My most recent trip to Cooperstown was the first one where I had spent any real time looking at bat related issues. In previous years I had been focused almost exclusively either on uniforms or specific players I was interested in. Practically without exception I head to the Hall when the snow’s on the ground. The rooms are cheaper and you really almost have the place to yourself. The other thing that timing a trip like this does, is it finds you there at time when the staff is less busy. You will notice I did not say “not busy”. The folks at the Hall of Fame are always busy. This time of year a lot of work is being done getting ready for that next class of enshrinees (Gil Hodges got screwed again). The importance to this is that the research staff truly wants to help and accommodate and if there are fewer people there, then they take the time to talk with you about you are doing or looking into.
I spent the first day and most of the second doing nothing but looking through player photograph files. I found some great shots relating to a uniform I am working on, a couple of glove pictures of Mantle from the 1956 World Series, some “maybe pictures” of Ruth and Roush with cork gripped bats, Frankie Frisch with a Kren bat, and some pictures to support items I have in my personal collection. I ended ordering some 13 photographs for my collection.
Over the course of the two days, I had the occasion and great pleasure to just talk baseball stuff with Research Director Tim Wiles. This was certainly one of the highlights of my trip and I could have talked with Tim for hours, but I knew he had a lot on his plate. Tim is very active in research and writing as he has published a book focused on the song “Take Me Out To The Ballgame…”
I took the afternoon on the second day to tour the museum and got some nice uniform shots, but wanted to make sure I swung back through to say thank you. Boy am I glad I did. Tim asked me if would like to see the files they had on Kren and Hanna bats. I was tempted for just a second to politely beg off as it was late in the day and I had to get up very early to make the drive to Rob Lifson’s. Good thing I didn’t.
As Tim brought out the Hanna file and I opened it up, I saw the order sheets right away in document protectors and could see at once there were more than one set. It turned out that six separate documents were on hand. I have provided them here for you. If you would like me to e-mail you better copies, just drop me a line. The thing I found equally interesting is that these documents have been at Cooperstown since the mid 1990’s, yet who knew?
Consider the players found in these records and what if anything it offers with respect to Hanna Bat use and bat use in general:
Lyle Chase 3/9/36: No record of major league play.
Travis Jackson 2/14/36: 15 year major league veteran with the NY Giants.
Walter Berger 3/25/36: 11 year major league career with the Boston Braves, NY Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and Philadelphia Phillies. 4 x All Star.
Dusty Rhodes 2/16/36: (Gordon) 8 major league seasons with the NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia A’s.
Lyons 2/1/35: (Ted?): (Foxx Model) 21 year major league veteran with the Chicago White Sox. Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bill Dickey 4/8/36: 17 year major league veteran with the NY Yankees. Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
-We can see in this small sample that Hanna bats were used by guys ranging from ones who never made it to the majors to maybe two who made it all the way to Cooperstown.
-We find Hanna bat use by five separate teams; two in the National League and three in the American League.
-We see that both a player of no notoriety and maybe a Hall of Famer sent in their own wood to be used for their bats (and they say Ted Williams was picky).
– We see that the Hall of Famers ordered more bats in each order Lyons (4) and Dickey (6)
– We see annotations on how the barrel was to be branded in four of the cases. With respect to the other two, since no branding instruction were given, might it be assumed that previous bats had already been made for them?
– We see the bat Wally Berger ordered was patterned after a model sent in by a W.P White. Berger requested a “smaller handle”. On 6-13-35, he made the same request to Hillerich and Bradsby.
– We see that these bats were ordered and turned for players that had already signed H&B endorsement contracts:
Wally Berger 1930
Bill Dickey 1928
Travis Jackson 1924
Gordon “Dusty” Rhodes
-We see that the Travis Jackson bat was a “new model” and that these bats were lighter than the products he would order from Hillerich and Bradsby that same year:
Hanna: 33 7/8oz and 31 ¼ oz
H&B: 34 and 35oz
– We see that Lyons ordered bats ranging in weight from 31oz to 39 oz. Ted Lyons shipping records H&B ordering records show bats weighing 33oz and 34 oz. The Lyons orders could also be from a different player and not Ted.
– We see that in this one order, Bill Dickey ordered half as many bats from Hanna (6) as his records show for from H&B for 1936 (12).
-We see another instance of player (Dusty Rhodes) ordering a bat at less than 34”.
Truth be told after seeing this, had I not told Rob Lifson I would be at REA on Friday, I was tempted to call Michelle and plead my case as being “snowed in.” I am already making plans to go back up before the snow melts and the crowds show up. You should consider doing the same.
With respect to this article, draw your own conclusions about what it does or does not provide insight on. One thing that is not open to debate, is once again, we don’t seem to know as much as we thought we did about bats and the only way to get at this stuff is to do research. Yes, this will require spending some time and money on something other than product.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com