Feller’s Bat Helped Ruth in Final Appearance

August 16, 1948

Bob Feller never faced Babe Ruth in his career. By the time Rapid Robert broke into the bigs in 1936, the Bambino had already retired as a player.

But the two shared a bat.

Harry Harris/AP
Harry Harris/AP

Feller was warming up to pitch against the Yankees on June 13. The Yankees were celebrating the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium and retiring Ruth’s number 3. As it turned out, it was the prolific slugger’s last public appearance before his death today. Ruth, weakened from the cancer that would kill him two months later, needed a bat to lean on as he was feted by the Bronx faithful. He reached into the rack and pulled out Feller’s – something Feller didn’t realize at the time.

“It could have been anyone’s,” he said.

New York Herald Tribune photographer Nat Fein eschewed lining up with the photographers down the first base line, and took a photo – reprinted multiple times since – that showed the Babe from the back, wearing his #3 uniform for the last time.



Editor’s note: Fein won the Pulitzer Prize for his photo, “The Babe Bows Out.” Feller, who had the bat at The Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa, said it cost him $95,000 to get it back. The bat was sold by a teammate to infamous memorabilia collector Barry Halper, and it changed hands a couple times after that before Feller bought it for the museum.

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