1917-1921 Babe Ruth Side Written Pro Model Bat

Sold For: $116,000

Auction Year: 2005 spring

Lot: 18

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One of the finest Babe Ruth bats in the collecting world, this 1917-1921 H&B Professional Model bat with is one of the oldest known Babe Ruth game-used bats, and one of the few known to exist dating from the early days of Ruth's career. The barrel is engraved "George 'Babe' Ruth" and exhibits minor remnants of a paper label and two postage stamps. The paper label was an actual mailing label that was once affixed to the bat for shipping purposes. In the "old days" it was standard practice for bats to be mailed to Hillerich and Bradsby by simply affixing a mailing label and postage directly onto the bat. A slight crack that once ran from the handle to the paper label has been professionally restored. This minor restoration has been executed flawlessly and is literally undetectable. The bat exhibits tremendous game use, specifically indicative of use by Ruth. 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 from the Barry Halper Collection. 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. This bat has been assigned an SCD Authentic grade of A9.5, falling short of a perfect "A10" grade only by one-half of one point due to the slightest lightness to stampings. This bat has earned its essentially perfect grade without reference to its sidewriting, but for its many other qualities which define it as a game-used Babe Ruth bat. However, original H&B grease pencil sidewriting such as that which appears on this bat is very significant to collectors. These notations are put on the bat as part of the receipt and reordering process at H&B, and provide period documentation that the given bat example was sent back to H&B as a model for reorder, putting these bats into the hands of the given player with virtual certainty. This is why so many of the H&B sidewritten bats are cracked. Faint H&B sidewriting notations on this Ruth bat include "48," referring to the bat's original weight, the date "6-12-22," and a reference to the bat being sent from "Baltimore." The sidewritten 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 as opposed to 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. Robert Edward Auctions researched the 1922 season and Ruth's whereabouts, hoping this would possibly provide additional information. This is what we found: Ruth (along with teammate Bob Meusel) was suspended from baseball by Commissioner Landis for ignoring the ban on barnstorming following the 1921 World Series, and Ruth was not allowed to play with the Yankees the entire first six weeks of the 1922 season. He did not appear in a game until May 20th. 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 new and unusual green bat. He went 1-for-4 with a home run, but it was a very disappointing game for Ruth in which he struck out with the bases loaded in the tenth inning. In the May 23rd game, newspaper accounts make great note of the fact 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 tried to stretch a single into a double, was thrown out, and expressed his great displeasure at the call by throwing dirt in the umpire's eye. Ruth was thrown out of the game. The fans booed as the Babe exited the field, but a heckler behind the dugout caught Ruth's attention and in his great frustration Ruth jumped onto the dugout roof chasing after the heckler, who escaped, and shouted challenges to anyone who wanted to fight. This outrageous behavior was the low point of Ruth's career, and immediately 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. This puts Ruth 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. Furthermore, as specifically 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 (and who gave Ruth permission to join the Orioles in 1914), 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 (the only instance of this type of experimentation by Ruth that we know of), that Ruth personally shipped this bat, one of his older style bats, 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 thirty-five home runs in 1922 in just 110 games. This is an ideal early world-class example of Ruth's weapon of choice, with sidewriting which tells a fascinating story, and which gives this bat a special significance, in addition to being one of the very few Babe Ruth bats in existence dating from the 1917 to 1921 era. Length: 36 inches. Weight: 41 ounces. (This bat has lost weight since 1922 due to drying, as is often the case with bats over time.) SCD Authentic Grade: A9.5. LOAs from Dave Bushing/SCD Authentic and John Taube & Vince Malta/PSA DNA. Reserve $25,000. Estimate $50,000/$75,000. SOLD FOR $116,000.00

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