Published: December 7, 2004
On December 2, in an overflowing salesroom, Sotheby’s and Sportscards Plus sold Babe Ruth’s signed bat used to slam the first home run in Yankee Stadium for $1,265,000, a record for a baseball bat at auction. Applause erupted in the room when a representative of the Chicago-based MastroNet, Inc, a sports and collectibles auction house, purchased the bat on behalf of an anonymous East Coast collector.
Coined the “The Holy Grail” of sports memorabilia, the bat is one of only three pieces of sports memorabilia to eclipse the $1 million mark. It was included in a sale of important baseball memorabilia, which brought a total of $4,687,486.
Lee Dunbar, director of Sotheby’s collectibles department, and David Kohler, president of SportsCards Plus, said, “The sale was a home run. This bat has the distinction of being the second most valuable piece of sport memorabilia ever sold, tying the price achieved for Honus Wagner T206 Baseball Card PSA 8. The success of the sale reinforces the fact that baseball is still America’s national pastime.”
The Babe’s spectacular home run in Yankee Stadium’s first game on April 18, 1923, is often recalled as one of the most dramatic moments in sports history. Doug Allen, president and chief operating officer of MastroNet, Inc, who purchased the bat on behalf of the private collector, noted: “Every now and then there’s an rdf_Description that makes me forget it’s a business and brings me back to being a collector and a fan. This is one of them and it’s worth every penny.” Allen continued, “The bat will be featured in the most comprehensive and valuable New York Yankees and Babe Ruth collection known.”
After his home run, Ruth, always supportive of kids and young ball players, donated the bat to The Los Angeles Evening Herald newspaper to be awarded as the top prize in a high school home run hitting contest. On the bat, the Babe inscribed, “To the Boy Home Run King of Los Angeles ‘Babe’ Ruth, N.Y. May 7, 1923.” The bat was awarded to Victor Orsatti by the Herald on June 7, 1923. Upon his death in 1984, Orsatti willed the bat, along with all of his personal effects, to his caretaker. She kept it in her possession, under her bed, until now.
In honor of Orsatti, and in the spirit of Babe Ruth’s inclination towards helping children, she intends to use a portion of her proceeds from the sale of this bat to fund a baseball program at an orphanage in Mexico, where she now spends a great deal of her time.
Together with the bat is a telegram from Ruth congratulating Orsatti on his win, as well as an album of newspaper cuttings and other mementoes relating to the contest.
A complete review of the sale will appear in a future issue.
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