Auction bill boasts ‘Ruthian’ prowess

The dream of every old homeowner is to uncover a hidden treasure in the attic, basement or behind the sofa cushions left by the previous owner. That dream came true for a Massachusetts family when they uncovered a caché of game-used baseball bats from the best Red Sox players of the pre-World War I period, including Babe Ruth.

Ruth's rookie bat

Ruth’s rookie-era bat, from 1916-18, could approach half a million dollars. (Photo courtesy Goldin Auctions)

After its discovery, the bat which previously lay undisturbed for 97 years, was displayed for fans to enjoy at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum for several months. Now, one of the two oldest Ruth bats in existence will be offered for sale, timed with the 100th anniversary of The Babe’s Major League Baseball debut in the Goldin Auctions Babe Ruth 100th Anniversary Auction on July 12 at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum and online now at www.GoldinAuctions.com.

“This was an idea I came up with in June of last year. I’ve been secretly working with this 13 months prior to the auction,” said Goldin Auctions’ founder Ken Goldin. “I saw that July 11 (2013), would be the 99th anniversary of the debut of Babe Ruth and a light bulb when off in my head. That’s when I came up with the idea of putting together an auction. I’ve been gathering material well in advance of publicly announcing it.”

While any game-used bat once swung by The Bambino is something special, bats dating from his days with the Red Sox are unbelievably rare. This is one of only two known Ruth branded bats from 1918 or earlier. The bat has several distinctions that reveal it to be from 1916-18. The first is that it was stamped at the factory with a simple “RUTH” in block letters, which dates the bat as being made before July 9, 1918, when Ruth signed his first contract with Hillerich & Bradsby. Every bat subsequently manufactured featured a facsimile signature on the barrel. The H&B “dash-dot-dash” style center brand, which is featured on this bat, was first used in 1916. And finally, its specifications of 40.5 ounces and 35 3/4 inches in length correspond with those of very early Ruth bats.

Two of the many identifying marks that confirmed to experts that the bat was game-used by The Babe include cleat imprints on the barrel (Ruth always banged out his spikes on his bats’ barrels) and a grouping of ball and stitch impressions found on

Baltimore News Ruth

The last selling price for this card was $450,000. How high will it go? We’ll find out July 12. (Photo courtesy Goldin Auctions)

the left barrel above Ruth’s stamped name, since Ruth oddly gripped his bat with the center brand turned down making contact just above his name on the barrel. Experts anticipate the bat fetching $350,000 to $500,000.

“For centuries, people have been searching for buried treasure. It used to be gold coins and precious jewels, but today it is artwork, sports memorabilia and historical artifacts,” Goldin explained. “The fact that a 1916 Babe Ruth game-used Red Sox bat can be unearthed after 97 years in the cellar of a Massachusetts home makes us realize there is plenty more buried treasure still hidden in attics, basements and storage sheds all across America.”

Although there are many items from Ruth’s Yankees career being offered for sale in Goldin’s July 12 auction, what makes this auction historic are the truly rare artifacts that were part of The Bambino’s rise to greatness and tell his entire life story, from a troubled youth in the St., Mary’s Home for Boys to the most famous person in America. A few of the other rare early Ruth items include:

• 1918 Babe Ruth Boston Red Sox Contract – The Babe’s copy of the earliest known Ruth player contract. After winning 24 games and posting a 2.01 ERA in 1917, Ruth was given a raise from $3,500 to $5,000 for 1918. This was also the year of the Red Sox’ last World Series title until they broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004. The four-page 8 1/2-by-14-inch American League Player’s Contract has been signed on the third page by “Geo. H. Ruth” (10/10), AL President Ban Johnson (10/10) and Red Sox owner H.H. Frazee (10/10). The document is displayed in its own custom, museum-quality 10-by-15 1/4-by-1 1/4-inch red leatherbound book. The terms of this contract were in place with compensation modified as part of his sale to the Yankees the following season, meaning this contract was not only in effect for his last two years with the Red Sox, but also his first two years with the Yankees. Comes with a full LOA from PSA/DNA.

Babe Ruth Sox Contract

Pictured is Ruth’s personal copy of his contract with the Boston Red Sox from 1918. The contract is the earliest known Babe Ruth contract in existence. The opening bid was $250,000.

• 1919 Promissory Note from the Yankees to the Red Sox in Payment for the Sale of Babe Ruth – One of the original three promissory notes given to Red Sox owner Harry Frazee in payment for Babe Ruth’s contract. The 7 1/2-by-9 1/2-inch note is dated “December 30, 1919,” and the type reads “Note of $25,000, due November 1st, 1921, made by the American League Base Ball Club of New York in favor of the Boston American League Base Ball Club.” The document was originally owned by Barry Halper, who purchased a large collection of documents from the estate of Ed Barrow.

• 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card (PSA 1) – The first baseball card ever issued of Ruth while he was an International League rookie – straight out of the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. One of the rarest cards in the hobby with just 10 known examples, this card last sold in 2013 for $450,000 – three-times the $150,000 sale price in 2009.

These, and hundreds of other items, are live now at www.goldinauctions.com. To register for the auction and receive a free catalog, call (856) 767-8550. Bidding will be conducted in all forms for this sale.

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