It’s one of the great storylines in sports memorabilia and it’s come to life again inside a Pittsburgh-area Goodwill store, where a 24-year-old college student bought an old baseball bat for $2.22 and then discovered it had a rich history that might just make him a few thousand bucks.
The $2.22 belonged to Grant Hartley, a 24-year-old student at BYU who spent time in Heidelberg, Penn., as a summer intern. The bat, as Hartley would eventually find out, belonged to Harold “Pie” Traynor, a Hall of Fame infielder who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates between 1920 and 1937.
The old bat was pulled out of a bin, according to a great story by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Sean Gentile, full of old books and action figures missing their legs. It might have been the one thing of value in there and Hartley was wise enough to snag it. He paid the $2.22 — priced by the pound, btw — took it home and figured out the bat’s story.
And that’s when things got interesting. From the Post-Gazette:
Hartley, a Nampa, Idaho native, began the process while he was still inside the store by Googling words stamped on the bat. Hand-turned; No. 200; oil temp. Not bad for a baseball merch novice.
“I had no idea about antique bats or bat stamps or anything like that,” Hartley said. Though he went to two Pirates games at PNC Park while he was in town, he’s not a particularly huge baseball fan. But I think every kid growing up in the 90s watching ‘The Sandlot’ instantly becomes one,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to find something like, a piece of baseball history.”
After a 20-minute crash course on his iPhone, Hartley had figured out that Spalding, the bat’s manufacturer, periodically changed those stamps — and the version on his Traynor bat was used for eight years in the 20s and 30s. One from that batch that belonged to Traynor’s grandson had gone for $7,000. Another went for about $1,900 in 2016.
— PGVisuals (@PGVisuals) August 11, 2017
Soon after, Hartley reached out to Mears Auctions, which had sold one of the other Traynor bats. Hartley’s find will be up for auction on the Mears site — Aug. 25 is the scheduled date — and it’s expected to fetch a few thousand dollars. An almost hundred-year-old bat that belonged to a Hall of Famer? That now has a fun backstory? Yep, somebody will buy that.
In the grand scheme of sports memorabilia auctions, the bat won’t go for huge money, not like that old baseball-card discovery that recently sold for more than $500,000. But it started as a $2.22 thrift-store find, so anything with a comma is still a big win.
“Pie Traynor used that at Forbes Field,” Kinunen said Friday. “At the end of the season or the end of the game or whatever, he gave it to somebody. He gifted it. He said ‘Here.’ It was common for players. The kid took it home and probably put it in the corner of his basement or garage, and it probably sat there through the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s.
“So for 90 years, it sat laying around somewhere and then somebody bought the house, or they cleaned it out and said, ‘Hey, let’s take this junk to the thrift store.’ It went from Pie Traynor to the thrift store, basically, with one stop at the original owner’s house. Pretty cool.”
Correction: Very, very cool.
And it’s a reminder that some of that old stuff sitting around your garage or attic might be worth an online search before you junk it.
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