First examination of data can often miss important details and facts. There is no bigger example than the state of California for instance. The Gutiérrez map of the state (dated to 1562), that relies upon the collection of data acquired by Spain on America, originally contained the most up-to-date information on geographical features of the state. It gives a broad overview of the boundaries of the state, much the way the H&B factory records give a broad overview of the information contained in the personal player bat records. The original map failed to clearly mark all of the riches, just as the H&B records do not clearly readily identify all of the pertinent bat information. But in both instances, the information was present, albeit hidden.
On January 24, 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, CA. This was the start of the gold rush. California had been mapped since 1562, but there was no “X” to mark the spot with notations of gold mines. Nearly 300 years later when the prospectors themselves began to work the area did the gold reveal itself. The map and the gold had been there the entire time, but California had to be re-examined in order to see the true treasure. The H&B factory records are much like the early rough California map. The factory records served as a good set of boundaries or guidelines, but there is a need for mining of the minutia in the archives in order to harvest the H&B records maximum bounty.
H&B factory records have been archived in the their current form since 1930, but only after re-looking at them have dedicated researchers found the hidden gold mines of information. Unfortunately, the information is not marked with an “X”. It takes some hard work. It took some prospecting, pick axing, and getting your hands dirty to find true research nuggets. The 49ers led the California Gold Rush, and MEARS will continue to lead the hobby’s information rush.
Although the source of the research was the H&B factory records, the information supported a uniquely different product line.
With each passing month MEARS continues to re-look old data, research and gather the information from the various bats submitted to our home office. Each piece poses a unique evaluation challenge. Often the challenge arises from the lack of or incomplete factory records. Instead of being discouraged, we continue our search to locate and arrange the pieces of the factory record puzzle. Below are eleven factory records listing orders for Spalding, Hanna Batrite, and Kren’s model bats that have been previously overlooked. If not overlooked, then they have not been seen with the same level of importance and value as we attach to them. No, these factory records were not found in an old file cabinet in an abandoned factory. These entries were all found in the known Hillerich & Bradsby factory records under their personal bat orders. They were hidden in plain site. Each of the listings was buried in the H&B personal player bat records.
6 records are for Hall of Famers, the remaining stars from the era. The records range from 1927 to 1934. These dates are interesting as they support the dating of other non-H&B bats that have entered the hobby and been evaluated by MEARS. Recent research by MEARS has also uncovered photographic evidence of both Kren’s and Batrite bats being used in the big leagues during the same relative era. Articles dealing with Batrite, Spalding, Zinn Beck’s, and available photographs discovered and examined by MEARS can be viewed by members in the current and archived news sections. They are:
Solving the Mystery behind Hanna Batrite by Dave Bushing & Troy R. Kinunen
Zinn Beck: Making Baseball History by Troy R. Kinunen
Hanna Bats in the Major Leagues by MEARS
New Discovery: Photo of Hanna Batrite bat in Yankee Stadium (1936-1937 circa) by… Troy R. Kinunen
Understanding the Authentication Process- Ty Cobb, Spalding and MLB…by Troy R. Kinunen
Pre-1920 Spalding Bats by MEARS
The new discoveries help support the past and current research and facts reported by MEARS. Examination of the records allow us to examine alternate bat manufactures, different player model bats, and ordering patterns of both Hall of Fame and non-Hall of Fame players.
The recently uncovered H&B entries by manufacturer were:
5/11/28 Leo Durocher ordered bats listed as “Sam Byrd Hickory Spalding model bat with a half round end, 34”, 32 ounce”
11/26/28 Lou Gehrig ordered bats listed as “off Spalding model sent in”
8/28/30 Myril Hoag ordered bats listed as “Hickory, Spalding model sent in, 38 ounce, 2 Hickory”
8/30/30 Pinkey Higgins ordered bats listed as “Higgins on end, Spalding model sent in, 35 ounce, 3 Hickory”
5/21/32 Ray Hayworth ordered bats listed as “John Stone autograph on end, Spalding Model Sent in, 36 ounce, 6 Hickory”
5/15/33 Mules Haas ordered bats listed as “Haas on end, Spalding Model, sent in weights 37 ounce”
3/7/30 Debs Garns ordered bats listed as “Batrite Model Sent In, 36 oz.”
6/25/30 Leo Durocher ordered bats listed as “his 6/25/30 off Joe Stripp 8/3/27 Batrite model with round end’
7/25/31 Joe Moore ordered bats listed as “Batrite Model Sent in, Thomas on end, 34” 34 ounce, 6 hickory”
2/4/28 Hack Wilson ordered bats listed as “off Kren Model Sent”
7/21/33 Rabbit Maranville ordered bats listed as “his 7/21/33 off of Frank Frisch Kren Special Model-round end (model 108)”
1934 World Series Charlie Gehringer ordered bats listed as “Krens model, use Bing Miller 34 oz.”
Close examination of these entries is quite revealing. Study of the entry show a consistency of these non-H&B bats (Spalding, Batrite, Kren’s) to standard H&B bat ordering records.
