Bat used by Babe Ruth during 1921 season sells for record $1.85 million

A bat used by Babe Ruth during one of his most productive seasons sold for a record price at a private sale.

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Pennsylvania-based Hunt Auctions announced the sale on Wednesday. The $1.85 million price paid by a private collector topped the $1.68 million paid for another Ruth model bat sold at auction last year, according to Sports Collectors Daily. That piece of lumber was auctioned off by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions.

Officials at Hunt Auctions said that the record-setting bat is the “only known example to offer photographic corroboration,” ESPN reported.

The bat was bought in February 2018 by Justin Cornett, 47, who owns an oil brokerage firm in Houston. According to Sports Collectors Daily, he paid $400,800 (including buyer’s premium) for the bat at Heritage Auctions Platinum Night Sports Collectibles sale in Dallas.

“It’s bittersweet because it’s a special piece that I loved, but I think I’ve had it for a while and it’s time for someone else to enjoy it,” Cornett told Cox Media Group in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

Ruth’s bat, an R2 model, measured 36 inches in length and weighed 44.6 ounces, Sports Collectors Daily reported. The bat’s specifications were confirmed by the Hillerich & Bradbsy Co. manufacturer’s ordering records as being consistent with Ruth’s bats between 1920 and 1921.

“It’s like a lead pipe,” Cornett said in a 2020 interview.

After looking at more than 200 Ruth images from the time period PSA/DNA photo expert Henry Yee photo-matched the bat Cornett had bought, Sports Collectors Daily reported. The photo was taken in 1921 at the Polo Grounds in New York, where the Yankees played until Yankee Stadium opened in April 1923.

The bat Cornett owned matched five key points of the bat in the International News Service photograph: Four V-shaped “witches’ peaks” that extend down the bat’s center, and a one-grain pattern by the bat handle, according to the sports collecting news site.

The 1921 season was arguably Ruth’s finest. He led the major leagues in nine offensive categories, according to He was the leader in home runs (59), runs scored (177), RBI (168), total bases (457) and slugging percentage (.847).

“I am very familiar with the ‘Polo Grounds’ Babe Ruth bat, bringing it into the hobby 30 years ago,” John Taube of PSA Pro Bat Services said in a statement released through Hunt Auctions. “The rich brown patina and the Ruth characteristics that were present, then and now, establish the bat as one of the premier Babe Ruth game-used bats in any collection, public or private.”

The record price for any piece of baseball memorabilia was set in 2019, Sports Collectors Daily reported. A Ruth road jersey dating to the 1928-1930 time frame that was dated between 1928 and 1930 sold at a Hunts Auction sale at Yankee Stadium.

“It is without surprise that the Babe has once again pushed yet another sports memorabilia category to record pricing territory,” said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions. “This baseball bat is as close to a work of art as the medium can allow.”

The name of the person who bought the bat has not been released.

Cornett said he was “honored to be the keeper of the bat” for the past five years.

Cornett has photo-matched several photographs to memorabilia through the years. In 2018 he matched a game-used bat of Ty Cobb he won at an auction the previous year to an iconic image of the Georgia Peach and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

“It wasn’t intentional,” Cornett told Cox Media Group. “I happened to find a photo of something I owned, which legitimized it more.

“I saw the potential for increasing the value of my memorabilia right away.”

Cornett’s detective work resulted in another big sale on Wednesday.

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