MEARS Auction #173, Ends Saturday, March 4th, 2023, 10:00 PM CST W/30-Minute Rule In Effect
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 3/5/2023

Black Betsy was the primary baseball bat of Shoeless Joe Jackson. It was hand made by a fan of his in 1903 when Jackson was still only 15. It broke the record for the highest sold baseball bat in history, when it was sold for $577,610 in 2001. By then it was considered one of baseball's most fabled artifacts. The record was broken in 2004 when a 1923 Babe Ruth bat sold for $1.2 million.

Legend has it the original black betsy bat was hand made by a local fan of the South Carolina mill teams, Charlie Ferguson, out of a bunk from the northern side of a hickory tree. It was 36 inches (91 cm) long and weighed 48 ounces (1.4 kg). Knowing that Jackson liked blacked bats, Fergerson darkened the bat with tobacco juice. Jackson took the bat to the minor leagues, where the fans often chanted "Give 'em Black Betsy" when Jackson came to bat.

The offered bat is a professional model H&B Louisville Slugger dating to the 1921-31 label period featuring Shoeless Joe Jackson's distinctive two tone "Black Betsy" finish. Bat currently measures 36" which is consistent with the most desirable models, and weighs 39 ounces which is within an acceptable range for Joe’s use. Area of removed side writing, a couple scratches on the reverse barrel and scattered handle markings.

Because there are basically no available H&B records (a few journal entries and period references have been researched) predating 1920, and the fact that Jackson's name is not stamped on the barrel (there is no barrel stamping as this is how Jackson's "Black Betsy" models were produced), MEARS has conservatively graded and evaluated this bat as a "Black Betsy" bat with attribution to Joe Jackson.

Due to its unique features, mainly consisting of black betsy finish and blank barrel, this bat is being evaluated as a Black Betsy style/model bat that was one model of bat used by Joe Jackson. Without a player’s name appearing (blank barrel) on the center brand, absolute attribution cannot be made to a player, but I believe it to be the model used by Joe Jackson as it compares quite favorably to three other documented examples.

MEARS has examined signature model Joe Jackson bats having the black betsy finish and manufactured with marking, model, length, and weight of a consistent range to this bat. The playing day bats were found with a facsimile “Joe Jackson” barrel stamping. After the Black Sox Trial, “Jackson” facsimile last name only bats dating from the 1920s entered the hobby. It is theorized, with no known supporting evidence, that H&B was trying to mask the fact Joe Jackson was still using signature model Louisville Slugger bats. At some point during the 1920s, his last name was fully dropped from being used by the factory.

This bat bearing no name could have been issued at any point during the 1920s and his time barnstorming and playing semi pro ball.

MEARS is evaluating the bat as type of model it was manufactured as. There are no known catalogs, records, or ledgers showing other players being offered the Black Betsy model bat in these dimensions with a blank barrel, but it is possible. We do know that other players did use bats with the black betsy finish, but we do not know the model, length, weight and but examples were found with the players name stamped on the barrel.

Three documented examples of Black Betsy bats have entered the hobby. All three examined by MEARS were found to be originally manufactured as a blank barrel. Therefore, I feel it is proper to attribute this bat as being the correct model in regards to style, length, weight, finish, and barrel end as a bat preferred and used by Joe Jackson.

There is no proof currently known which explains the introduction of blank barreled black betsy bats for player use, but then again, no other bat was as unique to the sport and so closely associated to one player. Its uniqueness caused this bat to be referred to by its own name, Black Betsy. This may account for the reason no player’s name was added to the barrel, as it wasn’t needed for the purpose of identification, as its color and model were unique enough.

In conclusion, although not supported by detailed and complete factory records, which no bats from this era are, the use of both imagery and trend analysis, the understanding of manufacturing specifications, the fact that this bat matches the known model Joe Jackson bats in regards to model and finish, favorable photographic comparisons, and manufacturing and player specifications consistent with three documented examples, we are able to evaluate this bat as a 1921-31 Black Betsy H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat (MEARS A10) Style Used by Shoeless Joe Jackson . (71U0002)

LOA Troy Kinunen / MEARS
1921-31 Black Betsy H&B Louisville Slugger Professional Model Bat (MEARS A10) Style Used by Shoeless Joe Jackson
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $500
Final prices include buyers premium.: $12,000
Number Bids:22
Competitive in-house shipping is not available for this lot.
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