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1921-1931 Joe Jackson Barnstorming Post-Major League Career Pro Model Bat - Highest-Ever Graded Example
Starting Bid - $5,000.00, Sold For - $20,880.00
Presented is the finest 1920s Joe Jackson barnstorming bat that is known to exist. Graded A9 by MEARS, it the highest-graded Joe Jackson Hillerich & Bradsby "banishment era" bat ever authenticated by the company. All professional model Joe Jackson bats made specifically for his use are extremely rare and highly prized by collectors, but a post-career barnstorming bat such as this example is infused with the spirit of Joe Jackson and tells the story of his legend perhaps better than any other type of item. Although Joe Jackson's "official" baseball career ended after the 1920 season (following his banishment by Commissioner Landis), he did not simply retire from the game. Jackson was semiliterate and possessed no marketable job skills other than playing ball. Faced with bleak job prospects, and always hopeful he would be reinstated, he continued to play baseball in semipro leagues, barnstorming across the country, sometimes under aliases, in order to support his family, all the way into the 1930s. Like a ghost from the past, disgraced and shunned, the great Joe Jackson played in dust bowls of Texas, the South, and the Midwest. Occasionally he was the headliner, advertised like a sideshow attraction to locals in remote areas that otherwise could never dream of seeing a Major League star. Other times he played in total anonymity. Some eagle-eyed fans would occasionally point and wonder "Is that Joe Jackson?" and usually conclude that "it couldn't be." Everyone knew that Joe Jackson was banned from baseball "way back in 1920."
Naturally, Jackson still required bats and he continued to place orders with Hillerich & Bradsby throughout the 1920s. Despite the scandal, Hillerich & Bradsby was still willing to make bats for Jackson, but immediately after his banishment they would no longer manufacture Joe Jackson bats featuring his full signature, which would imply an endorsement, and possibly even incur the wrath of Commissioner Landis. (Note: The script style "autograph" featured on the barrel of all H&B Joe Jackson bats is actually based on the signature provided to H&B by Mrs. Jackson, who provided the example on her husband's behalf years earlier.) In distancing themselves from Jackson, H&B actually went to the considerable trouble of getting out the dies featuring Joe Jackson's full name signature (used in the manufacture of his bats), and filed out his first name from the dies, so that post-banishment bats such as the offered example ordered by Jackson would only read "Jackson" on the barrel. Even Hillerich and Bradsby didn't want to be too closely associated with the fallen star. This is the only instance in which Hillerich & Bradsby ever modified the manufacturing signature dies in this manner.
Offered is a prime example of the tool of Joe Jackson's trade, dating from the heart of his barnstorming years in the 1920s. The fabled "Black Betsy" style bat features the name "Jackson" stamped on the barrel in script letters. In addition to the name on the barrel and perfectly matching all specifications of Joe Jackson professional model bats from the era, this extraordinary example features both his famous "Black Betsy" finish and a hand-turned knob. While no personal testimony from Joe Jackson accompanies, and there are no factory shipping records for any bats for any players from this era, the many unique specifications of the bat and its "Black Betsy" finish (unique to Joe Jackson and seen in numerous photographs of Joe Jackson with bats) make it a virtual certainty that Joe Jackson personally ordered and used this bat during his post-banishment playing days. Heavy use is apparent along its entire length including grain swelling and light deadwood on the back of the barrel. An approximate six-inch crack in the handle, that was originally repaired by a small vintage nail, has been professionally restored. During that process the nail was removed and the crack is now virtually undetectable. This bat appears to have been returned to the H&B factory (to be used as a template for future orders), as the side of the barrel bears the distinct "worn-finish" appearance commonly found on other side-written bats. Unfortunately, all traces of the original side writing have long since faded away. This is an extremely rare Joe Jackson post-banishment bat, exceptional in all respects, and one that will likely forever hold the distinction of being the highest-ever graded example. Length: 36 inches. Weight: 39 ounces. Graded A9 by MEARS (base grade of 5, with 3 points added for use, and an additional point added for photo matches of Jackson holding a near-identical example). LOA from Dave Bushing & Troy Kinunen/MEARS. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000/$15,000+. SOLD FOR $20,880.00
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