Single-lot auction of bats creating a hobby buzz

Game-used bats are one of the hottest segments of the sports memorabilia hobby, so it’s somewhat ironic that an upcoming sale of four bats that never saw game usage is generating such a buzz among bat collectors.

New York-based Gotta Have It Collectibles is hosting an online auction from Oct. 26 – Nov. 2 that consists of one lot: Four Hillerich & Bradsby bats that made national news in 1962. The bats were used by Roger Maris in a spring training “experiment” that was detailed in a national magazine. Writer Les Lieber asked H&B to custom make bats that were to the exact specifications of those used by Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Frank “Home Run” Baker and Pete Browning. He then had Maris hit baseballs with those four bats, as well as one of Maris’ own “modern” bats, and compared the distances of the hits.

The Roger Maris Bat Experiment Auction on www.gottahaveit.com will feature a single lot of the four bats and will, at the same time, help to launch a relationship between the memorabilia dealer/online auction house and Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. The bats will be displayed at the restaurant starting Oct. 21. A press conference to promote the auction is slated for Oct. 26. Gotta Have It president Pete Siegel said the pre-auction estimate on the bats is $25,000-$35,000, which will come with a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity from John Taube and Vince Malta, along with an affidavit from Lieber.

“This is a fun lot, not that it’s all that much money,” said Siegel, who paid nearly $1 million at the SportsCards Plus/Sotheby’s auction this past June for the contract that sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, and spent nearly that much on Mickey Mantle treasures at the December 2003 Guernsey’s auction at Madison Square Garden. “It’s the story that makes the bats important. We’re hoping to get a lot of active bidding and some mainstream media attention,” said Siegel.

The veteran dealer pointed out that one of the unique aspects of the auction lot is that unlike most game-used items, you can definitively place the bats in Maris’ hands to prove that they were used at the time noted. After all, a May 1962 magazine article with 14 million readers is about as good as it gets in terms of provenance.

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