As a contact holder for 2009/2010, MEARS works nearly year round with REA auctions to evaluate their items for each auction cycle. MEARS has broken the traditional mold of offering authentication services onsite at the auction house for a few days leading to the printing of the catalog. The amount of detail and research provided by our firm just does not allow us to work in the traditional way. We just won’t do it any other way, and I thank REA and its staff for accommodating us throughout the year. Although by having all of the REA items shipped to our Milwaukee office it creates logistic challenges, we are fully able to utilize the full benefits of the new MEARS research center, and offer the highest quality opinions in the hobby. For this article, I will discuss my evaluation of the following:
1922-24 Ty Cobb H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Game Bat (5-5-24 side written with over 100 cleat marks)
Dating 1922-24: Per the book, “A Complete Reference Guide Louisville Slugger Professional Player bats” by Vince Malta, this bat’s centerbrand is most consistent with image C-4B, page 15, which is listed as being produced by H&B during the 1922-24 time span. The use is consistent with multiple seasons use and may have been originally used at any point during 1922 through May 5th, 1924.
Model C28: Ty Cobb signed his contract with H&B on 10/13/1908, and this is his Pro Stock (preferred model) ordered and used by him throughout his career. Although not indicated on the bat, (it was not the practice at the time to do so), the bat can be recognized as the C28 model due to the flared knob, thin handle, tapered barrel, and slightly rounded barrel end.
Length 34.5”: Ty Cobb used bats measuring 34” to 36”, but in documented interviews, Cobb preferred bats measuring 34.5”. In the H&B factory archives, this very bat is recorded as the exact model that future bats would be ordered from.
When examining the MEARS bat census, we found this bat, MEARS #307346, compares quite favorably to five additional high grade bats with respect to length.
MEARS #307346 Length: 34.5” Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #251452 Length: 34.5” Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #251722 Length: 34.5” Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #251778 Length: 34.5” Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #301492 Length: 34.5” Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #310037 Length: 34.5” Grade: MEARS A9.5
Therefore, this bat compares quite favorably to both documented H&B factory records and several high grades bats evaluated by MEARS.
Weight 34.5 ounces: MEARS found this bat to be very consistent with respects to weight to both H&B factory records and 4 previously examined Ty Cobb high grade bats.
When examining the MEARS bat census, we found this bat, MEARS #307346, compares quite favorably to five additional high grade bats with respect to weight.
MEARS #307346 Weight 34.5 ounces Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #251452 Weight 35.7 ounces Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #251722 Weight 36 ounces Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #251778 Weight 39.5 ounces Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #301492 Weight 35.7 ounces Grade: MEARS A10
MEARS #310037 Weight 35.75 ounces Grade: MEARS A9.5
Upon review, this examined bat’s current weight of 34.5 ounces is within one ounce of 4 additional high grade bats examined by MEARS. (with the exception of the 39.5 ounce offering)
Side Writing: Very clear and distinct side writing can be found on the barrel end below the Ty Cobb facsimile signature. In grease pencil writing (referred to within the hobby as side writing) in what appears to be the handwriting of H&B bat turned Henry Morrow is the lettering, “Ty Cobb 5-5-24, Detroit B.B.C.” The size of writing, writing instrument, and arrangement of wording is very consistent with the 100’s of side written bats examined by MEARS.
Before the use of file cards and computers, H&B used actual game used bats as their working records. Players would return a favorite model where it would be archived for future orders to be patterned from. The practice of side writing the players name, team, and date of return was applied to the actual game used bat which was returned to the H&B factory by the player. This bat served as one of Ty Cobb’s personal records.
Knob: This bat is found with the flare handle preferred by Ty Cobb. Examination reveals the remnants of the lathe markings, indicating the bat was removed from the the H&B lathe, leaving a circular marking. Hand rasp marks can also be seen running across the wood grain of the knob end, meaning the lathe hand removed all of the excess wood, while trying to maintain the requested weight.
Game Use: Bat exhibits heavy, consistent use which can be found from the end of the knob to the barrel end. Regarding the barrel end, the bat exhibits very succinct signs of heavy game use which has manifested itself in the form of deadwood on both the front and reverse of the barrel. Regarding the front of the barrel near the area of the barrel stampings (Ty Cobb), the two top layers of wood have separated from repeated contact of ball to bat. The separation was halted, most likely by Ty Cobb himself or by the batboy under his direct supervision, by three period nails. This practice of applying nails by the batboy has been seen by MEARS on other contemporary bats, as players used these means to prolong the life of a favorite bat in an era where the shipping of additional bats was a very time restrictive venture due to the limitations of shipping.
On the reverse is also a section of deadwood which has become separated, again from heavy game use (repeated contact of bat to ball) that has been fastened with a period nail.
For clarification, although deadwood sounds like a negative term, it is quite positive when found on game used bats as it is most often associated with heavy game use. The concept of deadwood is the manner for which it occurs, repeated contacted of bat to ball, over an extended period of time that loosened the grain. Coupled with the ball boy nails used to extend the bats life, the deadwood is a positive phenomenon often found on high grade game used bats. Only repeated contact over the course of several months/seasons, can produce this effect.
Cleat marks- a Ty Cobb specific game use trait: The practice of Ty Cobb tapping his bat on his metal cleats has been well chronicled. Examination of the barrel end reveals the presence of approximately 100 cleat marks. The precision of their location and the sheer number has been unseen by MEARS in its previous Ty Cobb game used bats evaluations. This is the most cleat marks we have ever seen on a Ty Cobb bat, and adds to the theory that this bat was used for an extended period of time, maybe even several seasons.
Personal comments of the authenticator: Due to my position which calls for impartiality when evaluating an item, I rarely provide personal commentary when evaluating a game used bat. But, the technical evaluation of this game used Ty Cobb bat does not allow me to express the beauty, desirability, and overall magnitude of this examined bat. First, the bat maintains a wonderful blend of grain, color, factory stampings, patina, and heavy, heavy game use. Finding the balance between heavy game use and aesthetics can be quite a challenge, but this bat manages to do so, quite superbly. The ash maintains an even amber hue, which is offset by the dark contrast of the straight, defined wood grain. The factory stamped centerbrand and barrel stampings are deep and dark, which allows the actual ash wood grain to serve as the backdrop for the beauty of the factory stampings.
Although containing cleat marks, the marring occurs only on the very end of the barrel, as if Ty Cobb himself did not want to disrespect the work of the Louisville Slugger lathe hand that perfectly applied his barrel signature. The cleat marks dance very close to the barrel wording, but do not touch the facsimile signature of “Ty Cobb.” Finally, the side writing can be viewed without the aid of a machine to enhance the viewing of the grease pencil, and can clearly be seen with the naked eye.
Grade: MEARS A10. Base grade 5 points, 3 points use, 2 points for side writing/cleat marks.
Conclusion: One of the finest Ty Cobb bat extant. Bat is factory supported with respects to length, weight, model, and documented as the 5-5-24 side written example. Contains consistent Ty Cobb game use traits with respects to extended degree of use and cleat marks. Aesthetically pleasing with respects to color, wood grains, factory stampings, and patina. For the winning bidder in the 2010 REA auction, this bat will not disappoint.