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Lot 251

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Lot Number: 251

Description: Significant and historic Babe Ruth professional model baseball bat as used to hit legendary 620 foot homerun at Sing Sing prison exhibition game c.1929. To those within the game of baseball who have come after Babe Ruth the various stories of his career have become legend. To those who played with or witnessed Babe Ruth perform feats that no other player before or after, in total, could match+.there could be nothing more concrete and factual. Perhaps the very reason that Ruth remains to date the most storied athlete in American sports history may lie somewhere in between legend and fact. Since Ruth's earliest days on a rudimentary diamond at Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys in 1913 he almost immediately became known for his mammoth homerun balls which according to witnesses seemed to explode off the bat like no other player of the era. This trait was further evidenced in the 1921 season in which Ruth amazingly pounded at least one 500 foot (or more) homerun in each of the eight American League parks. Babe Ruth's unprecedented prowess for the homerun ball was also the focal point for the various barnstorming games in which he, and often his teammates, played in during the 1920-30s era. On September 5, 1929 Ruth and his Yankees teammates were slated to play in a slightly different style of barnstorming game. Without question, this event would be well attended but also very limited in those who may attend in that it was played behind the walls of the famed Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. Named as such for its nearby village and the Sint-Sinck Indians, Sing Sing served as one of the nation's most feared prisons situated on a hill above the Hudson River. On this day Ruth and the majority of his Yankees teammates travelled to the prison to play in an exhibition game against the Sing Sing "Black Sheep" baseball team. Ruth and the Yankees were overwhelmed by autograph seekers from the inmate population even signing while running the bases. According to period news accounts the trip contained several very poignant moments for Ruth. Although reported to be his typical jovial self interacting with inmates and the like, it was also accounted that Ruth took a tour of the "death house" area of the prison even sitting in the electric chair for a brief moment. Reporters noted that Ruth was "apparently sobered" for nearly a half an hour and served as stark reminder of the reality of prison life and death. In classic Ruthian form however he subsequently proceeded to blast three homeruns during the exhibition game before a rousing crowd of inmates. The first of the three homeruns were to instantly become one of the greatest and most legendary of the Slugger's great career. As reported in several period accounts inclusive of the New York Times, Ruth was batting in the second inning when he absolutely destroyed a pitch that soared high above the forty foot tall prison wall. The ball was noted to have cleared the wall, over the heads of the prison guards (who deserted their machine guns to follow the path of the ball), continuing past the New York Central Railroad tracks, and ending its journey below the prison administration building. At the time the blast was estimated to have travelled nearly 620 feet in total which was believed to have been the longest of Ruth's career. Subsequent accounts and evaluations of the homerun dimensions have placed the distance at slightly less but by all measure it is clear that the ball flew well over 550 feet. As the most followed athlete of the day one can easily understand the buzz that rose from the Ruth homerun that date. Multiple newspaper and wire accounts spread across the country including the New York Times who wittingly noted, "His second inning drive which traversed the long diagonal of the rectangle before making its getaway past the centre field guardhouse, was jotted down by prison statisticians as the longest non-stop flight by an object or person leaving Sing Sing by that route for the past handful of decades." Upon rounding first base, the prison team baseman (who had 10 years left on a 25 year sentence) exclaimed, "Gee, I wish I was riding out of here on that one!" The bat itself is an exquisitely crafted period sports antiquity. Louisville Slugger 125 model bat measures 35 3/4" in length and weighs an impressive 43.8 ounces. Center brand labeling places the offered weapon at the 1916-1922 period and likely more specifically to the 1919-1922 era. The use of an earlier labeled bat has been documented in other such exhibition games by Ruth and is likely explained by the fact that he would not wish to use a favored current bat during exhibition play. The bat exhibits superb usage characteristics including ball and stitch marks, cleat impressions, and a hint of grain swelling to the barrel area. The handle area of the bat has a small 1" surface chip which could be easily repaired if so desired but was left to preserve the originality of the bat. Pronounced lathe mark is visible on the end of the knob area and a strong impressed stamping of "Weather Seasoned Hand Bone Rubbed" emblem is found to the left of the center brand area. The provenance of the bat is as well documented as the accounts of the homerun itself. Gerald Curtain had served as the Sing Sing prison athletic director for many decades beginning in 1930. Well regarded by the inmates and officials Curtain had followed in the path of Warden Lewis E. Lawes who strongly endorsed the athletic programs at the prison and their ability to aid in the rehabilitation and progression of the prisoners back into society. Gerald Curtain befriended a number of athletes throughout the years inclusive of a well documented visit to the prison by members of the New York Mets in 1967. As documented in period newspaper accounts and photos (see the accompanying detail photo) the Mets players included Yogi Berra and a youthful future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Of course, no visit could be complete without Curtain recounting the Ruth homerun and it was at this moment that the newspaper photographers captured the group viewing the offered Ruth bat as the players were relayed the details of the legendary homerun. The bat is also documented within the 1967 article itself as it appeared in the New York Daily News. Included with the bat is a team autographed baseball from the Sing Sing prison team which has been beautifully detailed with a hand drawn calligraphy titling having wonderful folk art appeal. The ball is a red and black stitched Taylor Official League ball inscribed, "To Gerald Curtain, our Athletic Director, from the M.W.L. Baseball Team 1933". Signed by (20) players inclusive of "Alabama Pitts" who gained notoriety as a star player within the league known as the "most prominent jailbird athlete in America". Pitts had been imprisoned for a grocery store robbery of $76.25 and after his release turned to professional baseball. Before reaching the major leagues he was killed in a knife fight outside of a North Carolina bar. Having had the distinct privilege to offer some of the finest Babe Ruth game bats of historical import over the past twenty years we can state with confidence that very few will place as superior to the offered exemplar. Its condition, quality, presentation, and almost uniquely succinct direct provenance present the collecting public with an outstanding opportunity to acquire a truly significant piece of baseball history. Includes LOA from Hunt Auctions, letter of provenance from the family of Gerald Curtain, original 1967 NY Daily News article and related photograph, and copies of the 1929 New York Times article chronicling the game itself and the Ruth home run: EX

Estimated Price Range: ($75,000-$100,000)

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