Academic journal article Base Ball

Bizarre Base Ball Bats

Academic journal article Base Ball

Bizarre Base Ball Bats

Article excerpt

Of all the items of equipment used to play the game of baseball, bats have had surprisingly few rules written to regulate their design and construction. There has never been a restriction on the bat's weight, although requirements for its length, diameter, and construction techniques have been imposed. The initial regulations for bat design were set forth in 1856 and subsequently published in Beadle's Base Ball Guide for 1860:

The Bat

The rule regulating the form and dimensions of the bat is as follows:

Section 2. The bat must be round, and must not exceed two and a half inches in diameter in the thickest part. It must be made of wood and may be of any length to suit the striker.

While all are limited to a particular size in diameter, it will be observed that no objection is made to any particular length or weight. Bats are from thirty to forty inches in length and from two to three pounds in weight, the former weight being most desirable.

The description of the wood most in use is ash, but maple, white and pitch pine, and also hickory bats are in common use, weight for the size bat governing the selection.

For a bat of medium weight, ash is preferable, as its fiber is tough and elastic. The English willow bat has recently been used and is favorably regarded by many. This later wood is very light and close in fiber, and answers the latter purpose better than any other wood for a light bat.

In the following years the rules governing the bat incorporated changes:

1876: Restricted the maximum length to 42 inches.

1885: Allowed the handle to be wound with twine for 18 inches from the end; also allowed a portion of the bat's surface to be flat on one side.

1886: Allowed a granulated substance to be applied to the bat handle for a distance of 18 inches from the end.

1893: All bats must be round and made of hardwood (banned flat bats).

1895: Increased the maximum diameter to 2.75 inches.

1940: Stipulated that the bat must be made from one piece of hardwood.

1950: Specified that twine or a granulated substance be applied to the handle only for a distance of 18 inches from the end.

1954: Allowed the use of a laminated bat on an experimental basis, each bat being subject to inspection and approval by the Rules Committee.

1964: Required approval of the Rules Committee to use a colored bat (other than white or black).

1975: Allowed a curved indentation in the end of the bat up to one inch in depth and between one and two inches in diameter without the addition of a foreign substance (i.e., "cupped" bats).

1976: Added pine tar to the list of approved substances that could be applied for a maximum of 18 inches on the bat's handle and provided a penalty for exceeding the specified distance.

The current bat regulations can be found in Section 1.10 of The Official Rules:

(a) The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 23-4 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood. NOTE: No laminated or experimental bats shall be used in a professional game (either championship season or exhibition games) until the manufacturer has secured approval from the Rules Committee of his design and methods of manufacture.

Within the boundaries of these rules some outrageous bats have been designed. Here are four of the most bizarre bats ever seen on the diamond:

Hill's Patent Spring Bat of 1866

According to the patent issued to Mr. Hill on October 30, 1866, his invention consisted of making a series of slits in the barrel portion of the bat, for the purpose of inserting a series of "springs," in order that the ball may be sent a greater distance when hit. These slits can be seen in the barrel of the illustrated bat. The length of the slits can vary from 8-10 inches. However, Hill did not provide any guidance for the width of these slits.

While the "springs" had a beneficial effect in driving the ball, the life expectancy of a bat designed in this manner could not have been very great, as no doubt the combination of speed pitching and hard baseballs would cause the wooden springs to fracture. …

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