In my upcoming book "Louisville Slugger Professional Player Bats," the player chart section represents a synthesis of all information provided in the Hillerich & Bradsby player shipping records, combined with general information on each listed player, to provide the most complete reference source ever compiled for bat collectors. The players selected for the reference charts are all players, sluggers as well as pitchers, inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In this article, Mickey Mantle's player chart is used to demonstrate the rich content of the upcoming player charts chapter.
Mantle, Mickey - Bats Both, First-Last Game: 04/17/1951 - 09/28/1968
Mantle was shipped bats with a standard finish, unless noted in the below chart, and wide grain bats from 04/15/1959 to the end of his career. Ounces were marked in pencil on knob from 03/29/1963.
|Post-career: 1969- 24-M110 35"/32.oz., 12-P104 35"/32oz., 12-Mc13 34"/33 oz., 1970- 12-M110 35"/31 & 32 oz., 1971- 4-K55 35"/37 oz.|
|Abbreviations: “a" = All Star bat(s), “f" = Flame Burned finish, “s" = sanded finish only, “w"= World Series bat(s).|
|Note: 1952,1958, 1959, 1960 & 1965 All Star bat(s) and 1960 World Series bats, though known to exist, were not logged in player record cards and are not included in the above yearly totals.|
Each player reference chart begins with the player's name and their first and last major league game. In conjunction with the Branding Section of the book, this may be useful in determining whether a player used a bat during his major league career. If the player appeared in the World Series or post-season, immediately following their last major league game, it will be noted with an asterisk, after the date of their last game.
Player uniform number(s) are identified in parenthesis after each yearly range. Since uniform numbers were phased in by teams in the late 1920's, "N/U#" refers to no uniform number, before the appearance of uniform numbers. The presence of a player's uniform number on the knob or barrel end of a bat may indicate use by a player with an identified uniform number. It may also be helpful in identifying a specific time period a player used a bat.
The reference to "First Signature Model" refers to a player's endorsement contract with the makers of Louisville Slugger bats. When a player enters into an endorsement contract, bats made for these players are identified with the player's name appearing on the barrel of the bat in signature script. Usually, two bats are shipped to a player when a branded signature script is created. "First signature model" indicates the date that either the player signed their endorsement contract with the company, or indicates the first shipment date of signature model bats.
In either case, the time frame from the player's signing of an endorsement contract to their first shipment of a signature model bat is only a few days or weeks. In the referenced Mantle chart, The Mick was shipped K55 models bats on 09/29/1950; therefore all Mantle bats used in his professional career will be of the scripted variety.
So much has been written about the reference to "Pro-Stock Model", but for the purposes of this discussion, the collector should have the antennas up if considering a bat that is a pro-stock model for a particular player, such as K55 Mickey Mantle bats.
The paragraph just above the charts refers to notations in the shipping records that provide the bat maker with guidance in making bats for each player. The most common notations are: mark weights on knob, grain width, and flame burned. In this instance, Mantle's shipping record has all 3 commonly referenced notations.
Finally, the body of the player chart consists of two left-hand columns, containing a listing of model numbers in alphabetical order and corresponding length(s). The top horizontal index references the weight and the calendar year bats were shipped, starting with the earliest shipping records, some pre-dating, but not post-dating a player's major league career. Post-career shipped bats are usually referenced below the player chart, to help collectors distinguish career and post-career bats.
The numbers located in the body of the chart represent the weight, indicated in ounces, for each corresponding model number and bat length. If a letter or notation does not appear after the indicated ounces, then the bat was made with standard pro markings and shipped with a standard or clear finish. Letters following the indicated ounces represent either a specified finish or special event, such as All Star and World Series bats. There are also letters that refer the reader to the individual player index at the end of each chart, highlighting a notation found in the player's record that may be helpful to a collector. For example, in 1963 Mantle was shipped 35.5" K90 model bats of 32 and 33 ounces, some with a regular finish and some with a flame burned finish.
The player reference chart attempts to total the number of bats shipped in each calendar year for each of the referenced players. Bats shipped to the team on team shipping records were not counted in the above totals, even though feasible that the player, whose name was stamped onto the bat, used the team ordered bats. Bats shipped with no specific reference to weight, or referenced by "Any" for the model number and shipped to the player's team, a sporting goods store or to a show promoter are presumed not to be bats intended for the player's use and are also not counted in the yearly totals. These totals represent yearly totals and are not tied to a specific season. For instance a player may order bats in November of a calendar year with the intention to play Winter Ball, practice with, or take with him to Spring Training the following season.
It is not uncommon that a player used a bat made in a previous year in the subsequent season. While these numbers may not be exact, they provide collectors with interesting data as to the relative rarity of bats as compared to the player's of an era, players in general, and to the total population of collectibles.
For instance, pitchers bats are amongst the most difficult of all player bats for 1950's and 1960's collectors to acquire. Knowing that H&B made Whitey Ford only 32 bats for his entire career and Sandy Koufax only 20 bats provides perspective to the terms limited edition and rarity. More amazingly, perhaps only 10 bats of each of these players still exist. Mantle's chart indicates that the most bats shipped in a calendar year were in 1964 with only 75 bats shipped. This number pales in comparison to the hundreds of bats currently shipped to star players each year, and yet provides some hope for collectors to find a bat used by an icon.
The player chart chapter of the book is over 160 pages and contains information that I would have loved having when starting collecting bats 20 years ago. It's never too late for good information, and thanks to the Hillerich Bradsby Co. and the Louisville Slugger Museum, collectors will soon have it.