The following bat was submitted to MEARS on behalf of REA auctions for their 2010 Spring Sale. Although previously graded by our firm, I requested that the bat be sent back to our office for another review at no cost to Rob or the Consigner. My request was not based on questions about the bat’s final grade or anything of that nature. Rather, since some collectors have voiced concerns about what work justifies our opinion or substantiates a particular grade, I wanted to ensure there would be no doubt about either. It is my responsibility to make sure that the reasons for a grade are clearly outlined. MEARS is committed to due diligence, but I will be the first to admit that we can and will be better about communicating the substance of our work. Part of this diligence includes devoting more time citing examples, more consistent use of our photo references, conducting trend analysis, and ultimately conveying those details in our final Letters of Opinion.
With respects to trend analysis, you will note that in the following letter of opinion I was able to reference additional bats previously evaluated by MEARS. While this did not have an impact on the grade, it helps to provide a template for what I am showing our staff as what I consider to be an acceptable level of work. Many of these bats were submitted to our firm after the evaluation of the featured bat, thus another reason for my request to re-look at the bat. Trend analysis is the process of being able to compare an examined bat to other bats that have been examined and then drawing conclusions based on the totality of the data. What this allows for are comparisons of length, weight, grade, and use patterns in order to better evaluate a bat on both an individual and collective basis. For my final Letter of Opinion, the length, weight, and use patterns of like Ruth bats were listed and compared to the examined bat.
The similarities of grade, manufacturing characteristics, and use traits were all quite consistent among the high grade Ruth bats (from the similar era and label period) examined by MEARS, thus each of the examined bats supported use by Ruth, thus creating a discernable and traceable pattern of manufacturing characteristics, (model, length, weight) and measurable use characteristics (flattened hitting surface).
As a result of the questions in the past regarding the methodology applied by our company while offering a grade, our firm has acknowledged these concerns and has vowed to be more diligent in the letters of opinion we offer. This re-submitted Babe Ruth bat allowed us to illustrate in greater detail what our evaluation and though process consists of. It is our policy directors’ expectation that all MEARS letters are based on a solid procedural protocol, and this letter exemplifies the MEARS process at work as envisioned. I also felt I owed it to our customers and the potential bidders of this bat to offer all available facts.
The Letter of Opinion appears below:
1918-22 George Babe Ruth H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game bat – 1st version barrel signature with the Ruth trait of the flattened hitting surface (MEARS #258127)
Version 1 barrel stamping: On July 9th, 1918, George Herman Ruth signed his first endorsement contract with Hillerich & Bradsby. With the signing of the contract, Babe Ruth was directed to submit several samples of his signature. On an accompanying page to the contract, Babe Ruth signed his signature, George Babe Ruth many times in succession. The signature sheet was submitted to the H&B factory where the best example of his signature was clipped from the signature sheet. This clipped sample was used by the factory to create the manufacturers dye, which would be used to brand the facsimile signature into Babe Ruth’s professional model bats. This version of his signature is referred to as Version 1. During the 1922 era, for unknown reasons, Babe Ruth provided H&B with a newer version of his signature, referred to as the Second Version. With the introduction of the Second Version, the original First Version was retired and likely never be used again. This bat contains the 1st version signature.
MEARS has examined 10 additional 1918-21 era Babe Ruth Louisville Slugger 1st version signature model bats. By accessing our database, we are able to compare the barrel signature to the previous archived examples. This allows us the ability to compare and identify this examined bat as a first version example of the facsimile Ruth signature. Examples examined are:
1918-21 MEARS #251485 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #251924 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #258501 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #300537 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #301537 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #302451 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #303201 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #303582 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #303627 – 1st version barrel signature
1918-21 MEARS #303964 – 1st version barrel signature
Dating 1918-22: According to the book, “A Complete Reference Guide Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats” by Vince Malta, this bat is most consistent with the C-3B example on page 14. I say most consistent, as MEARS Auth, LLC’s recent article on Vince’s work provides what we feel is a proper context in which to utilize it. Special attention should be noted to the rounder lettering. Note the “BR” and “S” in “BRADSBY” and the “CO”. This lettering appears to be rounder than the lettering in C-3A, which according to the Malta book, is consistent with the 1919-1922 time span. MEARS takes into consideration possible overlapping of production processes and branding devices, and we date the bat to the slightly more general 1918-22 era with a notation to the Malta 1919-22 dating.
In sum, this dating allows us to determine that this examined bat, MEARS #258127 was manufactured by H&B during the 1918-22 era using the first version barrel signature.
Length 35 7/8″: Examination reveals this bat measures 35 7/8″, which would be considered as a 36″ bat per Ruth’s ordering records. Available H&B factory records do not list specific lengths for bats during 1918-1919, but starting in 1920, the Louisville Slugger records indicate Ruth ordered bats measuring at 36″ throughout 1922. Therefore, this bat is consistent with production information with respects to length for bats ordered by Babe Ruth during the 1920-22 era. This bat may have been manufactured at this length during 1918-1919, but that fact currently is not supported due to the lack of available H&B factory records.
In addition to the fact this bat’s length (35 7/8″) is consistent with available H&B production information, this bat compares quite favorably to additional Babe Ruth examined bats. Included are:
MEARS #251485, 1918-21, 35 ¾”, 1st version signature
MEARS #258501, 1918-21, 35 ¾”, 1st version signature
MEARS #300537, 1918-21, 35 ¾”, 1st version signature
MEARS #303201, 1918-21, 35 ¾”, 1st version signature
MEARS #303953, 1918-21, 35 ¾”, 1st version signature
In sum, this bats length (35 7/8″) is consistent with available H&B production information and a comparison to additional MEARS examined bats.
