LOT #80002 |Buy Now: $432,000.00
1920 Babe Ruth Game Used & Signed Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10 & MEARS A10.. ...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
The earliest known signed Ruth gamer!
1920 Babe Ruth Game Used & Signed Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10 &
It's often said that it's always darkest before the dawn, and certainly that was true for Major League Baseball as the sun rose over the "Live Ball Era" from the moonless night of the Black Sox scandal. Though the whispers of conspiracy regarding the Cincinnati Reds' unlikely 1919 Fall Classic victory over the heavily-favored Chicago club had yet to reach full volume as the Babe first donned pinstripes, there is no question that the 1920 game was already in desperate need of the tonic that only Ruth's thunderous bat could provide.
The single-season record stood at twenty-nine as Shoeless Joe and the rest of the Eight Men Out took their notorious dive, recorded that very year by Babe Ruth, who had ended Ned Williamson's thirty-five-year reign at twenty-seven. In 1920, the newly-minted Yankee would nearly double that tally with fifty-four, the most substantial forward leap in the history of the record's progression.
Thus the rare few slabs of lumber that can be definitively linked to Ruth's historic 1920 campaign are absolutely drenched in historical and collectible appeal, as a marker of delineation between the Dead and Live Ball Eras, a memento of the tectonic shift in the history of the New York Yankees, and as a sacred totem to worshippers of the long ball.
The three-season production range of this particular Hillerich & Bradsby "dash-dot-dash" Ruth model allows for the possibility that the date of birth may have been as early as the historic World Championship season of the 1918 Boston Red Sox, likewise the start of the "Curse" that bore Ruth's name, but a black fountain pen ink inscription on the barrel suggests that the excellent game use evident in the bat's punished grain derives from the Babe's Yankee debut season. Light, but still readily legible, the text reads, "To My Friend Eddie Maier From 'Babe' Ruth, 1920."
If that name sounds familiar, there's a reason for that. Maier was a famous early collector of game used bats, almost certainly the very first to undertake the hobby. Maier served as president of the Vernon Tigers of the Pacific Coast League, remaining active with the club even after selling controlling interest to notorious silent movie star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in 1919. But his collecting interests are publicly documented as far back as 1916, as evidenced by an included photocopy of a newspaper clipping from that year picturing him surrounded by a selection of bats "autographed by Claude Milan, Sam Crawford, Home Run Baker, Joe Jackson, Tris Speaker, Napoleon Lajoie and Duffy Lewis." Remarkably, Heritage actually sold the Crawford model signed to Maier in 1913, which commanded $53,775 in our August 2010 Platinum Night auction.
Produced before the era of model numbers, this bat model is alternately identified in hobby parlance as "His #1" or the "R2," a format that would serve as the primary tool of his early 1920's arsenal. Beyond its unfailing fidelity to eighteen caliper readings for that style, and, of course, the iron-clad assurance of a period inscription, the bat is placed into Ruth's world-beating hands by an array of traits specific to his established preferences.
The left barrel contact site is consistent with all known Ruth gamers, as the Babe was one of the few hitters to utilize a label-down swing. The deep bruising bears witness to the legendary slugger's preternatural power. And a scattering of small divots in the wood are indicative of Ruth's established habit of knocking clay from his sharp spikes in the batter's box. A few blue streaks of paint on the barrel can be tracked back to the stadium bat rack where the weapon awaited its master. Lathe marks appear at knob and barrel end.
Length is just a hair short of thirty-six inches (35 7/8"), and weight is a hefty forty ounces and change (40.2 oz.). Truly a massive bat, by every standard of measurement. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 10. LOA from MEARS, A10. Full LOA from PSA/DNA (autograph). Full LOA from James Spence Authentication. Letter of provenance from grandson of Eddie Maier.
Guide Value or Estimate: $600,000 - up.
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