While researching an unrelated topic, I found this article in the Sports Illustrated Vault archives. I had not seen it before, and thought I would share it with the MEARS readers. Our company had evaluated a Johnny Mize Hanna Batrite bat quite similar to the accompanying photo back in 2004, and the this article further supports the bats usage by Mize of Hanna products in the Major Leagues.
August 30, 1954
Secrets of Athens (Ga.)
THIS IS an age when the personal loyalties of ballplayers command attention; as soon as a rising major leaguer piles up enough home runs he can cast about and take his pick of them. This breakfast cereal has the vitamin-packed supercharge he needs. This cigarette suits his taste zone. This bubble-gum wad fits his jowl, and this bat feels just right in his hands. Business representatives with pens in their hands will come a running to sign him up—representatives from just about everywhere, that is, except the Hanna Manufacturing Company of Athens, Ga. Hanna has been making Batrite bats for 28 years, but as Hanna sees it there is no reason for their chasing anybody.
As long as other bats are being made, including Hillerich and Bradsby’s 70-year-old favorite, the Louisville Slugger, a sudden rush to Hanna is unlikely. Yet it happens that this season, proud Hanna has had four major leaguers—four world-champion Yankees—begging for bats.
Hanna and the Yankees met two years ago. “Some fellow name of Molinax or Molinux came to training camp talking about Batrite bats,” recalls John Mize, who was then pinch-hitting gloriously for the Yankees. “I had used them way back in semipro ball. In 1952 I began hitting with Batrites—good, hard bats. They wouldn’t dent or split. They eventually broke, of course—pitchers are always borrowing your bat. I did a book, How to Hit. Murray Kaufman, who helped me, wrote Batrite thinking they might be pleased to have their bat mentioned. Anybody else would have jumped, but I don’t think we even got an answer. Must be funny people.”
Yankee Outfielder Hank Bauer borrowed one of Mize’s bats, and straightaway ordered his own. Three more Yankees have taken up Batrites since (although one says sheepishly, “Maybe you’d better not mention my name. I’ve already endorsed another bat.”) Casey Stengel is willing to say that there is no better bat made. But Hanna does not hurry. “I wire for bats,” says the baffled Yankee road secretary, Bill McCorry, “and then a week, maybe two weeks, they get here.”
But Hanna is willing to defend its odd ways. “We’re down here in a red brick and frame building—used to be the Georgia Railroad depot,” says Dan Greer for Hanna. “We’re a stone’s throw off the beaten track, you might say. We used to make shovel handles. Then we got to making bats to give Louisville a little competition—21 models in our professional, quality line. But we don’t go in for this promotion much. We’d rather put the money in the bat. If our bats are harder, maybe it’s our secret treatment. We don’t hold séances over the bats, nothing like that. It’s chemical. I guess you’d call it a secret, though most anybody could find out if he cared.
“We did think about putting big-name players’ signatures on our bats, but just about everybody has been signed. We signed Gene Verble, but he ended up back down here with Chattanooga. We signed a Fred Hatfield and a Charley Maxwell. They went up to the big show, but to tell you the truth I’ve lost track of them. The way we figure it, nothing you can say will make a bat better. Baseball will be here a long time, and sooner or later, players will be using our bats.”
There is reason for Mr. Greer’s unruffled assurance. Hanna is now on both sides of the red-hot American League pennant race—a letter from Cleveland arrived a fortnight ago at their converted railroad depot. “By way of introducing myself,” it began, “I am Al Rosen, currently of the Cleveland Indians . . .” Having noticed his Yankee rival Hank Bauer slapping grandly at the ball with a Hanna bat, fence-busting Infielder Rosen (lately in a horrible slump and dazedly searching for the cure) ordered half a dozen.
“I marked a ‘triple red-rush’ on his order,” says Mr. Greer. “Maybe ship them out Thursday. Friday’s no good. You can’t send Al Rosen bats on Friday the 13th. Saturday we’re all out fishing, golf, or somewhere. So they might not get off until Monday.”