Any professional model player’s bat, which survived from the pre 1920 era, should be considered quite rare. Besides the bats themselves being quite scarce, records supporting their professional issuance are just as scarce. Admittedly challenging, an authenticator armed with available information can still render an accurate opinion if the interpretation of available facts is done logically and responsibly. This article will establish:
1. The relationship between Spalding and the major leagues during the era
2. The relationship between Spalding and the Detroit Tigers during the era
3. Photographic support of Spalding bats being used from 1914-19
Opinion Letter Details
February 20, 2007
RE: 1908 circa Ty Cobb Spalding Professional Model Game Bat
Era: Pre-War Hall of Famer
Certification Number: 305711
Final Grade: A6
MEARS was asked to grade and evaluate and offer an opinion on the above-mentioned bat. Based on the dating of the centerbrand (1908), we determined this bat was a professional model and consistent in terms of production specifications with bats issued to Ty Cobb during his playing career. The label description, “SPALDING, Tyrus R. Cobb, AUTOGRAPH” is found on the centerbrand. These are the only markings on the barrel. There is no model stamped on the bat as that was in accordance with the manufacturing process for Spalding at this time. Ty Cobb was the only player to have his signature branded in this fashion during this time frame; all other endorsees of this period were issued with the Gold Medal barrel branding.
The player identifier, “Tyrus R. Cobb” appears in script signature style on the centerbrand of the barrel. This was a unique style for his Spalding wood, as Cobb’s signature appeared on Louisville Slugger professional model bats as “Ty Cobb”.
Examination of the handle shows the bat was manufactured with a small knob and round barrel. Photographic evidence supports the model of this bat. In a dated postcard (image enclosed) of Ty Cobb during 1907, you can clearly see the similarities of the knob and barrel. Ty Cobb definitively used this model of bat during the 1908 timeframe.
The knob is hand turned as indicated by the lack of trademark on the knob and the factory style finish. Store model Tyrus R. Cobb bats was also made available to the general public during this timeframe and this bat should not be confused with the store model examples. These store model bats were found with the Spalding logo stamped into the barrel. Also, this bat was issued in a ½ inch length. Typically store model bats were issued in even lengths such as 32”, 33”, 34” or 35”. So, this bat is not a store model based on the infrequency of store model bats being issued in half-lengths. The hand turned knob and ½ inch length were indicative traits of professional model issuance as compared to their store model counterparts.
Player Model Specifications
Although no Spalding production information is known to exist for this examined bat, its physical manufactured characteristics are consistent with the preferred specifications of factory documented Ty Cobb bats:
Ty Cobb Spalding MEARS #305711 (Small knob/ round barrel & no handle tape)
Length: 34 3/8 inches
Weight: 37.9 ounces
Ty Cobb 1911-16 L/S side written 6-19-28
Length: 34.5 inches
Weight: 35.7 ounces
Ty Cobb 1921-28 L/S side written 6-29-25
Length: 34.125 inches
Weight: 35.7 ounces
Ty Cobb 1921-28 L/S from Luke Sewell
Length: 34.5 inches
Weight: 36 ounces
All four bats compare very favorably in respect to length and weight. The three bats used for comparison are considered in the hobby to be the best of the best in regards to authenticity and their relation to recorded production information. It is this relationship that provides the established metrics upon which a comparison was based and a subsequent opinion formed. With this in mind, it is our conclusion that the factory recorded dimensions of side written Louisville Slugger bat (a known sample) can be used as a basis of comparison on Spalding bats (an offered sample). This bodes well for this bat since the dimensions are nearly identical. The compared measurements are the basis of our opinion.
In addition, MEARS has examined two other Spalding professional model Tyrus R. Cobb bats.
1908 circa Tyrus R. Cobb Spalding #302454
Length: 34.25 inches
Weight: 37.2 ounces
1908 circa Tyrus R. Cobb Spalding #251233
Length: 34.5 inches
Weight: 40.5 inches
This examined MEARS bat compares quite favorably to these two previously examined Spalding Tyrus R. Cobb professional model bats. The same processes and methods were used for those bats as well.
Brief History of the Relationship between Spalding and Major League Baseball
As both a dealer and an authenticator, Dave Bushing has had the opportunity to examine a very small handful of player endorsed bats from the 1908-1920 timeframe. And of the bats that were deemed as professional models, only a small number, (estimated at less than 20) were Hillerich & Bradsby. If the big leaguers weren’t using H&B during that 12-year period, then they must have been using bats manufactured by other companies.
Again, the lack of factory records can be overcome by examining the information that is available. In the Sporting Goods Catalogue of 1912 printed by the department store, “THE FAIR” of Chicago, IL, on page 146 it states,
“Spalding Gold Medal Autograph Bat are exact duplicates of those used by the leading players in both major leagues. The models that have been adopted have been duplicated from time to time as they have required additional bats. In order to satisfy the ever increasing demand for bats of the same models as used by the leading players, we have obtained permission from many of the leading batters of the country to include in our line of high grade bats these Gold Autograph bats, bearing their signature.”
Ty Cobb’s teammate while with the 1912 Detroit Tigers, Sam Crawford, was also an endorsee of Spalding. His autograph model was listed at 35” weighing 40 to 44 ounces. If this bat was one of the models adopted to be duplicated direct from the players game bats, this establishes a link directly between Spalding and the Detroit Tigers.
I would theorize that Spalding beat Louisville Slugger to the punch by adding facsimile signature to the barrel of their bats as supported by the advertisements in these catalogs.
