March 1, 2007
On July 18th, 1956, Ted Williams hit his 400th career homerun. As he rounded home, he ceremoniously spit in the direction of the press box. His long-standing feud with the press was well documented and Williams decided to continue the battle.
Waiting at homeplate was batboy John Orlando. Without expression or emotion, he removed the bat from the batter’s box and returned it to the dugout like he had many times during the season.
A couple of days later in Detroit, the bat that hit the 400th homerun and was witness to the spitting incident was cracked during the heat of battle. With its ash grain finally giving way after repeated subjection to William’s whiplash inspiring swing, the bat was given to the batboy as a token of Ted Williams appreciation.
For their April 26th & 27th Spring sale, Mastro Auctions asked MEARS to evaluate this historic bat. After a thorough examination, MEARS determined this bat was the finest and most historically significant Ted Williams bat we had yet to examine. Our methods of the examination of the bat, factory records, provenance, and use characteristics are outlined for this article.
Final report prepared by Troy R. Kinunen/MEARS Authenticator
On February 26, 2007, we examined the following item for the April 2007 Mastro Auctions Spring Sale and reported the following via the official MEARS Bat Grading & Authentication Official Worksheet 2005-2007. Hologram #305013 was assigned. Dave Bushing and Troy Kinunen both physically inspected the bat. A magnified light source was used to examine use, production markings or possible signs of tampering. We completed our evaluation with a complete review of the Louisville Slugger factory records with emphasis on Ted William’s personal orders. Our findings:
“1956 Louisville Slugger Ted Williams professional model bat attributed to his 400th career homerun with letter of provenance from John Orlando, the Boston Red Sox batboy”
MEARS Grade: A10*
Center Brand & model number W183
The bat was manufactured by Hillerich & Bradsby and exhibited the 1950-60 centerbrand. Inspection of the bat detailed the factory stamped W183 on knob, designating model. Factory production methods of the period (starting 1943) were completed with the stamping of the model number on the knob, thus making both the centerbrand labeling (version used starting 1950) and model number and its application correct for the examined period and event.
Factory records show the progression of Ted Williams’s bat models ordered at the various stages of his career (starting with his rookie season and continuing forward) and help pinpoint this bat as being available to the timeframe of his 400th career homerun. By understanding the progression of the models while inspecting the production patterns which are listed in Louisville Slugger shipping records, all doubt is eliminated as the records support this as being the model bat on hand for the 1956 season and 400th homerun.
During the 1940s, Louisville Slugger factory records note Ted Williams’s use of the Lefty O’Doul model, which were produced sans model numbers on the knob. The dating of the barrel label also eliminates this as a 1940s model. Ted Williams’s transitioned away from the O’Doul model (O1) of the 1940s to his “new model” W148, then the W155. With a barrel modification evolved the W166, and finally the debut of the W183, the model featured for this evaluation.
Creation of the W183 model by Ted Williams
On May 25th, 1955 Ted Williams designed this new model. He combined the handle of the S180 model with the knob of his W166, the model he currently was using. Louisville Slugger designated this as the W183. Now with the new W183 model being verified via the factory records, we can also verify the weight specifications as ordered by Ted Williams.
Per Ted Williams implicit instructions as they are recorded in the factory records:
“Not to weigh over 33 ½ oz, as close to 33 oz as possible”.
The examined bat perfectly matches the request of Ted Williams’s bats ordered in the W183 model weight and serves as a form of documentation from Ted Williams himself.
The weight of this examined bat matches the weight ordered by Ted Williams.
With production specifications finalized, the first order of this new W183 model was shipped on 5-31-55 and narrow grain was specified. Williams continued to order this model through the end of the 1955 season.
With the start of the 1956 season, Ted Williams placed his initial order of bats for Spring Training. Examination of the weight disqualifies this bat as being one of those ordered for Spring Training use and again supports its availability for the 400th homerun game in July.
His Spring Training order was as follows:
W183, 35” of the following quantity and weights:
(4) 37 oz
(4) 36 oz
(6) 34 oz
(10) 33 oz
Examination of this bat precludes it from being any of the above orders as this homerun bat weighs in at 32 ounces. The Spring Training bats were all heavier than the examined Mastro Auctions Ted Williams #305013. With the start of the season, Ted Williams placed 3 additional bat orders.
