With Dave Bushing removing himself from the evaluation process, I was quite excited to tackle this ultra rare bat. I have evaluated and researched 1,000’s of vault marked and side written H&B bats during the past 20 years. My first exposure to a large volume of sidewritten H&B bats came when I was researching the H&B vaults and inspected the existing tool room of display bats. This room is closed to the general public but can be seen through a large glass window when entering the museum. I personally removed each and every example that was side written/vault marked during the process. I remember seeing vault marked examples of Zinn Beck, Krens, Hanna Batrite, 125 models with inch marks, etc. During the entire process, there was no surviving examples of any player associated with the 1919 White Sox. With no luck in the 1,000s of specimens, this was the first example of the infamous Black Sox team of 1919 I have ever seen.
To comprehend the historical significance of this bat, a complete examination of the timeline of Buck Weaver’s playing career and an understanding of the manufacturing markings and archiving processes of H&B bats must occur. Together, they reveal a fantastic tale of a very rare bat and a direct link to a member of the infamous 1919 Black Sox.
While performing my evaluation, I conducted a physical evaluation of the bat, subjected the bat to black lighting, compared the recorded physical dimensions of the bat to available H&B factory records, and conducted trend analysis to available MEARS databases.
According to the book, The Ballplayers, Slick-fielding Weaver was at his best in the 1919 World Series, cracking 11 base hits. Unfortunately, seven of his teammates were deliberately at their worst; they’d been bribed to throw the games and Buck knew all about it. He hit a career-high .333 the next year, but when the truth about the fix came out, he was lumped with the other Black Sox and banned from baseball for life, his “never-snitch” ethics at odds with Judge Landis’s jurisprudence. Chicago fans repeatedly petitioned for Weaver’s reinstatement, but he was never pardoned for his failure to warn baseball that his teammates had sold their honor.
A Buck Weaver bat is a symbol of an infamous season (1919 Black Sox), a personal connection to infamous players (Joe Jackson who went along knowingly and Chick Gandil, the ring leader), and a tangible record of a man (Weaver) that continued to petition to be exonerated from an act he did not participate in, but was held accountable because of his knowledge of the fix.
For this infamous 1919 season, Buck Weaver would have used a bat modeled from this very example. Let me explain:
Buck Weaver began his major league career on April 11, 1912 and continued through 1920. This bat dates to a very significant period of Weaver’s career, circa 1915 which transitions to the most historical season of Weaver’s career, 1919. Based on the history of the factory archiving system for player bat replication, this bat was most likely the model that Buck Weaver future orders would be patterned from, possibly his model bat used during 1919.
The centerbrand label period of the bat dates to the 1911-15 timeframe based on manufacturers design process. The MEARS dating of circa 1915 is determined by the presence of BUCK WEAVER block lettering found on the barrel. The practice of adding a players name did not begin with any regularity until the 1916-21 era, so the addition of the name on barrel was most likely done at the end of the label era, 1915. The 1915 dating of the bat is quite crucial in the history of future Buck Weaver bats that were supplied by Louisville Slugger for his use during the 1919 era. It is also a possibility that Buck Weaver may have used this bat during the 1916-20 era, including his trips to the 1917 & 1919 World Series. The label period of 1911-15 shows when the bat was manufactured, and it was a common practice for players to use bats for several seasons after the time it was manufactured. It is also possible that a bat from 1917 could be used with the earlier label period. With no specific dates appearing on the bat, the exact years of use are undetermined, but the era of the label and practice of the side writing is more consistent with archived bats used for specific future player bat orders. What is without dispute, is that this bat was archived in the Louisville archives and the only known playing days bat of Buck Weaver (1:1).
Other examples of bats from the relative time frame with block lettering names applied include:
MEARS 307285 1918 Hugh Duffy/Dick Rudolph Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat
MEARS 301506 1911-16 Johnny Evers Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat – Side Written
MEARS 305051 1911-16 Miller Huggins Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat
During my evaluation of the above three bats I noticed how the block lettering was factory applied and consistent in terms of color and texture to the centerbrand stampings of the bat. This consistency I have noticed through the years is indicative of originality as what you would expect from a H&B manufactured bat. The 3 above referenced bats can also be viewed by MEARS members in the archived bat LOO section under pre war Hall of Famers.
