MILWAUKEE (CN) – A Wisconsin man claims in court that he is the rightful owner of a 1924 Babe Ruth autographed baseball bat and scrapbook, which he says were stolen from him 30 years ago before showing up online for auction this year.
“On April 20, 1924, in the top of the eighth inning while playing against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium, Babe Ruth socked his first home run of the 1924 season off Senators pitcher Walter Johnson, a baseball legend in his own right. Ruth signed the bat after the game,” according to the complaint filed Wednesday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. “It is believed that to this date, this is the only Babe Ruth bat documented with a photograph of a uniformed Babe Ruth holding the exact bat he signed.”
Michael Robinson accuses SMA Sports & Memorabilia Advisors and Mears On-Line Auctions of trying to sell his stolen 1924 signed Babe Ruth baseball bat and scrapbook.
Babe Ruth is a baseball legend who hit 714 career home runs. The bat he used to hit his 239th home run is at the center of Robinson’s lawsuit.
During the 1924 season, the Los Angeles Evening Herald offered to award an autographed Ruth bat used to hit his first home run of the season to the player in the Los Angeles City Prep League that ended the year with the highest batting average.
That player was Phil Grossman, and the autographed bat came affixed with a custom plate bearing his name.
“Phil Grossman’s family kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles chronicling the batting champ’s efforts through the prep season and his winning of the 1924 Phil Grossman Babe Ruth bat,” the complaint states.
Robinson is Grossman’s nephew, and says he visited his uncle in Los Angeles multiple times growing up.
“Mr. Grossman would mesmerize the young Robinson with old-time stories of baseball characters that seemed larger than life and the 1924 Babe Ruth bat which carried the same mystique,” the lawsuit states. “Robinson knew from an early age that he wanted to continue this connection to his family’s ancestry and baseball history.”
Robinson claims he obtained the bat and scrapbook when Grossman died in 1986 for $3,028 in an auction of Grossman’s estate.
Around 1987, Robinson wanted to sell the bat and scrapbook, so he gave the memorabilia to a man who claimed he would try to find a buyer in Los Angeles.
After a month of not hearing back from the man, Robinson reported the bat stolen to the Bellevue, Wash., Police Department.
As the age of the internet began in the early 1990s, Robinson searched eBay and later set up Google alerts for the 1924 Ruth bat and scrapbook.
According to the complaint, he received thousands of alerts over the years and finally, on March of this year he received a series of relevant alerts, including one that said, “1924 Babe Ruth Autographed First Home Run Bat – Could Become Most Expensive Piece of Memorabilia Ever Sold.”
A March 11 alert directed him to the website www.1924baberuthbat.com. He followed the link and found that defendants Mears and SMA were partners in the sale of the historic bat and scrapbook, the lawsuit states.
Robinson says he immediately contacted a lawyer, who sent a letter to Mears two days after the discovery stating that the memorabilia was stolen and should not be sold.
An attorney on behalf of Mears and SMA promised not to sell the bat and scrapbook until a court case is settled, according to the complaint.
But Robinson says Mears and SMA have refused to disclose the name of the consignor they represent or the location of the bat and scrapbook. He claims he is the rightful owner of the prized memorabilia.
“Robinson is entitled to a declaration of his rights with respect to the 1924 Phil Grossman Babe Ruth bat and scrapbook, and specifically a declaration that Robinson is the full and absolute owner of the 1924 Phil Grossman Babe Ruth bat and scrapbook and entitled to their possession,” the lawsuit states.
Robinson is represented by Allan Foeckler of Cannon & Dunphy in Brookfield, Wis.
SMA is a Wisconsin sports and recreation business management and consulting firm that began in 1994. Mears is a Wisconsin online sports, pop culture and Americana memorabilia sales business.
Neither defendant responded to email requests for comment sent Thursday.