Factory records support this bat was shipped to Ted Williams to use from one of the of following orders:
4-19-56 W183 Narrow Grain 35” 33 oz Ash (12) quantity
4-20-56 W183 Narrow Grain 35” 33 oz Ash (12) quantity
5-14-56 W183 Narrow Grain 35” 32 oz Ash (12) quantity
No other bats were shipped to Ted Williams after spring training until his All Star Game bat orders on 7-6-56 which were notated in the records as “All Star Game” and would have been stamped as such on the barrel. His next order of bats was on 7-31-56, after the date of the homerun. Working from orders shipped to him during the 1956 season, this would have to have originated from one of those 3 orders.
Player’s Name Barrel Stampings
On May 12th, 1937 Ted Williams signed his contract with Louisville Slugger, which allowed the bat manufacturer to place the script Ted Williams’s signature on the barrel of its bats. Therefore, a factory applied “Ted Williams” facsimile signature appears on the barrel end. Examination of the Mastro Auctions Ted Williams bat #305013 when compared to other known authentic examples in the MEARS database establishes:
1. This is the second version of the Ted Williams signature. The earlier version appeared on Williams bats produced circa 1938-43. With the advent of model numbers placed on the knob starting in 1943, bats produced by H&B were found with this second version of the Ted Williams barrel signature. This version remained unchanged and was used for the rest of the bats ordered by Ted Williams throughout his playing career (1960).
2. When compared to other known authentic examples of Ted Williams’s bats from the 1950-60 label period, this second version barrel signature matches perfectly.
MEARS database examples used for comparison of barrel signature factory stamping:
The MEARS data base examples allowed for a positive comparison between previously examined bats and Mastro Auctions Ted Williams bat #305013.
The provenance and factory production records support the claim the bat was used on July 18th, 1956.
A recent weighing of the bat determined its present weight to be 31.4 ounces. The factory ordering records confirm that during the time this bat would have been manufactured for use by Ted Williams’s for his 400th career homerun, the weights should be 32 or 33 ounces. The current weight of 31.4 ounces is well within the range of either weight at the time the bat was originally manufactured. A small weight loss is a common occurrence and is the result of the natural aging associated with ash and/or storage. The weight of this bat and the examination of the weight of bats ordered per the factory records by Ted Williams during this label period confirm this bat as being correct.
The bat measures 34 7/8” in length. For all interested, this means the bat was recorded in the factory records as 35”. Factory records confirm that all of Ted William’s bats ordered during the 1956 season were listed as 35”. This bat matches the length orders found in the 1956 records.
The knob of the bat has been determined to be the regular style of bat preferred by Williams. There were no special modifications of the knob, nor were any requested upon the examination of the factory records.
Uniform Number found on the knob
Visual examination confirms the presence of Ted William’s uniform number on the knob. 9 is found on the knob and it is applied in a thick black paint. This painted nine serves as an additional form of provenance. Numerous photographs of Ted Williams from the era clearly show him with a similarly applied 9 on the knob. In all cases the examined photos compare favorably to the knob in regards to:
1. Photo compared to knob #305013 show similarities in the use of black paint to form the 9
2. Photo compared to knob #305013 shows the use of the underscore to identify the number 9
3. MEARS database compared to knob #305013 establishes Ted Williams did add the 9 to the knob of his bat of other authentic examples evaluated by the staff of MEARS.
4. The 9 appears vintage and original to the bat.
The uniqueness of the addition of, application technique, underscore, and placement of the #9 serves as another direct link to the usage of the bat by Ted Williams as its confirmation is a trait unique to Ted Williams.
The barrel was round which was the most common style of the day. All examined photographs of Ted Williams confirm this.
The wood was found to be of the highest professional grade ash with the grain pattern found to be consistent with other examined game used Ted Williams’s bats. Examination of the grain itself reveals the presence of narrow grain in this examined bat #305013. With a thorough visual examination of the wood, MEARS determined this to be a wood of the absolute highest quality with narrow grain and meeting all of the qualities found on other examined professional model bats. The narrow ash grain on this examined bat also matches the specific request of Ted William’s for narrow grain ash bats as verified via the factory records.