This bat originated directly from the vaults of Louisville Slugger and has remained in a private collection until May 1st, 2008, when it was sold to Dave Bushing. This very bat was stored in the vaults of Louisville Slugger as was the practice of all other historically significant bats that were returned directly by the players to the factory for future bats to be replicated. During the 1919 and the decade immediately following, there were no computer systems, so the practice of archiving bat dimensions, (length, model, weight) was accomplished by archiving an actual player’s model bat, in many instances bats that were actually used by the player and returned personally to the factory. This was the case of this Buck Weaver bat.
The evidence that the bat was shipped from the playing field to H&B for replication can be found via the remnants of the original shipping labels. Believe it or not, it was a common practice during this era to take a bat, tape a shipping label and postage directly to the barrel, and mail the bat directly to the H&B factory. This was done without a box. This was the case of this Buck Weaver bat. The exact shipping information has been lost to time, but this bat may have been shipped directly from Comiskey Park or any other ballpark that Weaver had played.
At some point in time, this bat would have contained side writing which would have designated the players name, size and weight and date the bat was returned. Due to 80+ years of storage, the side writing has also been lost to time. Immediately above the area of the centerbrand is a 3¨ x 10¨ area what has been prepared for the application at the factory of the sidewriting. Small amounts of pencil lettering can be seen, but the exact message is obscured. The information contained is no longer visible, but the documented practice of the application of sidewriting can be seen in the prepped area above the centerbrand which is consistent with all known documented side written H&B bat examples. The fact the sidewriting practice was applied means this bat was designated as a tool room example, the kind future bats would be replicated from. With this bat being archived approximately in the year 1915, this means that all future H&B Buck Weaver bats would have been produced from this model. Typically, factory records show that a player may deviate in length or weight of future orders of the archived example, by the archived example served as the main template and model.
Black light was applied in a darkened setting. This allowed us to examine for the presence of any additional visible side writing or markings. The black light revealed no additional information.
Use: The bat is evaluated as having heavy and significant game use. Examination from knob to barrel end illustrated heavy and consistent game use. Starting at the handle area, use can be seen via patina to the handle grain. The six-inch crack was the reason this bat was retired and shipped/labeled to the H&B factory for additional bats to be replicated from this very model. Handle cracks are a direct result from contact with a ball during a game, thus the crack support game use. When examining the area of the barrel where most contact would occur, above the barrel are signs of a flattened hitting surface. This is caused by repeated contact with a ball when a bat was used over the course of several months or even years. The flat spot may also had been enhanced by Weaver with the aid of a cow bone (boning) or other hard object. The process of boning was thought to harden and close the surface grains, thus making a more compact surface to make contact with the ball and increase velocity of the impact. Due to the extended use of this bat, many deeply embedded stitch marks can be found above and below the barrel stamping. Finally, another telltale sign of game use is the presence of stitch marks, which can be found scattered above and below the barrel stampings. Overall, the bat has clear and distinct signs of game use, which have manifested themselves via deep stitch marks, surface grain compression and patina, handle crack, and overall use. The bat has optimal use and desired amount expected to found on high caliber examples.
Therefore, it is my conclusion that this would have been one of the model bats that all future Buck Weaver bats would have been produced from. It should be noted that it could be possible that Weaver may have used other models, but there are no known examples of any Buck Weaver bat from his playing days. There has been a confirmed Buck Weaver 1921-31 H&B game used bat that has entered the market. This bat was made for Weaver to use in barnstorming games and would not have been available for him during his major league playing career.
(Photo caption: note the similarities of the small knob and tapering of the barrel)
This bat is quite rare in terms of year issued and historical significance of player and team. This is only one of 11 known H&B dash double dot dash centerbrand professional model bats evaluated by MEARS. This is the only Buck Weaver playing day bats known in the hobby. 2 Buck Weaver 1921-31 barnstorming bats are known to have entered the hobby.
1 of 11 known bats from this era matching this centerbrand
1 : 1 Buck Weaver playing day bats
1 : 3 Black Sox playing day bats known in the hobby (others include Joe Jackson & Swede Risberg)
Weight: 43 ounces
Grade: MEARS A9 (1 point deduction for handle crack)