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Lot # 12 (of 1641)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1923 Babe Ruth Pro-Model Bat - Possibly Used to Hit the First Home Run in Yankee Stadium!

Starting Bid - $10,000, Sold For - $21,330

For a complete description of the 1923 Babe Ruth Pro-Model Bat (Possibly Used to Hit the First Home Run in Yankee Stadium!) please go to:

http://robertedwardauctions.com/auction/2012_preview/9.html

The following is an edited (shortened) version:

Over the years Robert Edward Auctions has handled numerous Babe Ruth pro-model bats, including a number of the most significant examples in the hobby today; however, we have never seen one as intriguing or so potentially historic as that presented here. What makes this bat so special is the very real possibility that it might have been in Ruth’s hands on opening day in 1923, when the Yankees played the first game in the newly built Yankee Stadium on April 18th. If that possibility is acknowledged, and we feel it safely can be, based upon all of the evidence we will present here, then logically it must follow, at the very least, that this bat might be one of only a handful Ruth could have used to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium on that historic day. While it is well beyond the limits of our research to either confirm or deny such a claim, the mere fact that even the slightest chance exists that this bat, with its many ball marks and stitch impressions, might have been used by Ruth to christen Yankee Stadium with its first home run makes it especially important.

The bat offered here is a Babe Ruth H&B 40K signature-model (predating model numbers) bat dating from the 1923-1925 labeling period. The bat, which is hand-turned, measures 35 inches in length and weighs a massive 39.9 ounces. The “40K” denotes H&B’s patented line of “Kork-Grip” bats, which literally means that the handle was prepared at the factory with an applied cork grip. In the realm of Babe Ruth pro-model bats, the 40K is among the rarest of all models. According to H&B factory records for Ruth’s entire career, only ONE order of 40K bats can be found in the company’s shipping ledgers. What is significant is the date of that order: 4/10/23, exactly eight days prior to the Yankees’ home opener at Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923. Unfortunately, there is no mention of either the size or weight of the 40K bats sent to Ruth or even how many. What is important to note is that this bat’s length and weight fall within the approved specifications for Ruth bats at the time. During the circa 1923 period, Ruth ordered long and heavy bats of 35 to 36 inches and approximately 40 ounces. This is the only 40K Ruth bat with brandings consistent with the 1923 order, and that is also to Ruth’s specifications, that we have handled or seen. We know of two other examples of Ruth 40K bats that do not conform. The first dates from the 1925-1931 labeling period and therefore could not have been included in the order sent on 4/10/23. The second bat, which does date from the correct labeling period, measures 34 inches in length and weighs 36.5 ounces, which DOES NOT conform to the factory-listed lengths and weight previously noted. Therefore, the offered bat is the only one of the three that could POSSIBLY have been part of that order on 4/10/23.

Of course, just because an order of 40K bats to Ruth on 4/10/23 can be found in the company ledgers doesn’t necessarily imply that he used a 40K bat during any of his plate appearances on opening day. However, we can state WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that Ruth did indeed receive that recorded shipment of 40K bats, and that at least one of those 40K bats was in his hands prior to the game. We have found six different photos of Ruth holding a 40K Babe Ruth signature-model bat in his hands on April 18, 1923. What is significant is that in each and every photo Ruth can be clearly seen holding a cork-grip bat (based upon the grain pattern it is not the same bat offered here). Equally important, our research has failed to find any other photos of Ruth from that day holding anything other than a 40K cork-grip bat. Again, the fact that we have pictures of Ruth holding a cork-grip bat on April 18, 1923, does not necessarily mean that he used one during the game, but it does necessarily allow for such a possibility. Certainly, the photographic evidence confirms the availability of 40K cork-grip bats to Ruth that day. Conversely, the definitive use of any other model bat by Ruth that day has yet to be confirmed in a similar manner. All known photos of Ruth holding a bat on Opening Day in 1923, in which the style of bat can definitively be identified, show him holding a 40K cork-grip style bat.

A number of collectors are probably wondering by now if we have forgotten that the bat used by Babe Ruth to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium appeared in a high-profile sports auction in December 2004, where it sold for a record $1.265 million. The bat was signed by Ruth and was fully documented by various period newspaper reports at the time. We have not forgotten that bat. We have no doubt whatsoever that the bat offered in that auction was a Babe Ruth game-used bat, and that it was signed by Babe Ruth, and that it was presented as a contest prize to a young boy in Los Angeles at the time. But, when one examines all of the available evidence, which is presented in the full unedited description (link above), and some of which has already been alluded to here, there is room for doubt with regard to its claim of being the bat used by Ruth to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium. Leaps of faith have been glossed over. The bat presented in that contest was an H&B 125 Babe Ruth signature-model bat. Ruth’s bat order just prior to the first game of the year was for 40K cork-grip bats. All of the available photos we have of Ruth on April 18, 1923, picture him holding cork-grip bats.

It should be fully understood that we are not claiming that the bat offered here was used by Ruth to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium. In similar manner, like nearly all other Ruth bats in the hobby, with the exception of a few documented examples, we cannot state with absolute certainty whether or not Ruth even used it in any game. All we can state are the facts. This bat has been authenticated by PSA/DNA and is accompanied by a letter from John Taube and Vince Malta. The letter can be viewed in its entirety on our website.

As we noted at the beginning of our description, this is an extremely intriguing Ruth bat. Ruth’s documented order of 40K bats a week before the first game of the season, combined with the photographic evidence, certainly supports the possibility that Ruth used a cork-grip bat in that first game at Yankee Stadium. Could the offered bat be one of the 40K bats received by Ruth in the 4/10/23 shipment? (It is the only bat that has surfaced to date that conceivably could have come from that order.) Could the offered bat have been used by Ruth in the first game of the season, maybe even used to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium? The answer to both of those questions is yes, possibly, and just the mere fact that we can say possibly, makes this a very special Ruth bat indeed. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $21,330


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