December 3, 2005
On 10-28-05, we examined the following item for the December 2005 Mastro Net Auction and reported the following via the MEARS Bat Grading & Authentication Official Worksheet ã2005 Summary. Our findings:
“Lou Gehrig professional model Louisville Slugger bat side written and returned 7-7-28”
When asked about bats during the 1928 season, Lou Gehrig replied, “When you buy a bat look for the Louisville Slugger oval trademark. It is your guarantee of the highest quality in bats. It is the mark of experts in selecting, seasoning and turning bats of perfect balance, spring, and driving power.”…Knack of Batting published by Louisville Slugger, 1928
This bat, MEARS certification #301530, was one of the exact bats Lou had in mind while making that remark.
The bat was manufactured by Louisville Slugger and exhibited the 1921-31 centerbrand. Inspection of the bat detailed the pre-model number version. Production methods of the period were completed without the addition of a model number. Model numbers were not introduced until the 1943 season.
Player’s Name Barrel Stampings
In 1923, Lou Gehrig signed an exclusive contract with Hillerich & Bradsby that allowed the bat manufacture to place the script Lou Gehrig signature on the barrel of its bats. Therefore, a factory applied “Lou Gehrig” signature appears on the barrel end. This is the large version of “Lou Gehrig” signature, which is found on Louisville Slugger bats. In later years H&B changed the factory dye stampings and small version Lou Gehrig barrel signature could be found. The large or first version of the signature was standard on bats issued to Gehrig during the 1920’s and therefore this barrel stamping is appropriate. Beautiful dark factory stampings create a nice contrast versus the amber colored wood grain.
Bat was returned to the factory and labeled on 7-7-28 in vintage grease pencil. Judging by the significant use, the bat was most likely used during the portion(s) of the season prior to 7-7-28 with possible use during previous seasons, including 1927. This particular bat with significant use is very desirable trait sought after when examining game use on a bat. With the finding of 3 deeply embedded stitch marks, deadwood caused by raised grain from repeated ball contact, and a 1”x 7” flattened hitting surface, use could have been obtained from a season or more of game use. Factory returned bats could have been used in previous seasons, therefore, use during 1928 and possibly 1927 could be attributed especially in light of the significant game use traits.
A recent weighing of the bat determined its present weight to be 36.8 ounces. Factory side writing, which documented the weight of the bat at the time it was returned to the factory, stated 38 ounce. Due to the amount of time that has passed, a 1.2-ounce loss in weight is both acceptable and commonly found on bats from this period.
The bat measures 35” in length. This measurement was documented via the factory side writing, which was found on the bat. Both the length (35”) and weight (36.8 ounces, 38 ounces originally) are acceptable for bats made for Lou Gehrig to use during the 1920s.
The knob of the bat has been determined to be of the small version. The small version can best be described as a flare in size with the beginning of edges, which formed the small knob.
The barrel was round which was the most common style of the day.
In Louisville Slugger’s own booklet, “the Knack of Batting”, the type of wood, which was carefully selected for use for a star of Gehrig’s caliber, is discussed at length. The booklet reported that hardwood, second growth ash was required for professional model bats. The kind of soil in which the trees grows is also important. It must be deep loam with a gravely sub-soil. It must be in a sheltered location, on the steep banks of glens, rivers, and lakes. The best ash is found where trees grow in masses. In order that the timber may be perfect when it is turned into a bat, no artificial method of seasoning is used. While stored, the piles are turned at least three times a year to guard against worms, to complete the process of drying and to prevent warping and checking. The seasoning process in nature’s own way requires from one to two years and it is the driving power to Louisville Slugger bats. Only once the billets of selected ash are thoroughly dried are they ready for the lathes.
With a thorough examination of the wood at the Mastro Net’s office, MEARS determined this to be a wood of the absolute highest quality and meeting all of the quality mentioned above further proving this bat was selected after meeting the factories highest standards.
Factory Records in the form of side writing
Complete factory records found on personal player bat records become standardized in 1930. Prior to, the factory archived lathe bats, vault marked bats, and side written bats that served as primary records for the manufacturing of bats for players. Therefore, for pre 1930 bats, side written examples are the basis of the factory records as they were kept “in house” and were the actual physical examples used as record.
The Mastro Net bat, certification #301530, exhibits documented side writing.
Found on the barrel in vintage grease pencil applied by lathe hand Henry Morrow, was:
“H.L. Gehrig 7-7-28” and “7-7-28 35 38 oz New York Amer.”
