Return to start of the article:

The Baseball Bat


 

FRANK BRADSBY

For example, the firm hired Frank Bradsby and, for his outstanding contributions in sales, he was awarded a partnership. In 1916, the firm's name was changed to The Hillerich and Bradsby Company.

Edd Roush used a Hillerich and Bradsby Slugger weighing forty-eight ounces with a large barrel and a thick tapered handle. He won the batting crown in the National League with a .341 average in 1917. Edd Roush died in 1988 at the age of 94. He was the last surviving Federal League participant as well as the-last living player of the 1919 World Series.

Before entering the era of the Roaring 1920's, we -add yet another page to the history of Baseball. It is time to retire the funny stick-like bats, the Mushroom, no knob, the ball knob, the small knob and the rejected curved bat to days gone by.

When a batter steps into the batter's box, he normally takes a comfortable athletic stance with his feet apart. However, the stance of the right-handed Heinie Zimmer, of the New York Giants, was decidedly different. As he stepped into the batter's box, he crossed his left foot over his right and stood in that position until the pitcher delivered the ball. He held his Hillerich and Bradsby bat halfway back before stepping into the pitch.

Upon entering the year 1920 we are able to see Heinie Groh’s special bottle bat, Babe Ruth’s homeruns and Rube Foster forming the Negro National League. In addition, we are introduced to Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Baseball's first Commissioner and we witness the scandal involving The Chicago White Sox.

 

Heinie’s Bottle Bat,

The Babe's R-43 and

1920's Black Baseball

 

Heinie Groh's unusual bottle bat was the largest made. The barrel was two and three fourths inches beyond the trademark and tapered sharply to from the handle. In 1919, Groh was playing for the Cincinnati Reds. This was the year that he, along with his famous bottle bat, finished fourth in batting in the National League. His average was .310.

Also in 1919, the thunder from pitcher, Babe Ruth's bat could be heard when he hit twenty nine home runs for the Boston Red Sox to lead the American League. He was purchased by the New York Yankees from Boston before the 1920 season for one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars. Ruth, now playing the outfield, used a Louisville Slugger Model R-43 with a medium barrel , thirty-six inches in length and weighing forty two ounces. Babe Ruth, often called "Bambino", hit fifty-four home runs in 1920 and fifty-nine in 1921.

Babe Ruth, the "Sultan of Swat", brought fans back to the game of baseball by the thousands. The Babe launched an amazing home run career, including belting sixty home runs in 1927. One of Ruth's bats with twenty-one notches around the trademark is on display at the new Hillerich and Bradsby plant. Ruth would carve one notch for each homer hit. It is easy to picture Babe Ruth stepping up to home plate, taking his stance and, with a slight wave of the bat, ready to hit. What was it like pitching to him? Like looking into the jaws of a lion!

In the year 1920, we were introduced to "The Father of Black Baseball", Rube Foster. He created the first organized Black Major League known-as The Negro National League. Before becoming the best manager in the Negro National League, Rube had been Black Baseball's best pitcher for nearly a decade. His personal force and finances were the key to better parks, better attendance and bigger incomes for the once wandering Black teams.

I recently spoke to my friend Charles "Red" House who played third base for the Homestead Grays and the Detroit Stars. Charles had a good, strong arm and was a fine fielder as well as a real power hitter. During our conversation, House mentioned that most players during his playing career used Louisville Sluggers. He stressed that bats were very important to each player and that they were cared for separately. House also said that U. Wilkinson; owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, was responsible for many innovations. One of these innovations featured an ingenious portable lighting system that consisted of placing light poles on the back of trucks. The motivation behind this idea was to draw crowds to games early into the Depression years.

Hanna Bats

The Hanna Manufacturing Company originated in Athens, Georgia in 19 11. They were known for making handles for shovels, hand tools and farm implements. In 1926, Hanna started making toy bats for department stores and a short time later the company was making bats for sporting goods stores, colleges and the Major Leagues. Hanna manufactured bats until they went out of business in 1976.

Hanna originally used Southern Ash for their Baseball bats and Hickory for their Softball bats. Problems developed with uneven grain in the wood caused by the inconsistent spring seasons of the South. To solve, this problem, Hanna decided to purchase acreage in. Pennsylvania and New York and then proceeded to build two processing factories. When the dowels were received at the Athens factory, they had to be graded, sorted and stacked to dry. Once the Baseball bats were turned sanded and completely finished, they were branded Hanna or Batrite, depending on the quality.

The top grade of bat was called Batrite or WTA and the next grade was called Hanna TA. In 1933 Hanna patented the Batrite non-chipping treatment used on all bats. In 1935, the Flox "hold fast" grip was introduced and was especially advantageous to those ball players who perspired greatly. A cork grip was marketed in 1936 and, in 1941; the cup bat came along. This type of bat removed the excess weight from the end of the bat and gave the bat a new center of balance as well as a smoother, more accurate swing.

Many college coaches had accepted each of the six above-mentioned styles. Hanna manufactured other styles of bats that were exclusively shipped to department stores.

Hanna was responsible for one more important innovation. It was the fiberglass sleeve, which was incorporated into the bat handle. The purpose of this sleeve was to reduce the number of broken bats.

Another aspect of the Hanna Manufacturing Company involved the making of Batrite custom bats with a registered balance. When ordering a duplicate, it was necessary to just send the serial number to the factory. Some of the notable Major League players who visited the factory were Babe Ruth, Johnny Mize and Luke Appling. Some of the bat styles in the 1936 Hanna catalogs were Ruth, Hornsby, Gehrig, Foxx, Ott, Terry and Cronin. These bats sold for two dollars and fifty cents each. The same bat in 1974-75 sold for seven dollars and ten cents each.

