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Lot # 1356 (of 1727)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1918-1922 Babe Ruth Pro-Model "Side-Written" Bat (Ex-Halper)

Starting Bid - $25,000, Sold For - $64,625

Extraordinary Babe Ruth H&B pro-model bat dating exactly to the period in which he made the transition from pitcher to the greatest slugger in baseball history. Graded A9.5 by MEARS. This is one of three Babe Ruth pro-model bats featured in this auction, each dating from a different period of his career, each of extraordinary museum caliber, each the finest Babe Ruth pro-model bat we have ever handled within their respective manufacturing periods, and each accompanied by outstanding provenance. The offered example, which dates to the four-year period 1918-1922, is not only the earliest of the three, but one of just a few known examples whose manufacturing period coincides with Ruth's time in Boston. The circumstances that occasioned its return to the H&B factory by Ruth (as detailed below) make this an all the more remarkable and historically significant bat.

The signature-model bat features the “Version 1” facsimile signature of "George 'Babe' Ruth" stamped in the barrel, which, along with variations in the center brand, conclusively dates it to the 1918-1922 manufacturing period. Heavy use is displayed along the bat's entire length, including ball marks, cleat marks, and a crack in the handle that has been professionally restored (the restoration has been executed flawlessly and is literally undetectable). Most important, however, the bat exhibits an additional feature that is a well-known documented player trait attributed to Ruth: a flattened hitting surface. As MEARS notes in its accompanying three-page LOA: Above the barrel stampings of MEARS #258127 [the certification number of his bat] is a 1 1/2 x 14" flattened hitting surface. Careful examination of this area shows the wood has been compressed, or boned. The process of boning a bat is a literal reference as Ruth was often seen applying a steer bone to this surface of the bat. The effect is to compress the grains of the wood and flatten that surface area of the bat. The practice has been photographically documented by Babe Ruth. In addition, the process and technique of the flattening of the hitting surface compares quite favorably to MEARS #306137, Babe Ruth's 1923 World Series bat.

Additionally distinguishing this particular bat from virtually all other Ruth pro-model bats is the presence of faint side writing on the side of the barrel. While most of the writing has faded over time, one can still make out the number "48," possibly referring to the bat's original weight, the date "6-12-22," and a reference to the bat being sent from "Baltimore." Also clearly visible on the barrel are minor remnants of a paper label and two postage stamps. Despite the fact that the side writing is very faint, its mere presence is extremely significant for it indicates that this bat was returned to the H&B factory to be used as a template for future bat orders.

The side-written date and reference to "Baltimore" provide us with a great deal of additional significant information regarding this bat, as it is specifically noted that the bat was sent from Baltimore, not from New York. Given the speed of the mails in the 1920s, Ruth would have had to have been in the Baltimore area in late May in order for the bat to have been received and processed by H&B with a "6-12-22" date. He was. REA researched the 1922 season and Ruth's whereabouts. This is what we found: Ruth was suspended from baseball by Commissioner Landis for ignoring the ban on barnstorming following the 1921 World Series. As a result, Ruth was not allowed to play the entire first six weeks of the 1922 season. On the day of his return, May 20, Ruth went hitless. In the May 21st game, New York newspaper accounts specifically note that Ruth used a new green-colored bat in this game, in which he went 1-for-5 with a double. In the May 22nd game, newspaper accounts note that Ruth again used this unusual green bat. He went 1-for-4 with a home run but struck out with the bases loaded in the tenth inning. In the May 23rd game, newspapers note that Ruth had switched to a pale yellow bat for his fourth game back, but went 0-for-3 with a walk. On May 24 the Yankees played the first of two games at New York against the Washington Senators. Ruth went 0-for-5. Having returned from his suspension, he no longer appeared to be the same Babe Ruth. The next day, May 25, 1922, Ruth was thrown out at second and in anger threw dirt in the umpire's eye. Ruth was thrown out of the game. The fans booed as the Babe exited the field, and in his great frustration Ruth jumped onto the dugout roof chasing after a heckler, and shouted challenges to anyone who wanted to fight. This outrageous behavior was the low point of Ruth's career and earned him a new suspension for the next day's game, as well as a $200 fine for the episode. The next three games, on May 26, 27, and 28, were also between the Yankees and Senators, but the teams had to travel to Washington to continue the series. Washington, of course, is in very close proximity to Baltimore, Ruth's hometown. Thus Ruth was in the Washington/Baltimore area, with a forced "day off," at precisely the time when this bat was sent from Baltimore to be received and processed by H&B on June 12, 1922. As noted in interviews with Brother Paul, who was the director of St. Mary's and Ruth's legal guardian when he attended St. Mary's, Ruth always stopped by to visit at St. Mary's in Baltimore every time he played in Washington against the Senators. It is a virtual certainty that on exactly May 26, 1922, in the midst of Ruth's most troubling times and the most serious slump of his career, when Ruth was unsuccessfully experimenting with unusual and exotic bats to help regain his former glory, that Ruth personally shipped this bat from a local hardware store in Baltimore, as was the custom of the day, to order additional bats matching the precise specifications of his older trusted models. This was obviously a special bat to Ruth. This is the bat he chose to send back to H&B for special order from Baltimore in late May of 1922, to provide himself the proper tools to break out of his slump of early 1922. He went on to hit 35 home runs in 1922 in just 110 games.

In addition to being one of the finest Ruth bats in the world, this example has a special hobby history. This was the premier Babe Ruth bat in the legendary Barry Halper Collection and one of Barry's most cherished items. Few Ruth bats can compare with the extraordinary quality of this bat which, in terms of rarity, style, date of manufacture, use, quality, markings, and provenance, stands above virtually all other Ruth bat examples. Length: 36 inches. Weight: 41 ounces. Graded A9.5 by MEARS (base grade of 5, plus 3 points for use, 2 points for provenance, but minus a half point for the restored handle crack). This bat has not seen the light of day since it was sold at REA in April 2005 (where it appeared as Lot 18 and realized $116,000). LOAs from Troy Kinunen/MEARS and John Taube and Vince Malta of PSA/DNA. Reserve $25,000. Estimate $50,000+. SOLD FOR $64,625


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