers linked to Wagner arrive simultaneously at auction.
In September 1905 Wagner had an agreement with J. F. Hillerich & Son to endorse a model of the Louisville Slugger. Such a commercial act, unprecedented in the history of sports, demonstrates the attention paid by the champion to derivatives. Four years later, the withdrawal of his image from the 'T206' series of baseball cards is certainly due to his financial request.
On August 17 in Dallas, Heritage sells a Louisville Slugger without a Wagner mark. This bat is probably anterior to the 1905 covenant. Wagner gave it in 1948 to a friend who was comparing old and modern bats and was amazed at its high weight. Graded GU 10 by PSA/DNA, it is estimated $ 1M, lot 56065. Please watch the short video in the tweet below.
The other bat belongs to the very last phase of Wagner's career. Its mark Louisville Slugger - 125 - Hillerich & Bradsby Co provides a terminus post quem in 1916 when the name of the company had been changed. 125 has been from 1915 the brand's global reference for professional bats, superseding the previous number 40.
This bat also carries the trade mark of J Hans Wagner, meaning at that time that it has the custom features suited to Honus Wagner. The process, also applied from 1918 by Babe Ruth, was for a champion to send back to the factory his preferred bat to be used as a model. This Wagner bat has a terminus ante quem in 1917 when he retired as a player.
Graded GU 8.5 by PSA/DNA, this bat is lot 4 for sale by Goldin in Chicago on August 1.
Heritage : unsold
Goldin : SOLD for $ 440K including premium
1916-1918 The Hitter of the Red Sox
2021 SOLD for $ 1.02M including premium
In 1917 the clubs could no longer maintain their teams in full because of the conscription. Ruth takes this opportunity to become a hitter. He is gifted : as early as 1919 he breaks the MLB record for the number of home runs scored in a single season with 29 home runs. The transition in 1920 from Dead Ball to Live Ball further increases his dominance.
In 1915 the pitcher had scored only four home runs. A Spalding bat used by him during that season is the earliest known bat linked to Ruth. It is 35.25 inches long and weighs 37.5 ounces. Graded GU 9 by PSA/DNA, it passed at Heritage on December 10, 2017. Heavier bats will be more effective. Ruth acquires in 1916 a Louisville Slugger weighing 44 ounces.
On December 16, 2020, Christie's associated with Hunt sold for $ 600K including premium a Louisville Slugger from the period 1916-1918, lot 15. It will be sold by Heritage in an online auction closing on February 27, lot 80089.
This piece is 35.75 inches long and weighs 43.6 ounces. It is inscribed RUTH on the barrel and its provenance is impeccable : the former champion himself cracked it during a demonstration in 1944. It has been professionally repaired and is graded GU 9.5 by PSA/DNA.
This experimental period ends in 1918 when Hillerich and Bradsby offer the champion to make his choice from their product line of Louisville Sluggers. Identified as the R2 model, the bat that fits Babe Ruth is standardized between 36 and 39 ounces. Graded A 10 by PSA/DNA, the prototype entrusted to Ruth was sold for $ 540K including premium by Heritage on October 2, 2009.
This 1916-18 #BabeRuth game used bat is one of only two known “block letter” Ruth gamers, the earliest format of Bambino lumber, which dates to his days with the Red Sox. It’s one of the most significant bats in The Hobby and will find a new home on 2/27https://t.co/pgQh4S0Kuv pic.twitter.com/W7kqtsKAx7— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) January 31, 2021
1917-1921 Bat of Shoeless Joe Jackson
2016 SOLD for $ 580K including premium by Christie's
1918 Babe Ruth's Bat
2009 SOLD 540 K$ including premium
Americans are keen of their history, and do not forget their heroes. The memoirs of great athletes, musicians, actors, is preserved in a network of private museums, the Halls of Fame.
Similarly, the United States are far ahead of the rest of the world on the market of sports memorabilia. I have already discussed in this group of sport images, not yet of jerseys and shoes, and today I introduce real accessories.
Babe Ruth is a baseball legend, and one of the first five top players ever honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1936. On October 2, Heritage sells in Dallas the bat he used in 1918, lot 82067 estimated 50 K$. Made by Hillerich and Bradsby, this model was the best suited to his prodigious swing, and it served as a prototype for all other bats used by the champion until 1926.
