1951 Joe DiMaggio Game Used All-Star Bat (35.5")
One of the finest pieces of royal memorabilia from Joe D's final season of 1951, this hale and hearty Louisville Slugger personal model All-Star Game bat is one of only a handful of custom All-Star bats made for Joe, as Hillerich & Bradsby only began making these special models for players in 1949. Though his playing time was truncated by nagging injuries that season, he was of course chosen for an All-Star berth, but did not play in the NL's 8-3 win at Detroit's Briggs Stadium on July 10th -- a game put out of reach by a 2-run homer by Ralph Kiner, the kind of blow that would have made for a perfect Joe D valedictory symbol. But at least Joe was healthy enough to hit .263 with 12 HRs and 71 RBIs and then be a critical factor in the Yankees' championship that season, with a big homer and 5 RBIs against the Giants in the World Series. Of course, the very fact that the bat is from '51 has added meaning. It was the year Mickey Mantle arrived, stealing much of Joe D's old thunder and, at the order of Casey Stengel, a good many fly balls that Joe could no longer run down in centerfield. Seeing the kid grab his glory and encroaching on his turf must have eaten at Joe's pride like battery acid, and may have led to the awful incident that altered Mantle's career. It happened in Game 2, top of the 5th, when Willie Mays hit a flyball to right-center. Mantle immediately made for it, but Joe D called him off and Mantle braked and caught his spike in a drain, ripping apart his knee. If Joe D ever felt remorseful about causing the terrible injury, he never let on. Indeed, Joe's icy demeanor was a constant, and Mantle in particular always felt the chill, even years later. Still, for the public Joe D's final season must have seemed like a farewell tour, full of joy, tributes and sadness that the game would be losing "the great Dimaggio," as Santiago called him in Heningway's "The Old Man and the Sea." Soon, the world would need to know where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?", having lived with him for so long as a constant, when searching for his name in the boxscores in the paper at the breakfast table was an American ritual. The custom All-Star bat was 1 of 2 presented to him by H&B, and these have long been hunted by collectors with little success, until now. While we don't know where the other bat is, this one is in our hands. Bat has Joe's facsimile signature engraved into the barrel between "All Star Game" and "Detroit - 1951". Model number "D29L" is engraved into the knob. Bat confirms that Joe liked a heavy bat, at 35-oz. Plenty of ball seam marks on the fat of the barrel, and the grain is compressed from all the hitting Joe did with the at, which he obviously used beyond the All-Star break -- which classifies it as among the last bats he used in his career. The caramel colored, uncracked bat is at the same time smooth and rugged -- the perfect symbol of the man himself.