Once used as a weapon to ward off potential intruders, a previously unknown Lou Gehrig Hanna Batrite model game bat sold at auction early Sunday morning for a record-setting price. Love of the Game Auctions offered the bat in its catalog sale after it was consigned earlier this year. The bat was recently matched to a photo that shows the Yankee great holding it outside the batting cage at Comiskey Park in 1930, a discovery which likely led to its final realized price of $436,970.
Bidding began at $20,000.
“This bat was given to the consignor decades ago by a family member of a former Yankee Stadium groundskeeper,” said Crisafulli. “Though the consignor is a Yankee fan, the family is not a baseball family, and without knowledge of the bat’s value it was kept behind the front door for protection – for 30 years.”
Crisafulli added that the bat was nearly left behind during a move in the early 2000s, and a few years later was almost given to a neighborhood child who liked to play ball.
“Really, it is amazing that this outstanding piece of memorabilia made it this far, and its history certainly adds color to the story. All that aside, it is gorgeous. It is important. And it is among the most exciting consignments with which an auction house can be entrusted.”
Gehrig bats rank among the hobby’s five most desirable for collectors, according to PSA, sharing that distinction with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson.
Gehrig used Hanna’s Batrite model for a couple of seasons during his career. Hanna Manufacturing was based in Athens, Georgia and Gehrig is on record as stating he ordered them from the company.
When he received the high-resolution scan, he told Sports Collectors Daily he was stunned to see the grain on the bat in the photo appeared to be a perfect match. Last week, he delivered the bat to bat expert John Taube of PSA/DNA, who examined the bat thoroughly and confirmed the bat was a match. To Taube’s knowledge, no other game-used Gehrig bats have actually been photo-matched.
“The wood grain on each bat is like a fingerprint,”Crisifulli told Sports Collectors Daily. “The grain on every bat is unique, much like the pinstripes on every jersey. Ability to match the wood grain patterns on the bat, relative to where the patterns meet on the various bat stampings is what makes it possible to identify a photo match. John Taube points out nine different spots on the barrel alone where the grain patterns are an identical match between the bat in the photo and our bat. There’s never been a match before, and certainly not with such impeccable detail.”
“One of the factors that has caused Batrite bats to sell for less than Louisville Sluggers is the fact that Hillerich & Bradsby maintained such detailedplayer ordering records over the years. You can take a Louisville Slugger gamer and usually have it traced right back to the period it was ordered.
There are no player ordering records for Hanna Batrites, which makes it more difficult to trace the provenance of the bat. In this case, we have a photo that puts the bat right in Gehrig’s hands at Comiskey Park in 1930. Couple that with the consignor’s story, and the fact that a telegram from Gehrig to Hanna exists from March of 1930 that orders bats in this specific weight, and the provenance becomes impeccable.”
Love of The Game brouht the bat at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago and allowed collectors to hold it.
“This the kind of item that makes baseball fans of all ages feel like kids again,” he said. “Everyone wants to hold this bat.”