Imagine sitting in the dugout next to Jimmie Foxx, having dinner with Babe Ruth or watching Ted Williams select his wood at the bat factory. I certainly can't, but Bill Morrow, son of H&B legend Henry Morrow, has enough baseball experiences to write a book.
As a youngster, Bill was able to watch some of the true legends of the game with his favorite being Lou Gehrig, "The Iron Horse." His father, Henry, was responsible for signing ballplayers to contracts with the H&B bat company (now Louisville Slugger). Bill's dad signed them all including the likes of Ruth, Mantle, Williams and DiMaggio.
Recently, Bill came to PSA/DNA for some help in authenticating a few vintage baseballs that he had in his collection. He was kind enough to share some of his wonderful stories with us and explain why it was important to him to have his prized autographed pieces certified by PSA/DNA.
So Bill, what were these vintage pieces that you brought to PSA/DNA?
I brought in three baseballs. The first one was a Hall of Fame induction ball from 1939. The second was a single-signed Babe Ruth ball that I got at a banquet a week before he announced his retirement and the other was a 1942 Yankee Team ball from their World Series Championship year. As a batboy and with my father's connection to the players, I really had the chance to get a lot of different things over the years. Unfortunately, I don't have anything else left in my collection because we were robbed several years ago, but these three baseballs were spared.
You must have seen a lot of great players during that time period. Who were your favorites?
That's a tough question, but there were a few. I really like Johnny Pesky. Jimmie Foxx was another. I really admired Ted Williams for his work ethic and dedication on the field. When he was young he had a hard time dealing with the media, but he wanted to be the best and no one of his generation studied hitting more than Ted did. He deserves all the praise in the world because he earned it.
Another player that comes to mind is Luke Appling. Boy, was he a character. I really enjoyed watching him perform. He could work a pitcher by fouling off pitches forever. In those days, the umpires would try to get the foul balls back from the fans because they cost money. Some people would ask Appling to stop fouling off pitches because they would run out of baseballs (laughs).
My absolute favorite player was Lou Gehrig. I had the chance to meet him in spring training one year which was a great thrill for me because I had always admired the way he handled himself despite the fact he was underrated most of his career.
What brought you to PSA/DNA?
I wanted to have the baseballs authenticated for insurance reasons. I knew that PSA/DNA had credibility, and if something ever happened to me, my kids wouldn't be able to prove the authenticity of the baseballs. The thing is, I was there, but all my kids would have, without PSA/DNA, is a bunch of stories. With the PSA/DNA certification, I can rest easy because I know it will be easier for my children to sell if they choose to do so down the line.
Could you share some baseball stories with our readers? I will name someone and you just tell me what comes to mind. Lou Gehrig.
Lou was my favorite. I just felt so sorry for him. In his prime he was just so overshadowed by Babe Ruth. Lou was low key, but a heck of a ballplayer. My dad and Lou were very close.
Ted used to drive my dad crazy (laughs). Ted was so particular about the wood they used for his bats that he would follow my dad through the lumberyard and have him select the best grain there was. Ted was certainly picky, but he was a great hitter.
One day I was sitting in the dugout when Jimmie Foxx came walking in. People always talk about how strong he was, and let me tell you, I saw how strong he was firsthand. He had huge, powerful hands. When a player would sit down next to him in the dugout, he would grab on to their thighs and squeeze until the player went into submission. These guys were grown men, but they were crumbling to the ground like little boys while other players would laugh hysterically. Foxx was doing this in jest and just horsing around, but at the end of the day, all of the players were sitting at the other end of the dugout away from him (laughs).
Pee Wee Reese.
When my dad retired from H&B, Pee Wee was brought in to replace him. They needed someone who had a good relationship with the players and Pee Wee had a good personality. Knowing the respect that Pee Wee had from other players, it was a great compliment to my dad.
When the Babe was in his prime, he would notch his bats to account for each home run he hit. There are only a few known to exist, but the Babe gave my father one of them. During a game in 1927, Babe cracked one of these bats and then gave it to my father as a gift. I guess Babe really liked my dad. My dad kept it for a little while, but then turned it over to H&B. My dad felt it was the right thing to do and sports memorabilia wasn't worth as much back then.
It is on permanent display at the Louisville Slugger museum and my dad's name is mentioned on the nameplate. Can you believe that the bat has 21 notches on it? It just shows the difference in the strength of wood back then and the construction of the bats. Players would routinely use 36-ounce bats or heavier, but now guys are using 31-ounce bats. My dad used to tell me that bats, when they are that light, can't hold up over time because there isn't enough wood in the design. Older bats would hold up for months at a time, but now players crack bats on a daily basis.
As far as baseball is concerned, I can sum it up with this. The president of The Sporting News, during my dad's eulogy in 1953, said that no one has ever known more baseball players or ever will than Henry Morrow. It just shows the type of person my dad was. The players really respected him, and it was obvious to a lot of people.
Do you plan on keeping your prized baseballs?
For the time being, yes. I prefer that my children decide for themselves if they want to sell them or keep them. Now I know that they are protected with the PSA/DNA certification. My family used to have a lot of bats in our basement, but the bats were discarded in the trash or used for firewood (laughs). Players would discard them, too. If only I had some of those bats today.