During the 1920’s Louisville Slugger was the juggernaut baseball bat manufacturer. Interviews, advertising and photographs showed that most players favored H&B, but new photographic evidence has been uncovered by MEARS, which documents professional use of Zinn Beck bats. Zinn Beck bats have been long thought to have been manufactured for professional use, and now verifying evidence can be presented to the bat collecting public. The discovery of the photo was coupled with the examination of 20 bats from the Louisville Slugger find and additional Zinn Beck bats examined by MEARS. Armed with this new information, collectors can now identify professional model Zinn Beck bats and use these previously unknown facts to make informed collecting decisions.
Zinn Beck Playing Career History
Although Hillerich & Bradsby was the modern market leader, they could never match Zinn Beck in one aspect. Zinn Beck was the only modern bat manufacturer with major league experience. He followed in the footsteps of 19th century professional players turned sporting goods manufacturer A.G. Spalding and George Wright of Wright & Ditson.
Born in Steubenville, OH, on September 30th, 1885, Zinn Bertram Beck went on to literally make baseball history. Records show he batted right, throws right, and could really work a lathe tool although which hand he favored is not recorded. Records do show that he made his major league debut on September 14, 1913 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Zinn Beck played 5 seasons with St. Louis (1913-16) and one with the New York Yankees (1918). During his 290 games, he batted .226 with 3 homeruns. During both the 1914 & 1915 seasons, Zinn Beck played with Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby (1915-16).
A known and experience wood worker, Zinn Beck used his knowledge and experience from his major league baseball career to manufacture bats after his playing career ended.
Determining Professional Model Zinn Beck bats
Our first objective was to determine which label markings were to be deemed as professional models. In order to do so, we examined 20 bats that originated from the Louisville Slugger find. These examined bats were Zinn Beck models that had been returned to the factory for Louisville Slugger to reproduce as their own brand. As per the standard H&B process, side written players’ names and dates were applied.
Typically 20 samples would not be enough to conduct a comprehensive study and properly report the findings. But, in this instance, the bats examined were of minor league stars and players with limited major league experience. The uniqueness of the samples was enough to create trend analysis. We examined an additional 24 bats that had been authenticated or examined by MEARS. After review, MEARS determined that the bats labeled as Special, Extra Special or 100 Diamond Ace were manufactured for players that were either minor leaguers, major leaguers with some experience, or major league stars. With no known records to reference, we had to study the side written examples of the lesser stars. Our theory was that if a side written Zinn Beck bats were returned to Louisville Slugger to be replicated, those side written example’s center labels could be used to determine which bats were manufactures as professional models.
Meaning, if Zinn Beck made a bat for a minor leaguer or a big leaguer with some major league experience, those bats were used at the professional level by professional players. Therefore, those bats would serve as our control and would serve as a substitute for Zinn Beck records in absence of the actual hard copies. Schedule A lists side written bats examined of players with professional experience (major and minor league):
Schedule A. Examined Side Written bats of players with professional experience
1. Special Pete Daniel model with side writing from bat being returned by E.R. Shirley 12-12-27
2. Extra Special Hornsby model with side writing from H.S. Emery
3. Extra Special Tom Gulley w/ paper return label to Louisville Slugger plant and side written Red Holt 4-12-28
4. Extra Special Dick Wade with side writing from Senator teammate Joe Evans 8-17-27
5. 100 Diamond Ace W.E. White (no major league experience)
6. 100 Diamond Ace Jack LeRoy (no major league experience)
7. 100 Diamond Ace Billy Rhiel played for Dodgers 1929, Braves 1930
8. 100 Diamond Ace Bechtel (no major league experience)
9. 100 Diamond Ace Frank Walker NY Giants 1925
10. 100 Diamond Ace Collins: last name only. Eddie, Pat, Phil, Shano or Zip (most likely Eddie Collins)
11. 100 Diamond Ace Cy Williams (side written Vic Ruedy 5-18-29, no major league experience)
12. 100 Diamond Ace Harry Layne (side written G. N. Portman 9-24-30)
Again, in the absence of records or dealer/store catalogs, it was the opinion of MEARS that bats of players with very limited or no major league experience would not have had store model bats offered to the general public. Therefore, these labels could safely be determined to be professional models. Finally, the recently discovered photograph from the Marshall Fogel collection clearly showed a Zinn Beck bat with the diamond centerbrand placed for use in front of the Yankees dugout. This photo along with the examination of the side written examples verified use of Zinn Beck bats at the major league level.
