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1908-1911 Wee Willie Keeler Pro-Model Bat - PSA/DNA
Starting Bid - $2,500, Sold For - $3,900
Rare Willie Keeler Spadling "Gold Medal" pro-model bat dating from the 1908-1911 manufacturing period. Graded GU 5 by PSA/DNA. "Wee Willie" Keeler was known for using the smallest bat in major league history and the offered example will certainly serve as proof of that. Measuring just 30.5 inches, but weighing 37.5 ounces, it is easily one of the most unique Hall of Famer bats we have ever offered. (To put this bat's size in proper perspective, it should be pointed out that nearly all twelve-year-old Little League players today use a bat thirty inches or longer.)
As explained in the accompanying LOA from PSA/DNA, Spalding Gold Medal series bats were manufactured for professional and retail use from 1908 to 1911. Because of that, PSA/DNA notes that "minus provenance or identifiable player characteristics it is very difficult to place a Spalding bat with the named player." However, it most be pointed out that this bat's length and weight conform perfectly to each of the few known Keeler pro-model examples, as well as the specifications found in Keeler's ordering records on file with H&B. Furthermore, the fact that the knob is hand-rubbed, and does not feature the Spalding trademark logo, further increases its probability of having been produced specifically for Keeler. According to PSA/DNA, the bat is not cracked and "exhibits evidence of outstanding use. Many ball marks are visible on the right, left, and back barrel. Also visible on the bat are several depressions and possible cleat marks. Carved into the handle of the bat are the initials "C W" which identify an individual that used the bat." PSA/DNA concludes by stating that "After a thorough examination of this Wee Willie Keeler professional model bat and its player use characteristics, it is our opinion that the bat is authentic as described. Use by Keeler cannot be confirmed."
Keeler, who once summed up his approach to hitting by stating, “Keep a clear eye, and hit 'em where they ain’t,” was one of the smallest men to play the game. Standing only 5-foot-4 and weighing 140 pounds, he became one of baseball’s greatest hitters in spite of his short stature. Keeler twice led the National League in batting, including a career-high .424 in 1897, and he finished his career with a .341 lifetime average. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939. As mentioned earlier, Keeler pro-model bats are rare. This is one of only a few examples we have seen at auction (all were Spalding Gold Medal models; we have never seen or heard of a surviving H&B model), only two of which were graded higher by PSA/DNA ("7" and "8," respectively). As a point of reference, the two most recent Keeler pro-model bats to appear at auction (one graded GU 5 by PSA/DNA, the other GU 7 by PSA/DNA), sold in 2014 for $27,970 and $19,200 respectively. LOA from John Taube of PSA/DNA. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $3,900
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