MEARS Auction #21, Ends December 30th, 2010- 9:00 CST, w/15-Minute Rule
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/31/2010

Made famous by his portrait on the T206 card, there is a natural cross over among collectors for Honus Wagner memorabilia. This bat was one of the first models that were created from the original Honus Wagner 1905 side written bat. With exposure to newly discovered research, it has been verified that Ty Cobb was the inventor of the Kork Gripped bat, and we have photographic evidence of Both Honus Wagner and Joe Jackson using a cork gripped bat. We have provided an image of Wagner using this exact same model bat! Additionally, H&B factory records, including Babe Ruth, verify the use of cork in the major leagues. Players used cork gripped bats, the facts are documented, and we are proud to offer this Honus Wagner cork gripped example.

Based on the early dating of this bat and examination of the MEARS bat census, this is the earliest Honus Wagner professional model signature bat offered to date.

Dating 1914-15: Examination reveals this style of label was produced by Louisville Slugger during the 1914-15 era. (MEARS centerbrand database)

Length 32.75”: Although not supported by a factory record, a 32.75” length is evaluated by MEARS as a length acceptable to have been used by Honus Wagner. H&B records for the era 1914-21 documenting player lengths are incomplete and quite hard to find. There is very little in the way of surviving recorded materials available to researchers. Therefore, experienced authenticators need to draw upon all the available information available to determine professional use. Certain information does exist, and the interpretation of the data does allow for MEARS authenticators to render a researched and defend able opinion. Tool Room Drawings are available and can serve as a form of record regarding professional bat length, just as shipping ledgers listing weights. The tool room drawings show what actual lengths the players requested. The bats were then manufactured for the players in these documented and specified lengths. MEARS has a set of records referred to as “tool room drawings”. These drawings show the actual dimensions of the bats along with standard lengths.

Based on the list of players, Joe Jackson, Eddie Collins, Benny Kauff, Frank Baker, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Joe Jackson, and Henie Groh, we estimated the dating of the records to 1920 or earlier.

Lengths Listed

Joe Jackson 35”

Eddie Collins 33”

Bennie Kauff 32”, 34”

Frank Baker 34”

Tris Speaker 34”

Honus Wagner 34”

This establishes that professional players from the questioned era (1914-21) did indeed use bats measuring 32” to 34”. Eddie Collins (33”) is a member of the 3,000 hit club and Hall of Famer. Bennie Kauff (32”) was a star of the league until being banned. Both were contemporaries to Tris Speaker and super stars of their time. The Tool Room Drawings verify 32” and 33” lengths as being manufactured for use by two superstars of the 1916-21 era. Professional model Tris Speaker H&B bats from the relative time period have also been recorded at the 33" length.

Additional Bats evaluated by MEARS measuring approximately 33" are:

Joe Jackson 1916-21, 32 14/16”, 40.1 ounces

Joe Jackson 1916-21, 32 ¾”, 37.9 ounces

Tris Speaker 1921-31, 32.875", 32.8 ounces

Tris Speaker 1917-21, 32.5", 33 ounces

In sum, although not factory recorded, this bat is consistent with bat produced for Wagner's contemporaries and is within the standards allowed by Major League baseball for the era.

Weight 44.3 ounces: Recent weighing of this bat supports this as being manufactured by H&B within a range as documented as being ordered by Honus Wagner. Surviving H&B records listing player weights indicate bats sent to Honus Wagner on 1911 at 44 & 50 ounces. In 1912, he requested weight at 45 ounces. Therefore, this bat at its current weight is consistent with available factory records.

Handle tape: Examination reveals vintage handle tape. The taping of the handle is a trait found on some Honus Wagner bats, and the accompanying image documents this player trait. Being a Kork Grip bat, the tape covers the area of the handle where the cork would have been applied. The tape appears to be vintage.

Model W107: Examination reveals this model of bat as the W107 model as recorded in his personal H&B records.

Signature model: On 9/1/05 signed his endorsement contact with Louisville Slugger. A facsimile of his signature appeared on his early (1905-1910) decal bats, and his early 40HW store model bats. Appearing as “J Haus Wagner”, the flowery script signature was also found on the only side written Wagner bat examined by MEARS, from the Marshall Fogel collection. This barrel stamping is consistent with that documented example.