In the instances where side written examined non Hall of Fame caliber players did have major league experience, their careers where relatively short. It is theorized by MEARS that Zinn Beck targeted players at the minor league level or players with limited major league experience. Professional model player bats of stars and Hall of Famers have been discovered in very limited qualities and it is assumed Zinn Beck used the relationships he made while a player to make bats and tries to persuade some of the games bigger stars to use his product. This is not much unlike the bat manufacturers of today. Small companies have been trying to win players over for decades and some such as Sam Bat has had huge success when a modern superstar decides to endorse their product. Specific use of a Zinn Beck bat by a Hall of Fame caliber player has not been verified, but the use of Hanna Batrite bats has been verified by Hall of Fame players, thus proving that Louisville Slugger was not the sole provider of bats to the major leaguers.
Known Professional Model Zinn Beck bats
In addition to the side written examples listed in the schedule A, we have broken down all of the Special, Extra Special and 100 Diamond Ace professional model labels that we have examined. Non-side written examples included Hall of Famer models of Rogers Hornsby and Heinie Manush.
Schedule B: Special, Extra Special, and 100 Diamond Ace bats from players with professional experience
Special & Extra Special Professional Models (circa 1924-30)
– Special Pete Daniel model with side writing from bat being returned by E.R. Shirley 12-12-27
– Type of bat used by Hornsby. Hornsby model with side writing from H.S. Emery
– Type of bat used by Gulley. Tom Gulley w/ paper return label to Louisville Slugger plant and side written Red Holt 4-12-28
– Type of bat used by Wade. Dick Wade with side writing from Senator teammate Joe Evans 8-17-27
– Type of bat used by Hornsby
– Type of bat used by Ellis (possibly Rube Ellis)
– Type of bat used by Manush
100 Diamond Ace (circa 1924-30)
– W.E. White (no major league experience)
– Jack LeRoy (no major league experience)
– Billy Rhiel played for Dodgers 1929, Braves 1930
– Bechtel (no major league experience)
– Frank Walker NY Giants 1925
– Collins: last name only. Eddie, Pat, Phil, Shano or Zip (most likely Eddie Collins)
– Type of bat used by Traynor
– Type of bat used by Hornsby
– Type of bat used by Sisler
– Type of bat used by Ruth
– Lou Gehrig Ace of the Diamond
– Type of bat used by Bottomley
– Type of bat used by Meusel (Bob or Irish)
– Type of bat used by Cuyler
– Type of bat used by Bob Meusel
– Type of bat used by Johnson (Walter per comparing to Louisville Slugger example)
– Cobb Model (block letter Cobb last name only)
– Type of bat used by Cy Williams (side written Vic Ruedy 5-18-29, no major league experience)
– Type of bat used by Joe Jackson (barnstorming model)
Professional Model Center Brand Descriptions
Extra Special: Placed near the center of the bat, the 3” x 5” diamond shaped center brand is deeply factory stamped similar to depth of the H&B oval. Examination of 20 bats determined that the center labels appear consistent to each other in regards to depth, placement of logo, arrangement of lettering, and lettering font. Very close examination reveals very slight difference in lettering thickness indicating to different center brand irons or the lettering thinned out after repeated use. The lettering inside the diamond appears as: ZINN BECK BAT CO., EXTRA SPECIAL, GREENVILLE, S. CAROLINA
Special: Placed near the center of the bat, the 3” x 5” diamond shaped center brand is deeply factory stamped similar to depth of the H&B oval. Examination of 20 bats determined that the center labels appear consistent to each other in regards to depth, placement of logo, arrangement of lettering, and lettering font. The lettering inside the diamond appears as: ZINN BECK BAT CO., SPECIAL, REG. U.S. PAT. OFF, GREENSVILLE, S. CAROLINA.
100 Diamond Ace: Placed near the center of the bat, the 3” x 5” diamond shaped center brand is deeply factory stamped similar to depth of the H&B oval. Examination of 20 bats determined that the center labels appear consistent to each other in regards to depth, placement of logo, arrangement of lettering, and lettering font. Very close examination reveals very slight difference in lettering thickness indicating to different center brand irons or the lettering thinned out after repeated use. The lettering inside the diamond appears as: ZINN BECK BAT CO., 100 DIAMOND ACE, REG. U.S. PAT. OFF, GREENSVILLE, S. CAROLINA.
Zinn Beck labeling dating (circa 1924-30)
With absence of records, we had to use the examined bats to determine an approximate labeling dating period for Zinn Beck professional model bats. The earliest bat we examined was of Frank Walker who had major league experience with the 1925 Giants. The Frank Walker bat was not side written, but his career was verified as 1925. It has been our experience from the MEARS study of Louisville Slugger side written bats that most bats returned to the factory were manufactured 1 or more years before being returned. So, with a 1925 playing career as our earliest examined bat, we felt that circa 1924 was an approximate starting date. Also, we examined several other bats that were returned with 1927 & 1928 dates, and these bats were most likely made 1 or more years beforehand. The latest bat we examined of a professional player was of Dodgers (1929) and Braves (1930) player Billy Rhiel. Therefore, an approximate year range for the Zinn Beck center brand was established. The latest side written bat we examined was the Type of bat used by Harry Layne, side written and returned 9-27-30.
