The Batting Cage: Pro Stock Bats


In this month's column we will be looking at one of the most overlooked and least understood aspects in collecting professional game-used bats – the use of the term "pro stock." When a player signs an endorsement contract with Hillerich and Bradsby (H&B), the maker of Louisville Sluggers, it allows H&B to produce bats bearing the player's name to be sold to professional and non-professional teams, as well as the public.

Pro stock bats are professional model bats, usually standardized and popular with players and the public. Pro stock bats are often ordered by professional teams for their players at the Major or Minor League levels. H&B usually shipped pro stock bats with branded player names, associated with the team. For instance, the New York Yankees consistently ordered K55 Mickey Mantle signature model bats to have on hand for their Major League position players, pitchers, and for their affiliated minor league teams. Troublesome for collectors are that some of these Mantle pro stock bats are identical in appearance and dimension to bats ordered by Mickey Mantle for his use. If that were not confusing enough, Mantle may have used K55 signature model bats during the 1961 to 1964 labeling period, even though he was not shipped K55 model bats during that labeling period, as he had access to them, from bats shipped to the Yankees, and available in the clubhouse.

Less troubling are pro stock bats with inconsistent dimensions from that found on the players individual shipping record, as the player probably did not use these bats. For instance, a 1932 Lou Gehrig bat that is a tad under 35 inches and is less than 33 ounces in weight, is probably a pro stock Gehrig as the lightest pre-1938 Gehrig bat is 35.25 ounces, while the vast majority of pre-1938 bats shipped to Gehrig were in excess of 37 ounces.

Let's add to the confusion a bit more. Model numbers do not appear on bats made before the mid-1940's, making it more difficult for collectors to determine whether a bat is a pro stock model of a particular player. While it may be easy to distinguish a Babe Ruth pro stock model R43 from some of Ruth's bats that have a very distinctive Hack Wilson handle, it is less easy to distinguish a Ruth pro stock model R43 from Ruth's Model R34. Authenticators often keep common pro stock models on hand to compare a bat with various pro stock models.

In short, not all professional bats bearing a player's name are necessarily made for the player, whose name is burned onto the bat. Therefore, collectors of player game-used bats need to identify whether a bat is a pro stock model, as the bat may never have been in the proximity of the player. Below is a list of pro stock model bats bearing the name of Hall of Fame players:

Hall of Fame Player Pro-Stock Model Number Bats

Henry Aaron R43
Luis Aparicio S44
Luke Appling A60
Richie Ashburn G7
Earl Averill A1, W166
Ernie Banks S2
Johnny Bench R43
Yogi Berra R43
Wade Boggs C235, B349
Lou Boudreau K55
George Brett C271
Rod Carew R43
Roberto Clemente O16
Ty Cobb C28
Eddie Collins C122
Earl Combs C119
Joe Cronin C151, D29
Bill Dickey C119
Joe DiMaggio D29, Y4
Booby Doerr D2, G69
Nellie Fox C12, F3
Jimmie Foxx F3
Lou Gehrig G69
Charles Gehringer G7
Hank Greenberg G12, G79
Gwynn, Tony C263C
Chick Hafey H4
Billy Herman K55
Rogers Hornsby H117
Reggie Jackson K75
Al Kaline M110
George Kell F4
Ralph Kiner G69L
Chuck Klein K55
Tony Lazzeri L16
Mickey Mantle K55
Ed Mathews S2
Joe Ducky Medwick F70
Johnny Mize H117
Stan Musial M117
Lefty O'Doul O1
Mel Ott O16, O23
Kirby Puckett C243
Pee Wee Reese S100
Cal Ripken, Jr. P72
Brooks Robinson W166
Jackie Robinson R17
Babe Ruth R43
Red Schoendienst S182
Ryne Sandberg K55
Al Simmons S28
Enos Slaughter H4, H14
Ozzie Smith H238, C235
Duke Snider C117L
Willie Stargell K44
Vern Stephens S2
Bill Terry O16
Paul Waner W45
Billy Williams S2
Ted Williams O1, W148, W153, W155, W166, W183, W215
Hack Wilson W64
Dave Winfield W273Carl Yastrzemski K48
Robin Yount P72