One of the pinnacles of collecting game used bats would have to be those specially marked bats given to the players to use for the mid summer classic known to the world as the ALL STAR GAME. What some collectors may not know is that there were no specially marked All Star bats until 1949, at least as far as we can determine. To date, the earliest known specially marked bats date to 1949 with no examples of a 1948 or earlier bat having ever surfaced. You may ask why we cannot determine whether or not 1949 was indeed the first year with the special markings. Let’s look at Joe DiMaggio’s H&B shipping records. On 7-3-47, the entry reads “7-3-47 D29, 36”, 35 (oz) A2 (2 ash bats) “ Under this is written “All Star Bats”. Yet in the 1949 records, there is no mention of any All Star bats but one example has surfaced and was recently auctioned off thru Mastronet. How about Jackie Robinson whose 1949 All Star game bat was recently auctioned off at Sotheby’s in New York having originated with Rachael Robinson (and was accompanied by her letter stating such). There is nothing in the shipping records listing this bat. For that matter, the first mention of an All Star bat order for Jackie was on 7-9-54 even though he was under contract, this having been signed on Oct. 31, 1946 while he was playing for Montreal. In addition, he was elected to every All Star game from 1949 thru 1954.
If you look at Lou Gehrigs shipping records, you will see an entry dated 7-5-35 stating “his 5-13-31 (in reference to model ordered) Ruth knob, mark wts on end 36 oz. (no length listed) A2 (2 ash bats) All Star Game. In none of the records is there any indication of when Louisville started specially stamping bats shipped to players for the All Star game. They are sometimes listed in the records but more often then not, they are not listed at all. We can therefore determine the inception of these specially marked bats based solely on existing examples. As stated, not one pre 1949 specially marked All Star bat has ever surfaced which leads us to believe that one does not exist. Using this as our starting point, we can move on to the issue at hand which is the collecting and evaluation of these coveted bats.
A brief run down on the origins of the All Star game might be a good place to start. It began as an idea brought forth by Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward who thought it might be exciting to bring the best of the best together for an All Star event. (This had been done before. On July 24, 1911 some of baseball’s immortals played a game against the Cleveland American’s. Cleveland’s Addie Joss had died on April 14th of that year. He was well loved and many players in the league agreed to play a game for the benefit of his widow. Some of the players participating in this first ever All Star benefit included Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Hal Chase, Sam Crawford, Home Run Baker, Ed Walsh, Eddie Collins, Bobby Wallace and Joe Wood.). Ward planned his event to be held in conjunction with the Century of Progress Worlds Fair being held in Chicago that same year and thus, the stage was set at Comisky Park on July 6, 1933. It was only fitting that the first ever home run hit in an All Star game jettisoned off the bat of the one and only Babe Ruth coming in the 3rd inning. This meeting of baseball’s giants has remained a fan favorite to this day with the events surrounding the game growing each and every year.
Who and how one gets elected to this select team have also changed over the years. Selection for the All Star game in 1933 and 1934 originated from the fans and managers. From 1935 thru 1946, it was the manager that selected the players. From 1947-57, the selections originated from the fans for the starting line-up while the managers selected the pitchers and remaining members. 1958 saw another selection change wherein the players were selected by the managers, coaches and players only with no input from the fans. This lasted thru 1969 but in 1970, the selection process was remanded back to the fans where it remains today. Another interesting fact is that from 1959 thru 1962, there were not one, but two All Star games, each played in a different city. In 1959, they were played almost a month apart (July7th and August 3) but in 1960, they were played on July 11th and July 13th, only two days apart. Both the 1961 and 1962 games were about two weeks between games.
With that background information, we return to the issue at hand and that is the specially marked All Star bat. I keep mentioning “specially marked” and by this I mean that the year of the game along with the city in which it was played was stamped on the end of the barrel of the bat above and below the player’s name. For instance, the 1949 Joe DiMaggio All Star bat was stamped 1949 All Star along with Brooklyn on the barrel. This same process was used for World Series bats, the earliest known example of such being 1950 but that is fodder for another story. The 1949 All Star game was a game of firsts. It boasted the first black players ever selected; Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe for the National League and Larry Doby for the Americans. It was the first All Star game ever held at Ebbetts Field and of course, the first All Star marked Louisville Sluggers.
