1922-25 George Babe Ruth 250 H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Bat
On July 9th, 1918, Babe Ruth signed his official contract to endorse Hillerich & Bradsby model bats. As was standard practice, the George “Babe” Ruth facsimile stamp was applied to the barrel of all endorsed Ruth bats. Examination reveals this barrel signature is consistent with what is referred to as the “First” version of his signature. Upon signing his contract, a sample of his autograph was literally cut from the signed contract and used as the template for the die used to make the barrel stamping. This bat is an exact factory duplication of the original contract signature. During the 1921/22 season, Babe Ruth supplied H&B a new version of his signature, referred to as “Second Version”. With the introduction of the “Second Version” the original “First” version was retired to never be used again.
Centerbrand: Examination of the centerbrand reveals this bat was manufactured during the 1922-25 era. The main indicators of this timeframe is the length of the phrase “Made in USA” which spans the lengths of the letters R to A under the phrase “HILLERICH & BRADSBY”. Later centerbrands have a longer phrase, which is noticeably longer.
Dating: Therefore with the combination of the 1921/22 “First Version” signature and the 1922-25 centerbrand stamping, MEARS approximates the dating of this bat to 1922-25 circa.
R2 Model: This bat is referenced in the factory records as “His Model #1, a.k.a. small or Old Ruth round end (Model R2). Examination reveals this bat has a slender barrel, heavily rounded barrel end, and medium sized knob. The R2 model was the style of bat associated with Babe during his time with the Boston Red Sox and his early seasons with the New York Yankees. When examining images of Ruth during the 1918 to 1922 timeframe, it can be discerned that he preferred a bat with a slender barrel and round end. During the mid 1920s, Babe transitioned to a R34 model, which had a thicker barrel and larger knob. Therefore, this bat is associated with the model used earlier in Babe Ruth’s career.
Length: H&B factory records show bats ordered for Ruth in non-specified lengths with weight listed only, 34.5”, 35”, & 36” lengths. This examined bat measures at 34” and does not match the listed lengths of 34.5” to 36”, but may have been consistent with the non-specified lengths. It was common practice during the 1920s for Hillerich & Bradsby to record bats by weight only. Weight was very important for this particular bat.
Weight: H&B factory records reveal during the timeframe of 1920-1925, Ruth ordered bats from 40 to 46 ounces. This bat weighs in at 42 ounces, a bat quite heavy by any standards. Bats are also known to lose weight, so this bat may have weighed up to 46 ounces at the time it left the factory. Therefore, this bat is consistent with respect to weight to all bats ordered by Ruth during the 1920-25 timeframe, even those factory recorded as non-specified lengths are consistent with this weight range.
Wood: This bat is manufactured from professional grain ash, which is also consistent with all bats sent to Ruth during this time frame.
125 vs. 250 model: 125 is the traditional designation found in the centerbrand of H&B professional model bats. Examination of H&B dealer catalogs from the 1921-31 timeframe show 250 model bats, including Babe Ruth were offered to the general public. This bat is different from them as the wood is higher quality than store model offerings, the knob is hand turned whereas store model bats are found with inch marks which was a process of mass production, and this bat is of a heavy weight not typically offered to the general public. MEARS is quite confident to conclude this 250-model centerbrand bat is consistent with 125 professional model offerings and should not be classified as a store model bat.
Examination of H&B factory records and the examination of professional model Louisville Slugger bats have also confirmed 250 as being manufactured for use for professional players. When examining the actual Louisville Slugger factory archives, MEARS uncovered a shipping ledger with the following reference:
Entry: 8-23-20, Babe Ruth, New York, Amer. His model, 250, finish, 46 ounce.
In addition, MEARS #300639, we examined a 250 professional model bat manufactured for a player name SIMS. The name appeared in block lettering and was side written, “9-23-22 George Shively”.
Therefore, MEARS has both a Louisville Slugger ledger entry specifically for Babe Ruth and an actual example of a 250 professional model bat to support the manufacture of 250 model bats for both Babe Ruth and additional professional ballplayers.
Use: Bat is heavy and even use distributed throughout the length of the bat. Cleat marks are scattered throughout the bats surface. Above the barrel stampings is a 1” x 15” 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 by 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 #306137 referenced bat. Finally, there is a remnant of a return-shipping label. When a player liked a bat and wanted duplicates, the bat was shipped back to the H&B factory. During the 1920s, shipping and packaging was not required and it was a common practice to adhere a label to the bat and return it to the factory in that manner. This bat is consistent with that practice. Although the printed shipping information has long worn away, the remnants are consistent with the factory returned practice. There are also remnants of side writing on the area of the flattened hitting surface. This further confirms this bats place in the Louisville Slugger archived vaults. The exact person that returned the bat is unknown, but we do know this bat originated from the Louisville Slugger archives before being examined by MEARS.
Conclusion: Although this specific bat is not factory recorded, this 250 model is consistent with 125 H&B factory recorded Babe Ruth professional model bats in respect to signature style (First Version), model (R2), centerbrand (1922-25), weight (42 ounces), wood grade, and a comparable flattened hitting surface to a known and documented game used World Series Babe Ruth bat. 125 was the dominate choice of centerbrand, but the 8-23-20 H&B ledger entry does verify Ruth’s request for at least one order of 250 model bats along with the examined SIMS block bat.