Kork Grip: There are no H&B factory records from this label period to support Honus Wagner using this model bat, but Ty Cobb was documented as being the inventor of the cork-gripped bat. In an article available to MEARS members on our website, Dave Grob wrote an article titled, “Cobb Corked His Bats” which chronicled the fact in the following excerpt, “With Louisville Slugger being issued a patent for this grip in September of 1914, I figured some information or players comments might be available about these bits of lesser seen lumber during the period listed for the Sporting Life. The 20 December 1913 edition of the Sporting Life showed a small column with the headline “TY COBB INVENTOR: The Detroit Star Has Evolved a Cork Handle For The Bat.” The article is here for your own reading and reference. Cobb was obviously not an inventor, but rather a ball player. A ball player obsessed with being the best in the game and always looking for an edge. I don’t think it a stretch to imagine that he used a cork gripped bat at some point based on this information.”

Kork Grip: MEARS has established via photograph proof (Joe Jackson with Kork Grip bat), reference in the H&B factory records, and the examination of additional professional model 40K bats, that Louisville Slugger supplied professional ballplayers with this model. Examples examined include:

MEARS #302455 1921-31 Eddie Collins 40K

MEARS #301123 1914-15 Ty Cobb 40K

MEARS #251754 1911-16 Joe Jackson 40K

MEARS #303775 1917-21 Ty Cobb 40K

MEARS #255107 1917-21 Harry Davis 40K

MEARS #302906 1921-31 Frank Frisch 40K

MEARS #302914 1921-31 George Sisler 40K

MEARS #302944 1921-31 Ed Roush 40K

MEARS #301586 1921-31 Lew Fonseca 40K

With the exception of the cork grip, the above referenced bats were consistent with each players personal bat record ordering patterns with respect to length, weight, model, and barrel signature. The above players did have store model 40K bats offered to the general public, but those were found with inch marks on the knob. The above examples had hand turned knobs, which is a practice consistent with professionally produced bats. It should be noted that the two common players, Ramsey and Smith were also produced with hand turned knobs. The hand turned knobs were consistent for both common and Hall of Fame caliber players.

Common Players Examined

MEARS research 1921-31 George Ramsey 40K (block letter) 36”, 36.8 oz, hand turned, sw 7/28/23

MEARS research 1921-31 Harry Smith 40K (block letter) 34”, 32.3 oz, hand turned, sw 8/15/29

The examination of the Ramsey and Smith 40K bats proved that H&B did produce bats from common players.

The examination and listing of the above bats allows MEARS to establish the fact that Hillerich & Bradsby supplied major league ballplayers with 40K professional model bats from the era of 1911-31. The MEARS image of Joe Jackson with the 40K grip allows for photographic verification. The inclusion of Harry Davis & Lew Fonseca in the group allows for us to establish that 40K bats were supplied to non-Hall of Famers. All of the above-examined bats were also consistent with respect to model to their 125 H&B examples. There is also a specific factory record for Babe Ruth ordering Kork Grip bats during the 1921 season. It appears in the factory record as:

Tom Griffith, 8/9/21, with kork grip

This ledger entry verifies the fact that Babe Ruth did indeed request order of bats with the kork grip application.

A thorough examination of the H&B factory records did reveal additional references of major league ballplayers ordering Kork Grip bats. Under Cardinals star Pepper Martin H&B personal bat records, the following information is recorded:

5-10-40 order: Johnny Mize, use Hornbsy with cork handle, 36”, 35 ounce

7-24-40 order: Hornsby cork handle, 36”, 33 ounce

8-28-40 order: Hornsby cork handle, 35”, 33 ounce

Finally, an additional 40K bat, 1913-14 Ty Cobb MEARS #310769, was examined by MEARS and established production of this model bat for other high profile HOFers during the same era. Wood: Bat is manufactured from professional grade ash.

Use: Bat exhibits heavy game use, evenly distributed from knob to barrel end. Cleat marks are scattered throughout the barrel.

Knob: The knob of this bat is hand turned, sans inch marks, and contains the presence of rasp marks. The rasping of bats was the practice of H&B lathe hands removing wood by "rasping" in the area of the knob in an attempt to achieve the desired weight. Surviving factory records from the time are most often listed by weight only, supporting the fact that weight was more important than length for the era.

Final Grade MEARS A7: 5 points base grade for correct model and consistent weight, 3 points for heavy game use, minus 1 point for removed cork and discoloration of the end.

Conclusion: With factory records supporting professional use of the 40k model bat in the major leagues, the early appearance of this Honus Wagner signature, and the correct model and weight for this bat, MEARS is confident to deem this as a professional signature model bat manufactured for Honus Wagner to be used during his playing days, circa 1914-15. With examples of Honus Wagner bats appraised at $100,000+, this bat offers collectors the chance to own a bat that is quite exclusive among even the most seasoned collector.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $2,500
Final prices include buyers premium.: $21,300
Number Bids:16
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