The bat used by Babe Ruth to his first home run of the 1924 season, autographed and given to a California high school player as a prize for hitting, has emerged and may soon take its place as one of the most important pieces of baseball memorabilia ever sold.
Milwaukee-based MEARS Auctions and Sports & Memorabilia Advisors says it is placing the bat up for sale.
Ruth used the Louisville Slugger to take a Walter Johnson pitch over the wall at Griffith Stadium on April 20, 1924. The bat was signed by Ruth and presented to Phil Grossman, the winner of a season-long high school batting contest in Los Angeles.
From 1923-25, Ruth agreed to sign a game-used home run bat and turn it over to a Los Angeles newspaper which held a contest for high school ballplayers. The first year, a home run contest was held. That bat eventually wound up selling at auction in 2004, fetching nearly $1.3 million. You may have seen it featured on the TV show “Accidental Fortune” in 2010.
This is the first time the 1924 bat has been offered for sale.
The entire history of the bat and contest is supported by period newspaper clippings chronicling the contest and the season-long competition. In a stroke of inestimable good fortune, a sign touting the contest was actually attached to the bat before a photo was taken of Ruth signing it. The Babe is frowning in the photo, perhaps because despite his blast, Johnson routed the Yanks on that April day 93 years ago by a score of 12-3.
The bat is signed “To the champion batter; Los Angeles High School League, Babe Ruth; 1924.” A gold plaque was attached to the center area with the words “presented by the LA Evening Herald” and Grossman’s name.
MEARS believes the supporting documentation and the current market for high-end items could make the bat one of the most valuable pieces of sports memorabilia ever sold. They’re currently listening to offers and believe it’s worth a seven-figure price tag. The value of the bat certainly won’t be hurt by the fact that Ruth’s homer that day came off one of the greatest pitchers in history.
“I would not be surprised if a collector offers a never seen before price for this historic masterpiece,” stated MEARS’ Troy Kinunen. “Rarely, if ever, does an artifact of this caliber have the provenance and documentation that this bat has.”
The autograph and inscription have been authenticated by JSA and bat expert John Taube of PSA/DNA assigned it a perfect GU 10 grade.
“In addition to the bat’s unquestionable history, Ruth’s autograph and dated inscription confirm the events outlined in the many articles that are included with the bat, further elevating its stature in the realm of his finest documented bats,” Taube wrote in his evaluation.
MEARS and Sports & Memorabilia Advisors have set up a special website with photographs, a video and the history of the bat.