Game Use and player specific use characteristics
1. Degree of use: For this step of the evaluation process, we used a magnified light source. After a complete evaluation of the bat and the effects to the wood caused from game use, the bat was determined to have heavy/significant use. This is the maximum and most desirable amount of use expected to be found on quality high caliber game used bats. The degree of use is assigned as heavy after the physical examination of the bat from knob to barrel end. This is done by visually starting with the knob and following the grain to the barrel end. The bat is rotated at a 360 to evaluate all surfaces of the bat. Close attention must be paid to the surface of the grain. Heavy use is manifested by the raising of the grain on the areas where the bat makes contact with the ball. Repeated contact causes grain swelling, or lifting of the wood. Impressions to the grain from contact with the leather and ball’s seams manifest themselves by impacting the grain. Although this type of use does not always allow for a specific mark to be left on the surface of the bat, experience allows us to see extended areas of compressed grain at various points of the barrel. The assignment of the heavy degree of use was also examined with the combination of other player specific traits such as the application of olive oil/resin, cleat marks, and unique application of the uniform number. The use of the olive oil/resin combination was confirmed by the batboy, John Orlando. The examination of all these characteristics allows use to deem the bat as having heavy use.
The accompanying letter of provenance states that only Ted Williams and batboy John Orlando handled the bat. Evaluation of the use supports that claim, as there is absolutely no evidence that any use was added to the bat after last used by Ted Williams. It is the opinion of MEARS that this bat remains in the original condition as last used by Ted Williams after breaking the bat versus the Detroit Tigers during the July 20th series.
1. The knob itself served as the starting point of the evaluation and also served as a direct and personal link to Ted Williams. The addition of the 9 has been noted and heavy wear was found throughout the knob. Rounding of the knob edges, slight scratching from contact with infield dirt, and handling wear can be found on the knob. Use on this knob is consistent on bats used during a major league game.
2. Moving up the handle, you will see the application of pinetar. This heavy use on the handle can be seen as light abrasions and bruising to the handle wood and the medium remains of olive oil/resin and the mixture of infield dirt.
3. Moving up to the barrel, very distinct signs of heavy use is found via ball marks, stitch marks, bat rack marks, etc. The exact findings are detailed below.
4. Ball Marks: Examination reveals the presence of ball marks found on 360 of the barrel surface. The heavy concentrations of ball marks contributed to the heavy use designation. A bat with this heavy degree of use was favored by a player and used over the course of many games and series.
5. Stitch Marks: When examining the area near the Ted Williams barrel stamping, the presence of stitch marks is clearly visible. Very defined stitch marks, which are caused from contact with the raised portion of the ball’s seams, can be found below the facsimile barrel stamping. The best examples of stitch marks on this bat can be found at 7:00 below the “LOUISILLE SLUGGER” barrel stamping. Due to the depth of the stitch mark it was easily photographed and illustrated at the end of the report. Clearly defined stitch marks such as this example are rarely found. The reason being for the their scarcity is the fact that it takes great power and speed to create the force needed for the seam of the ball to penetrate the ash surface & narrow grain of the bat. In the opinion of MEARS, the defined cleat marks were caused by Ted Williams using this bat while making contact with an official Williams Harridge ball. Judging by the depth of the stitch mark, it may even have been the result of the impact with the ball used for the actual 400th Home Run.
6. Bat Rack Marks: White bat rack marks were found on the bat. Although light, they were identifiable. The bat rack marks confirms the bat was removed and moved repeatedly in and out of the bat rack. Another characteristic to confirm heavy use over an extended period of time.
7. Condition of handle: An approximate 4” closed handle crack was found. The crack manifested itself as a split in the outer surface that ran parallel with the handle grain. Not pronounced enough to cause spacing between the grains, but was the reason of the bats retirement from use. The handle crack is mentioned in the accompanying provenance that states the bat was cracked after the 400th homerun several days later versus the Detroit Tigers during the July 20th series.
8. Handle Preparation: On the area of the handle between the edges of the knob to an area directly below the left edge of the centerbrand, an area of handle scoring can be seen. Handle scoring is a time-honored tradition of cutting horizontal grooves into the grain of the handle. This is accomplished with the use of a coke cap bottle, leg of steer bone, horseshoe, or other hard object that will penetrate the handle wood surface. This handle shows approximate 9” lengths of scoring on all sides of the handle. The spacing is wide allowing for the desired grip. The exact method of scoring was undetermined. The scoring on this bat was a player specific trait applied by Ted Williams himself and adds to the authenticity of this bat. This personal trait is another verifiable direct link to Ted Williams.
