Once again I found myself getting sidetracked doing research. I was supposed to be looking for images of a late 1930s New York Yankees Hall of Famer as part of a uniform evaluation, when I started to see some bat stuff that caught my eye… Realizing I was at risk of getting way off topic, I decided to focus on finding a few examples of “knob issues”…coble together some notes, and be done with it…if only for now. So here we go…
Star Stampings on Hillerich and Bradsby Bats:
Vince Malta’s most recent book has an entry for Rogers Hornsby asking that his bats be marked with a star in 1925. Why would Hornsby ask for something like this? If I had to offer a guess it might be that a clue lies in the evolution and use of bat racks as opposed to laying bats out in front of the dugout as well as the issue of uniform numbers. The “star stamping” may have served as the basis for a player to identify his bats in a more rapid manner. This may have been short lived as players began to identify their bats with uniform numbers…an option that would not have been available to Hornsby in 1925 as the Cardinals were not wearing uniform numbers at that time. This stamping would also have to include thoughts on the ability of the players or team personnel to mark knobs with some sort of reliable ink device. The thing to consider is that the pictures shown are all from a time when players were wearing uniform numbers. The general time period for these pictures is all late 1930s to the early 1940s.
Perfect Style Number:
At times, a player’s bat will be described as having a perfect example of his number written on the knob. The thing I would caution collectors on is don’t automatically dismiss a bat because it has a variation of writing you may not have seen. Consider this picture of Cincinnati Reds Equipment Manager Bernie Stowe doing a little inventory on some Big Red Machine Lumber from the mid 1970s. Notice that the Tony Perez bats (#24) can be found with three distinctly different variations of player annotation:
1. Closed “4” and number is underlined.
2. Closed “4” and number is not underlined.
3. Open “4” and number is underlined.
I chose this example because the manner in which the numeral “4” is written has often been used to identify or is referenced in Pete Rose bats as well with respect to either an open or closed “4”.
Or what about the bats of Rocky Colavito? What is the perfect knob marking for him when you have a variety to choose from?
Bats That You May Not Find In Shipping Records:
There are any number of times you will find a player in posed shot that reveals the model number of the bat. Many collectors are quick to dismiss these as simply staged shots. Please consider making note of these when you see them, especially if it is for a player you collect that the bat happens to be one that is unlikely you are going to find production information on. A classic example of these are for manufacturers such as Adirondack. The image of Rusty Staub is from 1969-1971 as this was the time he was with the Expos. The Staub gamer is from the 1968-1970 time frame. Both are model 265 B bats and this gamer also includes Staub’s #10.
Or what about this picture of Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. This bat is marked 35 ½. This is either a bat length or weight…neither of which can be found in Frank Robinson’s personal order sheet. The other option, it is a bat from another player that Frank decided he liked.
Players Using Other Player’s Bats:
We know this happens for any number of reasons, but do we document this? At times we rely on player or contemporary news accounts. One of the better ways to see this is when we find in action shots of player swinging a bat featuring another player’s number. While there are examples of players intentionally miss-marking bats in order to thwart souvenir hunters, these are fairly solid indicators of other player use. Consider these pictures of Rod Carew and Lou Brock, both members of the 3000 Hit Club.
The point of all of this that collectors should not view any or all examples or “information sound bites” as absolutes when it comes to players bats. Establish what it is you want to collect, what has been written and what people have said. That is only the starting point…It’s enough to drive anyone batty…
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com