Major League Players used Hanna bats…This we know and I thought I’d get that out the way lest I get e-mails about having a keen grasp of the obvious as it seems some are prone to send. This article is about looking at what we know, how we know it and what else these same sources may have to offer if looked at in a bit of different manner. We have long cited as a source of Hanna bat use as that of Lou Gehrig’s testimony in the case of Hillerich and Bradsby vs the Hanna Manufacturing Company of Athens, Ga.
I won’t belabor the basis of the case as that too is well known, but what may not be widely known is that the National Archives contain quite a bit of valuable information and documents pertaining to the case that offer some interesting data points if you look at them as primary source documents. These include the original complaint filed by Hillerich and Bradsby as well as the answer to the complaint by Hanna. These documents exist as series of rejoinders and responses along with exhibits and legal findings and summary’s. To date, I have not seen this topic addressed beyond the Gehrig testimony so I thought I would look at them for myself. I am glad I did.
One such exhibit offered includes a letter written on June 28th 1929 by “Doc” A. A. Woods, Trainer for the New York Yankees at the time. I found this letter to be especially interesting and have posted it here for your own review. The big “take aways” for me are this:
-Hanna bats were ordered by a representative of the club for specific players, in specific dimensions (Gehrig and Lazzeri) as well as for other unnamed players.
– That the dating of the letter and information about the Gehrig bat indicates use a year or two at least before the letter was written.
All of this gives us some insight into specific player use, ordering patterns and a clearly demonstrated demand for this product by the dominant ball club in the major leagues. This is important to note as Hanna was not a manufacturer in close proximity to New York. They were however, being located in Georgia, would have had great exposure to ball clubs in spring training and the subsequent barnstorming or exhibition games routinely played in the south either at the close of the major league season or prior to its start.
I also found a great document listed as status of the case from April 4th 1934. I have also enclosed select pages for your reference. Of particular interest to me were:
Page 1: Here is lists that of the 588 master models used by Hanna, some 479 were made off of Hillerich and Bradsby products. This information gives us valuable insight into how extensive the Hanna bat offering were by this time. The 1930 Hanna Batrite catalog lists just over 30 models available so this new figure of 588 truly dwarfs this as point of reference.
Page 2: Here we find that Hanna did in fact go after specific players but with little success in getting them to openly endorse their product. We also see that some players objected to this practice and I will continue to look for those letters of objection if possible.
Page 3: Here we find the year of 1927 as the beginning of the Hanna Bat manufacturing company. This offers some insight as to the earliest a Hanna bat could then to have been said used by a player and a start point for dating of product and the earliest centerbrand. It also shows how rapidly Hanna was able to excel in the market place in a period of roughly two years.
Page 4: Here we find reference to the edict or practice of having to add the word “style” or “shape” to a bat in conjunction with a player’s name. Remember this a “status of the case” so that the use of “style”, “type” or “model used by” is not likely to have become a business necessity until sometime after that, maybe as earlier as 1935. This too has some relevance in establishing a date range on a bat bearing these types of markings. Why is this important? Consider when these players appearing in the 1930 catalog ended their careers against the backdrop of a company starting out in 1927 and when we should expect to words like “style” or “type”:
Sam Crawford 1917 (Could not have used a Hanna bat)
Joe Jackson 1920 (Could not have used a Hanna bat)
Tris Speaker 1928
Ty Cobb 1929
Edd Roush 1931
Babe Ruth 1935
Rogers Hornsby 1937
Also included in this series of documents are copies of the original endorsement contracts signed by Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Although this has no bearing on the use of Hanna bats, it was the first time I had seen these documents and mention them and show the Gehrig contract to highlight what sort of things can be found when doing a little research on your own.
My hope is that articles like this and the research conducted to write them will serve as call to others to do the same thing and not simply comment on the works of somebody else.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions and comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com