Often times we will focus on when a player may have signed an endorsement contract with a bat manufacturer as a means to help date a bat from a larger labeling period. While this helpful, I think there is a richer history/story when you take the time to research and study this business transaction in some original detail. As part of the macro effort I am doing on McLaughin-Millard Adirondack bats from the 1950s and 1960s, I have come across some interesting information I felt would be enjoyed by folks other than myself. The focus here is on Willie Mays and his relationship with Adirondack.
One question I was looking to answer with respect to Mays was when did he sign with Adirondack and why. I found my answer in a news paper article that appeared in of all places, a North Carolina Sunday sports edition in 1979. The article was built around an interview with Hal Schumacher, former NY Giants pitcher (1931-1946) who latter went back home to Dolgeville, NY to take a sales position with McLaughin-Millard.
In this news story Schumacher detailed that he would often go to spring training to look for sales opportunities. He recounts stopping off for the day at the Giants minor league camp in Sanford, Florida in 1951 because “many of my good buddies such as Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott were part of the Giants organization. I visited the Minneapolis clubhouse and was greeted by Tommy Heath, their manager with: Hal, I’m glad you’re here. I’ve been saving one of the greatest future ball players of all time for you, a youngster by the name of Willie Mays.” I am sure as man who new what a great hitter looked like, the decision was easy and according to Schumacher, “ I signed Mays then and their for Adirondack.”
The other thing I found interesting was that the article records May’s 600th home run as traveling some 442 feet. The interest in this is contrasted by the commemorative bat that Adirondack produced for Mays and this event. The bat is a 1968-1970 label that bears a metal brass like plaque between the center brand and the signature that records the record blast on 22 September 1969 in San Diego as going 391 feet. The other thing I found interesting was that as part of Adirondack’s way to say “Way to Go Say Hey Kid,” they also gave Mays 600 shares of company stock and $12,000.00 sports car.
Another vintage newspaper gem on a related historic Mays’ home run appeared in a Texas newspaper from 1966 as it discussed the events sounding his 512th home run. This blast was the one Mays hit to pass former Giant great Mel Ott who retired with 511, thus making him the All Time NL HR Leader. It seams the young man who caught the ball, an Oakland High School student named Henry Garron, had his father speak to Mays about buying the ball for $1,000.00. Mays declined the offer and said he would have paid $100.00 and that “ I never kept souvenirs. I give them away to people who will enjoy them, mainly kids. I’ve only a few trophies at home.” Contrast this with today’s value on items like this as well as the modern player’s desire to profit from all aspects of the sport is striking.
But what struck me most from this second article was the discussion on the bat Mays used to hit # 512. According to the piece, “He couldn’t seem to hit the record-breaker with his favorite Louisville Slugger model. After several frustrating days, a Burlingame sporting goods dealer presented him with an Adirondack bat and the first time Willie used it-Powie.” The article states that the bat was sent to the Hall of Fame.
I decided to contact Cooperstown and inquire about this bat, specifically if this bat was in fact an Adirondack and if so what was the model number stamped on the knob. In very short order I had my answer. The bat that Mays donated just six days after his historic home run was an Adirondack M63 signature model bat. Can you imagine the impact if the answer would have been “34” or “35”, especially since the bat was said to have come from a local sporting goods dealer?
The way I have shaped my Adirondack project, by process and scope, leads to me believe it will take some time to complete. I do plan to share nuggets like these along the way.
As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC