Monday, July 18, 2011

Hunt Auctions: Sing Sing Prison

Baseball extends beyond walls and barriers. It travels past borders and vast oceans to spread its gospel to the masses. It even finds a home within the US penitentiary system. Prison league ball during the days of barnstorming and exhibition games was highly popular and well attended events (by inmates, that is). Newspapers came out to report on them and true Major League stars came out to play on the field; including the Big Bambino. In fact, here is an artifact from Ruth's own hands from one of the more famous prison events featuring the Sing Sing Prison "Black Sheep" and the 1929 Yankees. I'll let the auction description tell you more about this famous bat.
On September 5, 1929 Ruth and his Yankees teammates were slated to play in a slightly different style of barnstorming game... (They) were overwhelmed by autograph seekers from the inmate population even signing while running the bases... Ruth was batting in the second inning when he absolutely destroyed a pitch that soared high above the forty foot tall prison wall. The ball was noted to have cleared the wall, over the heads of the prison guards (who deserted their machine guns to follow the path of the ball), continuing past the New York Central Railroad tracks, and ending its journey below the prison administration building. At the time the blast was estimated to have travelled nearly 620 feet in total which was believed to have been the longest of Ruth's career. Subsequent accounts and evaluations of the homerun dimensions have placed the distance at slightly less but by all measure it is clear that the ball flew well over 550 feet. As the most followed athlete of the day one can easily understand the buzz that rose from the Ruth homerun that date. Multiple newspaper and wire accounts spread across the country including the New York Times who wittingly noted, "His second inning drive which traversed the long diagonal of the rectangle before making its getaway past the centre field guardhouse, was jotted down by prison statisticians as the longest non-stop flight by an object or person leaving Sing Sing by that route for the past handful of decades." Upon rounding first base, the prison team baseman (who had 10 years left on a 25 year sentence) exclaimed, "Gee, I wish I was riding out of here on that one!"
This is the bat Ruth used for slam that home run. It belonged within the collection from the prison's former athletic director, and sold for $110,000.00.

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