Weight 41 ounces: H&B factory records first begin to record Babe Ruth ordering bats during the 1920-22 era. H&B production information shows Ruth ordered bats weighing 42 to 51 ounces. As such, this bat is consistent with the manufacturer’s archived data with respect to weight for bats ordered by Babe Ruth during the 1920-22 era. Additionally, this bat compares quite favorably to additional Babe Ruth bats we have examined. These include:
MEARS #251485, 1918-21, 44 oz, 1st version signature
MEARS #258501, 1918-21, 42.5 oz, 1st version signature
MEARS #300537, 1918-21, 37 oz, 1st version signature
MEARS #303201, 1918-21, 35.1 oz, 1st version signature
MEARS #303953, 1918-21, 42.4 oz, 1st version signature
In sum, this bat’s weight (41 ounces) is consistent with both period H&B production information and previously examined bats seen against the backdrop of what MEARS has objectively shown in the past about weight changes in bats over time.
R2 Model: Per the designations assigned to all professional model bats by H&B, this bat is referenced in Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger personal bat records as the R2 model. The R stood for the second player to request a new model bat whose last name ended with that initial. This bat is referenced in the factory records as His Model #1, a.k.a. small or Old Ruth round end (Model R2). The H&B records verify this as the main model being ordered until the 1924 season.
Wood: This bat is manufactured from high-grade evenly proportioned medium grain wood.
Knob: Bat exhibits the classic Ruth knob found on the R2 model bat, with evidence of a hand turned knob. The hand turned knob can be seen by the circular lathe mark on knob end, and the signs of hand applied rasp marks. The lathe marks were a result of the H&B employee turning the bat to player specifications, and the rasp marks are a sign of the lathe hand removing wood to reach the player desired weight through sanding.
Player use and Ruth direct player characteristic: This examined bat has been evaluated while exhibiting heavy game use. Use was determined to be even, with a consistent patina found from knob to barrel end. A 12″ handle crack has been professionally repaired. In addition to the even, consistent, heavy game use, this bat exhibits an additional documentable Babe Ruth player trait, the flattened hitting surface. The practice has been documented via print and photographic references. The practice is documented in the book, “A Crack of the Bat by Bob Hill”. On page 96, Hill goes on to write,
“To prevent checking, many of the players in the early days would “bone” their bats, rub a hard object, even bones, against them to tighten up the grain. Babe Ruth, as was the custom of the day, then would rub it in with an empty pop bottle…” This served as an alternate to a steer bone.
Additionally, on page 119 of the book titled, “The Game That Ruth Built, The Babe… by Lawrence S. Ritter and Mark Rucker, Total Sports New York, 1997”, there is a image of Ruth as a Yankee in the process of boning his bat with what looks to be a steer leg.
With respect to the flattened hitting surface, four of the MEARS examined bats had specific references to a flattened hitting surface. Above the barrel stampings of MEARS #258127 is a 1 ½” x 14″ flattened hitting surface. Careful examination of this area shows the wood has been compressed, or boned. The process of boning a bat is a literal reference as Ruth was often seen applying a steer bone to this surface of the bat. The effect is to compress the grains of the wood and flatten that surface area of the bat. The practice has been photographically documented for Babe Ruth. In addition, the process and technique of the flattening of the hitting surface compares quite favorably to MEARS #306137, Babe Ruth’s 1923 World Series bat. This bat has a similarly applied flattened hitting surface, which is consistent with the following MEARS examined bats:
1918-20 MEARS #303953 A10: 36, 42.4 ounces, 1st version , R2, (Flattened Hitting Surface)
1921-31 MEARS #304678 A10: 35, 43 ounces , 2nd version (Flattened Hitting Surface)
1921-31 MEARS #303061 A10: 35, 36.4 ounces, 2nd version (Flattened Hitting Surface)
1921-31 MEARS #258237 A10: 35, 40.7 ounces, 2nd version (Flattened Hitting Surface)
In sum, this bat exhibits optimal game use, with the player specific trait of the flattened hitting surface, and favorable comparisons to additional MEARS examined bats.
Additional Visual Points: In addition to the heavy game use and flattened hitting surface, this bat exhibits remnants of shipping labels. During the 1920s, it was a common and documented practice for players to mail an actual bat to H&B for additional bat orders. Left of the centerbrand, there are two actual postage stamps still adhered with the outline of a missing third stamp. In an area near the reverse of the barrel is an area approximately 14″ long, there are the actual remnants of the paper label. Ruth would have used this label to address the bat and mail it to the H&B factory for additional bats to be ordered and shipped to him. No box would have been used; the bat would have traveled “as is”.
Side Writing: Once side written, the actual grease pencil notations are no longer clearly
visible. “Baltimore, 1922” can still be read.
Barrel End: Flat as opposed to the full round found on most Ruth R2 model bats.
Grade MEARS A9.5: Base grade of 5 for bat matching H&B factory records, 3 points of optimal use, 2 points for documented player traits including size & weight consistent and specific to Ruth, and flattened hitting surface. Minus ½ point for deadwood which runs through factory barrel stamping.
Summary: Upon completion of the examination of (MEARS #258127), 1918-22 George Babe Ruth H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game bat – 1st version barrel signature with the Ruth trait of the flattened hitting surface, this bat contains documentable manufacturing characteristics and physical characteristics that can be attributed directly to Babe Ruth.
The length, weight, and model are all supported by H&B factory records. The player use traits, flattened hitting surface, and paper return label are all traits consistent with high grade bats used by Babe Ruth and examples evaluated by MEARS. Combined, the facts support this bat as being used by Babe Ruth during the 1918-22 era, and supported by both physical traits and H&B archival materials.
Troy R. Kinunen/MEARS