1934 Babe Ruth Game Used Bat

1934 Babe Ruth Game Used Bat

The sands of baseball were slipping through the Yankees hour glass, and 1934 would be the last season the Babe played for the Yanks. Still reliable, Ruth appeared in 125 games, hit 22 HR’s, tallied 105 hits, and finished with a .288 batting average. When the season ended, Ruth would go onto play his final season with the Boston Braves, thus attributing this bat to Babe Ruth’s Yankee swan song.

Offered for this lot is a specially manufactured Babe Ruth bat which is consistent with respect to length, weight, model, and known manufacturer of Yankees game used bats. The company’s logo, the opened winged bat, was similar in design to Gotham’s cities mythic bat signal. Commissioner Gordon used the bat signal to call Batman; the Burke Batrite companies bat logo summoned the attention of Babe Ruth.

Although not supported by the historically important documents such as those archived by Hillerich & Bradsby, a scholastic review of the known facts regarding the history of Hanna Batrite and the companies documented associated with the New York Yankees, MEARS has made a very compelling argument as to the authenticity of this offered bat.

Length (35”): Measuring 35”, this bat is an acceptable length to have been ordered by Ruth during this 1934 season. Review of his H&B personal bat records document that he ordered 35” bat during the 1934 season.

Weight (37 ounces): Currently weighing 37 ounces, this bat is an acceptable weight to have been ordered by Ruth during the 1934 era.  Review of his H&B shipping records document that he ordered bat weighing 35 – 36.5 ounces during the 1934 season. This bat is consistent with those documented orders with respect to weight.

Model (12): The model “12” is stamped to the right of the bat’s head. This is a very important factor of this bat indicating professional model and exclusive attribution to Babe Ruth game bats only. The known surviving Hanna Batrite dealer catalog lists the Babe Ruth model as “5”. Examples of that version of the Babe Ruth Hanna Batrite bat bearing the “5” stamp are commonly found in the hobby. To date, this is the only “12” (Babe Ruth exclusive model designation) to have entered the hobby and supports this bat as being manufactured specifically for Babe Ruth.

Use of phrase “TYPE” stamped on barrel: The use of the word “TYPE” stamped on the barrel is a well-documented practice by the Hanna Batrite Company and was spawned from a legal battle with Louisville Slugger. To explain the practice, “Hanna Bats in the Major Leagues by Dave Grob” noted, “Consider the decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in November of 1935. The case centered on a suit brought against Hanna Manufacturing by Hillerich and Bradsby over the use of the names of players that Louisville Slugger had under endorsement contract. According to an article that appeared in the November 26th 1935 edition of the San Antonio Light, the court “refused to review a lower court’s decision against Hillerich and Bradsby of Louisville that the Hanna Manufacturing Company of Athens, GA, could use those names provided they stuck to the facts.” Additionally, “The circuit court held that a “Babe Ruth” bat might mean a certain type and allowed the company to use the name if it added “style or shape” even those the Louisville firm had the players under contract for use of their names.”

If the basis of the suit was decided that Hanna had to “stick to the facts”, then they would have had to have shown that the bats bearing the names of the players where either in fact bats used by the players or at least modeled after bats they used.”

In this instance, style or type is consistent with the decrees handed down by the court. The physical dimensions of this bat certainly support the legal litmus test of this bat being “modeled after bats they used”.

Court Testimony Supporting Hanna Batrite being used by the Yankees:  Although currently there are no supporting documents of Babe Ruth ordering the Hanna Batrite model bat, we do have a documented court case related to Lou Gehrig. Gehrig Testimony transcribed- “I spoke of having used Louisville Slugger bats practically all the time throughout my professional career with the exception of approximately two years. During those two years approximately I used a Batrite and Spalding. The Batrite bats were purchased from Hanna Manufacturing Company, Athens, Georgia. Two or three Batrite and Spalding bats were sent to me on trial, and I finally placed my orders with the Hanna Manufacturing Company, I used the Batrite bats I obtained from Hanna Manufacturing Company a good majority of both years I used those bats. Naturally, I found them satisfactory. I used them because they had peculiarities of treatment or finish which seemed advantageous to my mind. I haven’t any idea what the treatment was. It stopped checking, which is the loosening of the grain of bats which makes it impossible to use them further…When the Hanna Manufacturing Company made those bats for me and put my name on them it was my understanding that they were going to use my name only on bats for my own personal use, and I did not give them permission to use my name on bats for sale to the general public.

Other Evidence To Support Hanna Batrite Being Used By the Yankees:  In an article published at MEARS Online on December 5th, 2007 titled, “New Discovery: Photo of Hanna Batrite bat in Yankee Stadium (1936-1937 circa) by… Troy R. Kinunen”, at the time of the publishing we had digitally archived an image of Tony Lazzeri at Yankee stadium with a Non Bat Logo Hanna Batrite bat. The article read in part, “Uncovered yet another photograph of a non-traditional bat manufacture. In what is one of our clearest images to date, this wire photo clearly and with great detail depicts a young Joe DiMaggio and Lefty Grove standing by the infield wall at Yankee Stadium. Nestled in line with three other game bats is a Hanna Batrite model with “LAZZERI” block letter last name only on barrel. The center brand design of the Hanna Batrite in the photograph is referred to as Logo #2. This is the second version of the Batrite centerbrand, which changed from the previously used “Bat Logo” marking. The latest documented example of the Bat Logo being used per the MEARS database is 1932. The second version is simply the word “BATRITE” spelled out in straight block lettering. Examples of this centerbrand begin entering the hobby during 1930. The identification of this second version centerbrand along with specific design of the barrel name aids MEARS in the dating of this bat.

