Winter Premier Auction 2021

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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/3/2021

Lou Gehrig’s career spanned two of the greatest dynasties in sports history: the 1920s Murderer’s Row Yankees and the 1936-1939 Yanks who won four consecutive World Championships. When Babe Ruth left the team after 1934, Gehrig was finally able to take center stage, and he responded with some of his finest seasons. In 1936, bolstered by rookie Joe DiMaggio, the Yankees won their first pennant since 1932. Gehrig hit a magnificent .354 and led the league with 49 home runs. 1937 was almost a carbon copy of the previous year, with a .351 average and 37 homers. After winning two consecutive World Championships, the Yankees and Lou Gehrig were looking forward to more of the same in 1938. Gehrig was a robust 35 years of age, a seasoned veteran who took care to live right and prided himself on his determined work ethic that saw him playing every single game since June 1, 1925. As the books opened on the 1938 season, the team proceeded to live up to expectations, all except their first baseman. Though he appeared in his usual top physical condition, Lou started the season off slow. For the only time since his first full season in 1925, Gehrig was consistently hitting below .300 and most noticeably, without his ferocious power. As he told a reporter, "I was tired mid-season. I don't know why, but I just couldn't get going again."

In order to snap out of his batting lull, Gehrig began tinkering with the bats he was using. Players have always adjusted the length and weights of their bats to snap out of slumps, but this was one of the only times in Gehrig’s career that he did so. It was during this time, September 7, 1938 to be exact, that Gehrig placed an order with Hillerich & Bradsby for this 34-inch, 36-ounce Bill Dickey model Louisville Slugger. This bat was 3-ounces less than those he ordered in July, and it is obvious Gehrig believed a lighter bat would help him get around better on the fastball. With all the different weights of bats he was experimenting with at this point, Gehrig instructed Hillerich & Bradsby to stamp the weight on the knob, again, something unique in the Hall of Famer’s career. Gehrig closed the book on the regular 1938 season with a .295 average, 29 homers and 114 RBI. For anyone else, batting just shy of .300 and knocking in over 100 runs would have been a career year, for a premier superstar like Lou Gehrig, they were far below par. In the 4-game sweep of the Cubs, Gehrig had four hits in 14 at-bats, all singles. Again, it appeared his power had fallen off, but no one suspected anything other than an off-year for a man who had played every single game for almost 14 seasons.

In spring training, Gehrig couldn’t seem to hit the ball with any authority and appeared physically tired. Still, most expected the veteran to snap out of it, and he was in the lineup as usual as the season opened. But after only eight games, Gehrig voluntarily took himself out of the lineup for good. In June he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the fatal illness that would bear his name and claim his life just two years later. In the decades that followed, fans, historians and doctors would scour Gehrig’s 1938 season for signs of the illness that took his life. Looking at cold stats years later it is easy to see that he declined sharply that summer, but without the benefit of hindsight, those present in 1938 had no idea that they were witnessing Gehrig’s final full season. That is what makes this bat all the more significant. Ordered by Lou Gehrig during the end of that final season with possible use in the World Series and the following spring, this bat was one of the last ones he swung in his Hall of Fame career.

The bat is un-cracked and displays outstanding game use. Numerous ball marks are visible on the right and back barrel along with green bat rack paint streaks. The aforementioned weight stamp “36” is found stamped into the knob. The center brand and barrel stamping are strong and the ash has taken on a deep golden glow that makes this bat visually compelling. As if anything else can make this Lou Gehrig gamer any more significant, it is its solid provenance from fellow Hall of Famer and longtime Yankees center fielder, Earle Combs. The two men had come up to the Yankees together in the early 1920s and by 1938 Combs had transitioned to a Yankees coach, responsible for tutoring Joe DiMaggio on the finer aspects of playing center field. This bat was gifted to him by his old teammate Gehrig, and has been in the Combs family ever since. An incredible, museum-worthy bat from one of baseball’s most admired heroes, used during his final days as a player and possibly during the ’38 World Series. Graded a perfect GU10, this bat comes with a LOA from PSA/DNA and a letter of provenance from the family of Earle Combs.

Estimate: $500,000+

Bidding
Current Bidding (Reserve Has Been Met)
Minimum Bid: $50,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $715,120
Number Bids: 26
Auction closed on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
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