Collecting game-used bats isn’t a modern outgrowth of fans gravitating from baseball cards to memorabilia. One man made it his hobby more than a century ago and one of the top prizes in his collection is on the auction block, where it’s expected to sell for big bucks.
Eddie Maier was the president of the Pacific Coast League’s Vernon Tigers and during his career in baseball, he managed to secure game model lumber from a host of big leaguers, including Babe Ruth. In 1920, the powerful young slugger who was drawing huge crowds in New York took time to give Maier one of his bats–and add an inscription to the barrel. Ninety-seven years later, the script is faded but legible:
“To My Friend Eddie Maier From ‘Babe’ Ruth, 1920.”
The 40.2 ounce Louisville Slugger is among the big attractions in the auction of a treasure trove of historic Yankees memorabilia now underway at Heritage Auctions. The bat bears numerous signs of game use and has been authenticated by PSA/DNA (GU10) and MEARS (A10). It comes with a letter of authenticity from Maier’s grandson. Maier’s collection of game-used bats–rare for the time–even received some coverage in a local newspaper and a photocopy of the original clipping is included with the bat.
Heritage sold a Sam Crawford bat from the same collection for $53,775 during a 2010 auction. With the buyer’s premium factored in, the current high bid on the Ruth bat is $288,000 but it’s expected to soar to perhaps double that amount or more by the time the auction concludes December 10.
According to the authentication paperwork, “the left barrel contact site is consistent with all known Ruth gamers, as the Babe was one of the few hitters to utilize a label-down swing.”
The bat has streaks of blue paint still attached to the barrel, likely from the bat rack where it was stored when Ruth wasn’t trying to add to what would be a record-shattering total of 54 home runs swatted during his first season in New York.