The best part of what I do is helping collectors to see the items they have in some greater detail. I know of any number of individuals who appear to motivated solely by the acquisition of items…once they have something, they only care about finding something else. While their collection’s are at times impressive, what they truly know about their own items is anything but.
I was more than excited to read the post by Dennie Cunningham on October 25th detailing his find of a John McGraw Loyal Giants Rooters presentation bat dated to 14 April 1929. Historic artifacts such as this harkens us back to a time when the bond between the public and sporting idols of the day was much more personal. Cities took pride and reveled in the celebrity of “their boys.” Teams, players, and citizenry were far less transient and a bat such as this aptly captures the sentiments of the day.
The bat is a Spalding and is stamped on the barrel:
Loyal Giants Rooters Dinner
John J. McGraw and the 1929 Giants
In doing some research, it can be seen that the dinner was advertised in the Ironwood, Michigan Daily Globe on March 27th 1929 that the New York Loyal Giants rooters will give dinner to John J. McGraw April 14 to express appreciation of the fact that ho has kept his team in the national league races for 28 years. This was, at the time, certainly a news-worthy event to have been picked up by a paper in Michigan. But just how big an event was it? According to a contemporary New York Times account, some 600 individuals attended the dinner.
If you are beginning to think that 600 individuals is not a significant number, then consider that the price of admission for the dinner, according to the April 28th 1929 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail, was $10.00 a head. To put this into perspective, in 1929:
1lb loaf of bread: 10 cents
1lb of butter: 59 cents
1lb of chicken: 42 cents
1 dozen eggs: 59 cents
Average American Weekly Earnings: $25.00
When you consider this was a time of a 6-7 day work week, the cost of this dinner was roughly the equivalent of three days wages for the average American. IRS data from 2005 shows that the same average American weekly salary was roughly $1,062. Based on a five day work week and the cost of three days worth of income, this comes out to be almost $640 a plate by today’s standards.
If you are wondering what all of this has to do with the bat in question, then you have to consider just what the people would have been paying for. It is not uncommon for those paying admission to events like this to be provided with some sort of souvenir from their night with the stars. Another possibility is that given this was a well publicized event, someone may have taken the opportunity to have these bats produced for sale to commemorate this event. I have no idea if this bat was in fact intended to be a gift for McGraw and the players or the attendees. To me the nature of the inscription indicates a focus more on the event than to any particular player or member of the team.
Gifts being to given to players by such fraternal organizations were common occurrences as indicated by the same Charleston Daily Mail article in that it mentions that in the previous year, “that last year, young Mr. Cohen (Andy Cohen) was presented with more wristwatches, traveling bags, and collar buttons than any other player, past or present.” By comparison, a bat engraved as such appears more likely to have been not intended for a player or coach, but rather an event attendee. If this is correct, it does not mean that this is not an important artifact in its own right. Consider that if 600 persons were in attendance and this bat was intended to be a “take away,” then we know something about the original number of issue. Also consider that as a bat, many may have fallen prey to the sandlots over the years, further limiting the number of surviving examples.
In addition, the April 16th 1929 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail, which is the earliest reference I have found of the Loyal Giant Rooters, mentions that “The newly organized Loyal Giant Rooters will fete Mr. John Joseph McGraw upon his arrival from the training tour. This may or may not he evidence of a return of some of the old-fashioned partisanship and enthusiasm for the National Pastime.” What this indicates is that this may be one of the earliest bits of memorabilia associated with this organization.
Although the Giants finished the 1929season in 3rd place with a record of 84-67, there were a number of interesting events associated with the team that year:
May 8th 1929: Carl Hubbell throws his first No-Hitter. The first by a lefthander since Hub Leonard in 1918.
July 5th 1929: The Giants become the first team to utilize a public address system in a major league ball park.
October 5th 1929: Mel Ott loses out on the home run title in a season ending double header against the Phillies and their slugger Chuck Klein. While Klein hit his 43rd homer to break the tie, Ott was intentionally walked five times, with the last one being with the bases loaded.
Getting back to the bat in question, in corresponding with Dennie about it, there may be a reason why this bat has survived some almost 90 years…according to Dennie, there appears to be a faint autograph on the bat with “Joh..Mc and possible G”. The other thing that should be mentioned is that this bat is a full sized 34”, further adding to its collectability and display appeal.
As to the value of the bat, I will leave that to more experienced individuals like Dave Bushing. My hope is that the information I have provided will be of some use in helping to establish what the bat is or might be. Whatever it is or might be, I am thankful to Dennie Cunningham for sharing this with me, and to a larger extent to greater collecting public.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com