The Baseball Hall of Fame claims to have it, but PSA/DNA bat expert John Taube and Heritage Auctions say the facts are on their side when it comes to Babe Ruth’s 60th home run bat from 1927. Heritage is offering its own big piece of lumber in the company’s newly launched Spring Sports Memorabilia Catalog Auction with a pre-sale estimate of $1 million or more.
Consigned by a private collector, the bat makes its auction debut among nearly 1,400 memorabilia-only lots in the event, which comes on the heels of a trading card auction that saw record prices for a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle ($2.88 million) and a 1951 Mantle rookie card ($750,000).
“It’s definitely a contender for the best bat in the hobby,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “Ruth hit 17 home runs in September 1927 to break his own record — the best month of his career. It’s a piece marking the absolute prime of the game’s greatest figure and the pinnacle of New York Yankees history as well.”
The bat weighs 38.8 ounces and is 35 3/8 inches long. Authenticated GU 10 by experts at PSA/DNA, the bat shows extensive game use, according to Heritage, which says multiple ball marks and stitch impressions on the left barrel match Ruth’s label-down, left-handed swing.
The right part of the barrel is inscribed “To Joe E. Brown From Babe Ruth.” One of Ruth’s friends and a figure familiar to most veteran hobbyists, Brown was a much-beloved comedian and movie star and widely regarded as the first celebrity sports memorabilia collector. A 2012 notarized letter from Don E. Brown, the grandson of Joe E. Brown — accompanies the bat and chronicles the history of the collection and the Ruth bat in particular.
A friend of Ruth’s, Brown had been given pieces of memorabilia during their careers including the bat Ruth used to hit three homers in the 1926 World Series.
The bat in Cooperstown was given to a sportswriter of the era, who claimed it was given to him during the 1927 season. Heritage addresses that part of the story in the auction listing:
“It is essential that we disclose the fact that the Baseball Hall of Fame — an establishment for which we hold the utmost respect — claims to own the bat responsible for that monumental feat,” the listing says. “But the detailed letter of examination from leading expert John Taube of PSA/DNA carefully compares and contrasts the divergent tales of provenance, leaving little doubt that the Cooperstown example is improperly identified.”
The Ruth bat in the auction has been consigned by a private collector and currently carries a high bid of $384,000 including the buyer’s premium.
The auction will run through May 18.