While looking for bats to complete my set of participants of the 1960 TV Series Home Run Derby, I spotted a vintage Rocky Colavito gamer on E-Bay. The opening bid price of $1295.00 and the “Buy It Now Price” of $1495.00 was in line with what I was looking to pay of a bat that fit what I was looking for:
1950-1960 H&B Labeling Period
Model # K55
Length: 35 “
Weight: 33oz (+- 2 oz)
Deep, Clear, Strong Stamping
Uncracked but signs of use
The plus side for this bat was that it had what appeared to be a nice older autograph as well. I was all set to bid, then I noticed the description said it had his #21 on the knob. I knew that Colavito wore #21 with the Indians, but not until he returned to the Tribe in 1965. I contacted the seller to make sure the uniform number was in fact #21. He came back with that it was. I knew that the Indians had originally looked at Colavito as a pitcher when he was coming up and realized that he wore #38 for the 1955-57 seasons. I still had an interest in this bat because it looked so nice and met many of the characteristics I was looking for, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to pay the current price for a bat that was ordered by him but used by a teammate…that is until I realized that the teammate wearing #21 was Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon.
I looked at Bob Lemon’s H&B player file and noticed that from 7-22-49 until 5-16-57 Lemon had thirty-seven (37) orders for bats and all of those but one (5-20-50; R43) where for model O16. Then I noticed that on 6-25-58 and 8-7-58 Lemon had ordered model # K55 at 35” and 33oz. In looking closer at this period, I noticed that Lemon’s last order prior to these was on 5-16-57. Lemon had gone over a year without ordering any bats and when he did, he ordered a new model, the K55. This caused me to think about a couple of things:
1. What was Lemon using during this period?
2. What prompted him to switch model bats after almost a decade?
What I took away from this is that Lemon may have switched away from the O16 to the K55 because he tried the K55 and liked it. It was not hard to imagine that Lemon may have looked at Colavito and his success with them.
This is what I saw as the facts:
– Colavito ordered K55’s of this length and weight at this same time for his own use.
– Colavito and Lemon were teammates in Cleveland at this time.
– Lemon wore #21 while with Cleveland.
– “21” is the vintage number on the knob of the bat.
– Lemon decided after almost a decade to switch bats from O16 to K55 and there is a one (1) year gap between Lemon’s last order of O16 (5-16-57) and his first order of K55 (6-25-58).
– Between his last order of O16’s and his first order of K55’s, Lemon had 36 At Bats and was using some model of bat.
– Lemon’s personal bat records do not show any orders of K55 beyond those two listed in 1958 (Coaches and Old Timers games are for O16’s and W215’s).
– The bat shows moderate use and is uncracked so it was used and not discarded based on functionality.
-Lemon had an endorsement contract with Hillerich and Bradsby as of 1939 and a long established recorded of ordering bats for his own use.
This is what I saw as reasonable assumptions and a supporting logic trail:
Lemon used a K55 for some period of time prior to his order on 6-25-58. This is based on the notion that he tried them and liked what he saw, thus supporting a decision to order them for himself. If he did not order them as part of a “trial period”, then he borrowed or obtained a bat from another player. The player he borrowed a bat from was likely a teammate. This concept of players using bats ordered by other players is supported by the historical references of side written bats and photos of players using bats that have another player’s number on the knob. The likely teammate would have been Rocky Colavito in this case as it is a Colavito model bat meeting both the ordering pattern of Colavito’s and Lemon’s by weight and length.
The Opinion I Formed To Make a Purchase Decision:
This 1950-1960 Hillerich and Bradsby Model K55 with the signature of Rocky Colavito was likely ordered by Colavito and used by Lemon at some point between Lemon’s last order of model O16 on (5-16-57) and his first order of K55 (6-25-58). This is supported by the presence of Lemon’s #21 on the knob, the fact that Lemon and Colavito were teammates thus facilitating easy and or routine access to Colavito’s bats, and a gap in Lemon’s ordering records which also coincides with a switch to the K55 after a decade long preference for the O16. The fact that the bat is not cracked may indicate that it was used until such a time that Lemon obtained his own model K55 bats. Lemon last game as a player was on 1 July 1958 and thus, this bat may have been one of the last ones he used as a player.
I have laid this out in the form of an article to offer some insights on what I go through when looking to add items to my collection. The useful “takeaways” from this might be:
1. Establish and know what you are looking for.
2. Understand the value of what you are buying and what you are looking to spend.
3. Don’t dismiss items that might not be the “perfect fit” out of hand.
4. Spend some time and effort in doing some independent research.
In other words, “When life gives you Lemon’s, buy them even if they have Rocky Colavito’s name on them.”
MEARS Auth, LLC