One of the most widely collected genres of game used bats is that of the single team variety. Some collect any game bat of any player who played for their favorite team i.e. Yankees, Dodgers, Sox, etc. Some collect just special years like the 27 Yankees, 29 Athletics, 1940 Reds, 1919 White Sox, 1955 Brooklyn, etc. While collecting every bat of every player who played for your favorite team can be rewarding, it can be extremely challenging to both your mental state and your pocketbook as well. It is a collection without end, something most collectors cannot fathom. Most of us want closure, a collection that if not complete, is as complete as is humanly possible to wit, no examples of a game bat have ever publicly surfaced nor do they exist in any other known collection, therefore, we know that we have completed it to the best of our ability, both in time and resources. If this sounds more like you, you are not alone. As a result, single season team collections are on the rise and with it, the attention given the so-called “commons” as they finally come into their own.
If you don’t believe it, talk to the guys putting together a collection of 1955 Brooklyn Dodger bats. Sure, a great Jackie Robinson or Koufax is going to set you back the better part of 50K, probably more, a good Snider or Campy, another 10K each. Pee Wee at least 4-5 K and guys like Hodges, Gilliam and Furillo will be at least 2k plus, Shuba, Moryn, and Zimmer, when you find them, will set you back the better part of a thousand. But for a real challenge, try and find an example of a Kellert or a Sandy Amoros bat and if you do and you don’t want it, call me. We have never seen an example of either of these bats and after looking for over ten years, not one example has ever surfaced for sale. I bought the Dixie Howell out of Leland’s last auction, the first example I have ever seen or heard of, this after almost twenty years of dealing in game used bats. And if you think team collecting is easy, just ask the guys who are looking for the so-called common bats to finish a team collection what they think. Most of the Hall of Fame game bats come up for sale albeit, they will usually cut deep into your pockets but the “commons”, some of which make a once in a lifetime appearance and may never be seen again at any price (and if two bidders are working on the same collection), and if this is the case, just watch out.
Look at what has happened to the “common” prices on the high-grade baseball card market. Record prices are being paid on the so called “highest graded” examples yet most are not rare if you don’t mind going down a grade but when it comes to baseball bats, the majority don’t exist in any grade and if you are holding out for only A7’s or better or only want bats made during the era of the team you are collecting, you may see life on Mars before you get all the bats needed just for the starting line up let alone the majority of the roster. And speaking of rosters, most collectors consider themselves fortunate to add one or two pitchers to their team collection. I do not know of a single collector who has ever managed to amass a single year team collection prior to 1975 with a game bat of every listed player with or without pitchers.
Remember, certain single team collections are going to be much more difficult than others. If you are collecting pre war teams like the 1919 Reds or White Sox or the 1927 Pirates or Yankees, you are going to find it tough going as you try to add new examples and the prices you will pay given the value of the stars and Hall of Famers is going to be substantial, very substantial, but this financial burden gets easier as time marches on. Teams like the 1954 Giants, Indians or first year Orioles, the 1959 White Sox, the 1962 or 69 Mets or the 1975 Reds are much more obtainable. The closer to the present, the larger the base supply especially with regards to the Hall of Fame and superstar players and teams with fewer Hall of Famers will obviously be cheaper to complete. Let’s take, for example, the historic 1962 expansion team Mets, forever known as the worst single season record of the 20th century. Only the 1899 Spiders had a worse record and that was over a hundred years ago. There seems to be a large collector base for Mets game used equipment and the hapless 1962 Mets with 120 losses and 40 victories on the season seem to hold a special place in Mets collector’s hearts. Maybe it’s the love for the underdog, the genesis of a team, or imagined nostalgia, putting together a collection of game bats from the 1962 Mets is fairly affordable and many of the starter’s bats are obtainable given a few years or more to complete. The “commons”, while not as expensive when and if you find them, will present a bigger challenge to your patience than your wallet. A pre 1960 Ritchie Ashburn is going to be obtainable but try and find a post 1960 era model. They will usually be cheaper than a 1950’s version but a lot tougher to find. If you make up your mind that you are going to collect only proper era bats, you will not build a very big collection, EVER. Or, if you are going to get a game used example regardless of era or condition and then upgrade when something better comes along, you will progress at a much better pace. Following is a list of Mets players from that inaugural season of 1962 including original first day team, starters, pitchers, and all other players who were listed on the team roster.
