(Reuters) – Babe Ruth may have died more than 70 years ago, but the baseball slugger is still turning out big numbers.
FILE PHOTO: Babe Ruth’s 500th home run bat is held by SCP Auctions president David Kohler before it goes up for auction in Laguna Niguel, California, U.S., November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
The bat he used to hit his 500th home run in 1929 has sold for $1,000,800, officials for SCP Auctions announced on Sunday.
The bat, a gift from Ruth to a friend in the 1940s, was bought at auction in California by an unidentified buyer, SCP Auctions said.
It follows a bat, which the Sultan of Swat used in 1923 to hit the first home run out of the original Yankee Stadium, that sold for a record $1.3 million in 2004.
“Babe Ruth memorabilia continues to be among the most prized artifacts for all worldwide collectors,” said SCP Auctions President David Kohler in a news release, “and this outstanding bat proved that once again.”
Ruth hit 714 home runs in a 22-season career with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees before retiring in 1935.
He became the first player to hit 30, 40, 50 and 60 home runs in a single season, and his slugging style forever changed the way baseball was played.
The 1929 bat, made of ash, was gifted by Ruth in the mid-1940s to the mayor of Suffern, New York, Jim Rice, a golfing, bowling and drinking buddy of one of baseball’s original Hall of Famers.
For decades the historic bat leaned impassively in a corner of the Rice family den, treated not as a piece of history but more like a piece of furniture no different than the bookcase and coffee table.
After Jim and then his wife passed away, the bat spent three decades hidden in a closet in the home of their only son Terry.
The childhood joy Terry had reveled in from owning such a sporting treasure has given way to dread, the bat too valuable to display or even tell anyone about.
“It just got to the point I couldn’t leave it out,” Rice told Reuters. “I was less cautious years ago but more recently I hardly told anybody.
“I just couldn’t enjoy it, it was hidden away. My girlfriend was afraid to have it here, that somebody would break in so we weren’t enjoying it.
“It just seemed time,” he said.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Lisa Shumaker