As recorded in a previous MEARS article, in November of 1935, the Supreme Court ruled that bat manufactures could use the names of players not under contract, provided the bats were identified as “Types” or “Styles” used by a player. This was to protect the patent of Hillerich & Bradsby who had exclusive rights to brand a player’s full name onto the barrel for marketing purposes. The fact that “LAZZERI” appears alone on the barrel allows us to date the production of this bat to sometime in late 1935 or 1936. It was not uncommon for players to carry bats from previous seasons(s) to the next. This newly discovered image supports the practice.

Although the dating of the bat’s centerbrand was determined to predate November 1935, the players in the photo played together no earlier than 1936. Lazzeri’s final year with the Yankees was (1937), and the present of both Joe DiMaggio (debut 1936) and Lefty Gomez (teammate 1936 & 1937) allowed for the dating. All three players were with the team during 1936-37.”

Barrel Stamping Comparison – Player Name Only Vs. Georgia/Beaver Driver, Steel Tempered: Hanna Batrite barrel stampings can be broken down into two main categories:

Style 1: Player Name / Player Name Type or Style Only – this is the style that would simply read the player’s name “RUTH” or RUTH type. There are no other markings on the bat.

Style 2: Georgia/Beaver Driver, Steel Tempered, TA (Tempered Ash) – this is the style of bat where the player name is followed by the noted barrel stamping phrases.

Style 1 has been photographically documented as being used on the field, whereas Style 2 was found in the surviving dealer catalogs and is also the style found on retail model (store) bats.

This bat, being player name/ style only (RUTH TYPE), can be considered as a professional model bat only and was not offered as a catalog or store model bat.

Game Use: Bat exhibits heavy use, checking on reverse of barrel (repeated contact of bat to ball), and ball marks on multiple surfaces of the bat. PSA/DNA agreed and called the use “outstanding”.  Bat has a heavy handle crack which extends through the knob. A screw in the handle supports the crack. For the sake of full disclosure, John Taube of PSA/DNA went on to describe the use as, “visible use on this Hanna Manufacturing “Ruth Type” bat, does not allow us to place the bat with Babe Ruth. The bat does not display known Ruth characteristics such as a scored handle or barrel and the condition of the bat leads us to opine it has seen a good amount of sandlots”.

With respect to the MEARS opinion, we do agree the bat shows “outstanding” use. Per our criteria and methodology, MEARS believes that since the bat is consistent with what would have been manufactured to be sent to Ruth to use in a major league game, the degree of original heavy use can be noted and serve as a plus 3 point criteria for our final grading of “heavy game use”. The crack may or may not have been caused by Babe Ruth and use after the fact in the sandlot is pure speculation.

After review of the visible use, Taube went onto note in his conclusion: “After a thorough examination of this Babe Ruth professional model bat and its player use characteristics, it is our opinion the bat is authentic as described. In light of the general information that is available for bats produced by Hanna manufacturing, minus provenance or exceptional player characteristics, that place the bat in the player’s hands, we cannot determine if a Hanna bat was used by the named player, in this case, Babe Ruth.”

MEARS agrees with Taube’s assessment of “outstand use”, and will grade the bat as a professional model game used Babe Ruth bat in accordance with the MEARS bat grading criterial.

Final Grade (MEARS A5.5): A base grade of 5 points is assigned for the bat being consistent with respect to model, length, and weight for what you would expect to find on a circa 1934 Babe Ruth Professional Model bat. 3 points for heavy game use. Minus 2.5 points for heavy handle crack, chipped knob, and wear to barrel end. PSA/DNA has reviewed this bat. The accompanying hologram number is 1B14197

In summary, based on the court documents, comparison of the bat to Babe Ruth’s H&B shipping records to establish a manufacturers pattern, review of game use/condition, and known research on the Hanna Batrite company, MEARS is confident to attribute this a 1934 Babe Ruth Hanna Batrite Professional Model bat showing heavy game used noted condition flaws which garners a MEARS A5.5 grade. LOA MEARS Auctions, Troy R. Kinunen

Market Value: On August 9th, 2015, “Love of the Game” auction sold a Hanna Batrite Lou Gehrig game used bat (PSA/DNA GU9) for $436,9970.

Other Examples To Support This bat:

1927-1930 Hornsby     (Name Only On Barrel)

Solving The Mystery of Hanna Batrite Bats

New Discovery: Photo of Hanna Batrite bat in Yankee Stadium

 

The rest of the auction can be viewed at

MEARS Online Auctions

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