The great day of Babe Ruth was April 18, 1923. He was the star player of the Yankees team, for which the new "temple", the Yankee Stadium in New York City, was inaugurated. The bat he used for the first run that day was sold $ 1.1 million before fees ($ 1.26 million including premium) by Sotheby's in December 2004.
POST SALE COMMENT
The realized price, 540 K$ including premium, is regarded as a special tribute to one of the greatest players in baseball history.
Of course, this lot did not have the prestige of the memory of the opening of Yankee Stadium, and could not reach the price of the bat sold by Sotheby's in 2004. The estimate seemed low to me, but I was not expecting such a high level.
1921 A Bat for Vaudeville
2020 SOLD for $ 930K including premium
In 1920 which was his first season with the New York Yankees, Ruth had already overtaken his record before the improvement of the ball which opened the Live ball era. He ended that season with 54 homers. 1921 is even better, with 59 homers. The bat associated with his 59th home run was sold for $ 720K including premium by Heritage on February 21, 2015.
Ruth's 52nd 1921 homer is therefore not breaking a record. It was scored on September 7 at the Polo Grounds in New York against his former team, the Boston Red Socks. Ruth had used a heavy Hillerich and Bradsby bat.
What follows is typical of the champion's deep but very personal wit, self-confident enough for not being overwhelmed in the details.
He did not inscribe this bat but kept it for a few months as a memory of this home run. In Cincinnati in January 1922, an amateur player is rewarded as the best hitter in his category. A ceremony is organized at the local Keith's Theatre, belonging to a chain of vaudeville theaters. Babe Ruth gives his bat.
It is supported by a typed and signed letter, dated January 10, on a letterhead from the Hotel Ansonia in New York where Ruth frequently resided. The letter is addressed to Keith's local manager, Ned Hastings, without mentioning the young award winner. It attests to its use for the 52nd home run of 1921 with a humorous comment : "It served me well in baseball and I hope it will also serve you as well in vaudeville".
The risk of confusion is lifted by a press clipping from the Cincinnati Enquirer, published the day after the award ceremony during which Hastings and Ruth together presented this specific bat to the young player with speeches and handshakes. Interestingly Ruth is already addressed in the newspaper with his new mocking nickname of Sultan of Swat. The younger champion is the "Little Babe".
The bat accompanied by the two period documents referred above is estimated $ 500K for sale online by Heritage on May 8, lot 57057. It is graded GU 10 by PSA/DNA
In 1921 #BabeRuth slammed the door on the Dead Ball Era forever crushing 59 home runs, and this bat was in his hands as he did it. The Bambino used this battered 35.8in, 43oz warclub to belt his 52nd homer of that legendary seasonhttps://t.co/WmOFk078r3 pic.twitter.com/HnFpHnN2g2— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) April 30, 2020
1922-1923 Lou Gehrig Game Used Bat
2020 SOLD for $ 1.03M including premium by Heritage
1923 Babe Ruth's Bat
2004 SOLD for $ 1.26M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2019 before the auction of another bat by Heritage (see below)
In the same year Christy Walsh invents two lucrative jobs. He manages a syndicate of ghost writers who prepare texts to be endorsed by baseball personalities and approach the top players including Babe Ruth for becoming their business agent.
We must encourage young people to be reconciled with baseball. Following an initiative of the Los Angeles Evening Herald, Walsh and Ruth decide in 1923 that for three consecutive seasons the bat of the first home run of the champion will be inscribed and signed by him and given to the winner of a baseball contest organized for Californian students.
In 1923 Ruth scores his first homer on April 18 during the inauguration of the Yankee Stadium. It was impossible to imagine a more prestigious event. The bat used for this feat is awarded on June 7 by the newspaper to a young player named Victor Orsatti. It was sold on December 13, 2004 by Sotheby's for $ 1.26M including premium, a huge price for a sports memorabilia at that time.
In 1924 Ruth records his first homer on April 20 in Washington DC. His bat is awarded as promised to the winner of the Californian contest, Phil Grossman. It passed at Heritage on February 23, 2019.
1927 The Home Runs of Babe Ruth
2018 SOLD for $ 660K including premium
In 1927 the New York Yankees are unbeatable. The six Yankees hitters receive the collective nickname Murderers Row. Fans and magazines follow with passion the home runs by Ruth and Gehrig.