Earliest Date: Frank Walker NY Giants 1925
Latest Date Professional Player: Billy Rhiel played for Dodgers 1929, Braves 1930
Latest Date: Type of bat used by Harry Layne, side written and returned 9-27-30)
Why 300 & 400 model Zinn Beck’s can be attributed as professional models
Upon our examination, no side written 300 or 400 models were found and all of the names that appeared on bats were super star players of the period. Examined star players from the 300 or 400 series include Gehrig Type, Ruth Type, and Cochrane. A point of interest, all of the 300 or 400 series were found with hand turned knobs, a usually very desirable trait. Per our policy, MEARS will grade 300 & 400 model bats that have hand turned knobs. Special attention will be paid to the weights, lengths, and models and how they relate to known player model specifications.
Manufactures specifications of professional model Zinn Beck bats
Per our study, all of the examined lengths and weights were recorded. We found that the Zinn Beck bats that we deemed as professional models measured in both weight and lengths very similar to known H&B counterparts. For example, the 100 Diamond Ace “TYPE OF BAT USED BY TRAYNOR” measured 35 inches and 39.7 ounces. 40-ounce bats were very rarely offered as a store model; therefore the Pie Traynor bat’s manufacturers specifications are strong indicators of the bat being a professional model. These measurements are nearly identical to an examined Pie Traynor Louisville Slugger 1920’s bat examined by Dave Bushing.
Although a bat may have a different manufacturer, the player’s themselves were very specific in their weight and lengths requests. These would not vary because of manufacturer and would only vary per the specific requests of the player. Our examination determined that the recorded Zinn Beck bat’s lengths and weights in our study were very consistent with player requested professional model bats ordered to known major league professional model specifications.
Professional Grade wood found on Zinn Beck bats
Careful examination of the wood found that the grain was of a high quality similar to professional model Louisville Slugger bats. Most of the examined professional model Zinn Beck bats were manufactured from ash. The wood grain was straight and found with a tight grain pattern.
Why the phrase “Type of Bat used by” was placed on Zinn Beck bats
Louisville Slugger has come into play in our previous study of Hanna Batrite and our current study of Zinn Beck bats. For Hanna Batrite, we examined Lou Gehrig’s courtroom testimony in regards to Louisville Slugger suit against Hanna Batrite over trademark infringement.
Louisville Slugger thought enough of their product and ideas to have their center brands patented and trademarked. Starting with the 1897 first J.F. Hillerich & Sons center brand, Trade Mark was factory stamped into the bats. From the beginning it was evident that they were going to legally protect their brand.
Due to the competitive nature of business, companies have been trying to circumvent trademarks for decades. Although H&B had exclusive rights to add a player’s facsimile signature to their bats, it was unclear as to whether or now you could put a players name on your bat in block letters. No Zinn Beck bats have been discovered with facsimile player signature stampings.
Judging by how Zinn Beck applied their player identifiers, it is logical to assume they were very much aware of the legal ramifications of infringing on H&B’s process. As a very small company, Zinn Beck must not have wanted to battle the giant in court. So to play it safe, Zinn Beck added the phrase “Type of Bat used by” to the center brands of his bats. From his major league experience, he must have seen the value associated with branding players names with their bats. Therefore he adopted the process while operating within the laws of trade marking.
The majority of the professional model bats had the phrase “Type of bat used by …(insert player’s name)” placed under the factory stamped diamond Zinn Beck center brand. This was applied at the factory in simple block lettering. The player identification was found factory stamped in two styles, last name only & first and last name. Example:
Type of bat used by Pete Daniel
Type of bat used by Collins
Examination reveals that the factory stamped player lettering were all similar in style, placement, consistency, and depth.
Knob markings of professional model Zinn Beck bats
The phrase “hand turned” is very important in the evaluation of Louisville Slugger bats and the understanding of the proper markings of a Zinn Beck professional model bats. This means that the bat was finished at the factory with special attention given to the handle end of the bat. The “hand turning” can be seen when the lathe spindle hole remains, the end is hand rasped flat and the coarseness of the roughed grain can be seen, or the end if factory sanded flat. A “hand turned” knob is absent of any manufacturers logo, inch marks, or other markings. A non-hand turned knob is not a negative trait when examining non-Louisville Slugger bats. The side written 1932 Lou Gehrig Hanna Batrite bat was found with a factory applied patent stamp. A similar type of factory stamping was found on all of the professional model Zinn Beck bats with player stampings under the center brand.
