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Unique Honus Wagner Bat to be Auctioned August 11

'Most Historic Bat Associated with Louisville Slugger' According to Authenticators

Wagner Side Written Bat Circa 1905

Bat Used to Make His Original Louisville Slugger Graded A10*

Hobbyists and non-hobbyists know that "The Honus Wagner Card" has a life of its own - it is the most coveted of sports collectibles, with its ultimate exchange resulting in a price of over a million dollars.

Experts estimate that there are somewhere between 60-100 samples of the rare tobacco card known to exist in varying conditions.

Now, a unique Wagner item, a one-of-a-kind, game-used baseball bat which helped to launch the American institution, Louisville Slugger bats, has emerged. The highest grade of the card samples sold for a staggering $1.3 million. This truly unique game-used bat has the potential to surpass that figure.

Wagner Side Written Bat Circa 1905

The bat, manufactured by a local firm in Pittsburgh for Wagner, was sent to Louisville Slugger by the great Pirates star to be used as the model for his signature bats. Wagner would be the first endorser for the company, which continues to this day to produce signature-bearing bats for ballplayers.

While Hillerich & Bradsby had been producing bats since 1884 under the Louisville Slugger brand, their products to this point did not bear individual player names.

The century-old bat will be the feature item in an auction to be conducted by Vintage Authentics, culminating August 11, 2005. Bidding will take place online, by phone or by fax.

"When we obtained this item and realized its importance, it sent a chill down my spine," said Steve Jensen, a partner and co-CEO of Vintage. "It was like finding the original handwritten formula for Coca Cola, or Henry Ford’s sketches for the Model T. Everyone knows Louisville Slugger’s place in the development of baseball, and this is the bat that gave birth to the familiar signature models produced for players throughout the game’s history."

The bat originated from the vaults of Louisville Slugger in Kentucky and was part of the Louisville vault find from the early 1980’s. The bat was obtained from a private collector and has never before been auctioned.

It is the bat that M.E.A.R.S (formerly known as SCD Authentic), through its recognized bat experts Dave Bushing, Troy Kinunen and Dan Knoll, believes to be "the most historical bat associated with the Louisville Slugger bat company." Dated between 1897 and 1905, the bat has been determined to exhibit at least one full season of use by Wagner, possibly the 1903 season, that of the very first World Series. It is this very bat, 34 ¼ inches, 39 ½ ounces, made of seasoned ash which Wagner requested Louisville Slugger model all of their future bats for his use after.

M.E.A.R.S graded the bat with an A10* designation, the star indicating that the item has the added element of historical significance. Only three other graded bats have earned the A10* designation.

The fact that this bat could have possibly been used in the first World Series (Pittsburg vs. Boston) – no other such bat is known to have ever appeared – only adds to the historic importance of this remarkable piece.

According to Bushing/Kinunen/Knoll, the manufacturer of the bat was "Pittsburg Lucky Special", a local bat company that supplied equipment to Wagner’s team, the Pittsburg Pirates. (Pittsburg was not spelled with a closing "h" at the time). Honus was the first Major League player to sign an endorsement deal with Louisville Slugger, thus making this bat the first one ever submitted to the famed company for replication.

Prior to 1905, bats did not carry player names. That year, Wagner became the first paid endorsee of the Louisville Slugger company, and handed them this game-used model to craft his personal edition. An employee at Louisville Slugger marked the bat in grease pencil, "John Wagner" in block letters. There are additional markings enabling the company to preserve the specifications for all of his future bat orders.

From that point forward, bats would carry player names, a practice still in effect to this day.

"The bat exhibits heavy game use," according to Bushing/Kinunen/Knoll’s 815-word report (click here to view the entire report). "The surface is covered with a blackened vintage patina, and there is a 5" multiple handle crack. To further support the fact that this bat was one favored by Wagner, approximately 17 vintage repair nails have supported the back of the barrel, consistent with repair techniques for bats of this era."

The Opening Bid on the Wagner bat is $50,000.

Game-used bats are among the most coveted items for collectors. The bat used by Babe Ruth to hit the first Yankee Stadium home run sold for $1.26 million last December at Sotheby’s. In 2002, Shoeless Joe Jackson’s "Black Betsy" bat sold for $577,610 at auction. Vintage Authentics itself sold a Wagner "decal bat" last fall for over $100,846. At Vintage’s last auction, in April, a game-used Ruth bat brought over $235,000 and a Ty Cobb game-used bat sold for $109,178. That bat, traced to 1905, was the first to bear the John H. Wagner signature imprint, and thus likely to have been the first produced from this new offering.

Wagner, still considered by many to have been the greatest shortstop in the game’s history, was one of the first five players selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. For much of the first half of the 20th century, fans debated whether he or Ty Cobb, and then later Babe Ruth, was the game’s greatest player. He was generally thought to be the greatest player in National League history until his records began to fall to Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Pete Rose. But his eight batting titles, including 1903 and 1904 when this bat was likely used, remains a National League record, since equaled by Tony Gwynn. He died fifty years ago this December 6.

The auction will culminate on Thursday, August 11, 2005, at 10 PM EDT. Bids can be placed via phone, fax (763-208-2890), and email (staff@vintageauthentics.com). Visit www.vintageauthentics.com or call 866-304-3090 for more information.

Vintage Authentics is a sports memorabilia auction company based in Golden Valley, MN. Steve Jensen, Mark Redmond and Ryan Guldberg are the founders, partners and co-CEOs.

Source: Vintage Authentics
Date: June 15, 2005

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