Two people can look at the same item and come away offering varying information and perspectives on what something is or might be and why. That is what this article is all about and it centers around a pre-1930 Ty Cobb Hanna Batrite bat. I typically don’t look at bats for MEARS, but in this case, it’s along the lines of things I have been researching and writing about for some time. The collector who purchased the bat submitted it to John Taube for his opinion. In the interest of fairness to John, I won’t cherry pick his work and offer some of it as sound bite. I have provided the full letter both front and back for your consideration.
This article is really not so much about this particular bat, but rather along the lines of a point I have been making for some time. That point being, that while Hillerich and Bradsby production information is a valuable tool, it is just that…a tool or single point of reference when looking at sometimes complex issues. The other thing to consider that does have bearing on this bat, is that it must be evaluated for what it actually is; a Hanna product and not one produced by H&B.
Any number of organizations and individuals offer opinions on items and this is good thing for the collecting community. This is not limited to those who do it on a professional or paid basis. For collectors, take a look at as much information from as many sources as you can and then decided for yourself what you should expect to see or not see in the item you have or are considering purchasing. If you do, then you will make more informed purchase decisions and likely to enjoy the things you acquire all the more. With all this being said, here are the notes I attached to worksheet I prepared for this bat.
For questions or comments, as always, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.
NOTES FOR pre-1930 Ty Cobb Hanna Professional model bat.
John Taube states in his letter of July 25, 2008
COMMENTS: “The length and weight of this Ty Cobb bat do not conform to any bats ordered by Cobb from the Hillerich and Bradsby Co. during his professional career. The 36” inch length of this Ty Cobb bat exceeds Cobb’s model by an inch and half. Additionally the bats weight of 34 ounces is at least two ounces below bats ordered by Cobb during the referenced labeling period.”
I think a more accurate statement would have been “do not conform to any surviving information recording bats ordered by Cobb from the Hillerich and Bradsby Co. during his professional career.” I say this, as you will see, that information provided by Hillerich and Bradsby employee Henry Morrow in fact contradicts this to a certain degree. I think Marrow is to be considered as a credible source with respect to Cobb bats as indicated on page 85 Vince Malta’s recent book where you will find the annotation that “Model(s) not clearly designated in shipping records, as they where chosen by Morrow (H&B employee Henry Morrow)”.
While it is helpful to consider Hillerich and Bradsby production information, this is in fact a Hanna Manufacturing Company product and to evaluate it as such requires, in my opinion, much more than referencing a review of that surviving H&B data. The bat must be evaluated as a Hanna product against the backdrop of we know about Cobb, the Hanna Manufacturing Company, the bat manufacturing process, and the period in question. For example what we know and can see from other relevant sources and methods of research:
With respect to bat length:
Photographic documentation exists showing Cobb can in fact be found using bats with his characteristic handle tape that exceeds 35 inches in length. (SEE Ty Cobb Bats and the Use of Imagery Analysis by MEARS 7/28/2007 7:04:40 PM MEARS On-Line News Archive).
We also know by way of an article from the May 7th 1940 Arkansas Hope Star that in an
an interview of Henry Morrow of Hillerich and Bradsby, Mr. Morrow offers information about Cobb model bats that are also not of 34 ½” in length, but rather 35” and ranging from 37-42 ounces. (SEE Cobb Salad by MEARS 4/1/2009 8:14:35 AM MEARS On-Line News Archive).
With respect to bat weight:
Research data from the Baseball Research Center at the University of Massachusetts (Lowell-Department of Engineering) shows that bats can loose as much 3.9 ounces in a single year (SEE What Do We Really Know About Baseball Bats? by LTC MEARS Auth, LLC
8/7/2006 1:16:53 PM MEARS On-Line News Archive).
With respect to the Hanna Manufacturing Company:
We know that Hanna was in fact manufacturing bats while Ty Cobb was still playing.
Court Documents from the Hillerich & Bradsby V Hanna Manufacturing Company show that Hanna began manufacturing bats in 1927. Ty Cobb’s last year as player was 1928 so it is physically possible that Hanna manufactured a bat for his professional use as a player. (SEE The Hanna Manufacturing Company by MEARS 12/20/2008 1:18:46 PM at MEARS On-Line News Archive).
