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1911-1916 Ty Cobb H&B Decal-Style Professional-Model Bat
Starting Bid - $10,000.00, Sold For - $29,375.00
Presented is an extraordinary 1911-1916 era Ty Cobb Hillerich & Son Co. professional-model bat, dating from the peak of Cobb's career. This decal-style "dash-dot-dash" professional-model game bat has been graded A7 by MEARS (losing one point and thus falling short of an ideal A8 grade only due to a carving in the knob). Many collectors assume that only store-model bats were manufactured with decals, and are unaware that Major League players ever used bats with decals, or that pro-model bats with decals were ever even manufactured for player use; but that is, in fact, the case. Most bats with decals, of course, are store-model bats, which at a glance look very similar to a pro-model decal bat such as this. But this is where the similarity ends. This Ty Cobb game bat is actually very different, with both the H&B stampings and specifications (which are very different from that of the store-model decal bats) defining this bat with certainty as a professional-model bat manufactured exclusively for use by Ty Cobb. The bat, which dates to the 1911-1916 manufacturing period (predating model numbers), is hand turned (a primary characteristic of pro-model bats that is not shared by store-model bats) and displays heavy use along the entire length in the form of ball marks and several distinct, scattered cleat marks. The H&B stampings of the centerbrand are those of a professional-model Ty Cobb game-used bat, with the smaller of two "dash-dot-dash" symbols appearing below "Louisville Slugger," as opposed to "40 TC" as found on store-model bats. In addition, the length and weight specifications of this Ty Cobb game bat are also different from store-model bats. This bat is 34.5 inches, which is precisely Cobb's game-bat length specification. No decal store-model Cobb bats of this length were ever available for sale to the public. In fact, no half-inch bats were available as store-model decal bats. The weight of this bat is 37 ounces, which is just one ounce less than his normal specification of 38 ounces. It is normal for bats to lose an ounce or two over the years due to the wood's loss of moisture retention. Therefore, this bat is perfect in all regards to Cobb's known bat specifications. Collectors of decal store-model bats tend to primarily be interested in the display value of these bats, which is understandable, and usually have no knowledge of professional game-used bats. One advanced store-model bat collector, who we checked with in researching this writeup, questioned the use of decal bats at all by Major Leaguers and challenged us to provide him with a photograph to prove this. Deadball-era photographs of players batting that are taken at the proper angle, let alone with such clarity that any details at all of the barrel (even a name or signature) can be seen, are a tall order. HOWEVER, not only did we find a photograph, we found one of Ty Cobb! On our website we have provided an inaction photograph of Cobb at the plate using a Ty Cobb decal bat. Note: The bat Ty Cobb is using in this photograph is a batting-pose decal bat, as opposed to the offered bat, which is a portrait decal bat. H&B produced several different designs of Ty Cobb H&B bat decals. We have also provided an image of a Ty Cobb batting-pose decal bat and photos (both a positive print and the original negative from which it was produced), as well as an image of Cobb at bat with the batting-pose decal on the bat outlined to allow for easy image-matching identification. In addition, another photograph has been found capturing Roger Bresnahan using a decal bat. It is also interesting to note that it has recently been discovered that the 1939 H&B catalog makes specific mention of Hank Gowdy having used a decal bat in the 1914 World Series. There is no doubt that professional model decal bats were used by a number of Major League players during the dead-ball era, though it is also the case that this practice was limited to very few players who were under contract and whose images were used on decal store-model bats (a universe of only a dozen or so players), such as Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Roger Bresnahan, and Hank Gowdy. Lastly, it is also important to note that from 1911-16, there are no known signature model bats of any player. For this era there are only a handful of block letter bats (manufactured only for non-contract players) which was another way to identify player model bats, blank barrel bats, and decal bats. There are no Cobb block letter bats from this era, as he was under contract with Louisville Slugger starting 1908. For this label period of 1911-16, the decal bat was therefore the standard style bat issued to Ty Cobb for major league use. The bat features a colorful decal design on the barrel that incorporates both Cobb's portrait image and his facsimile signature, and is thus far more visually appealing than a later-era traditional signature-model Cobb game bat. Approximately 85% of the decal remains intact and both Cobb's signature and image are clearly visible. Below his image is the endorsement "[Cobb] Uses the Louisville Slugger Bat Exclusively." As previously noted, the bat perfectly matches the specifications of other Ty Cobb professional-model bats in all respects. Of extra special note is also the fact that the barrel features a seven-inch flattened hitting surface. This is a very desirable trait for Ty Cobb pro-model bats. All of the best Ty Cobb game bats share this very trait. The knob of the bat displays a carved "B," the exact meaning of which is unknown. It is very possible that this may have been carved to prevent checking. Ty Cobb game bats dating from the 1911-1916 era are much rarer than those dating from later eras. Of the twenty-two Ty Cobb pro-model bats that are known to exist in the MEARS population report to date, only four date from 1911-1916; and of these four, two are decal-style bats. (Note: This is the highest-graded of the two.) A total of only four professional model decal game bats are known: two Ty Cobb, one Honus Wagner and one Nap Lajoie. This is an extraordinary Ty Cobb pro-model game bat dating from the peak of Cobb's career and which almost certainly contributed to at least a few of Ty Cobb's 4,192 career total hits. Length: 34.5 inches. Weight: 37 ounces. Graded A7 by MEARS (base grade of 5, plus 3 points for use, minus 1 point for the carving on the knob). Reserve $10,000. Estimate $20,000 +. SOLD FOR $29,375.00
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