Ruth Bat Found in Basement Could Fetch $300,000-$500,000

The dream of every homeowner is to uncover a hidden treasure in the attic, basement or behind the sofa cushions left by the previous owner. That dream came true for a Massachusetts family when they uncovered a cache of game used baseball bats from the best Red Sox players of the pre-World War I period including Babe Ruth.

After its discovery several months ago, the bat which previously lay undisturbed for 97 years, was displayed at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore. Now, one of the two oldest Ruth bats in existence is being offered for sale timed with the 100th Anniversary of Ruth’s big league debut in the Goldin Auctions’ Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary Auction.  The bat currently has a high bid of $70,000 with an expectation that the bat will sell for at least $300,000-$500,000.  Bidding will conclude with the live portion of the event on July 12 at the Museum.

Babe Ruth bat 1916-1918

Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions says a cache of bats, including the Ruth, was found in the basement of the 150-year-old home near Boston by a picker who had been given access to some of the contents.  The picker thought the bats were just old sporting equipment but research quickly proved otherwise.

It isn’t known how the bats came to wind up in the cellar of the home decades ago.

Babe Ruth block letters bat“For centuries people have been searching for buried treasure. It used to be gold coins and precious jewels but today it is artwork, sports memorabilia and historical artifacts,’ Goldin said. “The fact that a 1916 Babe Ruth game used Red Sox bat can be unearthed after 97 years in the cellar of a Massachusetts home makes us realize that there is plenty more buried treasure still hidden in attics, basements and storage sheds all across America. We are honored to share this great find and allow someone to add it to their collection.”

Any bat once swung by The Bambino is something special, but bats dating from his days with the Red Sox are unbelievably rare.  According to Goldin Auctions, the bat is one of only two known Ruth branded bats from 1918 or earlier. The bat was stamped at the factory with a simple “RUTH” in block letters which Goldin Auctions says dates the bat as being made before July 9, 1918 when Ruth signed his first contract with Hillerich & Bradsby. Every bat subsequently manufactured featured a facsimile signature on the barrel. The H&B “dash-dot-dash” style center brand, which is featured on this bat, was first used in 1916. And finally, its specifications: of 40.5 ounces and 35.75″ length correspond with those of very early Ruth bats.

Two of the many identifying marks that confirmed to experts that the bat was game used by The Babe include: cleat imprints on the barrel as Ruth always banged out his spikes on his bats’ barrel and; a grouping of ball and stitch impressions found on the left barrel above Ruth’s stamped name since Ruth oddly gripped his bat with the center brand turned down making contact just above his name on the barrel.

Goldin says the items in the auction virtually tell Ruth’s entire life story, from a troubled youth in the St., Mary’s Home for Boys to the most famous person in America. A few of the other rare items include:

Lot #57 – 1918 Babe Ruth Boston Red Sox Contract (Current bid $250,000) – Ruth’s copy of his earliest known player contract. After winning 24 games and posting a 2.01 ERA in 1917, Ruth was given a raise from $3,500 to $5,000 for 1918. This was also the year of the Red Sox last World Series title until they broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004.

Ruth contract

The 4-page 8 1/2″ x 14″ American League Player’s Contract has been signed on the 3rd page by “Geo. H. Ruth” (10/10) , AL President Ban Johnson (10/10) and Red Sox owner H.H. Frazee (10/10). The document is displayed in its own custom museum-quality 10″ x 15 ¼” x 1 ¼” red leather bound book. The terms of this contract were in place with compensation modified as part of his sale to the Yankees the following season, meaning this contract was not only in effect for his last two years with the Red Sox, but also his first two years with the Yankees. Full LOA from PSA/DNA.

Lot #58 – 1919 Promissory Note from the Yankees to the Red Sox in Payment for the Sale of Babe Ruth (Current bid $50,000) – One of the original three promissory notes given to Red Sox owner Harry Frazee in payment for Babe Ruth’s contract. The 7.5″ x 9.5″ note is dated “December 30, 1919”, and the type reads “Note of $25,000, due November 1st, 1921, made by the American League Base Ball Club of New York in favor of the Boston American League Base Ball Club.”

The document was originally owned by Barry Halper who purchased a large collection of documents from the estate of Ed Barrow. This promissory note was one of Halper’s most prized possessions as he sold most of the Barrow material during his Sotheby’s sale in 1999, but held on to this note due to its historical 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruthsignificance.

Lot #25 – 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card (PSA 1)- The first baseball card ever issued of Ruth while he was an International League rookie – straight out of the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. One of the rarest cards in the hobby with just 10 known examples. This card last sold in 2013 for $450,000 – three-times the $150,000 sale price in 2009.  Current high bid is $190,000.

Lot #72 – 1918-20 Babe Ruth Game Used & Signed Louisville Slugger “The Curse of the Bambino” Bat with a Connection to Buck Weaver of the Black Sox Scandal (PSA/DNA GU 10 and MEARS 10) (Current bid $100,000) – Considered one of the most historically significant bats that exist by experts. Buck Weaver, best known as a member of the 1919 Black Sox asked Ruth to sign a bat to his friend Eddie Maier in 1920.  Goldin says research shows that Ruth used this bat during the years 1918-1920, spanning the years he spent with the Red Sox and Yankees. Ruth signed and personalized the bat in black fountain pen: “To My Friend Eddie Maier from Babe Ruth 1920.”

The particular Hillerich & Bradsby center brand is of the “dash-dot-dash” variety, once thought to have only been used during the 1916-1917 period.  The bat itself shows excellent game use with several ball marks on the left barrel above Ruth’s stamped signature.

Although the Ruth items are the centerpieces of the historic auction, collectors can also bid upon items from the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and many more.  To register for the auction and a free catalog, visit