Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coal Tar Key to Linking Century-Old Bat to Honus Wagner

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Coal Tar Key to Linking Century-Old Bat to Honus Wagner

Article excerpt

Andy Castellanos believes he has one of Honus Wagner's favorite bats, and he'll sell it to the highest bidder.

Online bidding begins at 8 p.m. today at mearsonline.com for a century-old J.F. Hillerich & Son Louisville Slugger that the Florida man bought on eBay several years ago from a Youngstown woman. So how does he know it belonged to the Pirates' Hall of Fame shortstop?

Because it has marks indicating it was used as a pro ballplayer's template bat and it had his picture and autograph on it - until a few hundred well-hit baseballs nearly rubbed it clean.

But the key clue that this 41.6-ounce piece of ash wood was once Wagner's are faint black streaks on its barrel. They're creosote containing coal tar, the preservative used on the ties and tracks that ran beside Wagner's childhood home on Railroad Avenue in Carnegie. Hitters used many substances to harden their bats, but only this son of coal miner boiled his in coal tar.

"I wasn't expecting it. It was a contributing factor" linking the bat to Wagner, said Troy Kinunen, president and CEO of Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services of Milwaukee.

Kinunen, who recently finished analyzing Castellanos' bat, will pass it on to the auction arm of his company for the reserve auction, which ends at 10 p.m. July 2. The starting bid is $10,000.

The bat's owner, who plans to use the auction proceeds to buy a car for his 19-year-old son, believes it could be worth $100,000. Next week, he'll find out if collectors agree.

"My son is going to college and he needed a car. It was time to let it go," he said.

Many years ago, Castellanos, 54, of Parkland, Fla., received a bat from his father that had belonged to Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella. But when he and his son started collecting bats seven years ago, they were drawn to the oldest, rarest ones used by the earliest Hall of Famers. …

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