I thought I would take some time share some information that is starting to come from my look at Adirondack bats from the 1950s and 1960s. Before I go any further, I have to say that this article was made possible by the research and the sharing of information on the part of Joe Petrole. Joe and I have been exchanging e-mails and information since I bought a couple of Adirondack bats from him via E-Bay as part of my “Home Run Derby” collection.
Joe has made a focused study and collecting effort out of Adirondack bats from the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s and has been a tremendous help. In a most recent exchange of information, Joe pointed out that he felt that 1959 was really a transition labeling period for Adirondack based on All Star bat markings and some year/player specific bats he has in his collection. I have learned that when Joe brings up a point on Adirondack bats, it is wise to listen.
In looking at examples of 1959 Adirondack All Star bats that have moved through the hobby, examples can be found with both the Flexible Whip Action stamping and the Whip Action stamping. In addition, the style of the “F” in Flexible seems to have changed in 1959 as well. This variation had previously been identified on page 75 of Bats: Professional Hillerich and Bradsby and Adirondack, 1950-1994 by Messer’s Malta, Foxx, Riddell, and Specht. Bats also places 1960 as the year “Flexible” was dropped. The luxury I have is two fold. First is the support of collectors/researchers like Joe and the second is time. Some twelve years has passed since the publishing of Bats, so there are just more bats to look at now than when Malta, Foxx, Riddell, and Specht launched the hobby on collecting bats with their seminal work.
PLATE # 1 shows a few things. The Mantle bat that is pictured was offered by Robert Edward’s Auctions in April of 2006. The bat came with a letter from major league Umpire Ed Hurley. Hurley states that he confiscated the bat from Mantle in 1958 because of the “pock marking, forming a grid of perforations on the barrel in an area to cover both sides of the sweet spot for a switch hitter. Apparently Mantle believed the waffle-iron effect would provide more traction at contact. I had no choice but to remove it from the game because this practice is against the rules of the game.”
This dating by Hurley supports what was written in Bats about the general time frame of the change, being 1958-1959. This same style can be seen in the Del Crandall bat in PLATE #2. PLATE #2 also shows 1959 All Star bats with both the Flexible Whip Action stamping and the Whip Action stamping.
The 1959 season featured two all star games, one on July 7th at Forbes Field and the other on August 3rd in Los Angeles. PLATE #2 also shows something interesting in the two distinctly different 1959 Mantle All Star bats. PLATE #3 shows that examples of both 1960 All Star and World Series bats without the word Flexible, in keeping with was previously listed in Bats.
What all this means is that we may now want to consider dividing the 1958-1960 labeling period into two categories; 1958-1959 and 1959-1960.
1958-1959 would be for bats having the stamping of Flexible Whip Action and either style of the word Flexible.
1959-1960 would be for bats with the same general center brand, only without the word Flexible. Using the All Star bats as template and assuming that the Crandall bat is from the July game, the change is late season 1959 which has been Joe’s theory for some time.
If there is a collector out there reading this that has an Adirondack All Star bat from a player who only played in the July game, I think we would all like to hear from you. Crandall played in both games.
As for what we know about bats, clearly the message is stay flexible, as we are seeing and learning new things all the time…I know I am.
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
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