Babe Ruth’s 500th Career Home Run Bat Sells at Auction for More Than $1 Million
By Space Coast Daily // December 16, 2019
bat was impeccably preserved and carefully guarded for two generations encompassing 75 years
“I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” – Babe Ruth
(SCPAauctions.com) – George Herman “Babe” Ruth became the first player to reach the 500-homer plateau on August 11, 1929, establishing the career benchmark by which all power hitters are measured to this day.
The bat Ruth used for that historic clout, which sold Saturday for $1,000,800 at auction was gifted by him in the mid-1940s to his friend and former mayor of Suffern, New York, Jim Rice.
Rice’s family had quietly stored it for nearly 75 years until its unveiling at SCP Auctions on the 90th anniversary of The Babe’s legendary milestone.
On August 11, 1929, Babe Ruth stepped to the plate at Cleveland’s League Park leading off the top of the second inning with a career tally of 499 on his stat sheet. He had been hitting homers at a torrid pace, with four in his previous five games.
As the Bambino readied himself at the plate for his first at-bat of the game, Cleveland pitcher Willis Hudlin threw a high fastball “which left home plate much higher and ten times faster than it arrived,” reported New York Times writer William Brandt.
“It soared over the right-field fence near the foul line and was the first run of the afternoon.”
According to the next day’s front-page, above-the-fold article in Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, Ruth had called his shot before the game.
In his story, Gordon Cobbledick wrote about an exchange the Yankees slugger had with the ballpark’s security chief, H. Clay Folger: “Listen,” said the Babe, “I’m going to hit No. 500 today and I tell you what I wish you’d do. I wish you’d find the kid who gets the ball and bring him to me. I’d kinda like to save that one.”
The majestic flight of the ball saw it clear League Park’s 40-foot fence in right, land out of the stadium, and roll down Lexington Avenue where it was picked up by a lucky Indians fan named Jake Geiser.
According to newspaper accounts from the period, Geiser was ushered to the Yankees dugout where Ruth slipped him $20 and a Babe autographed ball in exchange for the historic leather sphere.
Given Ruth’s keen awareness of the milestone ball, it stands to reason he placed equal, if not greater, importance on the bat he used that day.
Number 500 coincided with Babe’s 30th of the season; he would finish with 46 to lead the league for the fourth straight year – a stretch that would reach six in a row and 12 of 14.
It would take 11 more years before another man would reach 500 dingers when Jimmie Foxx achieved the vaunted mark during the 1940 season.
Today, the whereabouts of Ruth’s 500th home run ball is unknown; however, the bat he used to make history on that August 11, 1929 afternoon in Cleveland and the story of its journey are now revealed.
WATCH: SCP Auctions Director Brendan Wells delves into the details of one of the most highly coveted items to ever hit the sports memorabilia market, Babe Ruth’s 500th home run bat. (SCPAauctions.com video)
The bat was impeccably preserved and carefully guarded for two generations encompassing 75 years.
Hidden for decades from a world of collectors who treasure elite Babe Ruth artifacts above all else, Babe Ruth’s 500th Home Run Bat is being introduced to the public here for the first time.
No single sports memorabilia item inspires more awe than a bat used by Babe Ruth. For veteran hobbyists or casual fans, the allure of a bat wielded by Ruth in his prime, the ultimate tool of his trade, is unfailing.
While the total population of Ruth game bats known to exist today measures in the low hundreds, only a few possess a combination of historical importance and physical qualities that can be legitimately classified as museum-caliber.
Not since SCP Auctions brought to market Babe Ruth’s 1923 Yankee Stadium Opening Day Home Run bat in 2004 (sold for a record $1.265 million) have we seen a Ruth bat of near equal dynamics.
Setting aside the bat’s monumental historical importance of hitting number 500, its technical attributes, usage traits and overall aesthetic quality are extraordinary. The ash wood grain, rich amber coloration, and fine patina are marvelous.
The deeply rendered factory center brand and barrel markings complete a perfect package of every desired attribute sought by fastidious bat collectors.