The nine 1962 New York Mets Opening Day Starters were as follows;
Ritchie Ashburn- The only Hall of Famer player on the 1962 Mets. One of the most expensive bats of all the 1962 Mets yet one of the easiest to obtain. (Casey Stengel is in the Hall but not as a player)
1962 Mets with most starts by position
C-Chris Cannizzaro (56)
1b-Marv Throneberry (97)
2b-Charlie Neal (85)
3b-Felix Mantilla (95)
SS-Elio Chacon (110)
LF -Frank Thomas (126)
CF-Jim Hickman (84)
RF-Ritchie Ashburn (42)
RF-Joe Christopher (42)
Roger Craig, Jay Hook, Al Jackson and Bob Miller
Ray Daviault, Willard Hunter, Ken MacKenzie, and Bob Moorhead.
The above player model bats would constitute a collection of what are considered the main core of the team’s regulars. With regard to pitchers, add any one pitcher to the collection and if you can’t find even one then add a team bat stamped “Mets”. You can get these bats signed by some of the pitchers at a card or autograph show and these are exactly the type of bat some pitchers used. We have listed the most popular model bats of the 1962 Mets with a quick note as to perceived availability, which is simply based on observations over the past couple of years both public and private. We are listing models recorded with no regards to player era. In some cases, there are no records and in others, they are not complete. Just because you get a model that is different or does not fall within the listed measurements does not mean the player did not order the bat, just that it is not listed. While this may be a concern to some, on the rare commons, I do not think a model that is not listed in the records would deter me from adding it to the collection. If that was the case, then you cannot buy any Marv Throneberry or Chicon model since the records do not exist. (My thanks to Dan Cohen at Louisville who helped research some of the more obscure player’s records for this article)
Ashburn- Available in both H&B and Adirondack models. Scarce but obtainable with several examples having sold last couple of years. H&B models used include C12, C31, G7, G69, H4, H35, H43, H117, M140, M159, O1, O15, R17, R43, S2 and U1- Adirondack model 137B known. Lengths 34-36” Weights 32-35 oz.
Gus Bell- H&B models, Scarce but obtainable with several sold in last few years. Models include G79, C117, R43, S162, D2, K55, G102, P89, W183, M63S, H143, O1, S2- 34-36”, 31-35 oz.
Joe Ginsberg- H&B, scarce. Models used W148, G132. 34.5-35”/ 32-33 oz.
Sherman Jones – none known
Felix Mantilla- Very, very rare. Have seen one example offered in last two years. H&B models include K75, H43, S2, S44. 35”- 31-33 oz.
Jim Marshall- None known–Models used include B193 and S2- 36”-31.5-34 oz.
Charlie Neal- Obtainable but you have to fight the 55 Dodger collectors. Models include R46 (Reese model), U1, and S2. 34”- 30 oz.
Frank Thomas- Obtainable but I have seen only two in last couple of years. Model M66- 35”- 30-32 oz.
Don Zimmer- Obtainable, several sold last few years but again, you have to fight the 1955 Dodger collectors. H&B models include; H85, H117, S44, D89, W74, Z14, S2, R43, K55, G66, R46, S188- 34-36” 31-36 oz.
Now for the most position starts;
Chris Cannizzaro- Obtainable, several sold last few years. Models used C216, C217, K93, 34.5 “/ 31-32 oz.
Marv Throneberry- Very scarce, have seen less than 2-3 ever. H&B records do not exist (but the bats do)
Elio Chicon- none known (H&B records do not exist)
Jim Hickman- Obtainable, several sold last few years. Models K43, T115 and S44. 34.5- 35”/ 31-33 oz.
Joe Christopher- none known, Models M159, U1, O1, S2, O16, B193, M59 (probably M159 typo in records) 34.5”/ 30-32 oz.
Following is a list of the rest of the 1962 Mets plus pitchers;
Ed Bouchee- scarce
Joe Pignatano- one known
Cliff Cook- None
Bobby Gene Smith-none
Choo Choo Coleman-rare
Ken Mackenzie- none
Vinegar Bend Mizell-rare
Obviously, obtaining any bat of any era in any condition of any of the above listed players with “none” after their name would be a major score. So to would any bat listed as rare. Obtainable and scarce means we have seen examples for sale within last few years on the open market and they should be the easiest to add to your collection. Pick your team, take your time, and don’t pass up off grade or off year “commons”, index or team bats, even coach’s era bats on rare models. You will have to if you expect to get any kind of a collection put together. I have made this mistake a few times, passing on some keys to my collection because of condition and have never seen another. You can always upgrade when the opportunity presents itself. Most people start with the big stars and Hall of Famers first but I would suggest chasing the others first, especially if you have limited funds. Speaking of budgets, you can always fill in some of the more expensive players with autographed show or store bats (I’m sure this advise will have the purists ranting) until you can afford the real deal. It’s your collection, do what feels good to you and have fun. You won’t die of boredom chasing your dream, that’s for sure.