For Zinn Beck professional model bats, the knobs of the Special, Extra Special and 100 models were all marked the same way:
“ACE OF THE DIAMOND” is wrapped around a ½” x 1” factory stamped outlined diamond with “Z ND. 100 B”
It is interesting to note that the 100 marking on the knob which is associated with the 100 series center brand was found on all three variations of the center brand, which we determined to have professional player use. It is the opinion of MEARS that this solidifies the fact that all three of these center brands were issued for professional use. Also, the 100 Diamond series were more commonly found than the Extra or Extra Special center brands so it must have been deemed not feasible from a manufacturing standpoint to switch these knob markings. It must have been the most important to have the bats identified by Zinn Beck as one of his “ACE OF THE DIAMOND”
Two exceptions to the 100 center brand knobs have been examined by MEARS, and both bats have players name placement variations.
From the Louisville Slugger find, a 100 center brand with Fonseca Type stamped on the barrel end instead of underneath the center brand was discovered. On this bat, the knob was hand turned, no Zinn Beck manufacturers marking.
For the Robert Edwards Auction Spring 2005 auction, we authenticated and graded a Ty Cobb 100 center brand bat with the name stamped on the barrel end instead of underneath the center brand. It to read “Cobb Model” on the barrel end and exhibited the hand turned knob.
These two examples illustrate that when the players name is moved from below the center brand to the barrel end, the bats are found with hand turned knobs.
These are the only two bats MEARS has examined with name placement on the barrel end.
While visiting the home of Marshall Fogel to authenticate and grade his Hall of Fame bat collection, MEARS discovered the first proof of a Zinn Beck appearing in a major league game. While examining Marshall’s world class vintage wire photo collection, we discovered a wire photo depicting none other than Babe Ruth wearing his Yankees pants standing in front of the dugout with a Zinn Beck bat mixed with Louisville Sluggers. The wire photo clearly showed the visually distinct diamond factory stamped Zinn Beck center brand. The photograph does not place the bat in the hands of a major league player, but it does show that the bats were placed in front of the dugout for major league players to use.
MEARS grading criteria of professional model Zinn Beck bats
As per our grading criteria, lack of factory records does not exclude all bats from being authenticated and graded by MEARS. In the instances where the are no known factory records, 3 points are subtracted due to lack of records and the bat cannot grade any higher than a MEARS A5. For clarification, the criteria of a MEARS A5 has been reprinted.
A5: Authenticated bat with noted evaluation of usage and/or player characteristics
Factory production details of the bat has been compared to known records and have been determined to match recorded length (+/- 1/4”), weight (+/- 1 to 4) ounces, model, and correspond with proper labeling period from point in examined players career.
Use characteristics & player traits have been examined and bat has been determined to be “from the bat rack” with no visible signs of use. Player traits may be present such as a uniform number but no additional points are awarded. In cases where this grade was obtained because of points subtracted, those reasons will be clearly noted on the enclosed “Bat Grading and Authenticating Official Worksheet.”
There are many cases of bats being deemed as professional models, but use may not be specifically attributed to examined player. For MEARS, when evaluating a bat that cannot be exclusively found in factory records but bat does exhibit professional model traits and was not factory stamped in a “store model bat only” fashion, the A5 designation means that the bat possesses qualities and physical characteristics of a professional model bat that was intended for professional use, issuance to professional player, team issued, or could also have been the same model available for retail sale. In these instances, the bat will receive the grade of an A5. Bats that fall into this category are Hanna Batrite with patent stamp on knob, Hand Turned: Zinn Becks (or Diamond Ace knob stamping), Hillerich & Bradsby 250 models, 40Ks, and other misc. professional model bats. Bats that are known to be store model exclusively are never graded under the MEARS system. (Negative use traits may be present and documented on the accompanying worksheet.)
It is this author’s opinion that Zinn Beck bats were used at the professional levels. With his professional major league experience, Zinn Beck found a niche in the manufacturing of bats after his playing career ended. The side written examples returned to Louisville Slugger helped determine professional labeling. The style of applying the player’s name “TYPE OF BAT USED BY” indicated Zinn Beck studied the legal aspects of manufacturing professional model bats, which showed his seriousness to enter the market. Experience showed Zinn Beck the importance of player specifications in regards to model, length, and weights preferred by major league players and Zinn Beck bats were manufactured with these specs in mind. With the completion of the MEARS Zinn Beck study and the finding of the Marshall Fogel wire photo, MEARS will confidently authenticate & grade Zinn Beck professional model bats while continuing to share breaking hobby news with our members.
Troy R. Kinunen