At the end of August, Gehrig is leading with 45 home runs, one ahead of Ruth. Throughout September Ruth is unleashed. He targets to do better than his teammate and to break his own MLB record of 59 home runs in a single season set in the previous year. Ruth succeeds. He scores his 60th and last home run of the 1927 season on September 30.
Sport collectors appreciate the equipment used in a great feat. Photo matching generally authenticates the jerseys. For the bats it is more difficult. The provenance makes it possible to identify the best hypothesis.
In 1927 Babe Ruth bought two identical bats from Hillerich and Bradsby, 35 3/8 inches and 38.8 oz. One of them is rated Game Used 10 by PSA/DNA with many game impacts and an inscription to Joe E. Brown, another Yankee player who stopped after a sport accident to become a full time actor, including movies from 1928.
The other bat was presented to the Baseball Hall of Fame by a baseball writer who had allegedly received it from Miller Huggins, the Yankees' manager. This provenance is quite plausible but this bat is not inscribed.
Considering the exultation of Babe Ruth after his new record, it seems unlikely that he gave the bat of this 60th home run without inscribing. The Brown specimen is thus the best candidate for the piece of equipment which was used in that feat. It will be sold online from Dallas by Heritage on May 17, lot 50316. Please watch the video shared by the auction house including sequences in period.
1929 The Champion of the Live Ball
2019 SOLD for $ 1M including premium
At the time of this transition, Babe Ruth already has six years of experience in MLB where he is one of the best hitters. With his imposing physique that does not prevent a speedy running, he already holds the record of 29 home runs in a single season. He greatly increases this performance with the new regulation. This is how this run far away from the ball has become for the public the most spectacular action of the game.
In a single season, Babe Ruth achieves 59 home runs in 1921 and 60 in 1927. He is the first to reach 300, 400, 500, 600, 700 cumulated home runs in MLB.
Babe Ruth starts 1929 with a cumulated 470 home runs. At that date, no other player has exceeded 250. The public is passionate about the approach of 500. Ruth is pretentious and likes to announce his success in advance. On August 11, 1929 in Cleveland, he announces and executes the 500th home run of his career. He hit the ball with such a strength that it came out of the Park.
The Louisville Slugger of the Cleveland feat was first kept by Ruth, then presented in the 1940s to one of his golfing, bowling and dining fellows. Hidden by this family to avoid attracting burglars, this glorious bat remained unknown in the hobby. It has just surfaced and is estimated $ 1M by SCP Auctions in an online sale closing on December 14, lot 2. It is graded GU10 by PSA/DNA.
The bat used in 1927 by Babe Ruth for his record breaking 60th home run of the season was sold for $ 660K including premium by Heritage on May 17, 2018.
"I swing big, with everything I've got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can." The auction of the bat attributed to Babe Ruth's 500th home run, through @SCPAuctions, is set to close December 14. Read more on the bat and auction here: https://t.co/k2su1Lj0qf pic.twitter.com/mcxgfe0Ufb— PSAcard (@PSAcard) December 6, 2019
1938 The Tired Champion
2021 SOLD for $ 715K including premium
From the first matches, Gehrig feels an exhaustion in his arms and legs. He continues courageously but his achievement decreases. He does not yet know that he has a fatal degenerative disease and he is looking for technical solutions.
Baseball super champions are more effective with long, heavy and hard bats. A Louisville Slugger by Hillerich and Bradsby of the model used by Gehrig in 1936-1938 passed at Goldin on November 2, 2013. It is made of ash and weighs 37.1 ounces for a length of 35 inches.
A small weight reduction could help Gehrig to overcome this difficult course. In September 1938 he orders from Hillerich and Bradsby a Louisville Slugger weighing 36 ounces for 34 inches. Appreciating that new tests will be necessary, he specifies to the manufacturer to inscribe the weight on the knob.
This bat was used extensively in games during Gehrig's final season. Un-cracked despite many marks of balls, it is graded a perfect GU10 by PSA/DNA. Gehrig presented it to his former teammate Earle Combs who was DiMaggio's coach at that time. Remained in the Combs family, it is estimated in excess of $ 500K in an online sale by SCP ending on April 3, lot 1.