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Rare 1908-1911 Frank Chance Pro-Model Bat - MEARS & PSA/DNA LOAs
Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $13,200
Frank Chance Spalding "Gold Medal Autograph" signature-model bat (predating model numbers) dating to the 1908-1911 manufacturing period. Graded A7.5 by MEARS. This is one of only seven Frank Chance pro-model bats we have seen at auction in the past twenty-five years (four were Spalding models, one was an H&B model, and the other was an off-brand model) and of those seven it represents the second highest-graded example (highest-graded MEARS example; topped only by a side-written H&B example graded GU8.5 by PSA/DNA). It is also one of only two examples that is free of any handle cracks. The bat, which measures 34.5 inches and weighs 44.5 ounces, is composed of professional-grade ash and features deep and well-defined manufacturer’s stampings on the barrel that read “Spalding/Gold Medal/Frank L. Chance/Autograph.” (All of the stampings are in block letters, with the exception of Chance’s facsimile signature.) Heavy use is evident along its entire length, including slight deadwood on the reverse of the barrel, a slight sliver of missing wood near the top, reverse barrel, and a tiny chip in the knob.
While the Spalding “Gold Medal Autograph” model was available at the retail level, this bat has a number of distinguishing features which conclusively identify it as a pro-model example made expressly for use by Frank Chance. The first and most important distinction is the bat’s knob. All Spalding retail bats from this era bear a Spalding logo on the knob; whereas the offered bat does not. It was specifically hand-turned as opposed to having been mass-produced. Its specifications are also important. This bat measures 34.5 inches, whereas all of the retail models (as noted by an examination of retail catalogs from the period) were produced in even measurements (i.e., 33 inches, 34 inches, 35 inches, etc). Furthermore, Chance was a known Spalding endorser, and Spalding bats were used by most professional players in the early 1900s prior to H&B’s eventual dominance of the market beginning around 1908. There are no Spalding factory records from the time, however; Chance’s H&B factory records, while minimal, do correspond perfectly to the offered bat with regard to weight (no lengths are noted in the H&B records). Chance’s only surviving H&B file card reads: “His Old Frank Chance, Model: C131, 42 oz., caliper only. Diagram length: No length specified; Round end. 1911; No specified model, 45 oz.” Lastly, this bat’s specifications compare favorably to nearly all of the other few surviving Frank Chance pro-model bats.
Frank Chance, known as "The Peerless Leader," was the player/manager of the Cubs from 1905 to 1912, a span which witnessed the club capturing four pennants and two World Championships. Despite that success, he is best known today for his inclusion in what is regarded as baseball's most famous double-play combination: Tinker to Evers to Chance. He was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946 along with both Tinker and Evers. Frank Chance pro-model bats, as noted, are particularly rare and are represented in very few collections of early Hall of Famer pro-model bats. This is an outstanding example in all respects, and one that would be the highlight of any advanced bat collection. As a point of reference, this bat last sold at auction for $12,597 in 2006, and the last Frank Chance Spalding pro-model bat (graded GU6 by PSA/DNA) to appear alone at auction sold for $31,070 in 2013. Graded A7.5 by MEARS (5 point base grade, plus 3 points for use, but with a half-point deduction for the slight deadwood and tiny missing sliver of wood on the back of the barrel). LOAs from Troy Kinunen and Dave Bushing/MEARS and John Taube and Vince Malta of PSA/DNA (authentication letter only, not graded). Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $13,200
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