I have been in the practice of re-reading books for some time. Some are just great stories, others have been worth a second or third read as my perspective has changed over the years. Mostly this has involved works I have read on a professional basis dealing with military or leadership related topics. I recently went back through Al Stump’s Cobb: A Biography (not to be confused with Stump’s earlier work with Cobb, My Life in Baseball) to see what I could find out about The Georgia Peach from a memorabilia perspective. I have also added a few other elements to this mix, largely as a follow up to July 2007 article Ty Cobb Bats and the Use of Imagery Analysis. That worked focused on looking at the long held belief that a true Ty gamer needed to be 34 ½” in length. It is still available in the New Archive and shows that Cobb used bats ranging from 34” to those likely as long or longer than 36”.
Make what you will of this information, just as you can with everything else I have written. Give it the thought you think it merits and I encourage you to continue to question my research/writing as well as the works of others.
From Stump’s 1994; Cobb: A Biography
Page 59: Minor league Cobb talking with veteran Sam Crawford. Cobb wanted to hear more. “Hell I can’t gab all day” said Wahoo. “Break in a backup glove or two in case your number one leather is ripped.” Cobb didn’t want to admit that he could barely afford one old glove. Cobb was encouraged to show Wahoo his own particular glove. “As an experiment, he had cut the leather out of the palm of his glove to expose the raw flesh, so that any catch was essentially a bare-hander. Crawford grinned, saying, “I did that as a kid-to keep the balls from sliding off the leather. No more though.”
COMMENT: Offers some insight into players having more than one glove. No great surprise, but nice to see it mentioned. Also explains a feature that appeared on a Babe Ruth game used mitt (Halper Auction, Lot # 567). You can see by the stained outline that the cut is in the center of where the ball would have been caught in this small, but period correct Draper and Maynard 1” web.
Page 103: Cobb in 1905. “ For his invasion of the north he carried only his dish shaped Spalding glove, three well boned hickory and ash bats and one clothing bag…”
COMMENT: Nice reference to an actual manufacturer for an item as well as mix of both ash and hickory bats.
Page 107: Cobb in 1905. He was outfitted with a uniform that did not fit particularly well: gray-white flannels (laundry service was slow with the Tigers) with an Old English D across the shirt, black stocking, and a white and black cap. A pair of steel-cleated shoes was found to fit his size ten feet.”
COMMENT: Offers a point of reference as to the size of Ty Cobb spikes.
Page 109: Cobb in 1905: “Sportswriter’s also like his stance at bat, marked by a slight crouch with his feet close together, his rather heavy 38-ounce club…”
COMMENT: Offers insight to what bat weight Cobb was using at the time as may serve as a point of comparison to what others might have been using during the same time frame.
Page 162: Cobb in 1908: “ For the wedding cake cutting ceremony, the groom brought along the black thirty five ounce bat that had been serving him so well.”
COMMENT: Offers insight as to the weight and finish/wood Cobb may have been wielding at this time.
Page 192: 1911-1913 time frame: “Ungovernable as he regularly was, often using the black ashwood bat he had kept beside him during his 1908 wedding…”
COMMENT: Offers insight on type and color of bat as well as the possibility for extended bat life and use over more than one season.
Page 243: Circa 1915: “Prior to Hupmobile dealership, Cobb had received all the free bats he wanted from Hillerich and Bradsby Compnay of Louisville in return for his endorsement etched in the wood of Louisville Slugger. When a customer wavered about buying a Hup, he would mention “Of course, partner, a bat with my name on it goes with the purchase.”
COMMENT: The dating of this is for his work with Humpmobile, not his signing with Hillerich and Bradsby that occurred in October 1908. It also opens the possibility that not all Cobb bats from this period are his gamers. This same thing, the giving of bats in conjunction with car sales, is something that is said to have occurred with Pete Rose and Johnny Bench in Cincinnati in the 1970s.
Page 254: “I always patronize home products.”
COMMENT: More of a thought than anything else, but might this include Hanna bats 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.
Page 273: Date unspecified: “Another tactic was to wear extra long sleeves, which flapped and distracted the pitchers and also protected his elbows while doing a deep slide.”
COMMENT: While longer sleeves were common during his playing career, you will find any number of his contemporaries wearing sleeves that extend only to about the elbow as opposed to well below that point.
Page 289: Date unspecified. “T.C. notched some of his bats with the initials of pitchers he did particularly well against: “W.J”, “E.C.”, “F.B.” and so on..”
COMMENT: Wonder how many of these bats are in the hobby and have been discounted as gamers based on the thought that the initials stood for the user of the bat.
Page 305: 1920. “In January of 1920, returned from managing San Francisco in the Coast League, the Peach vacationed for a few weeks. He had switched to a thicker, heavier bat of forty-two ounces (up from thirty seven), theorizing that at age thirty-three his swing was no longer extra quick and that he needed more contact surface.”
COMMENT: 42 oz bats are recorded for Cobb in 1923 and 1927, but not earlier than this. The H&B records are not wrong, but once again, they may not be as complete as we would like.
Page 387: Spring 1927: “That sensitive matter (Cobb playing in Philadelphia) was not settled until after Cobb had been measured at Ft. Meyer, Florida training camp for his first uniform of his big league career that did not carry a Gothic D on the shirt.”
COMMENT: Offers insight as to when clubs may have ordered uniforms for the coming season.
From the May 7th 1940 Arkansas Hope Star.
In 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. Information from this same article makes note of the bats used by Hugh Duffy and Rogers Hornsby as well.