9. Cleat Marks: Three distinct cleat marks can be found near the very end of the barrel. All three are very deep with one concave surface. Their placement appears if the user carefully aimed towards the end of the barrel as to not mar the hitting surface of the bat.
10. Pine Tar: Although not pinetar in the sense we currently refer to it, the handle did exhibit signs of an olive and resin mix used to improve grip. This was confirmed in the letter of provenance supplied by John Orlando. Its application began near the knob and extended approximately 16” towards the centerbrand. Near the knob there was an 1-½ area with the heaviest concentration. The olive oil/resin mix began to fade about 3” from an area left of the centerbrand. The degree of application has lessened from the attempted cleaning ordered by Ted Williams. The cleaning a care of the bat was another responsibility of the batboy, John Orlando and was confirmed in his accompanying letter.
Documentation used to establish provenance & timeline
1. Louisville Slugger shipping records
2. Copy of boxscore from July 18th, 1956 for 400th Home Run game
3. Time Line provided by John Orlando
4. Signed and dated letter 1/23/07 from John Orlando
5. Copy of 1956 Boston Red Sox official schedule
6. Sporting News photo of Ted Williams spitting at the press box after hitting his 400th Homerun on July 18, 1956, Courtesy of the Sporting News. Batboy John Orlando is pictured in the photo.
7. 1956 Team Photo with labeled caption of John Orlando, batboy
8. Copy of pay stub from the Boston American League Base Ball Co. for John Orlando’s services as a batboy
9. Copy of Team share of the 1956 World Series Receipts and John Orlando’s amount to be paid him for being a fourth place team.
10. Copy of photo of John Orlando performing batboy duties during a 1956 Red Sox home game
Provenance and chain of ownership:
> Louisville Slugger records confirm this bat was ordered and shipped for use by Ted Williams: 4-19-56 W183 Narrow Grain 35” 33 oz Ash (12) quantity
> July 18, 1956 Ted Williams hits homerun #400 at Fenway Park
> Only Ted Williams and John Orlando handle the bat
> During the series from July 20th-July 22nd in Detroit, the bat is broken
> After bat is broken in Detroit, it is removed from play
> Bat remains in possession of John Orlando
> On February 26th, 2007, bat is examined by the Dave Bushing and Troy R. Kinunen of MEARS
The timeline provided via the accompanying provenance creates a reasonable & plausible chain of ownership of the bat back to the owner and the gifting by Ted Williams. Manufacturer records support this as the model of bat available to be used by Ted Williams to hit his 400th homerun.
Tampering and Alterations:
No signs of tampering, alterations, sanding, or attempted changing of the material facts of this bat was presence. It is our opinion this bat is all original as last used by Ted Williams.
Final Grade Evaluation:
5 points: The base grade was determined and 5 points were awarded with the verification of the factor records of a bat being shipped to Ted Williams matching the examined bat’s manufacturers characteristics.
3 points: Heavy use was present under examination.
2 points: Provenance was both reasonable and verifiable. Examination of the timeline, manufacturer dating of the bat and provenance in regards to the employment by the Red Sox of John Orlando was all verified. Therefore, it was a reasonable expectation that John Orlando received the bat directly from Ted Williams while conducting the activities associated with being a major league batboy.
* Star rating. MEARS awards a * (star) to items used during historical events. With this being the earliest and best-documented Ted Williams Home Run bat, our staff felt the star was warranted.
Final Grade: MEARS A10*
The facts gathered after our completed evaluation could only allow us to conclude this bat was used by Ted Williams to hit his 400th career homerun on July 18th 1956. With the bat perfectly matching factory records, we confirmed Ted Williams began to use this newly created W183 model in time to hit this historic homerun. The records also confirmed this to be the correct length, weight, & model. After verification of the factory records, we concluded the use was consistent with known Ted Williams’s player characteristics. The distinct painted 9 on the knob, application of olive oil and resin, grooved handle, and cleat marks were all indications that Ted Williams used and preferred this bat for an extended amount of time. Only the handle crack forced him to stop using this bat he had so carefully prepared. Finally, it should be noted that rarely do we encounter living owners of historic artifacts whom can provide direct first hand insight into the events surrounding the items evaluated. The letter, photos, schedule and pay stub is an irrefutable link between the owner and Ted Williams. With the heavy use, documented factory ordering records, and first hand provenance, this combination allows us to evaluate this as the most historic Ted Williams bat we have authenticated to date.
Troy R. Kinunen