In 1945, Mel Ott was on the tail end of an unprecedented career and serving as player-manager for the fifth place New York Giants. Although he was only 36, he was in the 20th year of a major league career that began when John McGraw put the then-17-year-old Ott into left field for the fading ‘Irish’ Meusel. Following the 1926 season Ross Youngs, a hall of fame outfielder in his own right, died tragically of kidney disease, allowing the young Ott to thrive. He would lead the Giants to three World Series, including a series winning home run in 1933 that would cement his place as the greatest Giants star since Christy Mathewson.
1945 was a year of transition for both Ott and the country as a whole. World War II was ending and a period of calm and normalcy had returned to the nation. Ott would hit home run number 510, becoming the third member of the newly minted 500 home run club after Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx. He would retire as the National League leader in home runs and would be elected to the hall of fame in 1955. ‘Master Melvin’, as was called, never made the successful transition to manager like so many great players, and as then-Brooklyn Dodger manager Leo Durocher famously quipped, “nice guys finish last.”
At some point in 1945 Ott reached into the dugout and pulled one of his iconic Louisville Sluggers, but it would be spared from battle with opposing pitching and instead be used for a very special purpose. Passed around the dugout the bat would be signed by the members of the Giants team – including former NL MVP and future Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi. As a finishing touch, Ott himself would sign the bat on the end of the barrel.
John Taube has been a respected sports memorabilia dealer specializing in game used bats for more than 25 years. During that time, both as owner of J.T. Sports and authenticator for PSA/DNA, he has handled some of the most iconic pieces in baseball history. While he has authenticated and sold game used bats of every noteworthy member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, he has only once come across a bat signed by Ott and this is it.
Whether the bat was intended as a gift for a VIP, team official, or returning war hero would be pure speculation, Taube indicated, but it was clear that whomever received the bat kept it in immaculate condition. Nearly 70 years after it was signed, the bat has found itself in Taube’s possession. He and partner Vince Malta have professionally graded the bat a ‘GU5’ on their scale, which indicates that it matches the records of a bat Ott would have ordered between 1939 and 1943, but was spared game use to serve its presentation purposes.
The bat sold two years ago via Heritage Auctions and is up for sale again via JT Sports along with several other historic game bats from the likes of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and dozens of others.