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1922-1924 Ty Cobb Pro-Model Side-Written Bat - MEARS A10
Starting Bid - $25,000, Sold For - $55,813
In the field of baseball memorabilia few items are more desirable than a Ty Cobb pro-model bat. And within that narrowly defined subcategory there is perhaps no finer Ty Cobb pro-model bat than the example offered here. Exceptional in all respects and meriting a perfect grade of A10 by MEARS and near-perfect grade of GU9 by PSA/DNA, this H&B Ty Cobb signature model bat offers collectors everything they could possibly want or hope for in a Ty Cobb bat short of an accompanying letter of authenticity from Cobb himself. This bat is also instructive, as it serves to illustrate the many factors which differentiate bats at even the highest possible grade levels. The most distinguishing feature of this particular Cobb bat, and the one that elevates it above nearly all other examples in terms of desirability, is the side writing on the barrel which reads "Ty Cobb 5-5-24, Detroit B.B.C." That notation, written in grease pencil in what appears to be the familiar hand of longtime Hillerich & Bradsby employee Henry Morrow, is distinct and easily legible to the naked eye. Side writing is of great significance to collectors as it places a bat directly into the hands of the player so named. When players returned bats to the factory (to be used as templates for future orders), identifying notations, including the player's name and date received, would be written in grease pencil on the side of the bat by an H&B employee and stored in the vaults for future reference. In that regard, side writing on bats is recognized by the most sophisticated collectors as being the equivalent of having a letter of authenticity from the player himself. This bat was sent back to the H&B factory by Cobb in 1924 for the express purpose of being archived and used as a template for his future bat orders. In fact, as MEARS notes in its accompanying five-page LOA, this very bat is listed in the H&B factory records as the exact model from which Cobb's future bats were made. The accompanying LOA from PSA/DNA further acknowledges this fact by making specific reference to an order placed by Cobb in 1925 that is listed in the factory records as "HIS 5-5-24 LATEST/35-36ounces." Obviously, this was one of Cobb's favorite bats and the amount of use displayed along its entire length provides ample evidence of his affinity for it. The bat, based upon an examination of the center brand, dates precisely to the 1922-1924 manufacturing period. Both the bat's length (34.5 inches) and weight (34.5 ounces) correspond almost perfectly to the factory records as well as to the specifications of other high-grade Cobb bats examined by MEARS. The knob displays a flared end, a special design element favored by Cobb, and there is also evidence of rasp marks on the end of the knob which were made by a factory worker as he removed the excess wood by hand in an attempt to maintain the requested weight. Since the side writing indicates that this bat was returned to the H&B factory in 1924, it seems likely that Cobb used it for an extended period of time, a theory strongly supported by its physical characteristics. A number of ball marks and deeply embedded stitch marks decorate the barrel, as do approximately 100 cleat marks, nearly all of which are concentrated at the end portion of the barrel. Cleat marks are also a very specific game-use trait of Cobb bats, and the number seen here is the most ever encountered by MEARS on a Cobb bat, a fact which further supports the premise that this bat was used by Cobb for an extended period of time, maybe even for several seasons. Additional evidence of prolonged use can be inferred by the deadwood displayed on both the front and back of the barrel. In both instances, the deadwood was repaired by means of a six tiny "bat boy" nails (three on the front and three on the back, a common practice at the time) in order to extend the life of the bat. It should be noted that the application of small nails was legal at the time, and players did use such bats in games. PSA/DNA even makes mention in its letter that "we have viewed period photography of players driving nails into their bats." Deadwood, which is a slight separation of the bat grain, is actually a positive trait in pro-model bats, as the phenomena is caused by repeated contact between bat and ball over a prolonged period of time. The fact that this bat displays deadwood on both sides of the barrel again provides compelling evidence that it was used extensively, possibly for more than one season. While we have seen other Ty Cobb side-written bats, we have never encountered a side-written example that also featured so many other significant and recognizable Cobb traits as this one. This is by far the finest Ty Cobb pro-model bat we have ever seen and one that was undoubtedly used by the legendary "Georgia Peach" over a long period of time. One can only speculate how many of Cobb's 4,189 hits were recorded with this bat, but it was certainly more than a few.
While grading has been an effective means of defining condition in the field of collectibles, even identically graded items can have many significant differences. We hope, that through this description and the two accompanying LOAs by MEARS and PSA/DNA that are posted on our website, we will be able to fully communicate exactly how remarkable this bat is, even compared to other identically graded Cobb bats. Of the forty-five Ty Cobb pro-model bats that have been graded by MEARS to date, only fifteen Cobb bats in the MEARS database grade A8 or higher. When one searches for those graded a perfect A10, the number is reduced to just six. But even in that field of six, differences in quality abound, and we believe that this particular bat may be the foremost example in the hobby. That sentiment is echoed by MEARS, which concludes its letter by writing "One of the finest Ty Cobb bats extant." PSA/DNA is also exuberant in its praise: "The noted player characteristics and side writing, unquestionably confirm the game use of this bat by Ty Cobb during the referenced labeling period." The only reason PSA/DNA deducted one point and graded the bat GU9 was "In light of the condition of the front and back barrel" (specifically, the deadwood resulting from extensive use by Cobb, a positive trait in the eyes of most collectors). Despite the slight philosophical difference in approach to grading, PSA/DNA is in total agreement with MEARS in its stellar assessment of this incredible piece of baseball history as one of the most extraordinary Ty Cobb bats in existence. This is a rare case where grades (even a perfect A10 grade) cannot do full justice to communicating the merits of a bat. This was one of Ty Cobb's favorite bats that was used by him for a prolonged period, so favored by Cobb that he chose it as the model to send back to the H&B factory to serve as a template for his future bat orders. This is as good as a Ty Cobb bat can possibly get! An extensive article on this bat can be found on the MEARS website. Reserve $25,000. Estimate $50,000+. SOLD FOR $55,813
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