Trying to Get to Center of `Batgate' Physics Problem: Cork Cuts Weight and Mass

Article excerpt

There is a double-edged mystery about the strange saga of Cleveland's Albert Belle and the corked bat.

First, there is the matter of identifying the undersized second story man who went through a tiny crawlspace filled with air conditioning ducts and insulation at Comiskey Park to get into the umpires' dressing room and temporarily lift the evidence. Cleveland, remember, is the same franchise once owned by the man who sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to the plate.

Then, there is the question of exactly what Belle thought he was going to accomplish if he indeed was corking his bat. The Indians slugger, who doesn't say much in the best of times and even less at moments like this, is not telling. It is interesting to note, however, that Belle had 26 home runs before his bat was confiscated and six in the next eight games without it.

The folks at Louisville Slugger have done extensive testing on the effects of plugging the middle of bats with stuff other than wood. "What it does," said Chuck Schupp, manager of professional baseball promotions for the company, "is reduce weight which produces quicker bat speed. But it also reduces mass so the bat doesn't drive the ball as far."

This Albert, remember, is Belle. The Albert who did all that work with energy and mass was Einstein.

And if it's a lighter bat Belle wanted, he needed only change from his standard model B343, a 35-inch, 33-ounce Louisville Slugger, to something lighter. The up side to that solution is that it would be legal and avoid a suspension.

"It's unfortunate," Schupp said. "First, it's something he doesn't need and second, now people wonder how long he'd been doing it and it casts a shadow on his accomplishments."

Professor Robert Adair, who teaches physics at Yale University and has done his own tinkering with bats, said there are other legal options that would not have gotten Belle in hot water with American League president Bobby Brown.

"He could choke up three-quarters of an inch," Adair said. "He could saw three-eighths of an inch off the end. …