After years of unanswered questions and uncertainty, MEARS is now able to offer some answers to the mystery of Hanna Batrite bats. I have recently concluded my research on this brand of professional model bats. Also, made public for the first time, are images and a list of player models taken from the only known copy of the 1930 Hanna Batrite dealer catalog. Collectors can now be armed with information that will enable them to positively identify professional model Hanna Batrite bats.
On 7/30/04 Vintage Authentics sold a Lou Gehrig Hanna Batrite for $32,582.53. During previous years these bats have sold on Ebay and in other markets for less than $2,000. This new information can give the collectors a significant edge when purchasing game used bats.
One of the most frequently asked questions regarding Hanna bats is how to tell the difference between those intended for the professional trade and those intended for the retail market. Until recently, no factory records or Hanna Batrite literature had surfaced and little was known about this Athens, Georgia based company. Their humble beginnings date back to the mid 1920’s with the manufacture of shovel handles, which transformed into the manufacturing of baseball bats in the late 1920’s. The recently discovered catalog for the 1930 season provides, in detail, the long, hidden meanings behind the model numbers on the barrel, the knob markings, quality standards, and a catalog of player models. The purpose of this article is to share the information we have so that it can be determined how Hanna differentiated the store models from the pro models.
More attention was drawn to the collectors of Hanna Bats when Leland’s auctioned off the only known side-written Lou Gehrig Hanna bat last year. With the discovery of a side written example, previous theories of game-use by players at the Major League level could now be verified. The Leland’s Gehrig bat was a bat that we can now conclude to be a standard catalog model. The bat was crafted from Tempered Ash, complete with the patent stamped knob. The exception was that this one had come directly from the Louisville Slugger vaults and displayed the typical Henry Morrow side writing. Gehrig thought so highly of that particular Hanna Batrite model that he returned to the Louisville Slugger factory to have Louisville Slugger replicate it. Finally we have conclusive evidence of Hanna Batrite bats being used in the Major Leagues.
Additional research provided documention that Gehrig and several other Yankees used Hanna Bats in the late 20’s and early 30’s. Several photos exist of the Hanna bats lined up in front of the Yankee dugout including a great picture of Gehrig reaching for a Hanna bat. In the book, Low and Outside, Baseball in the Depression by William B. Mead 1990, on page 124 , there is a full page photo depicting Lou Gehrig with Joe DiMaggio holding two Foxx Model Hanna Batrite bats displaying the 1930’s centerbrand. In the Mastronet Guide to Game Used Bats, you will find Gehrig’s compelling court testimony in the lawsuit brought against Hanna Batrite by Louisville Slugger. This excerpt supports the fact that bats stamped with player’s names were issued for use by that player. In addition, the testimony verifies that Lou Gehrig, did indeed, use Hanna Batrite bats. Lou Gehrig stated:
“…The name of a ball player on the bat means that this is the bat actually used by that player. That is absolutely what it means to me. From my observation I believe it means that to other ball players with whom I have been associated. My name appears on all the baseball bats to which I have for my own personal use, so that when I go to pick up my bat to go to the plate to hit I will know my bat from the other bats lying in place beside it. My personal purpose of my name on the bat is to identify my model bat from the models which other players use. It would be hard to identify them otherwise. My observations in that almost entirely to all professional baseball players with whom and against whom I have played have their bats marked with their names. Since I have been in the game I noticed that. I couldn’t say that before.“
Later in the testimony Gehrig went onto to explain his relationship with bat makers Louisville Slugger, Spalding, and confirming his use of Hanna Batrite bats.
“…From my first entering professional baseball until the present time I have had five or six different models. The changes were mostly made between the years 1923 and 1926. Some bats had thicker handles, some had thinner handles; some had larger barrels, some had less larger barrels. Others were longer. Some had a knob on them and some didn’t. Throughout the season of 1932 I used a bat 36 inches long and varying in weight between 36 and 37 ounces. In spring training I use a bat possibly a half to three quarters of an ounce heavier than in the playing season. I spoke of having used Louisville Slugger bats practically all the time throughout my professional career with the exception of approximately two years. During those two years approximately I used a Batrite and Spalding. The Batrite bats were purchased from Hanna Manufacturing Company, Athens, Georgia. Two or three Batrite and Spalding bats were sent to me on trial, and I finally placed my orders with the Hanna Manufacturing Company, I used the Batrite bats I obtained from Hanna Manufacturing Company a good majority of both years I used those bats. Naturally, I found them satisfactory. I used them because they had peculiarities of treatment or finish which seemed to be advantageous to my mind. I haven’t any idea what the treatment was. It stopped checking, which is the loosening of the grain of bats which makes it impossible to use them further.”
