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1961 Roger Maris Inscribed 60th Home Run Bat with Provenance from Clubhouse Attendant- Possibly Used to Tie Babe Ruth's Record!
Starting Bid - $10,000.00, Sold For - $38,512.50
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The following is an edited (shortened) version:
On September 26, 1961, Roger Maris made baseball history when he tied Babe Ruth's long-standing single-season home-run record by hitting his 60th home run off of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jack Fisher at Yankee Stadium. Offered here is what may be the very bat used by Roger Maris to hit that historic 60th home run. While the bat is accompanied by strong provenance in support of its historic stature, the most compelling evidence we have comes from Maris himself, who has personally inscribed the bat "To Bill/Best Wishes/to a good Club House man/Roger Maris/#60/9-26-61." The "Bill" to whom this bat is inscribed was Billy Nizer, the visiting clubhouse attendant for the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 through 1961. In 1979, Nizer sold many of the souvenirs he had acquired during his time as a clubhouse attendant to Federal Hill Autographs in Baltimore, including this Maris 60th home-run bat. It was later offered at auction by Federal Hill Autographs. Accompanying the bat are copies of the original Federal Hill Autographs auction-catalog listing, as well as Nizer's signed letter of sale to Federal Hill Autographs, dated August 24, 1979, which specifically lists the Maris bat among the items sold (identifying it as the "bat from Roger Maris when he broke Babe Ruth's homerun record"). Additional documentation includes a 1994 two-page letter from Nizer's widow (William Nizer died in 1981 at the age of thirty-seven) to our consignor in which she confirms that Nizer was given Maris' 60th home run bat and even that she personally typed the letter of provenance and sale to Robert White of Federal Hill Autographs (that is included) for her husband in 1979 when he sold his collection.
The bat itself is an ideal Roger Maris H&B signature-model (A92) bat dating from the 1961-1963 labeling period and has been graded GU9 by PSA/DNA. The bat measures 35 inches in length and weighs 32.5 ounces. As noted in the accompanying LOA from PSA/DNA, factory records indicate that Maris ordered model A92 bats exclusively from March 14, 1961, through July 27, 1962. Those orders specify 35-inch bats with weights anywhere from 32 to 34 ounces. The offered bat, at 32.5 ounces, is most consistent with one of the 32 or 33 ounce bat orders. The bat displays evidence of substantial use along its entire length, including ball marks and ball-stitch impressions on all sides of the barrel, bat marks, a light coat of pine tar on the middle of the handle, and a crack in the handle. When we submitted this bat to John Taube of PSA/DNA, we asked him specifically if the bat could be positively photo-matched to Maris' 60th home-run bat, for which we have a number of images (though we realize that bats are rarely able to be photo-matched due to the limitations of photo quality). We have seen many instances over the years of players identifying bats and other equipment items incorrectly, though we rarely see an incorrect period attribution. Unfortunately, the attempt to positively photo-match the bat was inconclusive. The quality of the photos available to us were simply not clear enough to match the grain of the wood. Taube writes in part: "Taking into account the evidence at hand, it is our opinion the bat was signed by Maris on the evening of September 26, 1961, after hitting his record tying 60th home run of the season. Direct attribution as to the use of the bat by Maris to hit the 60th home run cannot be confirmed nor denied."
It should be noted that there is a significant issue that needs to be addressed in great detail: another existing Maris bat that competes for the claim of the bat used to hit home-run #60. The Baseball Hall of Fame has in its possession a bat it claims was used by Roger Maris to hit his 59th, 60th, and 61st home runs in 1961. While we are not questioning the claim that the bat displayed in the Hall of Fame was used by Maris to hit his 61st home run, our research, which has been corroborated by John Taube of PSA/DNA in his accompanying LOA, has confirmed that Maris clearly used different bats in hitting his 60th and 61st home runs. As Taube clearly states in his LOA: "Period photography of Maris hitting his 60th and 61st home run, though not very detailed, does convey that each home run was struck with a different bat."
With reference to whether this is Maris’ #60 Home Run bat, there are only two possibilities: this is Maris' home run bat #60, or it isn't. The only way for this to not be the actual bat that Maris used to hit home run #60 is if Maris retrieved a different broken game bat and inscribed it to Nizer as is seen here, with the inscriptions and reference to "60" intended to be more commemorative in nature than an assertion that this was the very bat used to launch that historic home run. This is possible.
Unlike today, the Hall of Fame was not waiting in the wings for historic artifacts. The Hall acquired Maris' 61st home-run bat (the very bat that is also identified - or misidentified - as having been used to hit #59 and #60) and the 61st home-run ball directly from Maris in 1973 at his house, twelve years after the fact. Whenever dealing with historic items relating to a specific event, it is often very difficult to provide definitive proof. Memories fade, and honest mistakes are made, especially when identifying items many years after the fact. Common sense dictates that mistakes are far less likely to occur, and more confidence can be given an identification, when an item is identified at the time of the event, on that very day, as is the case here. But even then, for a bat, especially one that the Hall of Fame believes it has as well, only a definitive photo match of the bat's unique wood grain can provide definitive identification. Bats are rarely able to be photo matched in this manner, but if images of sufficiently high quality surface (if they exist), experts may be able to do this in the future.
We do know, however, that both Nizer, through his letter to Federal Hill Autographs, and his widow were always under the impression that the bat was used to hit Maris' 60th home run. Maris' inscription on the barrel, which is a vintage notation dating from the 1961 season, seems very unambiguous to us. Although we cannot prove this is Maris' 60th home-run bat by means of an exact photo match, if it could be proven, it would be one of, if not the most significant, home run bats that could possibly exist. At the very least, it is an impeccable Roger Maris autographed game bat dating from the most exciting final days of his historic 1961 record-breaking season (in fact, it is the only one we have ever seen or know of), and is, by any measure, one of the finest Roger Maris bats in existence. LOA from John Taube and Vince Malta of PSA/DNA and LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $38,512.50
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