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1980-1981 Johnny Bench Pro-Model Bat
Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $1,410
Johnny Bench H&B signature model "B278" bat dating from the 1980-1983 labeling period. Graded a perfect A10 by MEARS, one of only three (out of twenty-one) graded at this level. One of the many factors that make this a particularly exceptional Bench is its outstanding provenance. This bat was originally purchased at the Cincinnati Reds gift shop in 1981 and is accompanied by a certificate from the Reds that reads "This is to certify that the enclosed professional model bat was used in a Major League baseball game. The bat is the authentic model made-to-order exclusively for the player. The bat was used during the 1981 [handwritten] season." On the back of the card, the referenced bat is identified by the handwritten notation "Johnny Bench - B278." It is well established that the Cincinnati Reds sold actual game-used equipment in its gift shop during the 1970s and 1980s, and the Reds store is the original source for many of the Cincinnati Reds game-used jerseys and bats from that era circulating in the hobby today. H&B factory records further support its provenance. According to the records, the offered bat perfectly matches the specifications of the model "B278" bats shipped to Bench on 8/20/81. That order was not only Bench's final bat order for 1980, but also his final order for model "B278" bats for the next two years. The fact that Bench's last order occurred so late in the season makes it perfectly reasonable to assume that he had bats left over at the end of the year, and that this bat was used, as per the claim made on the certificate, in 1981. The bat, which is not cracked, also has all the earmarks of a game-used bat. Heavy use is displayed in the form of ball marks, deeply embedded stitch marks, rack and cleat marks, and pine tar. Bench's uniform number ("5") is written in red marker on both the knob (moderate bleeding) and cupped barrel end. 1981 was a strike-shortened season, but for Bench it was even shorter still as he missed two months after breaking his ankle on May 28th. Bench was batting .343 before the injury and finished the year with 8 home runs, 25 RBI, and a .309 average. Regarded by many as the greatest catcher who ever lived, Bench was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility and was inducted in 1989. Length: 35.25 inches. Weight: 33 ounces. Graded A10 by MEARS (5 point base grade, plus 3 points for use and 2 points for the Reds gift-shop certificate/provenance). This is an outstanding and ideal Johnny Bench pro-model in all respects. This bat has been consigned to this auction directly from the personal collection/inventory of world-renowned bat and jersey authenticator Troy Kinunen. LOAs from Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $300. Estimate $500/$1,000. SOLD FOR $1,410
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