In checking the player’s records for All Star bats in 1949, we found that there is not one mention of any All Star bats for the 1949 game let alone any special markings. Following is a sample list of players whose records were examined for the 1949 season, players that were members of the 1949 All Star team, none of which shows and mentions any special markings or in most cases, any single shipments of 1-2 bats yet there are a few exceptions. Stan Musial had a single bat shipped on 7-8-49 (the game was held on 7-12) as did Ralph Kiner. Walker Cooper and Jim Hegan have no such bats in 1949 but there are notations for All Star bats for 1947. Campanella, Hodges, Marion, Mize, Reese, J. Robinson, Schoendienst, Seminick, Slaughter, Spahn, Henrich, Kell, Mitchell, Stephens, Ted Williams, Berra, Dom and Joe DiMaggio, Doby, and Gordon’s records were all checked. Some had small shipments of 1-2 bats in July prior to the event, most did not.
From this data, one can derive a few conclusions.
A. There are no entries in the Louisville Records for specially marked All Star bats for the 1949 season even though examples do exist.
B. 1949 is the earliest date in which bats are stamped for the All Star Game.
C. The lack of entries of All Star bats in the shipping records is fairly common for the 1950’s but beginning in 1961, the mention of orders for All Star bats becomes more commonplace and standard. In addition, by 1962, most All Star bats were shipped in shipments of two bats for each player, sometimes like models, sometimes different but 2 bats becomes the common shipment total. Prior to 1962, most records, when found, indicate a single shipment of 1 bat. Therefore, one can conclude that 1949 All Star bats are from a single shipment of one bat for each player.
D. There probably exists or existed one bat for each player selected to the 1949 All Star roster.
As most collectors know, there is a large premium placed on these specially marked All Star bats. That premium usually runs anywhere from 50-100 % over a regular season bat but may be higher if the All Star game was significant for that player such as Joe DiMaggio’s great performance in 1949 or the fact that 1949 was Jackie Robinson’s MVP season and his first All Star appearance. Another faucet for collecting All Star bats is that some will show no game use, which is quite common as many players such as Johnny Mize kept his bats as trophies. Some will show the proper light use for a single event and others may be pounded, a sign that they were used well beyond the single dated event. In any case, use on an All Star bat is judged for a single event and as such, heavy use on an All Star bat might only constitute light to moderate use on a regular season bat and that is all right. A bat intended to be used for a single game should not show a seasons worth of marks. On the other hand, a seasons worth of use on an All Star bat does not hurt its value either. If a player chose to use a bat well after the event why should that effect value unless the use is excessive with condition problems or it appears to have been used on the streets. When buying an All Star bat game used bat, buy one with use that suits your tastes and collection.
Lastly, I have heard some collectors state that they don’t like to see a city stamped on a bat that does not represent their player i.e. Ted Williams 1955 All Star stamped Milwaukee. Again, this is a personal thing and you are free to do what you wish but if this is a criterion for collecting, I personally feel you are missing the proverbial boat much like the collector that will not add a cracked bat to his collection. I feel that you are buying both history and game use and certain criteria can jeopardize one’s potential for adding some great pieces to the collection but again, that is a collector’s choice.
If anyone out there has hard evidence of any pre 1949 legitimate All Star Louisville Slugger bats, we would love to see it and will report any new findings but as it sits, 1949 was the first and the shipment numbers indicate no more than one bat for each player making the 1949 Ebbetts Field All Star bat one of the rarest game bats one could hope to find. Add to that the caliber of players that appeared in that game and you will agree that to add a 1949 All Star game used bat to your collection is a rare opportunity indeed. Until next time, David Bushing