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    The most exhaustively documented Gehrig gamer in the hobby!

    1926-27 Lou Gehrig Game Used & Signed Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10. It's been a year since Heritage Auctions set a new benchmark for Gehrig gamers, ticking the seventh digit on the pricing odometer when the earliest known specimen commanded a sale price of $1.025 million in our February 2020 Platinum Night auction. While the news of that transaction was trumpeted across hobby headlines for its enormous size, few experts were surprised by the figure, seeing it instead as the natural next step of a market that has been on a steady rise for decades.

    That record bat was propelled to its million-dollar price tag by a number of forces, but perhaps most importantly the factory sidewriting that supplies ironclad assurance of use by its subject. While the Gehrig lumber on offer here is not sidewritten, it provides an equivalent degree of certainty to the discerning collector, definitively placed into the Hall of Fame first baseman's hands by a bold period autograph that even that world record specimen did not provide. While any truncheon wielded by the beloved Yankee captain carries enormous collecting intrigue, the black fountain pen ink signature amplifies the appeal and value dramatically as one of just a tiny handful of Gehrig gamers validated in autograph format.

    The consignor of this elite relic, one of the hobby's top figures, has spared no expense in the authentication of Gehrig's signature, presenting it to Steve Grad at Beckett, Kevin Keating at PSA/DNA and James Spence for review, and earning full letters of authenticity from each. Taking it a step further, the bat was also subjected to scientific analysis by a laboratory called "Microtrace" which undertook a microscopic review of the signature, finding ancient sandpaper grit where the bat's varnish was removed to provide the autograph with a more conducive surface, and assessing the ink as "iron gall," the most common format utilized during the 1920's. They conclude, "...the results of these analyses do not raise any reason to doubt the age and authenticity of this 1926/27 era Lou Gehrig signature and bat." Purely as an autograph, this may be the most carefully authenticated Gehrig that exists in any format. The expert LOA's as well as a couple dozen pages of scientific data from Microtrace will, of course, be delivered with the bat.

    And it's undeniably one of the most gorgeous pre-war gamers that Heritage has presented, fashioned from top-grade Northern White Ash by the Joseph G. Kren Bat Company of Syracuse, New York. Though this boutique factory would never find the widespread distribution of the entrenched Hillerich & Bradsby brand, the superior quality of Kren's did gain notice among the sport's top figures. A newspaper article that appeared in the Rushville, Indiana Daily Republican on June 15, 1923 included a photo of Mr. Kren at his lathe with the heading, "He Makes Home Run Swat Sticks." The image is captioned, "Joseph G. Kren in a little shop in the back of his home in Syracuse, NY makes bats which many of the home runs of the big leaguers are poled out. Among his patrons are Babe Ruth, Heinie Groh, Rogers Hornsby, Irish and Bob Meusel and Curtis Walker."

    We suspect that Gehrig was turned onto the brand by the Babe, and the mammoth dimensions of this specimen likewise suggest Ruth's influence. The thirty-six inches (36") of high-grade lumber tips the scales at a thunderous forty-three ounces (43.1 oz.), supplying the kind of mass capable of sending horsehide into orbit. It's likely no coincidence that the two-season production range of this bat finds the burly young slugger adding more than 200 points to his slugging percentage while nearly tripling his home run production to a career-high fifty-two in 1927.

    So it's a virtual certainty that more than a few long balls were launched from this bat's battered barrel, as PSA/DNA expert John Taube notes "evidence of outstanding use" including multiple ball marks, stitch impressions and divots from Gehrig's spikes inflicted as he knocked off dirt while in the batter's box. Blue rack streaks match other Yankee models in the PSA/DNA database. It need hardly be mentioned that the vintage of this bat matches the most gilded age for the Yankees and their young first baseman--an American League pennant in 1926 and a World Championship in 1927, as well as Gehrig's first of two American League MVP Awards.

    While the aforementioned Gehrig autograph is alone enough to validate the bat's original ownership, it's important to note that Kren's had no endorsement covenant with the Major Leaguers it serviced, so the "L. Gehrig" imprint on the barrel would have only been applied to a bat made expressly for him. Taube's detailed letter mentions a fascinating anecdote:

    "Our research into the history of the subject bat included a conversation with a well-known Kren's collector and historian Bud Ransom. When viewing this Kren's Lou Gehrig bat, Bud called it the 'Holy Grail' of Kren's bats and recalled a conversation he had with Joe Kren, Jr. who told him of his memories as a child of Gehrig coming to the shop while his father made bats for him. On one occasion, Lou signed a bat for his dad when he removed it from the lathe. To date, that bat has not surfaced. The subject bat stands alone as the sole autographed game used Kren's bat in the industry."

    Thus it's difficult to overstate the supreme significance of this special offering, which makes its first auction appearance in two decades after first selling in the legendary Barry Halper Auction in 1999 and then again in a smaller sale two years later. This is the kind of object that will often find a permanent home in a private collection, so interested bidders are advised to compete as if this will be the last chance at ownership. It very possibly may be. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 10. Scientific evaluation documentation by Microtrace. Full LOA from PSA/DNA (autograph). Full LOA from Beckett (autograph). Full LOA from James Spence Authentication (autograph).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2021
    27th-28th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 15
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,090

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    20% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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