A while back I started a detailed look at Adirondack bats from the period of 1950-1969. I did this because there just has not been the same amount of information provided as compared to Hillerich and Bradsby products from the same time frame. This is also the period of baseball history where I have always had the greatest interest. One of the more pressing, and at times controversial topics, has to do with Adirondack C&D model bats from this era. There have been two primary justifications offered by some bat authenticators/researchers/collectors in the past for excluding Adirondack C and D model bats from professional use. They are:
1. “These products were available through retail catalog sales to the general public.”
2. “The quality of the wood is not professional grade first growth Northern White Ash” and or “they were produced for minor league players, minor league teams, and colleges.”
To cut to the chase, I have to say that I disagree with both of these justifications that have been offered for years. In looking at this issue, I conducted a survey of Adirondack Bat Product Catalogs spanning the period from 1949 to 1972. Actual years that I was able to obtain retail catalogs of included:
While the catalogs do vary in some manner, there is no mention of C&D models being made available to the general public. There are fairly consistent references to the 302 line of bats being offered as “Finest selection second growth Northern White Ash, professional finish, weight controlled for perfect balance, patterned after models used by famous Major League hitters. Bats to the carton-1 dozen. Lengths 32″-36″. Shipping guaranteed in each carton of one dozen in A B C packaging, four different models in solid packaging.”
Two things I noticed were the facts that these bats all come in even inch measurements. We do know by examples that there are period 302 Adirondack model bats spanning the late 1940s through the late 1960s that feature such inch designations on the knob. The Adirondack retail product catalogs identify a number of variations of the 302 product line. These variations are identified in the center branding as:
302: Finest selection second growth Northern White Ash, professional finish, weight controlled for perfect balance, patterned after models used by famous Major League hitters.
302S: Finest selection second growth Northern White Ash. Manufactured in the same models and types as 302 but turned to slightly smaller specifications to meet requirements of high school and prep school players.
302SP: Finest selection second growth Northern White Ash, professional finish. Special turnings designed for high school, prep school and American Legion players.
302BL: Finest selection second growth Northern White Ash, black finish with gold stamping, weight controlled for perfect balance, patterned after models used by famous Major League hitters.
302SF: Finest selection second growth Northern White Ash, Flame Treated. Manufactured in many of the same models as 302 but turned to slightly smaller specifications for the use of the early youth group.
These bats are advertised as coming in even inch measurements and the examples you find of them come with inch markings on the knob. To me this indicates that these bats with inch markings, and not C&D series designations are the 302 product line being referenced in the retail catalogs. If I am wrong, then what is the product identification difference and why is it not annotated in the retail catalog offerings?
The inch markings on these retail bats are there for a reason. They serve the purpose of product identification on both the part of the shipper and receiver as it relates to pulling and filling an order and verifying the order on the other end. The lettering reference in the catalogs refers to order mix and assortment and nothing to with models. Compare the language from the 1951 and 1969 catalogs. If the C&D series were offered in the catalogs, then why is their no mention of them or any distinction made between them and what might show up in your order as opposed to the bats that feature inch marks.
Consider these representative catalog offerings:
1951: The 302 product line is described as being for sale in lengths of 32-36” from the models above with 6 different models guaranteed in each carton of 1 dozen bats in A B C packaging, 4 different models in solid packaging.
Package A-Assorted Models-1/33”, 4/34”, 5/35”, 2/36”
Package B- Assorted Models-4/33”,4/34”,4/35”
Package C- Assorted Models-2/34”, 6/35”, 4/36”
Solid Lengths 32”-36”
1969: The 302 product line is described as being for sale in lengths of 32-36” from the models above with 6 different models guaranteed in each carton of 1 dozen bats in A B C packaging, 4 different models in solid packaging.
Package A-Assorted Models-3/33”, 6/34”, 3/35”
Package B- Assorted Models-2/32”,4/33”, 6/34”
Package C- Assorted Models-2/34”, 6/35”, 4/36”
Solid Lengths Package: All bats in one length 32”-36” with a minimum of 4 players names per dozen. Standard Assortment Package: Various lengths ranging from 32” to 35” and at least 6 different players names per dozen.
The 1972 Catalog, in describing the 302 line of products says that “Adirondack baseball bats are available in a wide variety of “name” models, differing in balance, barrel and handle design, and taper. Certain bats listed as “personal models” are used and exclusively endorsed by Adirondack’s Professional Advisory Staff.” The catalog goes on to break down the signature model names and standard model names and the various packaging options (A,B,C, D, etc) by assortment of quantity and size offerings.
Nothing in the retail catalogs from 1949-1972 indicates to me or implies you are getting C&D series bats as opposed to products that will come with “inch” designations. Of course I would have loved to have seen a catalog from each and every year, but I feel the sample I had access to is sufficient for me to offer the theory I have. If a collector or researcher has a catalog that I do not have and it references the C&D series line of 302 product, I would love to see it.
Directly tied to this point is the second justification that C&D model bats were the 302 line of products mentioned as being as being made from “Finest selection second growth Northern White Ash. To understand what this means, it is helpful to actually know the difference between “first and second growth” and how do you tell.
While you will find definitions for old and second growth forests, my understanding of first growth means the early or first growth of the tree selected. Page 109 of “Crack of the Bat: The Louisville Slugger Story” by Bob Hill seems to confirm this. Jack Norton, then administrative manager of Hillerich and Bradsby states that “only the first log from the lower 10 feet of the tree will make a good bat. Your getting into defects in the upper part of the tree.” If I am wrong about this definition of first growth vs second growth and it has to do with the forest, the thing to focus on is what makes the wood pro-quality and how do you know. I have asked this same question to various bat experts and have often heard that “you can hear the difference in good wood.” While I am not disputing this, I did not want my look at this subject to hinge on something as subjective as this.