The 1912 A.G. Spalding & Bros. Official dealer catalog provided additional links between major league baseball and Spalding equipment. On page 2, in a full-page ad, it reads:
“Spalding Official National League Ball, Patent Cork Center. No. 1. Adopted by the National League in 1878 and is the only ball used in Championship games since that time…the same ball as used since August 1, 1910, without change in size of cork or construction. Same ball exactly as used in World Series Games of 1910, 1911, and 1912.”
Page 17 provides a further link between player and Spalding products with photographs of William Sullivan of the Chicago White Sox wearing the Spalding No. 5P Body Protector and Roger Breshahan wearing Spalding Leg Guards.
Finally, The 1912 Spalding dealers catalog cement the link between Spalding and the major leaguers. On page 25, it reads,
“SPALDING BASE BALL UNIFORMS- illustrated up to date outfits as worn by players on the teams connected with the National and American Leagues.” Players included:
John McGraw- NL Giants
Frank Chance- NL Cubs
Harry Davis- AL Athletics
Hugh Jennings- AL Tigers
Fred Clarke- NL Pirates
Charles Dooin- NL Phillies
George Stovall- AL Indians
James Callahan- AL White Sox
Roger Bresnahan- NL Nationals
William Dahlen- NL Nationals
J. Garland Stahl- AL Americans
Walter Johnson- AL Americans
Clark Griffith- NL Nationals
Fred Tenney- NL Nationals
Hal Chase- AL Americans
Robert Wallace- NL Americans
This list of players establishes the relationship between Spalding, the American League and the Detroit Tigers.
1. American League Teams (of which Cobb’s Tigers were associated)
2. Detroit Tigers via Hugh Jennings wore Spalding supplied uniforms
For the purpose of this article we only had the 1912 catalogs available but earlier catalogs from the era of 1908 would most likely support the theory.
Photographic Support of Spalding bats being used in the Major Leagues
While researching a related story, LTC MEARS Auth, LLC brought to my attention the exhibit card featuring Heinie Groh. Judging by the team, Reds, and the style of the jersey, the image could be dated to 1914-19. Louisville Slugger records show that on 9/28/20 Groh signed his contract with Louisville Slugger. Therefore, the dating of the photo supports use by Groh in the major league during the 1914-19 timeframe.
Professional Model Spalding Examples Which Have Entered the Hobby
Spalding was a major supplier of professional model bats during the 1908 to 1920 timeframe. Louisville Slugger was increasing their marketing efforts and beginning to seize market share, but Spalding examples of professional model game used bats still found their way into the market. Following is a list of additional Spalding professional model bats examined by MEARS, which were manufactured in the manner, which denoted professional issuance. Although no photo evidence exists, the Larry Doyle/David Robertson was side written and returned to the Louisville Slugger Factory to have an H&B reproduced. The manufacturing markings of this bat were consistent with the other examined Spalding professional model bats. The unique professional model markings were examined and used to conduct trend analysis for the presence of Spalding bats in the major leagues. Examined were:
1912-25 Frank Chance Spalding MEARS #303556
1914-18 Babe Ruth Spalding MEARS #302482
1908-11 George Stone Spalding MEARS #300067
1910-20 Edd Rousch Spalding MEARS #301338
1914-20 Larry Doyle Spalding/David Robertson MEARS #301396
Player Personal Characteristics
There were several use or player specific characteristics of this bat associated with Ty Cobb. First, the lack of handle tape relative to the dating of the bat. It often cited that Ty Cobb used a unique and specific pattern of tape on his bats. Research shows this is the case, but the practice began to appear with regularity in the teens to early 1920s. Photos show that for this early period of circa 1908, Ty Cobb often was photographed with a bat bearing no signs of tape or pinetar on the handle. Now, lack of tape alone does not serve as a player specific trait, but the lack of it in this instance does not preclude this from being a Ty Cobb bat. The accompanying photos of Ty Cobb in 1907 and the circa 1910 substantiate this observation for lack of tape on his bats from this era.
Another telltale sign of game use, which is consistent with Ty Cobb, is the flattened hitting surface found above the barrel stamping. This occurs from the repeated contact of bat on ball. Only the most deadly and skilled hitters can repeatedly make contact in such a small and concentrated area. Also present is the appearance of cleat marks. The cleat marks appear in a manner and depth consistent with previously examined Ty Cobb bats.
Grading of Ty Cobb Spalding bats
This professional model game bat received the final grade of A6. Regarding the basegrade, 5 full points were awarded for the consistency and specificity relative to comparison with known examples of documented side written Louisville Slugger bats. Also, the hand turned knob and incremental ½ inch metric separated this bat from its store model counterparts. The manufacturing characteristics of this bat from this label period were evaluated and served as the basis for the 5 point base grade.
Use was optimal and the presence of the flattened hitting surface and cleat marks allowed our authenticators to assign 3 full points for optimal and heavy game use.
Negative points were assigned for the following:
1 full point was subtracted for the carved in the knob. The exact meaning and time of placement is unknown. Also, there is slight layer separation on the reverse of the barrel, ½ point was subtracted.
Finally, ½ point was subtracted for the stain on the reverse of the barrel. Final Grade: MEARS A6
Based on the research conducted by MEARS, presented is our evaluation, opinion and grade for this Spalding professional model Ty Cobb Bat. Use of imagery analysis, dealer catalogs, contemporary manufacturers and market trends, as well as Louisville Slugger documented Cobb bats allowed us to render what we feel is an objective and defendable opinion.
Troy R. Kinunen