Factory records have been very helpful in the building of the game used bat hobby. With several books on the subject being printed and an increasing exposure to information, more collectors than ever entered the bat collecting hobby. Although both the books and the factory records are important in determining the legitimacy of game used bats, experience, critical thinking, and common sense still play an important role to those that evaluate game used bats in instances that factory records are incomplete.
Recently MEARS was asked to evaluate a bat that could not be found in the factory records. No listing of this particular model with a cupped end was recorded in the personal player bat records. Some might have dismissed the bat as a team index or a forgery. But, in this matter, the evidence and background was a little more substantial than usual. This bat originated directly from the player himself!
In addition, this examined bat had a very distinct feature which almost always links player to bat, a consistently and documented version of a uniform number on the knob. I have found that over the past 21 years that uniform numbers are often identically added to the knob of the bat. Being from Milwaukee, I have noticed that Robin Yount’s 19 on the knob did not change from 1974 to 1993. Upon interviewing Mr. Yount, he confided to me that he had personally placed the number on the knob, thus offering the justification for the consistent form of the knob uniform number.
This examined Reggie Jackson bat had the very unique 9 on the knob, which I have found present on almost all of the high grade bats I have personally inspected.
The fact that the use and the 9 on the bat was present caused great concern when I discovered that the bat was not factory recorded by the H&B factory. But again, the consistency of the application of the 9 and the game use on the bat led me to strongly feel this bat was indeed used by Reggie Jackson, but the bat just was not recorded in the factory records. For this particular evaluation, the physical presence of the uniform number 9 weighed more importantly to me than the H&B factory records, as the consistent nature of the 9 was something I could not overlook.
With a little bit of investigative work, critical thinking, brain storming, and discussions of the past with Reggie Jackson, MEARS was able to determine the origin of this bat.
Dating (1973-75): Based on the design of the centerbrand in conjunction with the style of the Powerized and the presence of the K75 model number on the knob, this bat was manufactured during the 1973-75 time span. The key visible dating indicators include the presence of the “Powerized” trade mark logo inside the oval centerbrand after the word “Slugger”. The “Powerized” trade mark logo was also found after the word “Powerized” on the barrel located right of the centerbrand. All of these markings are consistent with the 1973-75 H&B factory production manufacturing stampings.
Model K75: The K75 model is factory documented by H&B to have been ordered by Reggie Jackson. Review of his personal records indicates that on 9-19-66 Reggie Jackson requested his first K75 model. He continued to order this model during 1967, 1968, 1969, and the 1970 season. After his first order in 1967, Reggie Jackson ordered this specific model (K75) over 90% of the time until 1970.
During spring of 1971, Reggie Jackson requested that the K75 model be slightly modified, removing 1/32 off the handle. This became known as the J93 model, the model named and designed exclusively for Reggie Jackson. He ordered this model through the 1988 season. There are no factory records indicating Reggie Jackson ever ordered the K75 for major league use again after his last order during 1971. Regarding this examined bat, there are no H&B factory records verifying this model K75 bat was ordered by Reggie Jackson during the bats’ 1973-75 label period. Its manufacture and shipment to Reggie Jackson was not recorded, possibly due to special circumstances.
Length: Bat measures 34.5” in length. H&B factory records indicate Reggie Jackson ordered bats measuring 34.5” during 1966, 1970 (S207 model), 1972 (J93 model), 1973 (J93), 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1987. With this bat dating from the 1973-75 era, there are no H&B factory records to support this bat measuring 34.5” as being shipped to Reggie Jackson, but the same records do document that this was a length ordered by Reggie Jackson at all stages of his major league career.
Weight: Bat currently weighs 32 ounces. H&B factory records indicate Reggie Jackson ordered bats weighing 32 ounces during 1966, 1967, 1973, 1983, and 1985. Therefore this bat is consistent with known recorded weights as factory documented via H&B records. This bat may have lost an ounce due to time, but it should be noted that Reggie Jackson also ordered bats weighing 33 ounces during this same relative time frame. The weight of this bat is factory documented as being ordered by Reggie Jackson during the 1973 time frame.
Cupped end: When evaluating this bat and comparing our findings to the H&B factory records, it must be noted that there is no reference in Reggie Jackson’s personal records as having ordered a cupped end bat during the 1973-75 era. When conducting a review of the H&B factory records for contemporaries of Reggie Jackson during the same relative time span, I noticed that H&B did not begin to actually record cupped bats with any regularity until the 1974 season. Players that I first noticed using cupped bats were:
(Per H&B factory records)
3-29-74 Pete Rose cupped bat
6-19-74 Carl Yaz cupped bat
1975 Robin Yount cupped bat
9-26-75 Willie Randolph cupped bat
The records are intended to document the dates bats were ordered by players. It is known that in the early days of the use of the cupped bats that the recording in the H&B factory records are known to be inconsistent. Some orders specific to the cupped end were omitted from the H&B records, some bats that were recorded with cupped ends were also provided to the players without cupped ends, and these were omitted from the records. An example would be 1976 Johnny Bench Bicentennial bats which are recorded in the records with cupped ends, but are found with and without. This practice is also found on mid 1970s Robin Yount bats.
