An incredible discovery.

Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League's New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.
Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League’s New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.

Easily our favorite part of running a sports auction is the research component.  Digging into the history of an item, a player or a team, and discovering some obscure detail that can improve a story or increase our knowledge is rewarding, challenging, and most importantly, fun.

This time, we’ve found something that’s never been found before, and it has an enormous impact on the key lot in our current auction.

Several weeks ago, we let you know about the Lou Gehrig game-used bat that would be featured in our summer auction.  It is an extraordinary piece with an incredible backstory, and it’s made lots of news since we announced it, appearing in a variety of articles in newspapers, magazines, and also on television.

While we were designing our catalog, however, we actively searched for a photo of Gehrig, holding a Batrite bat.  On the other occasions when Gehrig Batrites have sold at auction, the listings included a photo of Gehrig, selecting a bat from a bat tray that contained some post-1930 Batrite models, but we’d never found a photo of the Iron Horse with a Batrite featuring the “bat wing” logo.

Two weeks ago we discovered one, taken for the Chicago Daily News, featuring Gehrig alongside Bob Shawkey and Babe Ruth.  The photo depicted Gehrig clearly holding a “bat wing” bat, so much so that it could have been an ad for Hanna Batrite.  We reached out to the Chicago History Museum, who owns the rights to the photo, and procured a license.

What they sent us was astonishing: a 1200 DPI scan from the glass plate negative that illustrated the detail on the bat in a way we hadn’t seen before: the grain patterns on the bat appeared to be a match for the bat in our auction!

Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League's New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.
Group portrait of baseball players (left to right) Babe Ruth, Bob Shawkey, and Lou Gehrig of the American League’s New York Yankees, sitting on a batting practice backstop on the field at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1930.

This week we returned the bat to John Taube of PSA/DNA, who conducted a thorough examination of the bat, and arrived at the same conclusion: we had a photo match, and are in possession of the exact bat being held by Gehrig in the photo!

PSA/DNA found nine different points of reference on the subject bat with the bat in the photo, where the grain alignment of the barrel and centerbrand matched perfectly.  Like fingerprints, grain patterns are unique.  This new discovery increased the grade of the bat from PSA/DNA GU 8.5 to PSA/DNA GU 9.

This is the first and currently only Lou Gehrig professional model bat that has ever been photo matched.  Among the rarest pro model bats in the hobby, this photo match enables us to put this very bat in Gehrig’s hands in Comiskey Park in 1930, clearly establishing Gehrig’s use with photographic proof.  No Lou Gehrig bat exists with such impeccable provenance.

This extraordinary discovery could not have been made without help from the fine folks at the Chicago History Museum, or John Taube of PSA/DNA.  We are thrilled to offer this incredible bat, now dated to 1930, perhaps Gehrig’s finest offensive season.  How many of Gehrig’s 220 hits in 1930 were pounded by this bat?

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