The bat that Bucky Dent used to hit his fabled home run in the 1978 AL East tiebreaker against the Red Sox at Fenway Park might not be the one on display at Yankee Stadium. The bat in the Yankee museum is believed to be the same one originally owned by a Long Island resident and later sold at auction for $60,100.
Questions about the bat’s authenticity began earlier this season when Dent and former teammate Mickey Rivers, who lent his bat to Dent on Oct. 2 at Fenway Park, appeared at the Stadium to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the homer and said they did not know what became of the bat.
Rivers, through representative Andrew Levy, said recently he knows “he gave a bat to someone, not clear as to whom.” Levy added that Rivers’ recollection was that he gave it to a youngster. He added that neither Rivers nor Dent “could swear on the Bible that it was the actual bat’’ used for the home run.
Oakdale resident Robin Malasko said her father, Angelo Naples, was given the bat by Rivers after the game. Naples, who was 46 in 1978, was described as a former Newsday transportation fleet manager in a 2007 obituary.
Naples’ family said he sold the bat around 1996 for $5,000 to well-known sports memorabilia collector Barry Halper. Most of Halper’s collection was auctioned in Manhattan by Sotheby’s in 1999.
Dent said the buyer of the purported home run bat, Stephen Waters of the Manhattan-based equity firm Compass Advisers, wrote him a letter in 2004 saying he bought the bat at the auction. When informed that Rivers is not certain if the bat he gave away was the one used by Dent, Waters said Wednesday: “I would prefer to pass on this. Thanks for telling me about your story, I appreciate it.”
Waters’ bat is on loan to the Yankee Stadium museum. Curator Brian Richards did not comment but a spokesman for the Yankees said, “We study evidence very thoroughly before deciding to display any memorabilia.”
Videos from the 1978 game show Yankees batboy Anthony Sarandrea handing Dent a bat from Rivers after Dent fouled a ball off his foot. Rivers had noticed the prior bat Dent was using had a hairline crack in the handle. After Dent’s homer, the tape shows Sarandrea handing the bat to Rivers, who then walked on a 3-and-2 pitch and put the bat on the ground.
“I definitely had the bat in my hand and Mickey came up and grabbed it,’’ said the 58-year-old Sarandrea, a retired New York City police officer now living in Scottsdale, Arizona. “He would have used the same bat and that would have went right into where the other bats are,’’ referring to the bat rack in the dugout. “There’s more than two game bats brought out, just for these circumstances when a bat gets cracked. At least three.”
Malasko said her father was well known to Yankees players and often gained admittance into the clubhouse. But Sarandrea said players do not handle the bats after the game and all of the game-used ones would be located in an area away from the players in the visiting clubhouse.
“We’d get like shopping carts and throw all the bats into one area,’’ Sarandrea said. "Those bats would all be in one big bag.’’
Dent, speaking from Boynton Beach, Florida, said, “The batboy takes the bats. Everybody is running off the field, they take the bats and put them in the bat bags.’’ Dent said he is aware of the bat in the Stadium’s museum but has not seen it and doubts he’d be able to confirm that it is the one he used.
Malasko said her father had the bat signed by Rivers that day and later on by Dent and Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez, who gave up the homer.
“I signed a bat that was handed to me,” Dent said. “I forgot who asked me to sign it, I just signed it. It was Mickey’s bat. He signed it, I signed, I guess they got Torrez to sign it. I don’t know what Mickey did with it because it wasn’t really mine, so I don’t know who he gave it to [who] or what.’’
In an era before game-used equipment had significant value, Sarandrea said: “Rivers gave [bats] out left and right. He was very generous. But I can’t see in the pandemonium of that locker room, the bat wasn’t in his locker, it was in a different area of that clubhouse. That would be incredible to me. My opinion is you couldn’t really tell which bat it is. My final answer would be going back all these years is that it got mixed up with a bunch of other bats.’’
Professional authenticator Dave Bushing, who was the bat expert for the Sotheby’s auction where the bat was sold said he was satisfied with the provenance offered by Halper, whose letter of authentication stated that Naples was given the bat by Rivers. Halper, who died in 2005, once had a fractional ownership of the Yankees.
“You’ve got a credible source in Mickey Rivers, a credible person [Naples] from a newspaper,” Bushing said. “Generally, when someone comes to us with that kind of provenance, we get that from family members all the time. There was no reason for anybody to lie. I can see why [Rivers] doesn’t remember the event 40 years later any better than I remember the [auction] years later. Obviously, Mickey Rivers told him at the time here’s the bat. So, did Mickey Rivers lie? Did Mickey Rivers give him a different bat? Who’s going to argue with Mickey Rivers when he said he gave the bat in 1978? Nobody.’’
Sotheby’s spokeswoman Lauren Gioia said, “Sotheby’s has no reason to doubt the provenance published in the 1999 auction catalog.”
Malasko said her family has no doubt the bat Rivers gave her father was the one Dent used to hit the home run.
“As told to us, on October 2, 1978 our dad was in the locker room after the game,’’ she said in an email. “Mickey Rivers gave our dad the bat and was told that it was THE bat that Bucky Dent hit the home run with. That is the facts as we know it. Our dad was an honest man and would never fabricate this story. Mickey Rivers said that he gave the bat to a kid, if so, why hasn’t anyone come forward knowing the history of the bat? Also why would Yankee Stadium have it in their museum if they didn’t know for sure it was indeed the bat?’’