The treatment to which Gehrig is referring is known as the “steel tempered” finish. It is reported that Hanna invented a sealant to prevented checking and cracking on baseball bats and a similar formula was later used by Louisville Slugger, that version now known as “Powerized.” This was the reason many ballplayers gave for their decision to switch to Hanna bats. How Louisville ended up with a similar formula is yet to be uncovered, but they did indeed bring suit against Hanna bats for trademark infringement based on the use of the names of Louisville Slugger endorsees that were under exclusive contracts at the time. Louisville Slugger accused Hanna of exploiting their endorsees names in order to confuse customers, who might have gone to the store with the intention of buying a bat endorsed by Louisville Slugger and ended up purchasing a block letter, player model Hanna bat instead. The suit lasted several years and the eventual settlement required that Hanna use the phrase “style” or ”type” to avoid confusion. By this time, Hillerich & Bradsby (Louisville Slugger) had perfected the “Powerized” treatment and fewer players used Hanna bats after this period.
Gehrig was under the notion that his name would only appear on bats made by Hanna Batrite for his own personal use. His testimony reads:
“When the Hanna Manufacturing Company made those bats for me and put my name on them it was my understanding that they were going to use my name only on bats for my own personal use, and I did not give them permission to use my name on bats for sale to the general public.”
Excerpt –Lou Gehrig’s Transcript from Hillerich & Bradsby vs. Hanna Manufacturing Company- 1933, originally published in Mastronet guide to bats, 2001
We are still faced with the confusion over how to differentiate a store model Hanna from a professional Hanna. With lack of factory records, the history of Hanna Batrite will never be as complete as the history of their rival Louisville Slugger, yet, we know more about Hanna today than we ever have before.
Let’s tackle the question by first defining the markings on the top of the line pro quality Hanna’s. According to 1930 Batrite dealer literature, the TA model was their top of the line, listed as number 1, and touted second growth white ash which was treated to prevent checking (steel tempered). The following quality level identifier was the simple “A” model which listed at .50 cents less than the TA models, but were of inferior quality. The phrase Batrite Special was added after the “A” to further denote non-professional use. It is very unlikely that a professional player would have used an “A” model, as it wouldn’t have made sense for a professional player nor have we been able to trace a side written (or documented) “A” model having been placed in player’s hands. Only the TA and A model bats were offered with the player names and being the proper dimensions for the chosen player. No other Hanna models bore player’s names during the 1930’s. As per the 1930 dealer catalog, Hanna Manufacturing did offer specific “store model” bats for retail sales, these bats are easily identifiable as such because they are labeled as Outfield Fungo Treated, Infield Fungo Treated, and the Grand Prize model. For the younger players, they offered the Pee Line, Socko, Buster, Junior, and Miniature line of bats. Again, no professional players’ names appear on the barrel and the lettering is often foil stamped onto the barrel. For indoor, playground, and miscellaneous use, the company offered the Diamond Ball bat, Diamond Ball Special, Official Indoor, Indoor-Outdoor, and Playground bat brands. These sold for as low as $0.15 cents up to a $1.00, but were significantly lower in both quality and price to the $2.50 professional model bats.
For examples with the bat logo centerbrand, the model “TA” or “A” will be found on either side of the bat logo next to the head of the bat. This bat logo seems to only be found on bats up until the late 1920’s & very early 1930’s when it was dropped in favor of the company name alone in the center. By 1930, the model numbers moved from the center of the bat to the barrel brand on the left side of the player name. The nickname Georgia Driver can usually be found above the player name, while steel temper is found beneath (their hardening process). To the right of the player name is the model number as it relates to the exact player (specs), i.e. 1 Frank Frisch, 2 Bucky Harris, 5 Babe Ruth, 11 (old model), 77 (new model) Lou Gehrig, etc. After which a number usually representing the length of the bat (i.e. 5, 6, etc.) can be found, although several examples have been discovered for which the actual length and marked length differ. If your bat has all of these markings, is stamped with the 1930 patent date on the knob, and matches all of the catalog model designations, then you have a bat that was either listed and offered in the 1930 catalog or was a game used professional model, like the side written Gehrig bat.
When authenticating these bats, we refer to the information attained in the recently discovered dealer catalog. Theories abound about Hanna Batrite never reaching their full manufacturing capacity for offering their bats for retail sale. Lou Gehrig’s own testimony stated that he was under the assumption that Hanna Batrite bats brandishing his name were for his use only. However, the catalog does exist and the possibility of retail sales of these models also exists. To be considered a professional model bat, a Hanna Batrite bat must match the model preferred by the player according to the dealer catalog and also must exhibit player traits. Under the MEARS grading system, without side writing or provenance, the bat can only be graded as high as an A5. The only exception are bats with hand turned knobs, which can be graded as high as an A8 because of the special care taken in their preparation and hence the scarcity.
