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1921 Babe Ruth Side-Written Pro-Model Bat (1:1)
Starting Bid - $25,000.00 , Sold For - $94,000.00
Offered here is one of the finest Babe Ruth pro-model bats in existence, with regard to both its physical characteristics and its provenance. What distinguishes this particular bat from the overwhelming majority of all other Ruth pro-model bats in the hobby today is the fact that collectors can be assured, almost to the point of certainty, that it was used by Babe Ruth sometime during the 1921 and/or 1922 season. Its game-used status is predicated upon both the physical evidence and, most important, the side-writing on the barrel, which reads "4 _ oz. Babe Ruth 3-23-23 [written twice] NY Am." The second number in the bat's weight is badly faded, but appears to read "8." Those notations, brief as they may be, are extremely significant for they indicate that this bat was a favorite of Ruth's and that he desired more made to the same specifications. Side-writing is the single most desirable physical trait that can be found on any pro-model bat. When a player wanted to order a new shipment of bats, he would send the company an example to be used as a template. When the returned bat was received at the H&B factory, it would immediately be marked in grease pencil, usually by Henry Morrow, who would make note of the player who returned it and the date it was received. In that regard side-writing is universally recognized as the equivalent of a letter of authenticity from the player himself: it places the bat directly in the hands of the player who returned it. This bat is one of only several known Ruth side-written bats and the only example examined by MEARS in which the name "Babe Ruth," as well as the date, appear within the text of the side-writing. That fact is of enormous significance, for it makes this the only known documented Babe Ruth bat that can be placed, with certainty, directly in Babe Ruth's hands by virtue of the side-writing.
The bat itself is a perfect Babe Ruth professional model example dating from precisely 1921. Early "dash-dot-dash" H&B Ruth pro-model bats have always been highly prized by collectors because they exemplify the prodigious lengths and weights used by Ruth early in his career. The offered bat is no exception and is indeed "Ruthian" in its specifications, measuring 36 inches in length and weighing 43.2 ounces. It should be noted that the original weight may have been closer to 48 ounces but bats tend to lose a few ounces over the years as a result of the wood drying. Early bats are almost never able to be dated to a specific year. It is almost always the case that they can be dated only to a span of years (such as "1921 to 1931") based on the style of the center brand. This Ruth bat, by chance and good fortune, is an extremely rare case where the combination of stampings on the center brand and the barrel allow the year of manufacture to be defined with certainty. The center brand features the "Hillerich & Bradsby Co." name with "125" stamped above it, and a "dash-dot-dash" stamping below it, thus defining it to the 1917-1921 labeling period. However, the bat's date of manufacture can be pinpointed to 1921 based upon Ruth's deeply stamped facsimile signature on the barrel. The Ruth signature style featured here is the second version used by H&B, and it first appeared on his bats in 1921. The only year of overlap between the labeling period and this signature style is 1921. The fact that this bat was returned to the H&B factory just prior to the 1923 season indicates that it was used by Ruth in either 1921 or 1922, his second and third seasons with the Yankees. Ruth led the League in home runs (59) and RBI (171) in 1921, both of which were Major League records at the time. The following season he missed fifty-four games due to suspension, which limited his numbers to 35 home runs and 99 RBI. Ruth's prolific production during those two seasons is clearly evident here. The bat, which is not cracked, displays significant use, mainly in the form of a flattened hitting surface above the barrel stamp, which is an important and documented trait of Ruth game bats. It seems reasonable to assume, given the physical evidence and the fact that it was one of Ruth's favorites (since it was sent for use as a template for future orders), that more than a few of those recorded home runs in 1921 and 1922 may have come off the barrel of this very bat.
This is clearly an exceptional Babe Ruth pro-model bat in all respects and the finest we have ever offered on many counts (in fact, on every count). As we alluded to earlier, although many Babe Ruth pro-model bats of varying quality are circulating in the hobby today (ninety are listed in the MEARS census alone), most require a very large leap of faith when it comes to the question of whether or not Ruth ever used any of them in a game. That is where this bat distinguishes itself as one of the finest Babe Ruth bats in the world. No such leap is required with a bat such as this and, aside from a letter from Ruth himself, no greater provenance can be had than the side-writing found here. The fact that the bat can be precisely dated, both by its physical specifications and the side-writing, further sets it far apart from the literally dozens of lesser quality, mostly later-issued bats that may or may not have been used by Babe Ruth. This is really Babe Ruth's bat! He really used this bat! And he did so in his earliest days with the Yankees, in 1921 or 1922, and personally sent it in to Hillerich & Bradsby in 1923 to reorder bats of this style for further use. This bat will no doubt sell for a premium compared to many other Ruth bats, but a well deserved premium. While we know that every bat is a little different, we can't help but think that the difference in price between a leap-of-faith bat, many of which have sold for far more than the minimum bid on this bat, and the almost nonexistent and rarely offered ideal Babe Ruth game bat, as represented by this extraordinary example, does not adequately reflect the difference in value. If years ago a Fair condition 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card was $8,000 and a Mint condition example was $12,000, we would have said that the Mint condition example was an infinitely better value, even though it was thousands of dollars more expensive. We don't collect, but if we did, for our money, we would much rather pay a significant premium for this bat. It doesn't get much better than this museum-quality example. Graded a perfect "A10" by MEARS. Graded a perfect "GU10" by PSA/DNA. LOA John Taube & Vince Malta/PSA. LOA John Taube/J.T.Sports. LOA from Dave Bushing & Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Disclosure Notice: The owner of this lot has authorized MEARS authenticator David Bushing to oversee all arrangements regarding this consignment. All arrangements regarding the sale and consignment of this lot have been and will be overseen by David Bushing as an authorized agent on behalf of the owner. Reserve $25,000. Estimate $50,000+. SOLD FOR $94,000.00
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