A 1925 game-used bat that traveled from the hardware store to the Southern Association

I am probably one of the largest collectors of  all things vintage Chattanooga Lookouts. There may be others out there as big but I know one great collector that owned a collection of all things Chattanooga baseball that would rival my small personal museum.

While I was in Chattanooga for the week of Thanksgiving, this collector was holding a sale of his collection. I knew of a few pieces he had that I wanted and I contacted him for some pre-sale negotiations.

One of the items I purchased was previously unknown to me.  It was a side-written bat. I find side-written bats particularly interesting, especially if they are related to former Lookouts players.

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A side-written bat is simply a bat that was sent to Hillerich & Bradsby (aka Louisville Slugger) to be used as the model for the making of bats. When the bats were received, they would be written on with a black grease pencil with the players name and date received. Sometimes the team would be noted as well. These bats were used on the lathe to make an identical copy and the original would be stored in the warehouse for future orders by that player.

The story of this bat begins in the small north Georgia town of Chickamauga, GA and with a player named Clarence “Cap” Crossley.

Only 60 years before this bat was turned, Chickamauga was the site of one of the largest battles of the American Civil War, or as we call it in the South, the war between the states, as there was nothing civil about it. The town hasn’t changed much since the early 20th century and I can imagine the building that was the birthplace of this bat is still standing.

This bat must have been a special bat to Clarence. It isn’t your typical Louisville Slugger bat. In fact it isn’t a Lousiville Slugger at all. Upon first glance, it appears to be a vintage pre-war bat that was taken care of. Its clean and without major damage. It has a rich dark patina that you hope  to find on every vintage game-used bat. It features a “Hornsby” style knob that isn’t seen much in baseball today. I believe they also call this type of flared knob a “Clemente” style knob, too.

While it may look like a typical bat from this era, It was specially made for a hardware store under the name of “R. Stogsdill of Chickamauga GA” The bat brand is in a similar oval style to Louisville Slugger. It carries a “HY POWER TRADE MARK” designation.

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Adding to the evidence of it being a game-used bat is the batboy repair. It is a clean and professional repair to a crack in the handle, complete with nails.

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By June of 1925, the bat must have seen enough action and Clarence thought it was time to get himself his own model bat from Hillerich & Bradsby. Above the bat brand is the remnants of a mailing label. The bat was simply labeled with address and postage and dropped in the mail.

Once the bat reached the Hillerich & Bradsby factory, it was side written with Clarence’s name and a date of June 1925 and placed in the warehouse to wait for Crossley to order bats. It is assumed that this was his bat during the 1924 and ’25 seasons with the Lookouts. The fact that it was turned only a few miles south of Chattanooga backs this thought.

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Not much is remembered about the career Minor Leaguer Clarence Crossley other than his baseball record. We know he was born in 1902 and played in the bush leagues for 18 seasons. After his playing days he was a manager and even spent a few years later in life as a scout for the Reds and the White Sox.

Side-written bats can provide not only important reference information when dealing with valuable bats such as those used by Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb but also determine value of a bat that could have historical significance. A bat that belonged to a Black Sox member that is side-written after 1920 would be worth less than one with a date before their banishment from baseball. Sometimes the date can determine the value.

Side-written bats can also add to the story.

Every bat tells a story. From ball marks and cleat marks to nails and cracks, every bat is a part of baseball history. And so many stories are lost to the ages. Even players can be largely forgotten. Sometimes all we have today is what they left behind in the vaults of Hillerich & Bradsby.

 

 

Everyone’s Wagner is real, right? We all want to find treasure.

If I had a dollar every time I have heard this at a show…

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I know everyone wants to find treasure. I do too.
But we can get blinded by “what could be” and forget about facts.
What got me into wanting to learn more about fakes and alterations in the first place was buying a small stack of reprints at a flea market in the late 80s. I really thought I had found treasure according to the price guide values. When I figured out they were not real, I decided that I would not let that happen to me again. I learned a great deal over the years but it did happen again. Each time I have learned from it.
I have learned plenty about cards and I’m still learning. There will always be new types of fake cards and alterations coming in.
Are there still cards like T206 Wagners out there waiting to be discovered? You bet. In fact, we graded one in 2008 that literally came out from under someones bed. It had been in the family for many years.
One thing that makes such big finds special is that they are few and far between. Like the Black Swamp find, it’s a once in a lifetime find, but it was right there in an attic all those years just waiting for someone to find.
The thought of unearthing treasure can also blind us from the obvious. There are hundreds of “cards” listed on ebay stating they are reprints because ebay requires them to do so. If someone has a potential six-figure card in their hands, do they get it authenticated or do they dump it on ebay as a reprint? If a seller is savy enough to use ebay, they are generally savy enough to figure out exactly what they have. They have given the buyer all the info they need.
It’s that potential of getting rich quick that blinds some to make bad purchases.

Counterfeit Alert – 1984/85 Star Jordan

Today’s counterfeit alert is a franken-graded card. And it is one that I ask you help other collectors and take action on.

What we have today is a fake card in a fake holder.  The card is currently on eBay:

Fake card currently on auction

This is a case of someone taking a fake card, making a fake label and placing them into a fake holder. This particular holder is nothing like a real BCCG holder. If you compare the image to an authentic holder, you can see the difference in the shape. Fortunately, even our BCCG holder is very tamper resistant. This is why the crooks have to go with a completely different holder.

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The BCCG holder is similar to the BGS holder in that it has more squared corners. The corners almost come to a point, not rounded like the fake holder in the image.

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I try not to ask too much from my readers, but I ask you in this case to report this kind of item to eBay and help keep fakes off the market.

 

 

 

 

 

Signed copies now available!

1906 Fan Craze advertisement

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The Fan Craze game card sets are designated as either WG-2 or WG-3. The WG-2 designates the American league deck of cards that have a blue back. WG-3 is the National League deck. The NL cards have a red back.

Once upon a time, there was a thought that the 2 decks were issued separately and at different times. As the above ad shows, the 2 decks were issued at the same time, and you could order 1 or the other. It is interesting to note the ad mentions the player images are halftone pictures. This just means the images are made up of small black dots of different sizes. The larger the dot, the darker the image. This is the type of printing we see on other pre-war cards like  M101-4/5 Sporting News, and 1928 Fro-Joy. A type of halftone is still used on cards today, but there are 4 colors instead of just black. And today’s cards are digital halftone printing. Halftone printing in newspapers was still a relatively new process when these cards were printed. Widespread use of the technology began only the decade before these cards.

The cool thing about these cards is that they fill a gap in card issues. There was not much in the way of baseball cards between the 1895 N300 Mayos and the 1909 T206 cards. This means there are some first appearances to be found. There are also plenty of cool images to be found. The Fan Craze company obviously used images taken by the Horner Studio. The Eddie Plank and Honus Wagner, for example, have the same image as found on their T206 cards.

Now if I only had $0.39, and a time machine.

 

 

 

Signed copies now available!