The use of other players’ bats as a duplicate template for new personal signature model was a time tested practice and can be verified by studying the recorded documents of the H&B factory records and journal entries. There is also the distinct possibility that any number of these bats “sent in” may have been manufactured for the player by another manufacturer, only now the player in question wanted a H&B turned product of the same dimensions. Throughout the history of Hillerich & Bradsby, players would experiment with bats of other players. In the case of a number of H&B endorsees, examination of their personal records show them requesting models of others players who were H&B endorsees. Players under contract with H&B often experimented with other player’s Louisville Slugger bats. There are very few exceptions. Babe Ruth modified bats for his personal use from bats used by Spencer Harris and Pat Collins, in both instances records show he modified their models by adding his own large knob. Jimmie Foxx had the boys at H&B create a model from a Lefty Grove bat. On July 6th, 1932, Mel Ott ordered a Hugh Critz bat with the larger Johnny Gooch handle. The H&B factory records illustrate that most of the other endorsees are documented as using other H&B endorsee bats to create a new model. Often the player ordering the bats requested a modification of the other players existing model. This served as the creation of new models. In all cases of a player using the other players bat as the template, his signature was added to the barrel end. In the example of the Spencer Harris model ordered by Babe Ruth, it left the factory with the signature of the Bambino. Players in the Louisville Slugger family experimented with each other’s bats, but sometimes other brands were used.
For the purpose of this article, it is interesting to note that the practice was not limited to players endorsing Louisville Slugger supplied bats, but other non-H&B company’s bats as well. Players would use bats manufactured by the competitors then send them to Louisville Slugger for duplication. During my research, I found bats manufactured by Spalding, Batrite, and Krens listed in the H&B records. In instances of non-H&B bats, upon finding a bat they fancied, this other model bat would be sent to H&B with instructions to have their own signature model bat replicated from this returned model. In the instance of the first Spalding entry listed above, On 5/11/28 Hall of Famer Leo Durocher returned a Sam Byrd Hickory Spalding bat to the H&B factory. After being recorded in his personal records, a new signature model Louisville Slugger bat was factory turned to the specification of the Spalding Byrd model. H&B shipped the new bat to Leo Durocher with his personal signature factory stamped on the barrel. The same practice was documented with Hanna Batrite and Kren’s model bats.
The examination and discovery of the entries also support MEARS research on Hanna Batrite bats and further confirm their use by major league baseball players. MEARS has examined Hanna Batrite bats of Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Tony Lazzeri, Paul Waner, Al Simmons, Harry Heilman, Bucky Harris, Tris Speaker, George Selkirk, Chuck Klein, George Sisler, and others. All of the Batrites examined possessed professional model traits, with specific consistencies with respect to model, length, and weight to H&B models of the same players. The referenced entries also support Hanna Batrite as manufacturing and supplying non-Hall of Fame caliber players with bats to use in the major leagues. In short, Hanna Batrite also made bats for the “little” guys and the re-discovery of these records support the practice that Louisville Slugger did not have 100% control of the professional bat market. The “little” guys that the H&B records show Hanna Batrite bats were made for were:
Joe Stripp noted in the records as “…off Joe Stripp 8/3/27 Batrite model with round end”
Thomas noted in the records as …“Batrite model sent in, Thomas on end, 34” 34 ounce, 6 hickory”
Debs Garns noted in the records as… “Batrite Model Sent In, 36 oz.”
H&B was very much aware of their competition and this was reflected in the manner the orders were recorded. The Louisville Slugger record keepers specifically listed the competitors names in the records, Batrite, Krens, Spalding. One reason for this may have been the court battles over use of players’ names during this time frame made them very much aware of the competitive nature of the major league bat market. Plus, it was just good business to know your competitors products. What better way to study the competition than by personally inspecting the manufacturer characteristics then having your own lathe hand replicate the bat to a Louisville model? H&B fought hard in court to protect their brand name. By accepting these competitor-manufactured bats by H&B customers, they could quickly reproduce an H&B model for their clients. By sending off their contract holders with new signature model bats, they were erasing the need for their clients to continue with the practice of ordering from the competition. Plus, H&B was minimizing the exposure to baseball fans product from the competition.
In some instances, the factory records took special notice of the physical manufacturer characteristics of the bat being sent for replication. Wood type, weight, and barrel design were most often referenced. The unique bat barrel characteristics were noted as “half round end” or “round end”. This was most likely noted since this feature was drastically different the model of bat on hand at H&B. Same with respect to the specific notation of Hickory as choice of wood as opposed to the more commonly orders of ash. These features would be incorporated into new H&B modeled and produced bats.
Records also indicate that some of the non-H&B entries show that the player was using his own model with the competing companies. Lou Gehrig was the biggest name and his records list his Spalding order as, “off Spalding model sent in”. In the book, “Mastro Net Guide to bats” by Dave Bushing & Dan Knoll, Lou Gehrig is quoted in court testimony as using a Spalding bat. I personally examined a Spalding Lou Gehrig model bat for a very early Robert Edward Auctions in the mid 1990s which verifies he did use Spalding bats. Hoag, Higgins, and Haas also used personal model Spalding bats, which they sent to H&B to have personal signature model bats produced.
H&B records were an unlikely source to find information on Kren’s, Spalding, and Hanna Batrite bats, but the discovery of the information documents the professional use of bats supplied by these companies. For 2008, MEARS will remain diligent in both our research and the publishing of all new information uncovered. We pride ourselves on that fact. And for you the collector, those that continue to share in the discovery process by reading our published articles; you will be able to use these nuggets of information to strike gold with your memorabilia purchases.
Troy R. Kinunen