It was my belief that this was a prototype or one of the first cupped bats ever produced by the H&B factory for use by Reggie Jackson. It makes perfect sense that H&B would have provided baseball’s biggest superstar with a cupped bat, a new invention not regularly used, therefore the reason for its omission from the factory records. I was to later have the opportunity to personally discuss this bat, cupped ends, uniform number styles, and game used bats in general with Reggie Jackson. Our conversation ended up confirming my theory.
Wood Grain & Finish: Examination of the wood reveals a wide grain, made from professional grain seasoned ash. The finish is flame tempered. Examination of Reggie Jackson’s personal H&B records indicate that he requested the K75 model bat to be shipped to him in a wide grain, flame burned. Reggie Jackson first requested his J81 model to be WG, FB (wide grain, flame burned) on 10-18-68. His K75 model was first manufactured in this manner on 5-13-69. Additional references in Reggie Jackson’s personal H&B records for wide grain, flame burned were:
7-18-69 (All Star bat)
The practice of flamed burning continued with the J93 model, and the following were some of the ordered recorded with the same type of finish.
Theory: Based on the following facts, I had a theory of the origin of this bat.
Bat originated from the personal collection of Reggie Jackson.
K75 model was ordered by Reggie Jackson through the 1971 season.
34.5” length was ordered by Reggie Jackson throughout his career including 1973.
32 ounces was ordered by Reggie Jackson throughout his career including 1973.
Cupped bats were first factory recorded by H&B starting circa 1974.
#9 on knob was consistent with many additional game used bats evaluated by MEARS
Documented player 9 written on knob: During the years Reggie Jackson wore uniform number 9, 1968-76, the application, location, and the formation of the number with the underscore is a very consistent trait of Reggie Jackson game used bats. Examination of the knob reveals a very worn, consistently applied uniform number 9. The 9 is consistent with all of the high grade Reggie Jackson bats from this period examined by MEARS.
Upon my discussion with Reggie Jackson, I was able to determine the exact reason why the #9’s looked so consistent. Per Reggie himself, he explained to me that he personally applied the uniform numbers to his game bats. It was understood in the clubhouse that nobody was to touch his bats without permission, and Reggie felt the other players could expect him not to touch their equipment. It was a matter of common courtesy and a practice employed by Reggie with his equipment throughout his career.
Use: There are over one dozen ball marks located above the barrel stampings. There are approximately 6 or more ball marks located below/back of the barrel stampings. Per our standards and by comparison to other Reggie Jackson bats examined by MEARS, we deem this bat to have medium game use.
Repair: The handle was cracked and has been professionally repaired. A 6” section of the handle below the centerbrand was repaired, with special attention to perfectly match the grain to its original condition.
It was my belief, based on the dating of the centerbrand (1973-75), Length recorded during 1973 (34.5”), documented wood grain (wide) and finish (flame tempered) and weight recorded during 1973 (32 ounces), that this was one of the first cupped bats that was modified and produced exclusively for Reggie Jackson during the 1973 season. H&B has a long standing practice of modifying bats for their star players. During this experimental stage, correspondence is exclusive between the star player and the H&B head sales representative. As being a special order bat, this bat may not have been recorded by H&B in their standard manner, as the order was made expressly by the player. Also, it is most likely that this was the only bat being made to these specifications, expressly the cupped end. With only one bat being made, there would have been no need to log the bat into the H&B factory records as the records were reserved for standard orders by the players. The bat originated directly from the personal collection of Reggie Jackson and based on the totality of the bats manufacturing traits and examination of past H&B ordering records, MEARS deems this bat to be an authentic, game used 1973 circa Reggie Jackson game used bat. My theory was correct.
Recently I had a moment to talk bats with Reggie Jackson. I was very impressed with Reggie Jackson’s recall of his equipment and game used bats. He was a master of his various models, lengths & weights, manufacturers, and reasons for changing models throughout his Hall of Fame career.
With respect to this K75 cupped bat, after a lengthy discussion, Reggie was quite comfortable with the fact this bat was not factory recorded, and that it was most likely sent to him during the 1973 season. He definitely used the bat, based on the 9 on the knob, the fact it had use, and that he had kept it with his collection since the early 1970s.
We left the conversation quite confident we had a rare Reggie Jackson game used bat on our hands.
I have stated in many previous articles that the factory records are oh so vital to the game used bat hobby, but should not be seen as the end all, be all for authentication. Rarely will I ever be able to again to personally discuss a bat with the featured player, but when the situation does present itself, it is quite the memorable event.
Troy R. Kinunen/MEARS