I am sure to some who are reading this, the question might be what does MEARS Auth, LLC know about bats? I have never been a dealer of them and have collected or owned fewer than 100 bats in my lifetime. What I have been for the past 16 years is someone who’s daily life has focused on looking to answer questions about the what’s and why’s on a variety of topics and issues. With respect to bats, I have never advanced any theories that I feel compelled to defend, nor do I feel it necessary to attack the work of others to increase my own position or standing in this segment of the hobby. This article is not about those issues as there are plenty of people who spend their time and effort doing that. Rather this piece is devoted to sharing what I feel the hobby or industry objectively knows about bats. I will spend my time on three topics that have received a great deal of attention this past year; bat weights, team index bats and lesser know manufacturers.
BAT WEIGHTS: Bats are made of wood and the weight of a bat can change over time as a function of environmental conditions. This is a fact. A while back I corresponded with the Baseball Research Center at the University of Massachusetts (Lowell-Department of Engineering) to get their take on this subject as I had come across some work done Dr. Sherwood, the Center’s Director. My questions focused on if they had an opinion with respect to weight losses or gains for wooden bats over time. The response I received from Mr.
Patrick Drane, Assistant Director of Baseball Research Center provided some invaluable unbiased third party empirical data on this subject. Besides the data provided by Mr. Drane, he also offered that:
“ changes in weight due to changes in equilibrium moisture content based on conditions of where the bat was shipped from and where the bat is currently being stored. Based on the current storage location, the weight of the bat should be dictated by the equilibrium moisture content which is a condition dictated by temperature and humidity. The calculations that I performed are based on a table in the “Wood Handbook, Wood as a Engineering Material”. Table 12-1 identifies the Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) as a function of City and Month.”
In addition he also offered that:
“To know how much a bat’s weight should have changed, you would need to know where and when the bat was weighted for shipping and where and when you are weighing the bat again. You would also need to know the EMC for that location and date which could be gathered from climate data, knowing temperature and humidity. Scales may not have been completely accurate back then (30-40 years ago) so I would not rely on the original shipping weight to any more than the nearest ounce.”
The attached chart contains the information I was provided with respect to this issue.
What does this all mean? It means what I said upfront, a bat’s weight can change over time. The table provided is for a bat shipped and weighed in a given year. The other thing this shows is that claims made by some about various weight allowances based on statements like “my bat from the 1921-31 labeling period is within ½ ounce of the shipping records is not an entirely defendable position in the absence of knowing what that particular weighed when it left the factory. If a player’s bat records indicate he only ordered bats that weighed 33-34 ounces, how does the person with a 34 ½ bat know this bat did not leave the factory at 36 ounces? The fact of the matter is that he nor the hobby in general really does. This leads me to my next topic of discussion; team index bats.
TEAM INDEX BATS: We know and accept as a fact based on shipping records that teams ordered bats in various weights, lengths, and player models. We also know as a fact that in a number of instances, these varied from the individual orders that players placed and are recorded in their player records. This is where the facts end and opinions begin. These opinions range from:
A. The players themselves whose names appear on the bat never used team index bats.
B. The players themselves whose names appear on the bat did use team index bats.
C. The players themselves whose names appear on the bat may have used team index bats.
The fact of the matter is we don’t know. The best the hobby can say or do objectively is ensure that team index bats are described as such so that collectors can decided for themselves if this is something they wish to add to there collection. This goes directly back to the first point I made about bat weights. Mind you, I have not addressed player characteristics or player markings on bats.
A player from the 1950-1960 labeling period has entries for both personal orders as well as Team Index bats. In instances where the lengths and models are the same, but the listed weights may be ounces apart, how do you objectively state what is a team ordered or personally ordered bat. Once again, the fact of the matter is that you can’t, knowing the fact that bat weights change over time. I am not trying to create a market for Team Index Bats anymore than I am trying to devalue them. I point this out simply to highlight the fact that those who want to view things like this along the lines of absolutes are once again advancing a position that is not completely defendable knowing what we know, versus what each of us might think.
LESSER KNOWN MANUFACTURERS: There has been much talk in recent years about the a couple of topics, non-traditional vintage bat manufactures such as Hanna Batrite and Zinn Beck as well as the term I detest-“photo matching.” Many have long wanted to deny the possibility that these manufacturers products where used in major league contests because they have “never seen a picture of a player at the plate with one.”
While I am probably one of the hobby’s strongest supporters of imagery analysis, I also know that to rely on single source intelligence to create what we call the “picture of the battlespace,” is not the way to go.
MEARS has done great work supported by veteran collectors to show that this is far more than a hunch. Combinations of photographic evidence, player testimony in the case of Gehrig and Hanna Batrite, documented side written examples, and manufacturer catalogs begin to permit and researcher and the collector to assemble a more complete picture.
As far as pictures, one of the things I don’t think anyone has addressed is accounting for what it is you don’t know and why. This is a standard part of the intelligence process. I would ask that you take a moment to consider this information and the objectively validity of the argument that these bats where never used by players because “I have never seen a picture of one.”
Consider these facts with respect to what we know based on what we have seen:
“The Image of Their Greatness: An Illustrated History of Baseball from 1900 to Present” in an “empirical manner”, one thing becomes very clear. Consider that this book devotes some 221 plus pages to cover the period from 1900 to 1950. Of that:
Of those 221 pages, 194 feature pictures…
Of those 194 picture pages, 79 of them include bats…
Of those 79 bat pictures, they contain approximately 168 bats…
Of those 168 bats, only 30 permit you to discern a manufacturer by the label…
What this means is that only about 18% of the available data provides any relevant information. The converse is that we don’t know what brand or manufacturer is found within 82% of the bats we can see. Does this mean that any certain percentage from this unknown sample have to be of the lesser manufacturers? Of course it does not, but once it again it makes blanket statements about how they where never used not a defendable position.
The bottom line to all this is that for as much as we would like to think we “know about bats”, there is an equal or even greater amount of information we don’t know and are likely to never be able to know. Of course there are some who will counter with I feel more responsible with stating what I believe to more likely. While I can respect this position, I have to take issue with it when it is offered simply as an indictment of the work of others.
In the end, the collector should consider all information and view points and decide for themselves what they think. I have a bit more faith in collectors, especially those of you reading this that you are not the sheep being led around the hobby that many will portray you to be. Unlike the other factual information I have offered above, that is an opinion, but never the less, one I am comfortable with.
MEARS Auth, LLC
LTC MEARS Auth, LLC can be reached for comment or with questions about this article by writing him at either DaveGrob1@aol.com or by mail at
LTC MEARS Auth, LLC
14218 Roland Court
Woodbridge, VA 22193