While there weren’t any giant catalog auctions or authenticators around, collecting game used bats has been around for 100 years.
Proof of that comes in the form of an autographed relic from Babe Ruth–personalized to one such collector–that’s coming to auction this summer.
Heritage Auctions will offer the Ruth bat, dating to early in the young slugger’s career, in its Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction, set for August 21 and 22.
The bat’s original owner was a baseball man to the core.
Eddie Maier was the president of the Pacific Coast League’s Vernon Tigers and during his career in baseball, he managed to secure game bats from numerousbig leaguers, including Ruth. In 1920, the Babe took time to give Maier one of his bats–and add a dated inscription to the barrel:
“To My Friend Eddie Maier From ‘Babe’ Ruth, 1920.”
The 40.2 ounce Louisville Slugger holds numerous signs of game use and has been authenticated by PSA/DNA (GU10) and MEARS (A10). The autograph has been authenticated by James Spence. The bat also comes with a letter of authenticity from Maier’s grandson.
Maier’s collection of game-used bats–rare for the time–had even received some coverage in a local newspaper four years earlier and a photocopy of the original clipping is included with the bat.
The bat was offered by Heritage in November of 2017 but did not meet a pre-set reserve.
Heritage sold a Sam Crawford bat from the same collection for $53,775 during a 2010 auction and a signed Ty Cobb gamer sold a few years ago for $187,000. That bat, owned by collector Justin Cornett, was later matched to a famous photo of Cobb and Joe Jackson.
The Ruth bat carries a pre-sale estimate of $600,000 or more.
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.
However, the bat might even be a little older than the Babe’s 101-year-old fountain pen would indicate. As Heritage notes, the production range of this particular model bat is a three-year window that could potentially mean it was used as early as 1918, when Ruth was with the Boston Red Sox, but it’s impossible to know for certain.
Bidding is expected to open in late July.