Simmons' Long Bat and Wee Willie's Bat

"He'll never be a hitter" voiced the critics of Al Simmons, referring to his "foot in-the-bucket" stance. Little did the critics know how wrong they were. Al Simmons hit over .300 in eleven consecutive seasons and had one hundred RBIs twelve times. He bit .390 in 1931 and averaged .329 in four World Series. Simmons played most of his career, with the Philadelphia Athletics and then five other teams. He used a Hillerich and Bradsby bat that was the longest bat that Louisville ever made. It was thirty-eight inches in length and weighed forty-six ounces. Tommy Henrich of the New York Yankees said, " Al hated pitchers with a vengeance and showed it." Simmons played most of his career with the Philadelphia A's and Washington Senators from 1924 to 1944.

Willie Keeler's motto was "Hit Them where they ain't". He used the shortest bat ever made by Hillerich and Bradsby. It was thirty and one - half inches long, Willie was five feet, four and one-half inches tall, weighing only one hundred -forty pounds. He played for the Orioles and four other teams and became one of Baseball's greatest place hitters as well as an outstanding bunter. The large barrel of his short bat gave him great bat control. In 1898, Willie hit a record two hundred singles out of a total of two hundred and fourteen hits. This record still remains today

 

 

Stripes For Goose

The word special can be appropriately applied to the Leon "Goose" Goslin stripped Louisville baseball bat. While playing left field for the St. Louis Browns, Goose came up with a phenomenal idea. Before the 1932 baseball season, Willis Johnson, the secretary of the Browns, developed this idea and devised the "War Club". As I recall, most of the bats at that time had a natural finish and were of one color. Goslin's bats had twelve green longitudinal stripes that started at the knob and widened along the face and over the barrel end. His bats were always thirty-four inches long and weighed at least thirty-seven ounces.

The "Striped bat" of Goose Goslin was Banned from the Majors

Goslin created quite a disturbance during - the April 12, 1932 Opening Day game against the Chicago White Sox. He approached the plate with his zebra looking bat, only to have it thrown out by the umpires. On April 13,1932, William Harridge, President of the American League, ruled out the camouflage or zebra looking bat because it created a distraction. I knew Leon when he played for the Detroit Tigers and I also played for him in the Minor Leagues, and not once did I hear of this bat. Only recently through The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was I made aware of its existence.

Click for another Goose Story: Batting Practice

Just as the camouflage bat was prohibited from use, so were the white webbing in the pitchers' gloves, the slitting of pitchers' sleeves and the hidden-ball, trick eliminated from Major League Baseball.

 

Hank Greenberg

Fred Haney, the manager of the St. Louis Browns, said, "Hank Greenberg puts more thought, effort and conscientiousness into his work than any other player in the league and, to my mind, he is the best competitor in the league." These words most accurately express the true spirit of Hank Greenberg. Greenberg's over whelming statistics are the result of the combination of his talents and his thirty-five inch, thirty four-ounce Louisville Slugger.

During Greenberg's abbreviated career that began with the Detroit Tigers, he had one thousand six hundred twenty eight hits, three hundred thirty-one H.R.’s and a batting average of .313. Due to a wrist injury suffered during the 1936 season, Greenberg played in only twelve games.

Hank hit fifty-eight home runs in 1938, two short of Babe Ruth's record.

Greenberg was one of the first big leaguers to enter the Military Service. He left Detroit nineteen games into the 1941 campaign and did not return until July 1, 1945. Greenberg the first $100,000.00 player closed out his career in Pittsburgh shooting at Forbes Field's "Greenberg Gardens". Hank Greenberg was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown in 1956.

Lou Used GE69

Lou Gehrig, a monumental ball player was a product of Columbia University and left his mark on Baseball as well as his name on a dreadful disease. How could this six foot, one inch, two hundred fifteen pound first baseman for the Yankees have contracted such a serious illness? During his fifteen-year career, Gehrig used a Hillerich and Bradsby Louisville Slugger bat, Model GE 69 with a two and one-half to two and five eighths inches barrel, thirty-four inches in length and weighing thirty-eight ounces.

Gehrig's stats simply boggle the mind. He averaged one hundred forty one RBI's and one hundred thirty-four runs scored for fourteen years. He hit four hundred ninety-three home runs with a career batting average of .340. Lou Gehrig, often called "Iron Horse" for his two thousand one hundred thirty consecutive games, was also known as a "Run Producing Machine". Gehrig and Ruth formed the greatest one-two punch in the history of Baseball.

As captain of the Yankees in 1936,' Lou's skills showed signs of eroding. While in Detroit, he decided to take himself out of the line-up. In May of 1939, doctors discovered that Gehrig was dying of Amyotrophy Lateral Sclerosis, a form of Infantile Paralysis. The Yankees then announced that July 4,1939 would be Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. On that day sixty-three thousand fans honored "The Pride of the Yankees". Lou addressed the crowd and said, in part, "I may have been given a bad break but I have an awful lot to live for. I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." After the 1939 season, Gehrig took a job with the New York Parole Board. His condition continued to deteriorate and it became necessary for him to give up his job. This great Baseball player died at home on June 2, 1941.

 

More Baseball, More Trees

next Page - More Baseball