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1905-1911 Nap Lajoie H&B Decal-Style Professional-Model Bat
Starting Bid - $1,000.00 , Sold For - $2,937.50
Extremely rare 1905-1911 Nap Lajoie professional model bat, produced by "J. E. Hillerich & Son," dating from the 1897-1911 manufacturing period. This decal-style "dash-dot-dash" professional-model game bat, which predates model numbers, features a badly weathered decal image of Lajoie on the barrel. Nearly all of Lajoie's portrait image has been worn away (only approximately 30% of the decal remains intact); however, he can be positively identified by the legible fragments of his facsimile signature along the base of the decal. Many collectors assume that only store-model bats were manufactured with decals, and are unaware that Major League players 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. Despite the fact that very few factory records exist from the early 1900s, this particular bat displays two important characteristics that clearly distinguish it from store-model decal bats of the era. The bat measures 31.625 inches and weighs 42.4 ounces. While both the length and weight are normal for dead-ball era pro-model bats, the fact that this is an odd "half-inch" length, as opposed to an even length (i.e. 34 inches, or 35 inches), precludes it from being a store-model bat. According to all known information, no "half-inch" decal bats were ever offered for retail sale. Further defining this example as a pro-model bat is its hand-turned knob, a trait not found on mass-produced store-model bats. For decades, collectors had always assumed that all decal bats were store-model bats, but that belief was never based on any concrete information, just faulty reasoning. Today, it has been proven that decal bats were indeed used by players in Major League games. In our April 2007 auction we offered a Ty Cobb pro-model decal bat that was accompanied by a photo of Cobb using a Ty Cobb decal bat at the plate (reference Lot 1307). 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 such as the offered example 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 the 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, Nap Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Roger Bresnahan, and Hank Gowdy. Nap Lajoie was the first great hitting star of the American League and his fame was such that the Cleveland club was even referred to as the "Naps" during his tenure with them (1903-14). Numbered among his impressive Hall of Fame credentials are four consecutive batting titles (1901-04, highlighted by his career high .426 in 1901), a Triple Crown title (1901), 3,242 hits, 1,599 RBI, and a lifetime .338 average. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937. Graded A6 by MEARs (5 point base grade plus 2 points for use but minus 1 point for the condition of the decal). Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,000+. SOLD FOR $2,937.50
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