by Troy R. Kinunen…When evaluating pre 1917 professional model game used bats, different criteria must be applied to the authentication process. Factory records to support bats from this pre 1917 labeling period are almost non-existent. What is available are a handful of ledger entries, which most often only listed a player’s weight. A specific reference to this bat is not known at this time, but other factors lead us to conclude it is a professional model. MEARS applies photographic evidence, other examples examined in the MEARS database, and the examination of limited but known H&B ledger entries. The combination of the above information is the basis of our opinion deeming this bat as a professional model decal bat.
There is photographic evidence that players used decal bats in Major League games during this period of 1906 to 1911. MEARS has archived a photo of an unnamed New York Giant, circa 1904-07, using a decal bat of an unidentified bat maker.
Additional photos of players using decal bats in the major leagues include:
1. 1902-15 circa undated photo of Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan using a decal bat from an unknown supplier.
2. 1914 Hank Gowdy was mentioned in the 1939 H&B catalog as using a decal bat during the World Series.
3. 1908 circa Ty Cobb photo using what appears to be a H&B model decal bat.
Additional professional model decal bats have been examined by MEARS and our examination revealed the production information compared quite favorable (matching in some instances) with signature model Hillerich & Bradsby bats in respect to manufacturer model specifications, and with specific respect to length and weight. Professional Model Decal bats examined were:
MEARS 251387 Ty Cobb 34.5″, 37 ounces
MEARS 251351 Ty Cobb 34.5″, 38 ounces
MEARS 251886 Honus Wagner 34. 5″, 41.5 ounces
Examination and comparison of these bats were used to establish that H&B bats bearing decals of known endorsee’s were manufactured in length and weights of documented ordering patterns of the respective player in their 125 signature model versions. Meaning decal bat specifications were consistent with 125 signature model bat specifications in terms of model, length, and weight.
It should also be noted that during the timeframe of 1911-16, there are less than 12 known signature model bats that have entered the hobby bearing the signature of ANY player. Spalding was a supplier of major league bats for the era and may explain some of the lack of known H&B examples entering the hobby. This leads MEARS to conclude if players weren’t using bats with factory stamped signatures on the barrel, that professional model decal bats and non-H&B supplied bats were the bat of choice for this early era. The above photographic evidence supports this opinion.
An exact H&B entry of this Frank Baker decal bat has not been recorded to date, but MEARS determined this bat is consistent with the model used by Frank Baker and a length and weight that was consistent with being used during the 1911-16 deadball era. The weight of the bat is also consistent with an order by Baker during his final season in the majors, 36 to 37 ounces during 1922.
In regards to factory records for this bat, we have the following information of orders as referenced in the Louisville Slugger archives for Baker bats from his playing career:
File Card: His old Frank Baker (2/8/1911); Model B38-34” caliper only.
H&B display bat: 34.5”, 47 oz.
1921 Sam Rice Thick Handle Model / 40 oz; Model sent in: 39 oz
1922 His Model: n/s oz.; Old Harry Hooper model: 36 to 37 oz.
Tool Room Lengths Listed on player chart: Frank Baker 34”
Therefore, study of the available factory records show Frank Baker ordered bats measuring in the following lengths and weights:
1. n/s = not specified
1. 36 to 37 oz
2. 39 oz
3. 47 oz
No complete factory records are available to support ordering patterns with respect to model, length, and weight of bats ordered by Baker during the 1911-16 timeframe. The above ranges and known production patterns of major league ballplayers from the era serve as our guide to determine acceptable professional model game bats lengths and weights.
The playing career of Frank Baker spanned from 1908 to 1922. He signed his contract with Louisville Slugger on 10/24/11. Thus, the bat would have been made available for Baker during the entire 1911-16 time span.
Grading: Based on the quality of the wood and the range of the manufacturers characteristics with respect to model, length and weight, the bat is determined by MEARS to be a Frank Baker professional model decal bat. When examining these bats from this label period, we must take into consideration the lack of complete factory records. Evaluation as professional model comes from the known and examined photos, which confirm use of decal bats during the approximate era. Also, the manufacturer characteristics of length (33″) and weight (36.7 ounces) fall within the ordering patterns of players from the era and is within a consistent weight range (36 to 37 ounces) with one referenced ledger entry of weight for Baker (see 1922 His Model: n/s oz.; Old Harry Hooper model: 36 to 37 oz.)
Final grade was determined of 5 base points (matches known examples to model and known dimensions (length & weight) of bats used in the major leagues during this era), 1 point for light use. Final Grade: MEARS A6.