We have all seen images, whether motion picture or still shots, where it appears that the bat in the hands of a major leaguer is bending under the strain of contact with that 90+ mph fastball. The question becomes is it an optical allusion or not? A wonderful article that appeared in the Burlington N.C. Daily Times-News on Wednesday July 11th 1956 deals with this very same subject. I was very pleased to see that the article involved both Adirondack and one of my all time favorites, Ted Kluszewski.
The article is titled “Lively Bats May Be The Answer to Increase in Home Runs.” According to Big Klu, “ I don’t think the ball is any livelier. ..I think it’s a lighter bat. The more speed you can get with the bat at the moment of impact, the further the ball will go.” Kluszewski went on to say that “ fellows like Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs uses a 31 ounce-35 inch bat. And Stan Musial of the Cardinals gets down to 30-31 ounces. They really can whip that bat around. It doesn’t work for me. I have to overpower it. I can’t get more speed with a lighter bat although I use a 36 ounce bat now.” Other sluggers mentioned who have seen the light and are moving to lighter bats include Yankee sluggers like Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle. Phillie hitters’ Solly Hemus and Granny Hamner are mentioned as swinging 28 ounce bats.
The branding slogan for McLaughlin-Millard Adirondack bats for the time was “Flexible Whip Action.” Enter McLaughlin-Millard Adirondack Vice-President for sales, Hal Schumacher. To prove that the company slogan was more than just a catchy phrase, Schumacher set up a demonstration at the Dolgeville, NY manufacturing facility just to show how lively his product was. In the test, Schumacher was able to show that the bat actually bent as much as much as 4 ½ inches without breaking.
I was amazed at how much the bat is said to have bent without breaking. With this in mind, I decided to contact Dr. James Sherwood at the Baseball Research Center, University of Massachusetts- Lowell. I sent Dr. Sherwood a copy of the article in question. Dr. Sherwood did his undergraduate, graduate, and PhD work at the University of Cincinnati so I thought he might also like to see the comments of Kluszewski as well.
The ever gracious Dr. Sherwood replied with “As to your baseball bat question, there is some whip action in a bat. As for the 4.5 inches of tip deflection cited in the newspaper article, this will probably not happen in a game. He was able to get this kind deflection at a slow speed in a lab. Nevertheless, his experiment does support the flexibility of a bat handle without breaking the bat. We have done some computer modeling of a bat ball collision. We saw in our models that the flex in the bat could add at least a mph to the batted-ball speed.”
Whip action and lighter bats seems to be what it’s all about…makes you wonder what number Bonds would be chasing if “The Babe” knew this?
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
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