We know the Hanna Manufacturing Company produced bats for New York Yankees Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri in 1934 (SEE The Hanna Manufacturing Company by MEARS 12/20/2008 1:18:46 PM at MEARS On-Line News Archive).
We know that a Hanna manufactured product does not have to be in the same dimensions as those produced for a particular player by H&B. The Hanna Manufacturing Company produced bats for players such as Wally Berger, Bill Dickey, Travis Jackson and Dusty Rhodes and that some of these bats did in fact vary in dimension and weight from what their H&B player records show. This Hanna information comes directly from actual Hanna factory player production sheets. (SEE Hanna Player Production Records by MEARS 1/17/2009 9:01:03 AM at MEARS On-Line News Archive).
We know that this bat is identified by the center brand as being from 1930 or earlier and that it is a model E35. The model E-35 is the one attributed to TY Cobb as seen in the 1930 Hanna catalog. We also know that block letter name barrel stampings devoid of the words “Type” or “Style” can be found and directly attributed to the player named. The National Baseball Hall of Fame has a bat from the Lou Gehrig estate that confirms this.
With respect to Cobb preferences:
We know that Ty Cobb expressed a preference for products from his native state of Georgia. Hanna bats were manufactured in Athens, GA. Athens is less than 30 miles from Royston, Ga (home town) and less than 90 miles from Augusta (where he was living later in his career). Hanna began manufacturing bats around 1927 and Cobb did not retire until 1928 so there is a possibility of his use of their bats at the major league level.
(SEE Cobb Salad By MEARS Auth, LLC 4/1/2009 8:14:35 AM MEARS On-Line News Archive).
We know that handle tape can be identified as a preferred method of bat preparation by Cobb. Something that this bat has and it is vintage in application. We also know this bat is without the large knob. Both are characteristics found in Cobb bats from the 1927-1928 time frame by way of period images.
With respect to bat quality:
We know that this bat does not show any indications of being one that was manufactured for general retail sale with respect to barrel or knob stampings. In addition, the bat features a grain count of six grains per inch. This grain count is indicative of a professional quality bat. According to an article in the March 1st 2003 Forest Products Journal dealing with professional grade wood for baseball bats, it was identified that “the current perception of major league players is that six to eight growth rings per inch produce the ideal white ash baseball bat. It is because of this perception that Louisville Slugger produces baseball bats with 6 to 12 growth rings per inch for the major leagues and up to 15 growth rings per inch for the minor leagues.” (SEE Adirondack C & D Model Bats by MEARS 2/9/2008 2:12:01 PM MEARS On-Line News Archive).
Evaluation of Provenance:
The bat was submitted with a signed letter from the previous owner stating the bat came from the estate of Del Baker. This bat was said to have been purchased along with a photo of Baker with the 1911 Sherwood, OR baseball club. Baker and Cobb were teammates in Detroit in during the 1914-1916 seasons. Baker would later manage the Detroit ball club in 1933 and again 1936 to 1942. The bat could not have been used by Baker as player with the Tigers since Hanna was not producing bats during the 1914-1916 time frame. During the period of 1917-1932, Baker played in the minor leagues with San Francisco, Portland, Mobile, Ogden, Oakland, Ft. Worth and Beaumont. Of interest is the fact that Ty Cobb did manage/coach in the Pacific Coast League briefly during this period. While I have not found anything indicating that there was any sort of special relationship between Del Baker and Ty Cobb, Del Baker would have in fact been in a position to have established one at some point in time or at least had access to Cobb.
Based on those things discussed above and that can be seen outside of surviving Hillerich & Bradsby production information, I have found nothing about this bat that would lead to exclude it from being one that was produced by the Hanna Manufacturing Company for use by Ty Cobb during the 1927-1928 time frame. On the contrary, I believe that when seen and researched in a much broader context, the possibility of it being such becomes very believable.
MEARS Auth, LLC