Bat Used for Babe’s Milestone Home Run at League Park Goes Up for Auction
Vince Guerrieri | On 18, Oct 2019
A bat believed to have been used in Cleveland for one of the milestone home runs in major league history is coming to the auction block.
In Babe Ruth’s time with the Yankees, slugging records fell at a, well, record pace, and on Aug. 11, 1929, Ruth became the first major league player to hit 500 career home runs. The Yankees were playing the Indians at League Park, with its inviting short right field fence, at just 290 feet. Not even the 40-foot-tall wall could keep Ruth from popping baseballs over it. (All told, he hit 46 home runs at League Park, more than any other opposing player.)
And so he did that day against Willis Hudlin, hitting a home run onto Lexington Avenue, where it was picked up by Jake Geiser, a New Philadelphia man who’d been thwarted in his attempt to go to that day’s game (then as now, the Yankees were a big road draw). He was quickly ushered into the ballpark and down to the Yankee dugout. The Babe, in a fit of sentimentality, wanted the ball as a keepsake for his collection, and he got it, for $20 and an autographed baseball. (The Indians rallied to win the game 6-5.)
The whereabouts of the ball appear lost to history, but the bat that’s believed to be the one used to hit the milestone home run is going up for auction. In the 1940s, the Babe gave the bat away to Jim Rice, a longtime politician in Rockland County, outside of New York City. Rice’s son Terry said the bat sat in the corner in the den of their house in Suffern. After Jim Rice died in 1983, his wife Ethyl kept it until her death 14 years later. Now Terry is ready to sell it – for what could be a record price.
The record for a game-used bat is $1.265 million, for another bat used by Ruth – this one to hit a home run in the first opener at Yankee Stadium in 1923. That sale, in 2004, was handled by SCP Auctions, the same company that will be handling the sale of this bat.
Ethyl Rice wrote a note in 1993 attesting that the bat came from the Babe himself, and he told them that he used it to hit his 500th home run. But in preparation for the auction, the bat was authenticated. It was determined to be a Babe Ruth model (easily enough done; his name’s on it), with serial numbers that indicate it could have been used in 1929, and has marks on the upper barrel consistent with it being used to knock dirt of spikes – something Ruth did regularly.
The bat was given a condition of 10, the highest available. Online bidding starts Nov. 27, and runs through Dec. 14.
Photo: SCP Auctions