Examined side written examples found in the MEARS database include the following which allows for the examination of the consistency of the writing style, placement, letter structure, and diction.
Documented side written examples from Henry Morrow’s own hand which are found in the MEARS database photo file:
Babe Ruth 3-23-23 Louisville Slugger
Babe Ruth 1927 Louisville Slugger
Dave Bancroft 8-7-26 Louisville Slugger
Edd Roush 5-18-26 Louisville Slugger
Gabby Harnett 1925 Louisville Slugger
Lou Gehrig 1932 Hanna Batrite
Tony Lazzeri 8-29-28 Louisville Slugger
Lloyd Waner 4-4-28 Louisville Slugger
Hugh Jennings 4-28-27 Louisville Slugger lathe
Lou Gehrig 5-13-26 Louisville Slugger lathe
Lou Correll 4-28-28 Louisville Slugger
When comparing the Mastro Net Lou Gehrig bat, certification #301530, to the side written examples in the MEARS database, we found that the writing was very consistent with the examples examined which allowed us to verify the side writing as authentic and original. Specific style and lettering matches of the HL Gehrig 7-7-28 as these letters were found within the writing of the examples in our database. For example, we found the following writing matches in HL Gehrig 7-7-28 :
H matches Hugh Jennings 4-28-27 Louisville Slugger lathe
L matches Lazzeri 8-29-28 Louisville Slugger
G matches Gabby Harnett
e matches lower case e in Jennins
h matches lower case H in Babe Ruth 3-23-23
r matches lower case in Tony Lazzeri 8-29-28
I matches lower case in Tony LazzerI 8-29-28
g matches lower case in Lou Gehrig 5-13-26 Louisville Slugger lathe
‘28 matches all of the 8’s found in the database.
Finally, the writing style of the Mastro Net Gehrig (certification #301530) perfectly matches the Lou Gehrig 5-13-26 Louisville Slugger lathe bat.
By studying the formation of the letters and numbers in the listed side written examples and comparing them to the Mastro Net Gehrig (certification #301530) the overwhelming number of matches verify that all of the side writing was applied in the same hand. By determining the side writing all matched, it can be determined that the side writing Mastro Net Gehrig (certification #301530) is authentic as applied by Henry Morrow on 7-7-28. With the side writing being the key identifying component to the authenticity of the bat, it can be certain that this was the exact bat returned by Lou Gehrig to the Louisville Slugger factory and both the bat and side writing is all original with no alterations.
A complete review of all bats graded by MEARS finds that only two other Louisville Sluggers have been graded as of 12/1/05. The bat is consistent in manufacturer specifications for Lou Gehrig bats that we have examined. These examples are consistent as examples of Lou Gehrig bats issued to him during the period of 1921-34, permitting some sort of trend analysis and verification of Louisville Slugger as a known Yankee’s supplier during Gehrig’s playing career.
35” Lou Gehrig Louisville Slugger 1921-31 MEARS A2.5
35” Lou Gehrig Louisville Slugger 1933-34 MEARS A10
Our database verifies this bat as:
– One of 2 Lou Gehrig bats examined by MEARS used by Gehrig during the 1920’s.
– The highest graded 1920’s Lou Gehrig bat examined by MEARS
– The only 1920s side written Lou Gehrig bat examined by MEARS
Our evaluation of the bat determined significant use was present. The bat was most likely used during the portion(s) of the season prior to 7-7-28 with possible use during previous seasons, including 1927. This particular bat with significant use is very desirable trait sought after when examining game use on a bat. With the finding of 3 deeply embedded stitch marks found below the Lou Gehrig factory stampings, deadwood on reverse of barrel was caused by raised grain from repeated ball contact, and a 1”x 7” flattened hitting surface, use could have been obtained from a season or more of game use. Factory returned bats could have been used in previous seasons, therefore, use during 1928 and possibly 1927 could be attributed especially in light of the significant game use traits. A 9” H-shaped handle crack is found and was most likely the reason the bat was returned to the factory. At least 4 distinct cleat marks are found in the area of the deadwood.
Another trait of this bat is the presence of 3 ringlets of handle tape. Photographic evidence documents many instances of Lou Gehrig with tape on the handle.
With a bat perfectly matching factory records and the existence of documented Henry Morrow side writing, this bat currently ranks as the #1 bat examined by MEARS due to its unquestionable documentation via the side writing, perfect manufacturers characteristics, and overall superb eye appeal.
Troy R. Kinunen
MEARS Evaluations and Grading