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Ruth home run bat fetches $1.3 million
A piece of sports history fetches more than auction house estimated but doesn't break record.
December 2, 2004: 4:43 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The bat Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run at Yankee Stadium sold for nearly $1.3 million at auction Thursday -- above its presale estimate but well below the $3 million record for sports memorabilia for Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball in 1998.

The bat was bought by Mastronet Inc., a Chicago-based sports and memorabilia company that bought the bat on behalf of an anonymous New York-based collector, according to Sotheby's auction house.

Ruth, who was known as "Bambino," homered with the bat the day Yankee Stadium opened on April 18, 1923.

The famed "Curse of the Bambino" is said to have started with Boston's sale of Ruth to the Yankees before the 1920 season. The Red Sox domination of baseball yielded to the Yankees just a few years later, as the Yanks won the World Series in 1923 while the Red Sox finished dead last that season.

The curse did not end until this year when the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918, after staging the greatest comeback in postseason history to beat the Yankees for the American League championship.

"When Babe Ruth hit the home run with this bat, it set the tone for the 1923 season," Dan Imler, auction coordinator from SportsCards Plus, which presented the sale with Sotheby's, said last month. "It could be said his home run marked the final transfer of power from the Red Sox to the Yankees."

The bat was among hundreds of baseball memorabilia lots in the Sotheby's sale, dubbed "The Babe Comes Home." Other big names linked to items on sale include Dodger pitching great Sandy Koufax, Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle and "Pee Wee" Reese of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

"We believe that this is not only the finest piece of Babe Ruth memorabilia to come on the market, but the finest piece of sports memorabilia," he said.

The bat was originally given to the winner of a high school hitting competition in 1923.

Another big sale item is the ball from Mantle's first major league home run. Mantle signed the ball and wrote "My First H.R. in the MAJORS, May 1, 1951, 4:50 p.m. Chicago."  Top of page

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