Just one day removed from his East St. Louis Central High School graduation in downstate Illinois, 17-year-old Bob Turley inked a deal with the St. Louis Browns. What ensued was a journey defined by extensive travel, hard work and ultimately, championship prominence and recognition as one of the game’s most accomplished pitchers. Issued to Turley for use in the 1954 All-Star Game, this Hillerich & Bradsby bat was signed by (20) members of that year's roster and is symbolic of the trials and tribulations of Turley and a transplanted franchise that went on to become baseball’s prototype.
Following tours of duty with the Bellville Stags, Aberdeen Pheasants, Wichita Indians and San Antonio Missions, Turley was promoted to the parent club in September, 1951. In his September 29 debut for the moribund Browns, Turley yielded six runs in 7-1/3 innings to take the loss before a scant gathering of 1,014 spectators. He proceeded to enlist in the U.S. Army for two years and, following 10 appearances for the 1953 Browns, was tabbed as the Baltimore Orioles starter in that franchise’s first-ever home game following their 1954 migration. Turley fanned nine en route to a complete game triumph that day and set the precedent for a campaign in which he paced the circuit with 185 strikeouts. For his efforts, Turley was named to the American League All-Star squad and was the Birds’ lone representative. As Turley and his teammates shagged fly balls during batting practice before the ’54 Mid-Summer Classic, the Oriole right-hander chased down a Ted Williams clout and crashed into the chain link fence at Cleveland’s cavernous Municipal Stadium. Suffering from a contusion, Turley was removed from the field, becoming the only American League hurler not to see action in an 11-9 slugfest won by the host Junior Circuit. Both Turley’s arm and this bat were rendered idle that day. But as a “get well” token for the promising fireballer, (20) members of that day’s A.L. All-Star roster autographed the weapon and presented it to Turley.
The Hillerich & Bradsby (35.2-oz/35-3/4”) “S100” white ash lumber features block-letter barrel stampings with “ALL STAR GAME,” “TURLEY” and “CLEVELAND 1954” identifiers. While there are bat-rack streaks, the uncracked war club shows no game use but, as mentioned, is decorated with the signatures of Turley’s appreciative teammates. Executed in steel-tip fountain pen, the autographs vary in terms of strength and clarity and include: Avila (“3”), Bauer (“5”), Berra (“6”), Boone (“6”), Carrasquel (“3”), Finigan (“4-5”), Ford (“5-6”), Hutchinson (coach, “8”), Kuenn (“9”), Lemon (“5”), Lollar (“5”), Mantle (“5-6”), Marion (coach, “3”), Piersall (“7-8”), Porterfield (“5”), Stengel (manager, “4”), Stone (“4”), Swift (coach, “7”), Vernon (“4-5”) and T. Williams (“5”).
Obtained directly from the Bob Turley Estate following his 2013 passing, this is simultaneously a Mid-Summer Classic, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Hall of Fame treasure and comes with a letter of provenance, a full photo LOA from John Taube, PSA/DNA, as well as a full photo LOA from JSA.
Accompanying is an original news service photograph of Turley after just having sustained his injury. Trimmed to approximately 7x6, the black-and-white photo has “United Press” stampings on the reverse, as well as the original caption sheet.
Though that year’s Orioles struggled to a seventh-place finish, Turley caught the eye of Yankees skipper Stengel and was a principal in a 17-player trade (the biggest in Major League history) between the Orioles and Yankees on November 17, 1954. Turley went on to participate in five World Series for the pinstripers, was the MVP of the 1958 Fall Classic and won the Cy Young Award that same year. The Orioles, as well, benefited from the blockbuster transaction as they broke ties to their St. Louis origins and quickly emerged as the game's winningest team for more than two decades.