Following find the complete list of Player Models found in 1930 dealer catalog
1 Frank Frisch
2 Bucky Harris
3 Lloyd Waner
5 Babe Ruth
6 Tony Lazzeri
10. Rogers Hornsby
11 Lou Gehrig (old model)
13 Harry Heilman
14 Tris Speaker
15 Ty Cobb
16 Paul Waner
17 Leon Goslin
18 Hazen Cuyler
19 Ken Williams
20 Sam Crawford
21 George Sisler
23 Frank Schulte
30 Pat Crawford
31 Billy Rhiel
32 Dutch Legett
39 Cy Williams
40 Mickey Cochrane
41 Eddie Roush
42 Walter Halas
43 Travis Jackson
47 Jim Bottomley
48 Al Simmons
75 Joe Jackson
76 Jimmy Foxx
77 Lou Gehrig (new model)
80 Eddie Collins (not listed in the 1930 Batrite catalog)
82 Chuck Klein (not listed in the 1930 Batrite catalog)
83 Hack Wilson (not listed in the 1930 Batrite catalog)
HT Crabtree (not listed in the 1930 Batrite catalog)
There are 3 different barrel end and knob combinations that are known to be found on Hanna Batrite bats.
Combination 1: TA Cochrane 40 6, with patent stamp on knob
Professional model Hanna Batrite bats are designated by model number with last digit being the length increment marked in inches. For example, 36” would have the 6 appear at the end of the model number, i.e. Mickey Cochrane professional model bat would appear as TA Cochrance 40 6.
Any professional model Hanna Batrite bat could be stamped with a player name as desired. A further illustration of this fact came with examination of an O’Connor model (TA O’CONNOR 47 6, side written M&H sporting goods 7-24-32), which was listed as a model 47 with a 6 indicating length of 36 and 36 was also stamped on the knob. This 47 was listed in the 1930 catalog as the Jim Bottomley model.
Combination 2: Atwood, with inch marks and name only on barrel
Professional model bats can be found with player’s last name only on barrel and no other factory markings. When bats are marked in this fashion, they are most commonly found with inch marks on the knob, which are considered acceptable for barrel markings, although the examined Atwood had the 1930 patent date, which is most often associated with combination 1 barrel markings.
In addition to the markings on the model listed above, there are dozens of examples of bats with nothing on the barrel except for the block letters of the player’s last name. In cases for which we have examined this style of name only on barrel end of the bat, we have found that 50% of these are players with no store model catalog listing in the 1930 catalog. Lack of inclusion in the catalog listed models supports the use at the professional level. Two examples, which are pictured here, include a Kaley model (side written Buck Riley 6-30-32) and the Atwood model (side written Bill Atwood 8-?-31) as illustrated above. These two bats, along with a Speaker and a side written Woody English, have recently surfaced. All had inch marks on the knob and only the players name on the barrel. The only exception was this side written Atwood discovered in the Louisville vault, which has the 1930 patent date stamped on knob, differing from the last name only on the barrel end counterparts, which had inch marks applied to knob rather than the patent date stampings.
Combination 3: Store model bat
Non-professional models, or store model examples, are found with the model number only and no length indicator after barrel model number. Inch marks can also be found on knob.
While studying the manufacturer’s characteristics of Hanna Batrite bats, there are some specific variations to consider. One example of bats deemed as pro model Hanna’s are those that exhibit player characteristics and are found with the hand turned knobs lacking stamps of any kind. They will exhibit rasp marks indicating they have been turned on a lathe and finished by hand with no concern for stamped lengths or polished knobs. Any such model TA or name only bat containing these hand turned knobs are considered professional models. Prior to the 1930 knob patent stamps, only a few exisit at best, for which the knobs will be either hand turned or stamped with inch marks or weights. An additional variation is Hanna Batrite bats with the weights stamped on the knob. Offered in a Mastronet auction was a Sam Rice bat listed as a Rice Type (post lawsuit) that had the weight stamped on the knob (38). These anomalies must be considered pro model bats and it must also be noted that Hillerich & Bradsby stamped weights on some game used bats in the 1930’s. None of the models mentioned have more than one known example in existence and at least two of these bats are of obscure players and three of these bats are side written from the Louisville factory.
Through study of the catalog and known examples along, with photographs and court testimony, one can gather a good understanding of a Hanna bat’s potential for professional use. Even though Hanna made bats thru the 1950’s, few players are found using these bats after the mid 1930’s. Hanna’s hey day was in the early 1930’s before Hillerich & Bradsby found the secret sealant that preventing cracking and chipping and prior the lawsuit by Louisville Slugger. The hand turned, name only models, and those marked with the weights on knob are some of the rarest of all the professional model bats and are seldom seen. Hanna Batrite bats usually sell for a fraction of their H&B counterpart, especially those standard catalog models with the 1930 patent date, so they afford collectors the opportunity to acquire a piece of history and a fraction of the cost.
If you have any Hanna information you would like to share, especially any Hanna literature or if you just have some questions regarding a particular bat, please write. Together, we continue to solve the mystery of Hanna Batrite bats.