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    Description

    One of two known block-lettered Ruth gamers--the earliest format!

    1916-18 Babe Ruth Game Used Bat with Extraordinary Provenance, PSA/DNA GU 9.5. Still the consummate performer when he appeared at Shibe Park on August 4, 1944 to be honored as a selection to fellow inaugural class Hall of Famer Connie Mack's living All-Star Team, it clearly pained the hobbled slugger to refuse the shouts from the grandstands. "Hit one for us, Babe!" they cried, but Ruth walked with a pronounced limp as he strode the field where he had broken so many Philadelphia hearts during his two decades of service to American League opponents, still early in recovery from a recent knee operation.

    "I'll hit some for you next time I come to Philadelphia," he assured the masses.

    It makes the story no less beautiful that, teetering on the edge of fifty, the Babe was unable to summon that old long ball magic when he returned thirty-nine days later for a halftime performance at the NFL home opener of the Philadelphia Eagles. As twenty-five thousand Shibe Park fans cheered him on, Ruth drove the first two pitches to the outfield fence, but not beyond. His third swing delivered the same result, cracking the handle of the decades-old lumber he had carried to Philly for the occasion.

    "Ol' Babe doesn't have it anymore," he grumbled as he departed the batter's box to a generous ovation. He handed the bat to Mack, who in turned gifted it to his good friend, a local police captain named John Gara, father of Athletics bat boy Frank Gara. The father quickly turned it over to his son.

    For decades to come, Frank would cherish the special relic as a memento of that unforgettable brush with greatness, but it was only in the late 1990's that the supreme significance of the bat came to light. We could never know why, but the lumber that Ruth selected to perform for the sports fans of Philadelphia dated to the earliest years of his Hall of Fame career, when his claim to fame was flame-throwing southpaw for the Boston Red Sox rather than long ball leviathan for the New York Yankees.

    Perhaps this was the heaviest bat left in the barrel that Ruth was said to store in a closet of his Manhattan apartment, believing that the added heft would make up for the loss of his youthful vigor, but today the supremely significant relic stands as one of just two block-lettered Ruth bats, the earliest examples known. The Bambino would ink his first Hillerich & Bradsby endorsement deal for signature model bats in August of the BoSox' historic 1918 World Championship season, ending the potential production run for the subject bat. The particulars of the center brand format provide the start date of our lot title, as the company had been called "J.F. Hillerich & Son Co." until July of 1916, with bats produced before that date branded as such.

    Ruth would claim his first of a dozen American League home run titles in 1918 with eleven, his slugging prowess earning him extra starts in the outfield for games he wasn't pitching for the first season since arriving in Boston in 1914. In these Dead Ball Era days, the thick-handled bats enjoyed lifespans far beyond those of later models-a fact validated by its survival until Ruth's 1944 trip to Philly-so there is a high probability that some of those earliest long balls were launched from this bat's surface. Ruth couldn't have known that bats consistently lose moisture over the passage of years, and that using such an ancient bat for his exhibition was virtually guaranteed to end its good luck streak. Even with the loss of a few ounces of water weight, the massive war club still tips the scales at almost forty-four ounces (43.6 oz.), measuring just short of three feet in length (35.75"). Ball marks and grain checking speak to heavy game use from the Babe's Fenway youth.

    Along with his notarized letter of provenance, Frank Gara supplied a photo of himself holding the bat back when it had a thin band of black tape securing the crack, but it has since been removed and properly repaired, that restoration the only deduction in an otherwise perfect PSA/DNA rating. The grain of the bat, however, is an unmistakable match to the photo.

    Any attempt to communicate the significance of this remarkable survivor is doomed to understatement, and those well-versed in the hobby will require no convincing. Those few game used items predating the Babe's ascension to pinstripes are universally understood to border upon the sacred in the history of our national pastime. This bat is a truly priceless artifact, a statement that even its eventual auction sale price will not contradict. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 9.5. Notarized letter of provenance from Athletics bat boy.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2021
    27th-28th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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