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.” The grain pattern or width between grains on the knob of the bat reveals the same information with respect to spacing for growth rings per inch. This is further explained in the graphic I have prepared showing how growth rings show up on the knob of a bat. You can see the same thing on the barrel end, but I have used the knob as that is were the markings are. This was further corroborated by the statement found in the U.S. Patient document application and patient for a wood graining tool (#281588 dtd 04/16/1996). This document states “the annular growth rings of trees display primary grain patterns according to the method utilized in sawing the wood.”
What all of this means is that if the C&D models are made of less than professional grade wood, there should a be visible and noticeable difference in the grain spacing with respect to Adirondack A& B bats as well as professional grade H&B products when compared to Adirondack C&D model bats. In the sample provided, you will see a couple of things. First, the “rings per inch” for these bats are all within the desired 6-12 rings per inch that is sought in professional quality wood. Measurements were taken by finding the center of the knob and counting the rings 1/2” either side of that. I also looked at Hillerich and Bradsby professional model I am very comfortable with being used at the major league level based on markings, player characteristics and other factors such as stamping as World Series bats.
I spent a good deal of time and money looking at this and buying both “inched marked bats” and C&D model bats. The store model or retail bats for both Hillerich & Bradsby and Adirondack as indicated by the “inch markings” seem to confirm the concept of more rings for lesser quality bats. Consider the two Babe Ruth Adirondack “Ruth Type” bats. Both appear to me the same model by relative dimensions and taper as well as knob size and style. Yet one has “inch marks” and the other is a D series 302 model bat. The “inch marked” Ruth Type bat features 13 grains per inch while the D series features 7 per inch.
Other “inch marked” or catalog 302 series bats I have obtained that cover a wide period show:
Circa 1946 TERRY STYLE 34” marked bat: 13 grains per inch
1948-1950 Larry Doby 35” marked bat: 11 grains per inch
1951-1957 Gil Hodges 35” marked bat: 13 grains per inch
1968-1970 MANTLE STYLE 34” marked bat: 14 grains per inch
One thing I have never heard offered as a theory about C&D model bats is that they are actually the equivalent of Hillerich and Bradsby “Team Index Bats.” The 1949 and 1951 McLaughlin-Millard catalog contains the statement that “We reserve the right to sell direct to all professional baseball clubs.” C&D series bats as “Team Index Bats” would explain a couple of things.
1. The quality of wood as evident in the ring count.
2. Their presence at both the minor league and collegiate level.
3. Their presence at the major league level in other instances other than the “Whitey Ford World Series bat.”
4. The inch markings on “302” bats that come from retail catalog sales and the quality of the wood indicated in the growth ring count.
Some researchers and collectors feel Hillerich and Bradsby “Team Index Bats” ordered by the clubs were for general club use and not player specific use. The question is how do we know? What we do know is that they ordered them and may have been used by any player. This is not so much about the who used “Team Index Bats,” but rather asking the question why would McLaughlin-Millard Adirondack be any different in supplying them. We also know that the Hillerich and Bradsby Team Index orders were not restricted to the ordering of bats/models for players who played for the team ordering them.
The Boston Red Sox were ordering Babe Ruth (R 43) and Lou Gehrig (G69) model bats in 1947. In 1955, the Philadelphia Phillies ordered Stan Musial (M117) model bats. This was at a point in time when Musial was no longer a “signature model” endorser with Hillerich and Bradsby. We know this because Musial’s 1955 All Star Game bats bore the identification of Musial Model (page 103 of Donald Honig’s The All Star Game: A Pictorial History, 1933 to Present.” The 1962 St. Louis Cardinals ordered Henry Aaron (R43) bats.
From what I have gathered and based on my research, I don’t feel the C&D series bats were the 302 line of product referenced in the retail catalogs any more than I feel the quality of the wood was not professional grade. Since I took to question what has been a long standing “given” in the hobby, I would ask that collectors and researchers who still feel the C&D series bats are the retail 302 product line offered in the cataloges explain two things in similar detail that I have. My questions to them are:
1. How would a person ordering or filling an order for bats know to ask for or ship either a 34”/35” inch marked bat or a C or D series bat if no distinction is made in the catalogs and there is not mention of C&D series bats?
2. If grain count is not the indicator for professional quality wood, what is it and how is to be seen in the C&D series bats?
Until such a time as the hobby gets access to the actual production information and records for Adirondack bats, I feel considering C&D series Adirondack Bats as the equivalent of H&B Pro Stock or “Team Index” bats much more plausible than the theories that they were retail bats or those produced for minor league or collegiate use. This DOES NOT mean that any and all C&D series bats bearing a players name were used by the player any more than it does for the H&B counterparts. What it could mean is that these bats may have been mis-categorized and undervalued for well over almost two decades.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com
POST SCRIPT: I would like to thank Joe Petrole and John Taube for trading copies of cataloges I had for copies of ones I did not. They may not share my opinion on C&D series bats, but their willingness to trade references needed to be acknowledged. This article was published ahead of my larger work that is still in the works. To date, with the help of collectors like Joe Petrole, I have been able to identify some 52 players and 108 model bats not listed in either Bats by Malta, Foxx, Riddell & Specht or the Bushing & Knoll MastroNet Bat Guide. My focus is only on the period of the 1950s and 1960s so there are undoubtably more.