See also : Sport rewards and medals Lou Gehrig Babe Ruth
1911 Shoeless Joe Jackson
2014 SOLD for $ 960K by Heritage
to be narrated
1912 Honus Wagner
2021 SOLD for $ 900K by Heritage
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.
On February 27, 2021, Heritage sold for $ 900K a long and massive bat, 51.4 ounces over 35 inches, lot 80088. 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 Honus Wagner
2019 SOLD for $ 440K by Goldin
Honus Wagner began his MLB career in 1897 in Louisville, the city where Hillerich was making the Louisville Slugger.
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.
A bat from the very last phase of Wagner's career was sold for $ 440K by Goldin on August 1, 2019, lot 4. 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.
It has been graded GU 8.5 by PSA/DNA.
1916-1918 Babe Ruth
2021 SOLD for $ 1.02M by Heritage
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 a Louisville Slugger from the period 1916-1918, lot 15. It was sold $ 1.02M by Heritage on February 27, 2021, 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 Shoeless Joe Jackson
2016 SOLD for $ 580K including premium by Christie's
to be narrated
1918 Babe Ruth
2009 SOLD for $ 540K by Heritage
1920 Babe Ruth Bat
next sale on August 21-22 by Heritage
to be reviewed
Babe Ruth bat (preview est $ 600K)
Sale 50045 landing page, bidding from ca July 30
The 40.2 oz bat is from a model produced by Hillerich and Bradsby from 1918 to 1920 which is Ruth's transition period from the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees. It is autographed by Ruth to a collector on the barrel and inscribed 1920 by him. This perfect Game Used bat graded PSA/DNA GU 10 and MEARS A10 displays many hits of balls grouped on a very small surface demonstrating the highly skilled gesture of Babe Ruth.
It passed at Goldin on July 12, 2014, lot 72, and at Heritage on December 10, 2017, lot 80002.
1921 Babe Ruth
2020 SOLD for $ 930K by Heritage
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 was sold for $ 930K by Heritage on May 8, 2020, 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
2020 SOLD for $ 1.03M by Heritage
This bat was made by Hillerich and Bradsby for Gehrig around 1922, preceding their first contract in October 1923 with the 20 year old player. It was extensively used by Gehrig in that transition period when he was a pitcher for Columbia University and then went professional in MLB from June 1923 with the New York Yankees and occasionally with the Hartford Senators. It is graded a perfect GU 10 by PSA/DNA.
This bat was used in 1925 as the master for the 40 oz Gehrig bat which will from then have a burnt facsimile signature on the barrel in place of the block letter name inscribed on the pre-contract specimen. A side written date from the factory on the barrel records this operation. This use as a master reveals that it was in period Gehrig's preferred bat.
1923 Babe Ruth
2004 SOLD for $ 1.26M by Sotheby's
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, a great 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 Babe Ruth
2018 SOLD for $ 660K by Heritage
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 was sold for $ 660K by Heritage on May 17, 2018, lot 50316. Please watch the video shared by the auction house including sequences in period.
1929 Babe Ruth
2019 SOLD for $ 1M by SCP
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 it was sold for $ 1M by SCP Auctions on December 14, 2018, lot 2. It is graded GU10 by PSA/DNA.
"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 Lou Gehrig
2021 SOLD for $ 715K by SCP
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 was sold for $ 715K by SCP on April 3, 2021, lot 1.