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Story Doesn't Jibe, but DiMaggio Bat Still a Great Catch

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
June 29, 2005

Dear Babe: I have a bat given to me by Al "Zeke" Zarilla, who played for the Red Sox and St. Louis Browns. He was a neighbor back in 1975. The bat is a Louisville Slugger engraved "Joe DiMaggio, All Star Game, Detroit 1951." Zarilla said Joe used it when he hit a home run in the game. The handle end is marked D29L.
Chuck Jones, Riverside, Calif.

Here's a perfect example of why it is so hard to authenticate memorabilia. Either you or Zarilla don't have a story that stands the test of time. It does appear, however, that you do have an authentic - and rare - DiMaggio All-Star bat. For starters, while Zarilla and DiMaggio were All-Star teammates in 1948, Zarilla was not an all-star in 1951. Further, DiMaggio not only failed to homer in 1951, he didn't even play, so it's not a game-used DiMaggio bat. Why Zarilla was at that game and how he came by the bat is a mystery. After reading Richard Ben Cramer's "Joe DiMaggio The hero's Life," it's apparent the Yankee Clipper didn't count teammates among his friends, so it's doubtful Zarilla would fall into that category, especially since he was playing for the rival Red Sox in 1951. Further, it seems DiMaggio kept pretty close tabs on his equipment. Still, there's little doubt that based on your description, the bat is DiMaggio's All-Star bat from 1951. Other than the year and location, your bat sounds identical, right down to the "D29L" on the knob, to a 1949 game-used DiMaggio All-Star bat that MastroNet.com sold for a whopping $52,774. That game was played in Brooklyn's Ebbet's Field.

However, that game belonged to Joe DiMaggio, who had a single, a double and three runs batted in. American League manager Lou Boudreau had received a bit of heat for adding DiMaggio to the squad. He was battling a heel injury, hadn't played until June 28 and was a non-contender in fans' balloting. However, Boudreau chose him as a reserve and put him in the starting lineup when Tommy Heinrich injured his knee. I guess that's one reason the Cleveland Indians won it all in 1948 with Boudreau as the player-manager.

Oh yes, a value for your bat. I talked with David Kohler, president of SportscardsPlus.com in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Mike Heffner, president of Lelands.com auction house in New York, and Brian Marren, vice president of acquisitions for the MastroNet.com Auctions in Chicago. The consensus is the bat should fall short of the price realized for that 1949 bat. How much? That remains to be seen. The experts put it in the $20,000-$40,000 range. That's a fairly large spread, but with the bats being so rare, we won't know much until the final gavel falls.

Dear Babe: I have an autographed copy of Pete Rose's new book. I met him in an airport and had him sign the front inside cover of the book. It has his signature and the famous "Hit King" underneath the signature.
Blake Roberts, Wichita Falls, Texas

It would appear that Pete "Gambling" Rose may have finally worn out his welcome with collectors. At least that appears to be the case with his book, "Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars." Three signed copies sold in recent eBay auctions for $15-$25. When it comes to unsigned copies, the biggest auction price looked like $6 plus S&H. One book sold for just a dime plus $4.89 S&H. It's worth noting Rose charges $25-$45 for a signature at shows, according to Beckett's monthly baseball card guide. You did the right thing by getting him to sign at the airport for free.

Dear Babe: I have a number of ticket stubs for World Series games in New York. I have stubs from the first two games between the Yankees and Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1951. I have stubs from the first three games (two at Yankee Stadium and one at Ebbets Field) from the 1953 Series between the Yankees and Dodgers. Finally, I have stubs for the first two games a Yankee Stadium of the 1957 Series between the Yanks and Milwaukee Braves.
John Fesperman, Waycross, Ga.

All the games involved the Yankees, but a couple of stubs come from the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field, which no longer exist. I'd say most of the stubs are worth $50-$75 each with the one from Ebbets Field possibly topping out at $100.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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