The Louisville Slugger bat that Babe Ruth used to hit his record-breaking 500th home run in 1929 has emerged from its storage closet and is coming up for auction in November. If you want it, be prepared to back up an armored car stuffed with money, because it’s estimated to fetch more than $1 million.
The bat, which is owned by New York attorney Terry Rice, wasn’t lost or forgotten about. It’s a beloved family heirloom, and was simply put away for safe keeping. Rice told the Associated Press that he always knew what it was and what it could be worth, and didn’t feel comfortable having it out in his home. Which is understandable, considering it was used by one of baseball’s all-time greats and its very first major superstar.
But how did such an important bat end up in his possession in the first place? How did it become a Rice family heirloom? Rice told the whole story to the AP. Rice’s father, Jim, was the mayor of Suffern in the 1940s, and a good friend of Ruth’s. They would golf and bowl together (one day at the bowling lanes, Jim beat Ruth five straight times), and Ruth was a frequent visitor to the Rice household. As a token of their friendship, Ruth gave Mayor Rice the bat as a gift.
Terry was born a few years after Ruth died so he never met the great slugger, but remembers the bat well. It wasn’t locked away in a safe or kept behind glass. It was part of his everyday life, leaning against the wall of the den just behind the TV. He told the AP that while he was never told he couldn’t touch it, he never actually played with it. In fact, the bat still retains many marks from its original owner. There are indentations from where it hit the ball, paint from where it sat in the dugout between at-bats, and marks from where Ruth would use it to knock the dirt out of his cleats.
The bat, which passed to Rice after his parents died, was recently authenticated and given the highest grade possible. SCP Auctions estimates that it could fetch over $1 million, but that might end up being on the low side. SCP sold another Ruth bat 15 years ago, which he used to hit a home run on the opening day of his 1923 MVP season. That bat, which wasn’t used to set any MLB records, sold for $1.26 million in 2004.
Rice has two older sisters, and the oldest remembers Ruth picking her up as a child and accidentally bonking her head on a chandelier. That incident hasn’t dampened their collective love for Ruth, and they each still have a Ruth memento that was given to their father. They agreed together to sell the bat, and they plan to split the proceeds of the sale. SCP Auctions is handling the sale of the bat, and bidding will take place from Nov. 27 and Dec. 14. If you have a baseball fan in your life and you have a boatload of extra money lying around, it would make a fantastic holiday gift.
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