Historical Hockey Memorabilia Auction Winter 2017
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 3/8/2017
As the teens slowly came to an end, a paradigm shift occurred in baseball that witnessed the “inside” game that dominated play during the early part of the 20th century abruptly cease, with a figure no less than Babe Ruth its chief catalyst. The rage of the roaring ‘20s, long ball hitting during the 19th century was sparse, with somewhat larger ballparks, dead balls and over use helping stifle power hitting. With the emergence of the corked ball along with limitations placed on hurler’s arsenals, baseball’s seen leaving the ballpark now became commonplace, especially when first meeting the hard wooden surface of The Babe’s lumber. Ruth would hit 29 homers in 1919 while still with the Red Sox, climbing significantly to 54 in 1920 during his inaugural Yankees campaign, and 59 in 1921 – his second best career total. The period of transition from Boston to New York also witnessed the creation of an important relic that while simply utilitarian upon its construction, is now a surviving relic and cherished memento of paramount importance.
While many items in our illustrious hobby can elicit reverence and even idolatry, few can conjure the ecstatic wonderment of a bat swung by the legendary and iconic Babe Ruth. Hailing from the personal collection of hockey HOFer Brett Hull, and subsequently owned by his father, fellow HOFer Bobby Hull, we have a Babe Ruth Hillerich & Bradsby 40 BR (R2) Louisville Slugger bat (w/ side writing). Originating from the 1919-1922 labeling period due to the “C-3B” center brand according to the accompanying PSA/DNA letter that references Vince Malta’s book “A Complete Reference Guide Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats”, the center brand features “40 B.R.” along with the dash-dot-dash configuration that predates the “Made in USA” designation. 38 of the original 39 ounces remain evenly packed throughout its full three feet of length, with a standard finish covering the ash surface. A large V-shaped handle crack is present, rectified with six period nails, with three additional nails visible along the barrel. The knob also remains blank, with no size stamping present, confirmed by Mears with the aid of a digital microscope.
The bat has been thoroughly examined by both Mears along with PSA/DNA, with both authenticators acknowledging it’s fashioning from Ruth’s first personal model, recognized originally as “Old Babe Ruth” and later designated as “R2”, with 18 points of sizing references confirmed by PSA/DNA through caliper measurements. While the length of 36 inches matches 1919-22 factory ordering records perfectly, bats ordered from March 9th 1920 through June 27th 1922 called for weights between 40 to 51 ounces, while the March 1920 order requested examples in the 40-43 ounce range, leaving PSA/DNA to conclude use during 1919/1920. This is extremely important to note, as this dating confirms possible use as ONE OF THE FIRST BATS RUTH EMPLOYED WHILE WITH THE NEW YORK YANKEES. Another factor paramount to placing the bat in Ruth’s competent hands is the faded but visible side writing. Regarded as gospel by the hobby, side writing provides impeccable provenance, with the offered specimen featuring “39 Geo.H.Ruth” in vintage grease pencil on a planed area of the right barrel, according to PSA/DNA in their accompanying LOA. Regarding player characteristics and use, the bat is void of any handle or barrel scoring, a distinct trait of Ruth’s, with ball marks visible on the left side of the barrel as well as the right, with The Babe known to turn his center brand downward, leaving most ball and compression marks on the left side of the barrel. Both Mears and PSA/DNA acknowledge heavy/excellent use respectively, with cleat marks also visible along the barrel. The final question regarding the bat’s retail designation is addressed by PSA/DNA, with their belief that the “40BR” labeling was simple a mistake. Two other verified examples are noted on the accompanying PSA/DNA LOA including an example used by Wade Boggs that carries the underscored “125” designation, usually only seen on promotional bats, along with a bat used by Craig Biggio with “Genuine” above the player’s name, another stamping usually designated for just promotional use.
Considering the bat’s identical construction to Ruth’s R2 model along with it’s critical side writing, John Taube concluded that “after a thorough examination of this George “Babe” Ruth professional model bat and its player characteristics, it is our opinion, the bat is authentic as described, and was used by Ruth during the referenced labeling period”. Mears also gave the bat a grade of “authentic”, noting that it’s the first bat they’ve examined containing both a 40BR center brand along with side writing. A Letter of Opinion from Mears will accompany, along with a detailed Letter of Authenticity from PSA/DNA.
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