One of the best things about my association with MEARS is the opportunity it affords me to look at potentially historically significant items. With this comes both the responsibility and opportunity to help educate the hobby/industry. This was clearly the case with a bat I was asked to perform imagery analysis on that was being offered as possibly the bat Babe Ruth used during the 1932 World Series and the “Called Shot” home run. I am sure that many would agree that this would the most significant bat in baseball history if it could be identified. Any researcher would welcome the opportunity to have their name tied to such a finding and I am no exception.
Although I am relative newcomer to the formal aspects of the industry, I have long been a collector and researcher. I also have 16 years of associated experience as an Intelligence Officer. I bring this up to highlight something that has bothered me for two years as a “hobby/industry insider”, that being the hobby/industry norm has been to find something and then go about proving it is what you think it is. This is flawed from a research standpoint. It does not begin with this such and such and item and how do I prove it. It should begin with a hypothesis and then a series of questions that must be asked and answered in order to form a conclusion. This may and should mean that the questions you have are as likely to disprove what you are looking to confirm as they are to prove it.
The other thing I saw in this instance, was once again, people thinking they where doing imagery analysis but what they where doing was “photo matching;” a sort of reverse engineering if you will in this case. While I do not questions the motives of anyone that is involved, I do have to question the methods and information they used or thought they where using to come to the conclusions they did. While many of the parties involved seemed to be convinced they had found the “Holy Grail” of Lumber, I am glad and flattered they said they would reserve final judgment until they had seen my findings. The purpose of this article is not to “poke” anyone in the eye or say what a great job I did, but rather to show, once again, what you should be doing when you say you are doing imagery analysis.
Some of the things you will see in this work are that my efforts:
1. Started with a series of questions.
2. Used established procedures for imagery analysis such as mensuration.
3. Involved imagery analysis beyond just comparing this pictures I was sent.
For the purposes of this article and the letter, the bat in question is simply referred to as the Grey Flannel bat as that it how it appears to have entered the hobby. Although I stated this in the letter below, it is important to state this up front, that Grey Flannel made NO SUCH CLAIMS with respect to attributing this bat to the 1932 World Series when they offered it. As a matter of fact, their information in the lot description seems to exclude that from being possible as they tie it to being gifted to a sports writer on September 17th 1932.
Offered below is the text of the letter I provided on this effort.
SUBJECT: Imagery Analysis on a Babe Ruth 1932 Bat
I was asked to perform imagery analysis on a 1932 Babe Ruth bat that was sold in Grey Flannels’ June 2005 Auction as lot # 3. The request was based on the premise that this bat might have been the one used by Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series for the famous “Called Shot” home run.
The thing that was highlighted to me and was said to be both significant and relevant to this comparison was that the bat in the Grey Flannel auction features an off center barrel branding of:
George “Babe” Ruth
REG U.S. PAT OFF
For this to have any bearing, two things would have to be conclusive:
1. This off set is so atypical that it should be considered unique.
2. That this characteristic could in fact be seen in the same manner as the Grey Flannel bat as it appears in the photographs of the “Called Shot” home run.
With respect to first point about the atypical or unique branding characteristic; while I will agree that it is atypical, I feel that it could not be called unique. For this to have any relevance or bearing, it would have to be shown that all other Babe Ruth bats where branded at the barrel end in the same manner with respect to alignment with respect to center brand. If this could not be established for Ruth and was still to be considered a “unique characteristic,” then it would have to be assumed that this “off center barrel branding” would not be found in other cases as well. The point here being if it is not a “unique characteristic” for other players, then why should it be considered unique at all or even unique to Ruth.
Even a rather cursory examination of vintage bats does not bear this out. For the purposes of both description and consistency, the player’s name is most commonly and usually found aligned with the middle of the center brand. The location of that players name in these examples will be listed as either being above or below the norm.
In some cases you will see that this off set actually exceeds that found on the Ruth Grey Flannel bat:
SOURCE —– PLAYER —– IRREGULAIRTY
Mastro’s May 2000 Lot546 —– Horsnby —– Above the Norm
Mastro’s May 2000 Lot 547 —– Cobb/Sewell —– Below the Norm
Mastro’s May 2000 Lot 593 —– Cobb —– Below the Norm
Mastro’s Nov 1999 Lot 1000 —– Foxx —– Above the Norm
Mastro’s Nov 2000 Lot 673 —– Speaker —– Below the Norm
Mastro’s Nov 2000 Lot 680 —– Vaughn —– Above the Norm
Mastro’s Dec 2005 Lot 1327 —– Cobb —– Above the Norm
REA April 2005 Lot 994 —– L.Waner —– Above the Norm
MastroWest Mar 2000 Lot 557 —– Moore —– Above the Norm
Even if this “unique characteristic” theory did in fact prove out, which it is my opinion it does not, the photographic evidence I evaluated does not support this. Although the images are not clear by any stretch of imagination, the center brand logo is clear enough to permit the area in which the vast majority of the
George “Babe” Ruth
REG U.S. PAT OFF
should be seen. On the Grey Flannel bat, this information is located on the barrel at a location that is two times the size of the center brand from the right edge of the center brand. When you apply this same metric of two times the length of the center brand to the photographs and identify the correct area that this information or signs of it should be located, that area is completely void of any identifiable markings. The area in the enhanced images that is to have contained some portion of this of these identifying marks has been misread and mislabeled as such.
In basic and clear terms, the “identifying marks” in the enhanced images are in the wrong place if they are being compared to the Grey Flannel bat. I have no knowledge of the means of mensuration that was used to come to the conclusion that this where this information should be located, but it clearly does not match the metrics for the Grey Flannel bat. Even for accounting for the fact that the enhanced photographic images of the center brand may include portions of the “Bone Rubbed” and “Powerized” markings, even a rough approximation is not even close.
Based on the fact that “off center branding” is not a unique characteristic, but one that exists in varying degrees, coupled with the mensuration of the center brands with respect to the location of the barrel brands, it is my opinion that any claim that the Grey Flannel bat and the “Called Shot” bat are one and the same can not be substantiated in any objective manner.
I have enclosed a composite of the images I was sent and they show my original annotations.
MEARS Auth, LLC