Babe Ruth Bat Used at League Park Fetches Million-Dollar Price

A bat used in Cleveland for one of the milestone home runs in major league history was sold for more than $1 million.

The bat Babe Ruth used to hit his 500th home run at League Park in 1929 sold for $1.08 million to an unidentified bidder through SCP Auctions. It was given a condition of 10, the highest available, prior to the auction, which started in November and ended yesterday.

It’s a large sum, but not a record. In fact, it’s not even a record for a Babe Ruth game-used bat. The one he used to hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium history in 1923 sold for $1.265 million – also handled by SCP Auctions.

Ruth hit his 500th home run – the first major leaguer to reach that mileston – on Aug. 11, 1929, swatting an offering from Willis Hudlin over the 40-foot-tall right field wall and onto Lexington Avenue. 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 ended up in the hands of Jim Rice, a longtime politician in Rockland County, outside of New York City and a friend of Ruth’s. 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.

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.

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