From page 55 of “Peach: Ty Cobb in His Time and Ours by Richard Bak
“Ty used the same model of bat from 1911 to 1924. It featured a medium sized barrel that gradually tapered to a medium handle and knob. Because Ty distained the sticky feel of resin on his hands, all of his bats throughout his career had several twits of tape wrapped about eight to ten inches up the handle to improve his grip. The length was 34 ½” inches and the weight ranged from 40-44 ounces, was evenly distributed. This created a large hitting surface- not that Cobb needed it. Years after Ty retired , an old Hillerich and Bradsby lathe hand named Henry Morrow brought out a bat that showed the Peach’s “sweet spot,”, the place where batters try to consistently hit the ball. “Sure enough,” one Hillerich & Bradsby executive recalled, “there was this place on the bat that was well worn hollow that showed how Cobb had met the ball squarely over and over.” Ty reduced the weight over the years, dropping to a 38 to 40 oz bat by the time he won his last batting championship in 1919.
On May 5, 1924, Ty ordered a new model. This style was the same, except that this bat was slightly smaller and, at 35 ounces, lighter than his old model. Later that summer Ty returned to a 38 ounce version of his original stick. The following June he placed another order. Again it was similar in style to the 1911 bat, only this time the barrel was slightly smaller and the end had been sawed. The effect was a nearly squared end bat that was a quarter inch shorter. Cobb used this 34 inch, 40 oz club for a while, then switched to his lighter 1924 model for the balance of his career with Detroit. He returned to his 1911 model after he signed with Philadelphia in 1927, typically employing 37 and 38 ounce versions for his final two seasons.
It goes on to note that “To set the seams, he would soak them in neat’s- foot oil or chewing tobacco, then clamp them in a vise and rub them with a large hollowed-out steer bone. “My own favorite prescription was a chewing tobacco called Navy Nerve Cut,” he recalled, “the juiciest kind I ever discovered. Using the steer bone, I rubbed in Navy by the hour.” Such loving care paid off, as Ty finished his career using a Louisville Slugger that, based on the long discontinued trademark, was judged to be at least 13 years old.”
COMMENT: Where to begin. This is wonderful information and once again, the 34” bat comes up. Also we see information about a change in barrel design and an approximate time frame for when this occurred. This also provides some information for the time frame from 1911 to 1919. With respect to Cobb keeping a bat for some 13 years, MEARS Cert # 251452 is for a 1911-1916 Ty Cobb bat that was side written from 6-19-28.
From the Lethbridge Herald, May 11th, 1911
Chicago, May 10. Manager Hughie Duffy, of the Chicago White Sox, claims that Tyrus Cobb uses a bat which, under the rules that govern baseball, is illegal. Duffy also alleged that Cobb is able to fatten his batting average by the use of this stick. When Tyrus was told of the claims made by the White Cox manager he laughed.
“The hickory Ty uses is filled with groves toward the end so the ball may be caught more cleanly in trying for base hits,” is Duffy’s charge. “Billy Sullivan objected to Cobb using that bat while we were in Detroit. He showed it to Umpire Perrine, and the umpire overruled Billy’s objections and said the bat was all right.” “There are no groves in my bat,” replies Cobb. “It’s like any-other bat. When I get a new stick I take chewing tobacco and rub it over the business end of the bat. I like to have the end rough. The brown tobacco-stain is what attracted the attention of Sullivan, but he did not find any groves in
the bat. There is not a baseball rule which is violated by my bat.”
COMMENT: This is helpful is showing Cobb using hickory bats during this time frame as well as his method for preparing them for his use.
From the Appleton Post Crescent May 6th 1922
This article tells how players broke Cobb’s bats and he was forced to use those of another player when he was breaking in as a rookie.
Veterans broke Cobb’s bats into splinters and tossed the remains over the fence Cobb had brought these two bats from the south to Detroit and had used them in all games. The
veteran’s thought that with the bats broken Cobb’s luck would be gone. Charlie Schmidt, then first string catcher for the Tigers, saw the act committed. He felt sorry for Cobb
and asked him what he intended doing “I can hit with a fence rail,” said Cobb. Schmidt loaned him his bats and that afternoon Cobb made three hits in four times at bat. But
in spite of this success he did not continue using the model that Schmidt favored, but had duplicates of the old bats made and used them. Players are superstitious about their bats, for bats are credited with “carrying batting averages.”
COMMENT: Anyone got a Charlie Schmidt bat they want to sell?
From the Wisconsin State Journal December 15th 1913
Article titled Cobb Bats stolen. Article covers the theft of various baseball paraphernalia from the home of Frank Brady, property man of the Detroit Base Ball Club. Among the items take were “two of Ty Cobb’s favorite base ball bats” which were souvenirs from the players.
COMMENT: Who says bat collecting is something new?
From the Waterloo Daily Courier May 20th 1951
TY COBB’S BATS.
Here’s a story which may explain why no player has ever come really close to equaling Ty Cobb’s skill as a batter: Ty made a study of trees, with bats in mind. He was one of the first, if not the first, to understand that second-growth ash made the best bats. But he went further. He chose wood from stands of second-growth ash which had suffered a drought, because parched periods tended to knit the grain more closely and shrink the pores. When his bats were fashioned he would take them to the Fisher Body Works in Detroit and have them boiled in oil. Then, for days and nights, he’d hone them with a hambone and rub tobacco juice into such pores as remained open. When all this was done he’d test their tone by, striking them sharply, handle first, against a hard surface. They had to ring tenor or they .were tossed away. Through most of his career Cobb used a 40 ounce stick, 34 ½ inches long. At the end of his playing days, with Philadelphia, he dropped the weight to 36 ounces. Ty was a self-made hitter and was justifiably proud of his handiwork.
COMMENT: Nothing really new on lengths, weights or preparation, but we are offered some insight into grain preference and the reason why.
As the old joke goes, “I don’t just look at the pictures, but I read it for the articles,” I hope you will give some thought to the value of the written word and not just images as the hobby seems to be consumed with photographs alone these days.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.