It took twenty seasons of American League baseball for the Cleveland Indians to capture their first pennant; a 98-56 record was sufficient to lead the second-place White Sox by two games and propel the club to its first World Series, against Wilbert Robinson’s Brooklyn Robins. The club’s regular season success was marred by the death of shortstop Ray Chapman, beaned in an August 16 game against the Yankees. After the incident, the club dropped as far back in the standings as 3 1/2 games before rallying to a 25-9 record over the season’s final month.
In his first full season as Indians manager, Tris Speaker had acclimated to Cleveland quite nicely after a nine-year career in Boston. During his first full season in the Indians’ outfield, Speaker posted a career-high .386 batting average with a league-leading 211 hits and 41 doubles. In 1920, he bested his career-high batting average by hitting an astounding .388, but it was his leadership that vaulted the ballclub out of its post-Chapman doldrums. Coupled with the late-September indictment of eight White Sox players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series and the path was paved for Cleveland to reach its first-ever World Series.
Playing a best of nine Series, the highly-motivated Cleveland ballclub entered Game 7 ahead, four games to two. The team had already accomplished two milestones in Game 5, posting the only unassisted triple play in World Series history (executed by Bill Wambsganss) as well as the first grand slam in World Series history (courtesy of Elmer Smith). The October 12 game featured two eventual Hall of Fame pitchers in Stan Coveleski and Burleigh Grimes pitted against one another at Cleveland’s home park, Dunn Field. While the game proved to be a pitcher’s duel, the Indians scored one run in each of the 4th, 5th and 7th innings, including a long RBI triple by Tris Speaker in the 5th.
Upon recording the game’s final out (a groundout to short), Cleveland fans and players alike began a frenzied celebration. Manager Speaker initially raced into the owner’s box, where his mother sat, watching the game. He kissed his mother and said a few words to fans and reporters nearby. Meanwhile, 15,000 fans stormed the field, celebrating alongside the players. Speaker, who required a police escort to bring him back to the field, signed autographs and celebrated long after the game’s conclusion.
During the game, a young Ohio boy named Ken Robenstine sat just behind the Cleveland bench, watching his home team clinch the Championship. Seated near or behind Speaker for the entire game, Robenstine participated in the postgame celebration, during which the Cleveland manager handed the young boy the most treasured of gifts: his baseball bat.
Robenstine kept the bat in his possession for more than 70 years, during which time he became a repairman and collector of vintage garden tractors. It was in this capacity that he met our consignor, a fellow collector of tractors (and relative of another Hall of Famer, “Sunny Jim” Bottomley). As the two collectors became friendly, Robenstine eventually told our consignor the story of that memorable game, giving him the bat as a gift. Our consignor has kept the bat ever since.
The bat is a lovely Louivsille Slugger “250” finish model, manufactured between 1919 and 1922. It’s a club, measuring 35.75 inches in length and weighing in at 42.2 ounces. Bats with the 250 finish were considered among the finest offered by Louisville Slugger.The uncracked bat exhibits signs of use including stitch impressions on the left and back barrel as well as cleat impressions on the upper barrel. This, as well as the oral and written history provided by our consignor, has resulted in a grade of PSA/DNA GU 8.
When the bat was provided to us, there was some checking on the reverse barrel, as well as some overall dryness to the finish, for which we enlisted the services of a professional restorer. While we consider this restoration to be immaterial, it is our policy to disclose any restoration performed on items we offer.
While it should be noted that there is no scientific way of unequivocally proving the bat was used by Speaker in Game 7 of the 1920 World Series, the oral history from our consignor is, according to PSA, “consistent and is an honest recollection of the events surrounding its acquisition and subsequent possession by the named owners.” It is important to note that the bat, while certainly exhibiting signs of use and clearly ordered and owned by Speaker, may or may not have actually been used in Game 7. Speaker may certainly have had multiple bats at the game.
For our own part, we conducted our own research into the consignor’s oral history and discovered remarkable consistencies with recorded facts. A Kenneth Robenstine was an Ohio resident in 1920 and later attended Kent State University. His own physical description of his appearance was consistent with yearbook photographs we discovered (i.e. he stated he had a “head shaped like a peanut”), and Robenstine’s passing in 1999 is consistent with the recollection of our consignor.
Tris Speaker was one of the game’s greatest hitters, ranking fifth on the all time list with a .345 lifetime batting average. His 3,514 lifetime hits also ranks fifth, and his 792 lifetime doubles ranks #1 all time. Among players of his era, his bats are very difficult to find, and are also quite desirable. This example carries a tremendous story and outstanding provenance; a newly-discovered example dating back to the Cleveland Indians’ first-ever World Championship and one of the franchise’s most memorable stories.