Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    1921 Babe Ruth 52nd Home Run (Career #155) Game Used "Hotel Ansonia" Bat, PSA/DNA GU 10.

    "I wish him all the luck in the world," Yankees teammate Frank "Home Run" Baker told the press midway through the 1921 season. "He has everybody else, including myself, hopelessly outclassed."

    It's likely that the aging star of Connie Mack's "$100,000 Infield" felt a bit sheepish about his own moniker as he shared a dugout with Ruth, having never put more than a dozen into the seats during any season of his own career. It had taken the Babe just twenty-five games to match Baker's best during that spectacular 1921 season, one commonly considered the finest of Ruth's storied career. One of those early clouts, off inaugural Hall of Fame classmate Walter Johnson, cleared the high center field wall of Griffith Stadium, landing 520 feet from home plate. Two months later, Ruth escaped Navin Field with a shot estimated between 575 and 600 feet, the longest verified home run in Major League history. He'd clear the double-deck roof of the Polo Grounds two weeks after that.

    By season's end, the Babe would belt at least one 500-plus foot blast in each of the eight American League ballparks.

    And so it was not just the frequency but also the impossible trajectory of Ruth's home runs that etched his name ever more indelibly into living American folklore in 1921, and slammed the door forever on the Dead Ball Era. The decadent Roaring Twenties had found its perfect athletic representative, larger than life in every way.

    Few sporting relics are as instantly evocative of their original master as the presented signature model Hillerich & Bradsby R2, an impossibly heavy slab of ash just an eighth-inch shy of a yard in length (35.875") and a few ounces shy of three pounds in weight (43.2 oz.). To hold this bat, and feel the wrists strain against the pull of gravity, is to experience an instant connection to the man who transformed the game.

    Leading bat expert John Taube assesses the game use as "outstanding," noting several prominent ball marks on the left barrel, correct for Ruth's label-down batting stance, and cleat marks throughout. Heavy scoring on the impact surface of the barrel is a perfect Ruth trait. Green streaks acquired as the weapon was sheathed and unsheathed from the bat rack remain visible, and while remnants of black ink on the knob are no longer legible, logic would suggest this was once a notation applied in the dugout to identify the bat's special history.

    That history was made in the final month of the Yankees' first American League Championship season, during a visit of the Babe's former Boston Red Sox club to the Polo Grounds. In the second contest of a September 7th doubleheader, Ruth would open the scoring of a seven-to-two victory with a fourth inning, two-run shot off former teammate Herb Pennock, who would rejoin Ruth in the Bronx in 1923, and in Cooperstown in 1948. Ruth would go on to hit seven more before the regular season's conclusion, setting a new record of fifty-nine home runs that he'd famously topple as lead assassin of the 1927 Murderer's Row.

    Now firmly implanted as the sport's most famous figure, Babe Ruth effectively innovated a new and enduring trend of transforming his game used gear into coveted keepsakes for his ever-growing fan base. As educated collectors are aware, some of Ruth's most significant surviving game used bats entered the collectibles realm as presentation pieces to accomplished young ballplayers, notably the bat used to launch the first home run at Yankee Stadium.

    This particular model was likewise made a trophy for a teenaged slugger, a youngster named Harry Borgman who had been voted the best amateur player in his city in a poll conducted by the Cincinnati Enquirer. As the Babe passed through that city during a post-season vaudeville tour, he personally presented this bat to the star-struck young man. A lengthy notarized 2005 letter of provenance from Borgman's son recounts this tale.

    But the validation of the claim is further strengthened by a pair of period documents. First, we have a newspaper clipping from the January 10, 1922 edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer featuring an article headlined, "Borgman Wins 'Babe' Ruth Prize Bat Competition; Famed Home Run Slugger Scores First Honors in Enquirer Popular Contest, Open To All Comers." The article goes on to state explicitly that it is Ruth's fifty-second home run bat of 1921 that was the prize. Also present is a letter ghost-signed by Ruth that mistakenly addresses the owner of the vaudeville theater rather than to the young man himself. He writes, "Here is the bat that hit the ball that brought me my fifty-second home run. It served me well in baseball and I hope it will serve you as well in vaudeville. It is yours with my compliments at any rate."

    It's important to draw attention to this letter, written on the letterhead of the Hotel Ansonia, where Ruth resided during this period. There are three well-known Ruth home run bats bearing this form of documentary provenance, most notably his fifty-ninth home run bat of the 1921 season which sold in Heritage's February 2015 Platinum Night auction for $717,000, a figure that would likely be dwarfed were it to reappear on the block today. Each of these "Hotel Ansonia" bats was presented in conjunction with Ruth's vaudeville tour, and Taube stresses in his letter of authenticity that this is the only example from that trio to feature Ruth's heavy barrel scoring-executed to provide struck balls with greater spin (and thus greater distance)-thereby providing physical evidence that this was one of Ruth's favorite bats. This type of scoring is highly-prized by educated collectors of Ruth gamers for this reason. The Taube letter goes so far as to state, "In 1921 the Yankees appeared in their first World Series, and in our opinion, judging by the amount of use and barrel scoring, there is a good possibility the bat was used by Ruth in the Fall Classic."

    Nearly a century later, this remarkable slab of lumber stands as one of the most significant Babe Ruth bats in private hands, a sledgehammer that cleared away the obsolete structures of the Dead Ball Era to make way for a new and exciting paradigm in our national pastime. It's a mute witness to one of the most exciting and transformative periods of the game, and particularly for the New York Yankees franchise. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 10. Letter of provenance from son of original recipient. Newspaper clipping documenting presentation to original recipient.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2020
    7th-9th Thursday-Saturday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 53
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 8,275

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

    Sold on May 8, 2020 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 10 days left to consign to the 2021 August 21 - 22 Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction!

    Learn about consigning with us

    I'm a relatively new client at Heritage, and Calvin Arnold, Director and Sports Card expert, has helped make me a Big fan in just a few months.
    Chuck L.,
    Encino, CA
    View More Testimonials

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search