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Rare 1967-1970 Johnny Bench Rookie-Era Pro-Model Bat
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $4,200
Rare rookie-era Johnny Bench H&B signature-model ("R161") bat dating from the 1967-1970 manufacturing period. This is the finest Johnny Bench bat we have ever offered and one that would be the highlight of any advanced Johnny Bench or Cincinnati Reds collection. It also has an interesting provenance. Our consignor purchased this bat from noted uniform authenticator and Cincinnati Reds collector Dave Grob in 1998 and it is accompanied by a letter from Grob, dated September 5, 1998, detailing its history. In his letter Grob relates that he obtained this bat from a family member of a former Cincinnati Reds groundskeeper, who obtained it during the 1968 season. The bat measures 35.5 inches in length and weighs 32.4 ounces. In correspondence with Rex Bradley of the Hillerich & Bradsby Company (the letter accompanies the bat), Grob learned that Bench only ordered model 35.5 inch model R161 bats in the four-year span 1967 to 1970. Additionally, in email correspondences with bat expert Vince Malta (copies of which also accompany the bat) it was determined that the design of the "Powerized" stamping on the bat dated to the years 1964-1968. However, based upon further research by Malta in the years that followed he has now determined that the "Powerized" stamping seen on this bat was actually in use between the years 1964 to 1972, hence our dating of this bat to the 1967 to 1970 manufacturing period.
This is one of the earliest Johnny Bench bats we have seen and, if Grob's original source is correct, one that most likely dates to his 1968 Rookie of the Year season. The bat, which is not cracked, displays moderate use, including ball marks and checking (grain separation) on the side of the barrel. Bench batted .275 with 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 1968. In the next two seasons Bench clearly established himself as the top catcher in the game. In 1969 he hit .293 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI. The following year Bench won the MVP Award by virtue of his .293 average, and league-leading totals in both home runs (45) and RBI (145). Today, Johnny Bench is regarded by many as the greatest catcher in baseball history. A fourteen-time All-Star selection, Bench twice was named league MVP and was one of the main cogs of Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine," one of baseball's most memorable dynasties, during the 1970s. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989 and in 1999 was one of two catchers selected to Baseball's All-Century Team.
Reserve $2,000. Estimate $5,000+. SOLD FOR $4,200
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