The baseball bat Babe Ruth used to hit his 52nd home run during the 1921 season is among the featured items in the Spring Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction by Heritage Auctions.
Back in the day, Ruth’s most significant surviving game-used bats entered the collectibles world as presentation pieces to accomplished young ballplayers.
This particular bat was made a trophy for a teenage slugger by the name of Harry Borgman, who had been voted the best amateur player in his city in a poll conducted by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
When Ruth came through Cincinnati during a postseason vaudeville tour, he personally presented the bat to Borgman. A lengthy, notarized 2005 letter of provenance from Borgman’s son recounts the tale.
The claim is further strengthened by a pair of period documents. First is a newspaper clipping from the Jan. 10, 1922 edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer with the headline, “Borgman Wins ‘Babe’ Ruth Prize Bat Competition; Famed Home Run Slugger Scores First Honors in Enquirer Popular Contest, Open To All Comers.” The article states that Ruth’s bat with which he hit home run No. 52 was the prize.
Second, Ruth mistakenly addressed a letter to the owner of the vaudeville theater rather than the boy, writing, “Here is the bat that hit the ball that brought me my fifth-second home run. It served me well in baseball and I hope it will serve you as well in vaudeville. It is yours with my compliments at any rate.”
The letterhead was from Hotel Ansonia where Ruth resided during this period.
From Heritage Auctions: “There are three well-known Ruth home run bats bearing this form of documentary provenance, most notably his fifty-ninth home run bat of the 1921 season which sold in Heritage's February 2015 Platinum Night auction for $717,000, a figure that would likely be dwarfed were it to reappear on the block today. Each of these ‘Hotel Ansonia’ bats was presented in conjunction with Ruth's vaudeville tour, and (leading bat expert John) Taube stresses in his letter of authenticity that this is the only example from that trio to feature Ruth's heavy barrel scoring—executed to provide struck balls with greater spin (and thus greater distance)—thereby providing physical evidence that this was one of Ruth's favorite bats…
“The Taube letter goes so far as to state, "In 1921 the Yankees appeared in their first World Series, and in our opinion, judging by the amount of use and barrel scoring, there is a good possibility the bat was used by Ruth in the Fall Classic.”
The bat has an estimated value of $500,000+. The auction is May 7-9 with opening bids expected to start around April 16.
Another premier item is a 1910 T210 Old Mill Series 8 Joe Jackson SGC VG+ 3.5, valued at more than $400,000. The story behind that card is featured on page 45 of this issue.
The eight-ounce Everlast boxing gloves Muhammad Ali used to send Floyd Patterson into retirement in a heavyweight championship bout on Sept. 20, 1972 are another featured lot.
The gloves show sweaty wear from Ali’s decisive seventh-round TKO. It wasn’t the result Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer, had predicted, however. On the glove interior of one wrist portion, Dundee noted his pre-fight prediction: “Ali #1, KO 4.” On the other glove, he noted “Patterson KO Sept 20/72.”
Each glove is autographed by the legendary trainer, who provided the letter of provenance for the gloves, valued at more than $100,000.
A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 SGC EX/NM+ 6.5 is expected to fetch more than $80,000, and a 1916-18 Ty Cobb game-used bat is worth an estimated $60,000.
Among other featured items with an estimated worth of $50,000 or more are a
1957 Topps Baseball PSA NM-MT 8 Complete Set (407), a 1941 Play Ball Ted Williams #14 PSA Mint 9 (none is higher), a 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect Autograph Superfractor Christian Yelick 1/1, PSA Mint 9, a 2003-04 Ultimate Collection LeBron James #127 BGS Gem Mint 9.5-10 Autograph, a 1986 Fleet Basketball Wax Box with 36 unopened packs, a circa 1940 Josh Gibson and Ray Brown dual-signed baseball, and a rare 1933 Goudey Napolean Lajoie #106 PSA NM 7.