A tale of two bats, and the Sul­tan of Swat’s 60th home run in 1927

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - VIN A. CHERWOO

As part of its col­lec­tion NEW YORK of Babe Ruth items, the Base­ball Hall of Fame says it has the bat the slug­ger used to hit his then-record 60th home run in 1927.

A pri­vate col­lec­tor also claims to own the bat, and he’s sell­ing it at auc­tion. PSA/DNA, one of the lead­ing sports mem­o­ra­bilia au­then­ti­ca­tors, sup­ports his as­ser­tion.

The dis­pute dates back more than 90 years to the orig­i­nal owner of each bat and how he pro­fessed to ac­quire it.

The bat be­ing sold by the anony­mous col­lec­tor can be traced back to Joe E. Brown, the en­ter­tainer and vaude­ville co­me­dian with whom Ruth had a friend­ship. Brown said Ruth, who had pre­sented him with the bat the slug­ger used to hit three home runs in the 1926 World Se­ries, per­son­ally gave him the bat used to hit his 60th homer in 1927. The bat is signed, “To Joe E. Brown From Babe Ruth.”

Brown then passed the bat down to his son Joe L. Brown, who was gen­eral man­ager of the Pitts­burgh Pi­rates from 1955-76. The younger Brown then sold the bat to a col­lec­tor.

“There is doc­u­men­ta­tion back to (Joe L.) Brown’s own­er­ship and his talk­ing about the bat that goes back to a sports writ­ers’ lun­cheon in 1948,” PSA au­then­ti­ca­tor Jon Taube told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a phone in­ter­view.

“Even be­fore that the bat is men­tioned from his col­lec­tion in a 1939 base­ball cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion ... We also have a let­ter that con­tin­ues the story from his grand­son Ty Brown that talks about the bat com­ing out at Christ­mas­time.”

The bat in the Hall of Fame was given to the mu­seum by sports writer James Kahn in 1939, and Kahn was quoted in the Ot­sego Farmer — a news­pa­per in Coop­er­stown, N.Y., where the Hall of Fame is lo­cated — as say­ing at the time that then-Yan­kees man­ager Miller Hug­gins gave him the bat af­ter the game on Sept. 30, 1927.

Taube, who has done ex­ten­sive re­search on Ruth’s bats, doesn’t dis­pute Kahn was given a bat af­ter that game, but he doesn’t be­lieve it was the one used for the record­break­ing homer.

“It’s very un­likely that on Sept. 30, Miller Hug­gins comes down into the locker-room and says, ‘Babe, give me the bat that you broke the record with’ and then he hands it to a beat writer,” Taube said.

“And we just think it was very un­likely Hug­gins came out of the dugout and handed him THE bat. He handed him a bat, there’s no ques­tion about that. Was it the bat that hit the 60th home run? I doubt that very highly.”

An­other com­pli­cat­ing part of Kahn’s story is that he changed the de­tails. Chal­lenged by Brown at the lun­cheon, Kahn then said he got the bat from Ruth.

“The re­la­tion­ship (Ruth) had with Joe Brown, and the fact he had al­ready gifted him with the 1926 World Se­ries bat,” Taube said, “and es­pe­cially that the sea­son wasn’t over yet when Kahn says Miller Hug­gins and/or Ruth gave him the bat — we just don’t see that hap­pen­ing.”

The Hall of Fame re­it­er­ated it is con­fi­dent the bat in its pos­ses­sion is the one Ruth used to hit the his­toric homer.

“The Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Fame and Mu­seum is ded­i­cated to pre­serv­ing base­ball’s his­tory,” Jon Sh­es­takof­sky, the hall’s vi­cepres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and education, said in an email to The As­so­ci­ated Press. “One of the in­sti­tu­tion’s pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is to en­sure that ar­ti­facts in our col­lec­tion are por­trayed ac­cu­rately. When re­search shows that an ob­ject is in­cor­rectly la­belled, or when we have been pre­sented with ev­i­dence that proves an ar­ti­fact is mis­at­tributed, we re­solve the mat­ter ap­pro­pri­ately and with trans­parency.

“The Hall of Fame re­mains very com­fort­able with the sound prove­nance and au­then­tic­ity of the bat in our col­lec­tion. The Mu­seum’s stance on the bat has not changed since it was ac­ces­sioned in 1939. Given the lack of proof to the con­trary, we will con­tinue to main­tain that the bat in our col­lec­tion is the one Babe Ruth used to hit his 60th home run of 1927.”

Taube said he was not aware of any other in­stance where there were mul­ti­ple claims of such a high-pro­file item. He also wanted to make it clear he wasn’t try­ing to chal­lenge the Hall of Fame.

“I re­spect them. It’s a base­ball shrine,” he said. “You have to un­der­stand, during the day, there was no prove­nance. Many of the items that were given to the hall were pre­sented as, ‘Here’s the bat that did this, here’s the glove’ and there was no fol­lowup. “No­body is per­fect.” Bid­ding on the bat be­ing sold by the anony­mous col­lec­tor through Her­itage Auc­tions runs through May 18. In full dis­clo­sure for po­ten­tial buy­ers, the story of the ex­is­tence of the bat in the Hall of Fame is de­tailed on the item’s list­ing.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS/FILES

New York Yan­kees slug­ger Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in the 1927 sea­son. Both the Base­ball Hall of Fame and a pri­vate col­lec­tor claim to have the bat he used to hit the fi­nal dinger.

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